Controlling your wedge distances is more difficult than you think. The key is to benchmark your yardages with a three-swing system. Since we can no longer make a full swing, we must create a simple method of defining swing length as it relates to ball carry distance. First, I make a quarter-length swing, where my hands finish about waist high. Second, the half-swing, where I gauge my left arm position as being level to the ground. Finally, my three-quarter-length swing, where my hands reach shoulder high.
Common among all three swings is that the wrists hinge fully and the followthrough mirrors the backswing in terms of length.
The critical element to building a simple repeatable system is linking the swings together with a soft, even rhythm. Think of creating a pendulum swing, where your rhythm moves in a soft yet upbeat fashion, much like a swinging pendulum on a grandfather clock. Make some rehearsal swings saying the rhythm out loud (One, two). It's this type of rhythm that will create a soft, controllable contact and build distance control.
Hit a few shots with each swing (1__ã4, 1__ã2, 3__ã4). Once you get the balls to carry a predictable distance, locate a mark for your three basic wedge yardages. For example, the distance progressions with my sand wedge are 30, 50 and 70 yards. Focus on each target and make the appropriate-length swing. Work on gauging your swing length and rhythm needed to hit each target.
When getting started, focus on developing a solid feel for your distances with your sand wedge. Once you feel confident, try to benchmark your yardages with a pitching wedge and lob wedge. In the end, you'll have a total of nine solid distances inside of 100 yards.
Incorporating these simple techniques into your game is sure to improve your wedge game.
PGA professional Jeff Ritter is the director of instruction at the ASU Karsten Academy and also teaches at Nike Junior Golf Camps nationwide.