Know When To Fold 'Em

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

Wedge CloseupSpin
Many of my students ask how they can add more spin to their wedge shots. Adding spin is key—it affords yet another option from short distances. Typical instruction says that in order to add spin, you must “pinch” the ball against the turf. That’s true, but in trying to create the pinch, most golfers simply speed up on the downswing, a huge no-no. The first step is to understand how spin is created. Spin results from the ball “rolling” up the clubface, a phenomenon affected by the size and depth of your grooves. The more the ball rolls up the face, the more it will spin. It makes sense, then, that for more spin, ball contact should be made lower on the face, giving the ball more time to roll up the grooves. Enter scoring lines 2 and 3. For the most spin, create contact near the bottom grooves rather than those in the middle or toward the top. Usually when I offer this advice, students scull the ball. Crucial to this technique is striking the ball with a descending blow. In a good wedge swing, the club moves down and through. If it only moves down, be prepared for a fat shot. If it only moves through, expect to hit your next chip from beyond the other side of the green.

March Madness is over, and the NBA playoffs are in full swing. If you’re like me, you’ve watched a lot of basketball on TV the last few months. I’ve also watched how the good teams rise to the top—with skillful guard play. The guard is the most important position on a basketball team. Guards run the plays and they dictate tempo and control the offensive, passing the ball to the open man and sometimes driving the lane for a layup. Funny, the typical point guard is the smallest member of the team, yet his or her contributions are the biggest. Slam dunks, turnaround jumpers  and alley-oops may garner the most cheers, but they mean nothing without the guard setting the scene.

The same scenario applies to golf: the short game is the least exciting, but it means everything to your game. Big hits are impressive, but if you drive it to 100 yards of the green and can’t do anything with it, well, then you’re not going to advance very far. In my 50-plus years of teaching, I’ve always emphasized the short game. Turning three shots into two will make you a better player than adding 10 yards to your average drive. If you’re already a decent wedge player, great. But if you really want to become a short-game expert, you must learn how to effectively close and open the face to match the situation at hand.

Senior Instruction Editor Marshall Smith has taught the game for more than 50 years. Currently, Smith works with PGA Tour player Todd Fischer. He instructs at Peoria Ridge GC in Miami, Okla. Special thanks to instruction model Clayton Shumaker.



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