Well it’s time for the first tournament of the year on Monday and it’s a scramble. We’ve discussed strategy and preparation for scrambles before, but I’m taking a slightly different approach. Generally, scrambles are all about driving, wedge play, and putting. That much has not changed. What I’ve struggled with is the short wedge shot on the par-5s. You absolutely need this shot to birdie or eagle the fives to have a chance. The flip wedge is not my strong suit and when playing my own ball, I play away from it. Last time out, I was on a par-5 and drilled a drive and three-wood to 35 yards from the pin. With no trouble in front of me, I had no clue how to hit the shot because I don’t practice it. I would hate for the scramble team to have to lay back to a yardage on a par-5. I simply need to learn this shot. Whether playing a casual round or in a tournament, this shot can make the difference between an up-and-down birdie or a disappointing approach and two-putt. Of course, there are times you’ll need to lay back, especially when there’s trouble 30-50 yards from the green. Nobody wants a bunker shot of that length, but I want that flip wedge in my repertoire; I NEED that flip wedge!
Last Saturday, I took my first lesson of the year and addressed with my instructor. He had me hit about 100 balls during the session, with nothing but my 58, 54, and 50. We worked on partial swings with each club and he showed me the right way to hit these shots. I learned that most amateurs take too big a backswing on partial wedge shots and try to control the shot by slowing the down swing. This often results in an over-the-top pull or a chunk, because the hands and arms get way too active. If you want to see if you’re susceptible, try hitting five full sand wedges and then pick a target 30 yards out and try to get it close. When I did this, I bladed the first two. It’s hard to swing close to full with a finesse club like a wedge and then throttle down.
I learned that you need to control the shot with your body. Take a slightly open stance with the ball a little back of center and make a short backswing. Then accelerate your lower body turn to make a good pivot. This is where you get your swing speed, your aggressive strike, a small divot, that lower ball flight, and that sweet little check to stick it close. You might hit it with a little cut spin, but that’s okay. When you learn to control shots with your body and quiet the hands, you’ll have more success here and in every aspect of your short game.
Here’s a great drill. If you are going to work your wedges, take a club and pick three targets at varying lengths and rotate every ball between them. During the lesson, he had me hit my lob wedge at targets 60, 40, and 30 yards out, but never the same shot twice. When you get comfortable with the length of the short backswings and driving the shot with your pivot, you’ll know you’re on the right track. I’ve got the technique, definitely need to practice, and am excited to develop this new part of my game.
No more laying up on the par-5s!