When hitting a driver or another long club, an open stance – one aimed left of the target if you're right-handed – can cause a lot of problems. However, it's a different story with a wedge in your hands.
An open stance creates an outside-to-inside clubhead path, cutting across the ball and typically producing a slice or a pull. Because the wedges have lots of loft and are swung at slow speeds, there's little chance of hitting a big curveball. In fact, an open stance will help you hit wedge shots higher and stop them more quickly on the greens.
An open stance also promotes full rotation of the hips through the ball, which many golfers fail to do on shorter shots. If you struggle to get adequate height and strike your wedges solidly, try this on the range:
- Choose a target and take your normal stance with the ball in the center (or thereabouts).
- Flare the left (lead) toe toward the target, about 15-20°.
- Pull the left foot slightly back, away from the target line.
- Now bend down and place the club so that it touches the toes of both feet, then step back. The club should point a little left of your target – about 5 to 10 yards.
If you stand too open, you'll likely strike the ball poorly and lose distance by hitting it too high. Remember, a little goes a long way.
Golf Fix - Open Lead Foot and Hip for Better Wedge Play
It seems that wedge play often gets 'lost in the shuffle' in the game of golf. Most players understand that they need to work on their putting in order to score well - and nearly every player loves to work on hitting the driver. However, the rest of the game, including wedge play, can be overlooked and neglected when it comes to practice time. This, of course, is a mistake. If you are going to play up to the best of your ability in the years to come, you are going to want to invest time and effort into being the best wedge player possible.
If you think about it, wedge shots are responsible for setting up the majority of your good birdie chances during a round. When hitting a longer approach shot, you are most likely going to be happy with a par, as it is hard to be accurate from long range. However, when you are hitting into the green from less than 100 yards or so, you can be aggressive and turn your mind toward making a birdie. The only things standing between you and a birdie after a long and accurate drive are a quality wedge shot and a solid putt. Getting the first half of that equation out of the way is a big step, and it isn't going to happen by accident - only hard work will enable you to hit good wedge shots over and over again.
In this article, we are going to look at one specific tip that can help you to hit better wedge shots on a consistent basis - opening up your lead foot and hip. This might seem like a subtle change, and it is, but it can actually have a pretty profound impact on the way the ball comes off the club at impact. When used correctly, this small adjustment can quickly improve your wedge play, and your overall ability to get the ball close to the hole will be enhanced as a result. Striking a wedge shot solidly is not as hard as hitting a solid long iron or even a driver, so you can expect to reach impressive levels of consistency once you have the basic motion in place.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to be talking mostly about full swing wedge shots. Yes, your stance is important when chipping and pitching as well, but that is a different topic for a different time. Here, we are going to be looking at how you can play better full swing wedge shots through making this adjustment to your stance. Unlike many other tips you will receive for your full swing from teachers and other golfers, this one shouldn't take very long to put into use. As long as you are willing to invest a bit of practice time upfront, you should be able to see better wedge shots landing closer to your targets in the very near future.
All of the content below has been written from the perspective of a right handed golfer - meaning the lead foot, in this case, is going to be the left foot. If you happen to play left handed, you will want to reverse all of the directions as necessary.
Wedge Play Problems
One of the keys to actually improving your performance on the golf course is to work on things that really are problems in the first place. It is common for golfers to spend practice time on things that aren't actually problems - meaning they are just wasting time, and possibly doing damage that will make them worse in the long run. Before you start making changes like opening up your lead foot at address on wedge shots, you need to be sure that your wedge game does, in fact, need to be improved.
With that in mind, the list below contains a number of the common problems experienced by the average golfer when hitting a full shot with a wedge. If one or more of these problems sounds familiar, you just might stand to improve your performance by altering your stance.
- Hitting the ball fat. This is probably the most common problem that amateur golfers face when it comes to the topic of full wedge shots. Catching the ball even a little bit fat can have a disastrous effect on the outcome of the shot. Wedge shots are all about distance control and you simply can't control your distances properly when you don't make clean contact. Hitting the ball heavy will inevitably lead to coming up short of the target, and there are often hazards lurking to catch balls that don't quite carry all the way to the green.
