The one shot you must have around the green
The short game is creative problem solving. The first problem is not how to get the ball up and down, but how to make sure you get the shot onto the green. The first question I ask students when assessing a shot around the green is what is the easiest way to get the ball on the green? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, it is solely based on your skill level and what works best for you. From there you can look at the options for how best to get it close to the hole.
When there is nothing in the way (rough, sand, etc.) you can play any shot you want. There are plenty of solutions to the problem. If chipping is an issue and you feel more comfortable putting in that situation, go for it. For shots like this there is no "right or wrong" shot, only what gives you the best chance to get it on the green and hopefully close to the hole. Remember, PGA Tour players average 57% up and down rate. For the average player, getting it up and down is a bonus. If you can limit the damage to bogey when you miss the green you are doing just fine.
Most shots around the green will give players a myriad of options. The focus of this blog post, however, is how to hit the shot when you only have the option of going high. When we are left in a position behind a bunker or have to go over heavy rough and need the ball to stop when it hits the green, the only option is to hit a high, soft shot. To understand how to hit a higher, softer shot around the green, you have to understand how loft and bounce work.
Every club has loft, for this shot we will want to use our most lofted wedge, in my case a 58*. While every club has a static loft, for this shot we need to understand how to control the loft at impact, or dynamic loft. Much of this comes from how we set up and what our intention is.
I am not a fan of seeing a lot of weight on the lead side (left leg for right-handed player) and the shaft and hands well ahead of the ball for shots around the green. The more you lean the shaft forward, the more you are delofting the club and reducing the bounce. If the shaft is forward and the intention is to hit it high, the setup is not matching the intention. This causes a lot of tilting and flipping which makes low point control extremely hard.
If you notice my setup in the video above, I have the ball toward my left foot and the shaft running fairly vertical, my weight is pretty neutral. My intention is to hit this shot high and soft, so I need to keep the loft on the club. You will also notice an alignment stick on the ground behind the ball (4-6 inches). I have the alignment stick down to show how the wedge works at its low point. When I teach this show I describe it as a "toss and turn." The "toss" keeps the loft on the club and widens out the arc so that the leading edge doesn't drive into the turf. The "turn" or pivot is what keeps the clubhead from passing the hands and helps control the low point.
From the down the line view you can see how rotation occurs in the body. You may also notice how the right hand works in the swing. I talk about the right hand as working with the palm up as you gently toss the club in transition. If the right palm works towards the ground, you will deloft the club and send the leading edge toward the ground.
I use an alignment stick when teaching this shot often to show how the bounce works and what we are trying to do with the low point. As you can see in this video the wedge actually hits the alignment stick, which is a good 5-6 inches behind the ball and still produces a good shot. Because the arc of the club is widening and I continue to pivot, I am able to utilize the bounce and keep the leading edge from digging into the turf. Using the alignment stick can give you a feel for the depth of your arc as well as the angle the club is coming into the ball. If the club is bouncing off the stick, you are probably sending the hands forward, causing the leading edge to drive toward the ground.
You do not need to hit the alignment stick, but it shows that you have some room to work with on low point control if you are delivering the club well. If you catch the shot cleaner, it will add more spin and produce a slightly lower flight. The bigger the swing and the more speed you give this shot, the farther it will go. The more you move the ball forward in the stance and keep the handle back, the higher it will go.
This is certainly not a shot you need to play all the time. But when you find yourself in a situation around the green where you must get the ball up in the air to go over something and make it stop relatively quickly, this can solve your problem. My key focus for most players when they attempt this shot is to keep pivoting. If you are focused on the toss and the body keeps pivoting, even if the contact isn't perfect, you will still tend to hit a reasonable shot.
I hope you are finding the posts helpful. As always, if you need more help or have any questions feel free to reach out anytime. I am now offering one time video analysis of any part of your game through CoachNow for $50. I also have online coaching program subscriptions available for those that are interested. Please message me directly for information.