They don’t keep stats for it on the PGA Tour, but all pros excel at hitting the mid-range lob. It’s played with your highest-lofted club (usually a lob wedge) from around 30 yards, and it’s one of those shots that, if you pull it off to save par or make birdie, can energize the rest of your round.
Since you’re already a good player, you know it’s easier to judge a rolling ball than it is to judge a high, flying one, but there are some situations (over bunkers, water or when the pin is on a tier or on the front edge of the green, etc.) when you have to play a mid-range lob to get to your target. If you want to go low, you’ve got to be an expert at this shot.
The first thing to note about the setup is that the clubface points directly at the target while your body aligns itself left of the target. As you assume this setup, make sure that the Big Three (shoulders, hips and feet) all point in the same direction so they’ll work together during the swing.
The ball should be played well forward–opposite the arch of your front foot–with the butt end of your golf club pointing toward your body’s mid-line. This avoids the mistake of setting the hands ahead of the ball, a move that de-lofts the clubface by creating too much shaft angle.
The mid-range lob requires an upper-body rotation much the same as your regular swing except that you cut way back on the speed of your turn. As you start your swing, cock your wrists early and aggressively while rotating your hips and your shoulders. Once you create the angle between your target arm and the clubshaft, your wrists and arms should feel locked and in place. Allow your chest to swivel, but keep your lower-body action to a minimum. The key here is to make sure your target arm swings along your toe line. If you allow your front arm to mirror your hip line, the club will swing too far inside and get buried behind you.
As you swing back to the ball, combine body rotation with quiet hands and forearms that, unlike they do in a full-swing shot, don’t roll over. Your goal is to hit the ball using a dead-arm motion, where the toe of the clubhead never turns over the heel. In other words, allow your lead arm to fold, but not rotate. This is another key to keep the face from shutting down.
One of the things that makes this shot so tough for most golfers is the leg action. Most either freeze their legs, causing them to slap at the ball, or shake like Elvis and slide all over the place. To play this shot correctly, the legs must remain quiet going back, but active coming down, as the back knee kicks toward the target. It’s this passive-then-active leg action that makes players like Tom Watson and Tiger Woods so good at the mid-range lob.
Here’s another thing to keep track of: Your right knee should kick inward along your toe line on the downswing by allowing your back foot to come up onto its inner rim. If your knee moves up and away from your toe line, you’ll ruin the shot. You can check to see that you don’t have trotter knee (named for the high-stepping racehorse) by taking your stance and laying down a club along your toe line. Now make a practice swing and stop just before impact–your back knee should be pointing along the same line as the shaft.
The finish to the mid-range lob should feature such a full rotation of your chest that it faces well left of the target. Also, your forearms still haven’t crossed over even though your left arm is fully folded at the elbow. A good check for the proper finish is to look at your clubface–if it was a mirror, you’d see your reflection. Practice the feeling of the finish to the mid-range lob by posing with your right hand under the left and the butt of the club pointing away from the target so the clubshaft is almost parallel to the ground. When you’re ready for the real thing, simply swing to this position, and the chances are good that you’ll execute the mid-range lob correctly.
Use the mid-range lob when a low-running shot just won’t do. You’ll also find that the shot is perfect for ultra-fast greens when judging how far your ball will roll once it lands is most difficult. Hit it high, land it soft, then make the putt.
PGA Professional Dr. T. J. Tomasi is one of the most widely published authorities on the golf swing and is recognized as one of the top 100 teachers in America.