Controlling The Distance With Your Wedges

Many golfers, including myself, refer to our wedges as the scoring clubs. It is with these short irons that will determine if we have a 3 foot or 30 foot putt. I spend a great deal of time practicing with my wedges and in the past decided to replace my 5 wood with a 60° wedge. It was a smart move for my game and it has helped me slowly lower my handicap. Understanding that wedges are critical to lower shooting lower golf scores, I am often asked about controlling my distance with each wedge. Well, my method is simple and it follows the guidance of Annika Sörenstam.

Before delving into how I control my wedge distance, here is a quick recap of the uses for the various short irons:

The above infographic is a basic overview of what wedge to use where and is a good starting point. Of course, we can use any wedge in any situation, we just need to be able to control the distances needed with each club. This is where Annika comes in; take a look at this quick video on how she controls her distance:

Annika’s method of controlling her wedge distance is also referred to as the clock method. Depending on how far we want each wedge to travel depends on how far we take back the club in our backswing. This method is very simple and one that I use all the time. There is, however, a small catch to this process. I had to spend time at the range to zero in on the distance of my different wedges at different draw back positions.

For each of my four wedges, I know the distances (within about 3 to 5 yards) of each position. To simplify my process I limited my backswing position to four spots: knees, hips, shoulders and full. I found that this offered me 16 possibilities depending on the ball position in relation to the pin and green. With these possibilities I am able to solve 98% of all approach shots within 120 yards of the green.

If you watched the video, there is one very important common point for each wedge position; it is to ensure we complete the same follow through. This critical step is the common factor for each possible swing that provides the standardization needed to develop the yardage for the above 16 possibilities. Without a consistent follow through the yardage for each shot will still be an unknown and this simple process will fail. Therefore, it is important to use the same follow through when developing your distance chart. This will simplify your numbers and allow you to use any wedge from any distance without guessing or speculation.

Annika’s advice on how to developed known distances with your wedges is simple, repeatable, and proven. It does not get any easier that this when building a strong short game.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

8 thoughts on “Controlling The Distance With Your Wedges

  1. Good info. I replaced my 5 wood a few years back as well for an extra wedge. Not being a long ball hitter my ability to be on the green and close to the pin is based on my wedge play. Having an assortment of wedges (52, 56, 60) only enhances my game.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim, good stuff here. That clock method should be in the bag of any good wedge player. Where I used to struggle is in that fuzzy area where the shot was less than a clock position but more than a greenside pitch. Like in the 30-50 yard range. For some reason, I’m much more comfortable this season and I suspect I improved by using a lot of practice time working on the ability to first see these shots, then execute without getting too mechanical – like Seve. I’m almost exclusively using my lob wedge too. If you vary distances, ball position, good/bad lies, and degree of how much you open the club face, you can learn a ton.

    Be like Seve,

    Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian,

      Seve was a genius for sure when playing around the green. The feel of playing and adjusting your club position is for an advanced players and something unique to each player. The clock method helps build a strong short game that allows amateurs to transition to a more Seve like approach. I do use both, but only on shots that do not fit into the traditional chipping or pitching situations. I wish I could play like Seve all the time!

      Cheers Jim

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim, there is one more variable that has an influence to consider in fine tuning your distances. If you are using range balls to determine your specific yardages, an adjustment needs to be made as your gamer ball performs differently.

    I am not a range rat, but practice chipping a lot. I never use range balls for this purpose because they perform so poorly compared to the balls I play with. I have two shag bags with gamer balls that have been taken out of play with minor scuffs. They provide reliable results. I have two shag bags, one for modern clubs, one for hickory since I use different balls for each.

    I like your take on the other points, I just don’t trust range balls for determining my distances.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lorne,

      Fantastic point. I do not use range balls to practice my chipping or pitching from 30 yards and closer. I only use the balls out of my golf bag. I agree that the inconsistencies can cause a challenge, but something that can be worked around when developing your foundational distance measurements. Thanks for bringing up this point that I never thought about.

      Cheers Jim

      Like

  4. I’ve watched Annika’s lessons for years. She gives great advice. When we do this we find there are more choices than we thought possible. Especially when we take it to heart with all the clubs in our bag.

    If you’re 140 yards out with a clean shot in, we’ll usually be thinking attack. But there are times even with no obstructions in the way that it’s better to ‘punch’ one on rather than take a full swing.

    She talks about that in another video when she advocates practicing hitting at least 3 clubs to the same distance. Like if your max distance with a 9 iron is 140, we should practice hitting an 8 and a 7 to 140 too.

    It was soon after taking that advice to heart that I became a big advocate for clubbing up.

    One mistake I think I should correct though is I haven’t logged the distances. Earlier, I didn’t have too much trouble remembering, but as I’ve added more clubs and added a second swing speed to the mix, as well as different finishing positions, it can be difficult to work through the choices much less remember them all.

    And that brings out the programmer in me. All these apps we have today, a caddy feature seems the latest trend. What if the golf app kept a record of distance from every clock position and every swing speed, and/or maybe how far we open the face? It’s already storing our distances with our clubs. If it had a better base of information to draw on it would ‘learn’ even faster.

    Imagine your 40 yards out on a good lie and your golf app tells you to take your lob wedge, open the face 20 degrees, aim 5 degrees left and swing with speed mid, finish mid. Would golf be more fun or less?
    It is where golf is headed right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin,

      You question at the end of your comment is a good one. I hope it is not going in that direction, but I can see how professionals would use it on the range and during practice rounds. Any advantage they can get is not out of bounds for them. For me, I will stay a bit more traditional and avoid all the apps that might remove my decision making. Golf still has to be fun and thinking about how to play and what clubs to use is really what I look forward too during each round. So, for me, I do not see any apps in my future.

      Cheers Jim

      Like

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