Know When To Fold 'Em

Add closed and open-faced shots to your short-game arsenal

Check The ToeCheck The Toe When Squaring The Face
A perfect swing can yield an off-line shot if what you thought was a square face at address was actually open a few degrees. It’s a common phenomenon among the recreational ranks. For foolproof face alignment, check the toe of the club and its relation to the hosel. Simply eyeing the face won’t work.

Learn The Short-Shot Basics
The wedge shot is not a full-swing shot, so it needs special attention at the setup. Since there isn’t enough time in the wedge swing to get your left side out of the way and shift weight to your front foot, set your weight forward at address and adopt a slightly open stance. Now all you need to do is take the club back and through (without rushing or overaccelerating). To guarantee centered contact, hitch your right elbow to your side and keep it there until impact. This is an effective way to keep the club on plane and make clean, crisp contact with the golf ball.

The golf swing is both down and through
In its simplest form, the short shot is simply “down and through.” Your hands lead the club down to the ball, then the rotation of your rear shoulder under your chin leads it through. At the finish, you should be able to shake hands with an imaginary person on your left, which means the hands remain low.

Open For Business
With a grooved sand wedge swing, you now have all you need to hit a variety of distances and produce varying trajectories. Opening or closing the face at address accomplishes this. For less distance and more loft, rotate the face open. For more distance or to produce a lower trajectory, simply close the face.

When opening or closing the face, never look at the center of the club. Doing so can give you an inaccurate reading of just how far open or closed you’ve rotated the face. Instead, look to the toe. Imagine a line running from your stance line through the hosel. How does that line look at the toe? If it’s left of the toe, then the face is open. If it’s right, then the face is closed.

For both open- and closed-face shots, use the same stance described above. Of course, the more you open the face, the more left of target you should align your feet at address, and vice versa for closed-face shots. Regardless, both shots require a slightly open stance with the majority of weight situated over the front hip and leg.

Flight Control
Let’s imagine a 30-yard shot. If the pin were up, I’d opt to open the face and hit a high shot that drops and stops immediately upon landing. If the pin is back, then I’d close the face and hit a lower shot, planning to land short of the pin and letting the ball run to the hole once it lands. Either way, I make the same swing with only a slight change in backswing length. This seems to be where most recreational players have difficulty. Maybe this bit of advice will help. For the first shot, the 30-yard high-lofter, I take my hands back to my waist. For the lower shot, I stop my backswing at my knees. From these two 30-yard options, I can build backswings to match varying lengths. Say the shot is 60 yards. To hit it high, I open the face and take my hands back to shoulder level; for the low runner, I’ll stop my hands at my waist.

The next time you practice, bring only your sand wedge. Pick a target 30 yards away. Open the face and see how far a backswing you need to land the ball that distance. Now, close the face and see just how much you need to shorten your backswing to hit the same yardage. It’s a perfect way to learn distance control and improve your wedge swing at the same time. In a single practice session, you’ll groove a feel for specific yardages without much effort.


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