To execute a wedge shot that hits, takes a hop and stops (or spins back), the first thing you need is the right kind of ball (see the sidebar) and a high-lofted wedge with sharp grooves. Next, you need a good lie from the fairway so the ball compresses against the clubface and the grooves bite into it and get it spinning fast. To create more spin with your wedge, set up with the ball back in your stance, place a little weight on your left side (lefties, do the opposite), lean your clubshaft forward and swing down on a steep angle so the clubhead moves swiftly through the impact zone. Following this tip is absolutely vital, as a faster clubhead speed directly correlates to more spin.
The Knuckle Ball Here, I'm hitting a 460cc driver and a premium ball (see the sidebar to find out why). With such a big clubhead, it's vital to tee up the ball nice and high so you hit it off the top part of the clubface. Doing so takes advantage of the club's C.O.R. or spring-like effect that helps add distance. Set up with the ball just inside your front foot and place about 60% of your weight on your back foot. This tilts your spine to the right and makes it easier to catch the ball high on the clubface at impact. The result should be a low-spinning shot that flies on a flatter arc.
Fade Release At left, notice how my clubface is aimed straight (and where I want the ball to end up) while my body lines (shoulders, feet) point to the left (and where I want my shot to start). To hit a fade, set up this way and swing along your body lines. Doing so helps hold off your release, as seen above.
Draw Release Here's the mirror opposite of the Fade tip. My clubface is aiming where I want the ball to end up, but my body lines are aimed to the right. Doing this adds draw-spin to the ball and encourages a stronger release (left). Again, swing along your body lines!
Get It Rollin' A square putterface at impact not only gets the ball rolling end over end in the right direction, but it eliminates skidding and hopping (which results from poor contact and affects the distance and direction your ball travels). If your putterface isn't square (or if it's misaligned by a degree or two), it's almost impossible to make putts, regardless of their length. I suggest visiting a putter-fitting studio to make sure your putter's loft suits your stroke. Also, try playing with a putter that features a face insert to reduce skid.
To improve the quality of your roll and consistency of your stroke, try this drill. Place the ball slightly forward in your stance (see above) and make a stroke using the larger shoulder muscles (not the hands!). Keep these fundamentals in mind and use a putter that fits your stroke to get the ball rolling the right way.
The Right Ball To control how much (or how little) your shots spin, you have to use the right kind of golf ball. If you're a golfer who swings relatively slow, you should use a two-piece ball with a firm cover. It will help you add distance off the tee; however, it won't help you spin the ball very much around the greens. Unfortunately, that's the trade-off you have to make. Some balls fitting that description include the Nike Juice, Pinnacle Platinum Feel, Titleist DT Carry & Roll and Top-Flite Gamer (a three-piece ball that offers the same benefits as its two-piece counterparts). Golfers with Tour-like swing speeds (112 mph and up) can compress their drives and long irons more and benefit from the spin a premium three- or four-piece multilayer ball can generate around the greens. Typical balls fitting this category are the Bridgestone Tour B330 series, Callaway Tour series, Nike One series, Srixon Z-URS, TaylorMade TP series and Titleist Pro V1 series. Another big difference between these two kinds of balls is price. The harder two- or three-piece designs run about $20 while the multilayers go for over $40. See our 2008 Golf Equipment Buyer's Guide for more info.
Tim Mahoney is the Director of Education for Troon Golf and teaches in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Sun Valley, Idaho.