- Hitting the ball thin. While not quite as common, some golfers will struggle with the mistake of hitting the ball thin rather than fat. When this happens, the flight of the ball barely gets more than a few feet off the ground, and the shot will typically fly over the target. Even if the ball does happen to come down at approximately the right distance, the low trajectory and lack of spin will cause it to bounce and roll much too far. Players who get into this pattern often have a hard time getting out because the fear of hitting the ball thin is always lurking in the back of their mind.
- Pushing the ball out to the right of the target. Are you constantly missing your wedge shots to the right of the target? This is a problem that is faced by more golfers than you might think. As the club comes down toward impact, the face is naturally open to the target line - it needs to be released properly in order to get square up at impact. While the process of the release is something that happens pretty easily with longer swings, it can be hard to get your wedges to release fully on the way through the hitting area. Without a full release, the club will be pointed to the right and your shot will not hit its target.
- Hitting the ball too high. This is another problem that is seen in the games of many amateur players. However, some of those players don't even know that they have a problem, since it doesn't seem like such a bad thing to hit wedge shots high in the air. While hitting the ball up to a certain height is not a problem, sending it too high into the sky will make it difficult to control both your spin and your distance properly. Consistency is the name of the game when hitting approach shots with your wedges, and it is almost impossible to be consistent when the ball is flying extremely high up into the air. Bringing your ball flight down will make you a more reliable player, and your scores will come down as a result.
Obviously, there are plenty of different ways in which you can hit poor wedge shots. The list above is just a start, but there is a good chance that you recognize at least one or two of those mistakes from your own game. If you do, there is no time like the present to get started working on a fix.
The Underlying Issues
The list of wedge play problems above is simply a list of results - the outcomes that you can expect after you have made a mistake in your swing. However, that list doesn't address the root cause of the problem, which is really what needs to be fixed in the first place. It doesn't do you a lot of good to know that you need to quit hitting your wedge shots fat, as that point is obvious. Instead, you need to know what it is that is leading to those fat shots, as then you will have something specific that you can correct.
In the list below, you will find some of the common technical mistakes that lead to many of the errors included on the previous list. At this time, your job is to think carefully about the current state of your swing to determine which one (or more) of the mistakes below are present within your technique.
- Rushing the transition. Without a doubt, this is the number one swing problem that is faced by amateur golfers when hitting a wedge shot. Since the wedge swing is shorter than the rest of your swings with other clubs, there is a natural tendency to rush it along. Also, you are probably feeling a bit excited at the possibility of hitting the ball close to the hole, so you want to hurry through the swing to see where the ball is going to end up. Of course, rushing is never a good way to hit a golf shot, and you are only going to end up disappointed with this technique. You simply must take your time through the transition in order to put your body in a good position to strike the ball properly at impact.
- Sliding toward the target. Another popular mistake, you need to avoid sliding your body weight toward the target in the downswing. This is a move that is commonly associated with missing the ball to the right. As you slide, your body will struggle to rotate to the left, and the club face will remain open at impact as a result. Leave that slide behind and do a good job of turning through the shot in order to get the ball on target time after time.
- Active hands in the takeaway. Just as is the case with all of the other swings you make throughout a given round, you want to keep your hands out of the takeaway in your wedge game as much as possible. When your hands become too active, the club will be forced to the inside early on, and you will have to make a correction at some point before impact to get the ball on the right line. Most of the time, however, that correction won't work out and your shot will miss the target. To swing on a proper plane and to keep the club face as square as possible, it is desirable to keep your hands quiet early in the swing while your shoulder rotation does the work.
- Indecision. This isn't a technical mistake so much as it is a mental mistake, but it can affect the outcome of your shots nonetheless. If you are standing over the ball feeling unsure about what you should do with your swing, the result of the shot is almost certainly going to be ugly. You have to have a clear picture in mind for all shots that you hit throughout any round, and that certainly includes your wedge shots. Before you step up to the ball to take your stance, picture the swing you are going to make and the shot you are going to hit. The clarity that is gained from going through the visualization process will be incredibly valuable in the end.
