Golf Talk With Greg Holman – #90

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My dad is 88 and I cannot talk him into playing golf anymore. It’s not because he isn’t physically able, although he claims he gets tired after 9 holes. He is retiring from golf because he can’t hit his wedge. I think it’s partly his eyesight, but a wedge is something you definitely have to practice. He is not making solid contact so he has trouble hitting it more than 60 yards and sometimes he doesn’t get it off the ground.

I can tell you how to hit a wedge but I’m not the best wedge player either. I carry three wedges. I used to tote four wedges but I put my gap wedge back in the garage in favor of a 3 hybrid. Remember you are only allowed 14 clubs. In my bag you will find a driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 3-hybrid, 4 through 9 iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge and putter.

The sand wedge is closely associated with professional golfer Gene Sarazen. He didn’t really invent it, but he modified a 9-iron by soldering a flange to it to give it lift. He got the idea by flying a plane. When you pull back on the stick, the plane rises.

We’ll discuss the sand wedge on a different show, but today I wanted to talk about the pitching wedge. It used to be known as a 10 iron. Today the wedge family is usually referred to by degrees of loft. A pitching wedge for instance typically has a loft between 45 and 54 degrees. I couldn’t tell you what mine is.

We’ve talked about the fact that golf is a game of opposites. You hit down on the ball to get it up in the air. It’s important to hit the ball first with a descending blow, taking your divot after making contact with the ball. This takes practice. I don’t usually try to hit a pitching wedge 100% unless I’m going over a tree. It will go too high otherwise and it will be at the mercy of the wind. I would suggest a three-quarter swing resulting in a shot between 75 and 90 yards.

With anything less than a three-quarter swing, It’s important not to rush and keep your wrists out of the swing. That’s when you get inconsistent contact resulting in stray shots or distance problems. Think swing instead of hit. For a true pitch shot of 20-40 yards you may want to experiment with a sand wedge or lob wedge, but a pitching wedge is perfect for a shot of that distance if you have plenty green to work with. That is if the flag is in the back portion of the green. Take a backswing just past waist high and drop the club on the ball. With practice the shot will be a line drive that skips a couple of times and stops dead on the green. This shot can give you a birdie on a par 5 or help you save par on a par 4 hole.

So go out on the range and practice a three-quarter wedge shot to a 75 or 100 yard target and a half wedge shot to a 50 yard target. Think one, two. Smooth. One, two.

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