Sunday, June 1, 2003
5 Driving, 5 Wedge Play and 5 Putting Mistakes
Fix common errors in three key areas and watch your scores plummet
Mistake #5: Poor Alignment
Poor alignment is evident in 90% of amateur swings, and I can’t blame you for it. Today’s longer-shafted drivers force golfers to stand further away from the ball, which makes alignment difficult. A good way to ingrain proper alignment is to place guide clubs on the ground when you hit balls on the range. This will help you feel how your feet should be positioned relative to the target you select. Have a friend check your hip and shoulder lines from behind you. Often, even if the feet are aligned properly, the shoulders and hips will be open. This sets the stage for a slice path.
I love wedge shots. With wedges, you have the greatest chance of hitting the ball close to the hole. They set up birdie chances and can turn bogey into par real quick. For most recreational players, the wedge shot is feared because it demands a steep, out-in path. And the extra bounce on wedges makes it easy to hit the ball thin, especially from tight lies. A quick review of common mistakes should easily put these fears to rest, however.
Mistake #1: High-Fiving
One of my favorite lessons is, “In golf, you shake hands like a gentleman.” Most golfers, however, “high five.” In other words, they swing from low to high following impact.
In all swings, hit down and through the ball so that in the postimpact position, your hands are still below your waist. For better wedge shots, follow impact by shaking hands with your target.
Mistake #2: Poor Setup
It seems so simple, but many recreational players hurt their chances for solid contact by not properly setting up to the golf ball, especially with a pitching or sand wedge in their hands. A major setup mistake golfers make when playing a wedge shot is standing too far away from the ball. It’s a short club, so stand a little closer and in an upright posture. Since you won’t have time to get your left side out of the way, play from an open stance, with your front foot pulled back. And always make sure your right elbow is against your right side. If the elbow gets away from the body, you’ll lose control of the clubhead, and since swings with wedges are much shorter than those with your other irons, you won’t have time to recover.
Mistake #3: Open Clubface
If the face of your wedge is open, and you’re not prepared for it, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. It’s a mistake that far too many amateur golfers make. The extra loft of the wedge makes it a bit more difficult to determine if the face is closed, open or square, a problem further complicated by the fact that most golfers look at the toe of the club to square the face to the target line.
To align your clubhead properly, focus on the leading edge, not the toe. The leading edge should bisect an imaginary line running from your ball to the target. This probably sounds elementary, but I bet you’ve played a few shots with an open face without your knowing about it. It happens to everybody. One reason why is that most wedge shots are played from the back of the stance. With the ball played from this position, it’s even easier to forgetfully allow the clubface to slide open to the target.
Mistake #4: Yardage Control
How many times, from 75 yards, did you come up 15 yards short or 15 yards long? I bet it’s more than you’d like to admit. Erring by that much from such short distance is unforgivable. Good wedge players know how to hit the ball specific distances. The key is practice.
Use a session on the range to find out how far you hit each wedge with backswings that stop at knee-high, waist-high and shoulder-high. Once you have this inventory of shots, you’ll know how far to take the club back when you’re faced with a specific yardage on the course. Remember, the length of your backswing, not the force of your swing, controls how far you hit a wedge. Set the length, then accelerate through impact.
Mistake #5: Overactive Legs
Watch any Tour player make a short-game swing and one thing should jump out: The legs of the golfer are dead. The smooth, unhurried, even tempo of a short swing doesn’t require a ton of leg action. In fact, if you set up properly with a slightly open stance, you shouldn’t need any leg action at all.
For most wedge swings, power the club exclusively with your hands and arms. Above all, don’t shift laterally or flail your hips open as if you’re trying to crush the ball 300 yards. The short game is all about control, so stay in control and keep those legs quiet. Plus, since wedge shots require a shorter, slower swing, there isn’t enough time to maneuver the hips closed, then open, before impact.
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