Analysis of Tour Pros Wedge Action
Tour pros see their wedge game as an insurance policy. To compete they must shoot low rounds and their ability to recover is the glue that keeps a round together.
There are many similarities and subtle differences with all players. These players are adept in understanding the handle of the golf club. Rather than obsessing about the clubhead and the way it might contact the ball or the ground, high level players know that they can create any desired result by understanding the role of their hands on the handle or grip end of the club.
Instead of making the amateur mistake of thinking of what they want the ball to do, pros work on making the club follow the right path. You hear thoughts like, “make the handle work low and left.” “Put the handle in the front left pocket after impact.”
A pro finishes, many times, with the clubhead low while the amateur flips the clubhead up to the sky, in an attempt to get the ball to do the same.
Here are some observations of wedge play from the US Open. These will follow the posted videos that were just added to the DGA website.
Always a player who shows beautiful posture, he has a very soft action. No speed or overt acceleration. You can watch his shadow and notice the path of his arms. I want you to look at the clubface at the end of the swing. This shot is from a perfect lie, and he is using the club with an open clubface. This is common to most high-level players, as it gets the ball to relax quickly upon landing on the green.
The players at Torrey Pines were baffled by the green-side rough. Matsuyama is using his legs and speed to drive the ball out of the rough. This is very much in keeping with the way he hits all golf shots. It is wise to try to solve the conditions of the golf course you are playing, through the method that comes most naturally to you, before you try to develop a shot or swing action to deal with the turf conditions. Matsuyama drives his legs through all shots, so it is natural to try to make a shot through this natural tendency.
He is one of the finest wedge players on tour. Berger plays with a very strong left-hand grip, with his left hand turned until the Velcro on his glove faces the sky. You will notice his left shoulder keeps moving throughout his swing. His body moves in perfect time with his arms and he, like most pros, just nicks the ground without striking at the ball. He moves the handle around the ball, rather than stabbing the clubhead at the ball.
We were fortunate to play a practice round with Harris and he was nice enough to allow me to video him playing several different wedge shots. He eventually finished third in the tournament.
A tall man, Harris stands the shaft up vertically very early in his swing. This is ideal for the greenside rough. The clubhead quickly rises and then falls heavily, using gravity as the driving force. You see little leg or body movement. Just leading the fall of the club, rather than making it fall. Players who had this type of natural tendency to their swing seemed to handle the high Kikuyu rough better than the other players.
From the fairway, English again is perfectly suited for these shots. He uses gravity as the driving force of the clubhead, rather than grip pressure through the hands. The club/ground interaction is perfect and very precise. Patience is a great way to describe the way Harris English swings his wedges. This type of action works on any turf.
You notice him trying different clubs and trajectories. Practice rounds are an opportunity to explore the shots that may be necessary to save par if things DON’T go as planned on a certain hole.
From the side view you can see a VERY IMPORTANT FUNDAMENTAL: keep your sternum left of the ball throughout the swing.
Dylan Meyer: Most tour pros, from 60 yards and in, keep their feet relatively close together. Their heels are about the width of a clubhead apart and their toes are slightly turned out. This allows just enough body rotation to promote the swing of the club, without creating an undue amount of force.
Notice the precise club/ground contact. Even more evident is the open clubface, which makes the club slide nicely along the ground.
The last video shows the use of speed and the open face to create spin. The shaft travels in a tight path around his body.
He was playing shots of 60 – 75 yards. He mentioned that he loved the turf because it matched the sweeping action he liked to employ in his full swing. Again, notice the position of his sternum over the ball. Your positions at address determine the type of shot you see in the air.
You see a slightly open face and no attempt to close the face through impact.
Finau is a great athlete with huge hands, and you can see how he uses it when playing these types of shots. Just a wonderful action.
In direct opposite of Daniel Berger, Morikawa plays with a very weak left-hand grip. It is bowed toward the target at address and stays in that position throughout his swing. He touches the ground softly and uses continual rotation of his body to deliver the strike.
He is one of the elite wedge players on tour. You can see the similarity of the plane of his swing (the shaft) on both sides of his body. Notice how the shaft quickly rises above his right forearm on the backswing. This position is evident on most elite wedge players.
This video is from the Masters. Donald rode the strength of his putter and his wedge game to a #1 ranking on both the PGA and European tours.
He has a very wide swing action. His clubhead spends a very long time along the ground. A common thought among many tour players is to keep the shaft even with the center of our body and swing them together back and through the ball.
Much can be gained by watching Donald. His arms are extended straight down and show little bend throughout the swing. Notice his belt buckle moving to control the speed in the swing.
Martin Kaymer has won tournaments all over the world and is a “fade expert.” He rarely hits a draw. On this wedge shot, he gets the shaft vertical and comes down on the ball steeply. If the course fits his game, he can shoot a very low score.
Watching him hit balls is impressive because every shot looks very similar. It rises to the left side of the target and falls softly to the right. His ability to produce a standard shot and eliminate one side of the golf course is what professional golf is all about.
Kevin Kisner is a very good bunker player. He doesn’t strike violently at the sand and moves very little sand. A small amount of sand and a lot of speed creates maximum spin. Don’t be afraid to open the clubface wide and trust the bounce of the wedge to create a cushion of sand under the ball.
Notice Kisner playing different distances with the size of swing and speed of release through the sand.
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL
I included Olazabal in this list because he is one of the all-time greats in this category.
Unique to him is his weak grip. His action is quick and snappy, like his full swing.
The side view shows his narrow stance that keeps the ball underneath his chest for impact. His head stays steady and, if anything, it moves slightly toward the target. His knees work toward the target as well. These things promote a solid strike.
The down-the line view shows a SQUARE stance, which keeps his right leg out of the way. This allows his right arm to swing, hanging straight down, through the ball and deliver a very consistent pattern of impact and trajectory.
The handle points at his midsection through impact and all the way to the finish.
Study this action for the committed movement as much as the mechanics and positions during the swing.
Impact is the moment of truth for all golf shots. No matter what address position you see a player adopt, there is generally a small amount of shaft lean at impact.
Most players use a slightly open clubface. This helps to insure a light touch on the grass and optimum spin.
The handle will be close to our body through impact and finish near our left front pocket. Many players feel like their spine and the club shaft match in their swing from back to through the ball.
Two things leap out as solid fundamentals of high-quality wedge play: your sternum begins and stays in front of the ball throughout the swing.
To begin the swing, we move the shaft steeply to a position above our right forearm. This early position allows us to use gravity and relaxation to promote a touchful, solid strike. The wedge head is the heaviest club in our bag. If we use it properly, we have the chance to deal with most lies that come along in our round.
Study these players and compare the different aspects of their address, backswing and move through the ball. Watch their shadow and then compare your swing. Soon you will develop a confidence necessary to protect that low round that is definitely in your future.
Michael Wolf, Certified Master Teaching Professional, has been playing golf for 46 years and teaching professionally for over 34 years. He has given over 30,000 golf lessons. Author of The Driven Golfer: Building Your Method For Scratch Golf. Harvey Penick Award Winner- 2016 (Top Instructor U.S./World Golf Teachers Federation)