If you are being honest with yourself, you are going to recognize at least one or two of the points from the list above as being mistakes that you have made in your own game from time to time. In fact, even professional golfers are not above making these mistakes once in awhile (although not very often). Of course, if you can do a good job of taking these errors out of your game to the greatest possible degree, you will be rewarded with better performance and more birdie opportunities.
Benefits of the Open Lead Foot and Hip
Finally, we are going to get down to business on how an open lead foot and hip can help you to hit better wedge shots. While this is the title of the article, it was necessary to lay the groundwork with the sections above in order to make sure you fully understand the wedge game and what can go wrong. Now that you have a better picture of what might be going wrong with your wedge game (see the points on the list above), we can highlight just how an open foot and hip at address may be able to solve some of your problems. This next list points out a few of the reasons why you may want to try opening up that left foot at hip when you stand over your wedge shots.
- Get the lower body involved. This is really what this idea is all about. It is hard to get your lower body properly involved when hitting a full wedge shot, but opening up your lead foot will give you a better chance to do just that. With an open left foot and hip, your lower body will naturally want to get involved during the transition from backswing to downswing. If done correctly, your lower body can lead the way into impact, allowing you to strike the ball with an impressive combination of power and accuracy. If you have ever wondered why professional golfers are able to hit their wedges so solidly time and time again, it all comes down to the use of their lower body. Pros know how to use their legs and hips in order to drive the club through the ball, and you need to do the same in your own game.
- Avoid the slide. As mentioned above, a lateral slide in the downswing is bad news for your wedge shots. The golf swing should be all about rotation, and there should be little to no sliding involved - especially as you head down toward impact. By opening up your foot and hip, you are going to encourage your body to turn through the shot, rather than slide. In the end, you will be left with a swing that has no trouble at all finding solid contact at the bottom, and you should be able to release the club correctly as well. In fact, if you make the mistake of sliding to your left with most of the clubs in your bag, you can use this tip on all of your shots in an effort to leave the slide in the past.
- Swing through to the finish. When you leave your left foot and hip squared up to the target line, it can be difficult to swing all the way through to a full finish - especially for those working with limited flexibility. By turning your foot open, however, that problem will be a thing of the past. You will feel that you have more room to turn through the shot when your foot is set open, and you probably won't even have to think about the finish as it will just happen naturally. As an added bonus, you may find that your swing doesn't wear on your knee and hip as much, meaning you can play more often, and for longer.
To be sure, opening your foot and hip up to the target line is a minor change, but it can have a major impact. Once the left foot is turned open, the rest of your wedge swing is likely to fall into place - largely on its own. This is one of those changes that you can make in your golf swing which will usually have a positive impact almost immediately. After just a short range session filled with wedge swings, you should be comfortable and ready to go out onto the course with your new and improved wedge technique.
A Comment on the Short Game
Before we finish, the short game needs to be briefly addressed because it plays a role in this picture as well. Since there is often a blurry line between what is a 'full swing' wedge and what is a long pitch shot, it makes sense to play all of these kinds of shots with the same style of swing. Instead of moving your left foot back into a square position when you get closer to the hole, just leave it alone so you have consistency from shot to shot. While it might not quite offer the same benefits in the short game as it does with a full swing, leaving your foot open isn't going to hurt anything either. You should always try to make your golf game as simple and straightforward as possible, and this small change is one way to do just that.
If you would like, you can operate by the rule of thumb that you are going to have your left foot and hip slightly open anytime you are using a wedge. That way of thinking will take any doubt out of your mind as far as how you are going to stand prior to starting a swing. Holding a wedge? Open up your foot as you secure your stance. It doesn't get much easier than that, so you will have one less thing to worry about as you go around the course. Golf isn't going to become easy anytime soon, but this kind of thinking can at least make it a little bit easier.
You shouldn't plan on having this tip totally transform your golf game, even though it can certainly be helpful. Are you going to suddenly take 10 strokes off of your average score just because you opened your left foot slightly to the target line? No, of course not. Golf doesn't work that way. You might, however, take a stroke or two off your score due to hitting better wedge shots, and that is something to be proud of. If you keep making small improvements such as this over the long run, you can turn yourself into a quality golfer one minor step at a time. Enjoy your new found ability to hit accurate wedge shots, and good luck!