Most avid golfers carry a pitching wedge and a gap wedge, plus a sand and/or lob wedge. Because there's generally just 5-6° of loft separating each club from the next, there are no huge variations in shot distances from wedge to wedge.
But no matter how many wedges you carry, you're bound to face shots that fall in between. For example, say you hit a full gap wedge 105 yards and a full sand wedge 85, and you need a shot that carries 92 yards. Or maybe you have a club to fit the exact yardage, but a headwind makes the shot play a little longer.
That's when you need the “three-quarter” shot. Some amateurs misinterpret the term, thinking it involves swinging at three-quarters of your normal effort. This invariably causes them to slow down rather than accelerate approaching impact, resulting in fat or thin contact.
In fact, the three-quarter shot requires the same power but a shorter swing – 75% (or so) of your usual length. Here's a simple method for playing the three-quarter wedge:
There's no need to consciously shorten your swing; gripping down on the club and pressing on your lead foot will take care of that. When practicing, vary the amount you grip down to determine how much difference a slight adjustment makes. And hit each wedge different lengths on the driving range, because developing feel is key to success on in-between shots.
Knock It Close with the Three Quarter Wedge
Amateur golfers love to talk about finding the 'secret' to golf. After all, the professionals make it look so easy that there must be one secret which can unlock great scores, right? Well, no. There is no secret to golf – playing well simply requires solid technique, good decision making, and plenty of practice. There are no shortcuts to success in this game. All of the players you see excelling on TV each weekend have dedicated incredible amounts of time to honing their craft. They aren't there due to luck or chance – they have earned their spot through dedication and a belief in their own abilities.
While there is no secret that will allow amateurs to play like professionals, there are a few things that pro golfers do dramatically better than the average player. One of those things is hitting@ three quarter wedge shots. A 'three quarter' wedge is a term that is used to describe a shot played with a wedge from something less than a full distance. So, for example, if you normally hit your sand wedge 100 yards in the air, you could use a three quarter wedge when you are 70-80 yards from the target. Don't get too hung up on the exact definition of three quarter in terms of yardage – it is mostly just an expression to indicate a less-than-full swing wedge shot.
This is an important shot because you won't often find your ball lined up perfectly for a full swing wedge. You need to be able to hit your wedges close to the hole to set up short birdie or par putts, but the course will rarely allow you to make a full swing from a perfect yardage. More likely, you are going to have to get creative and use a variety of three quarter wedge swings in order to set up your short putts. Pro golfers are great at using soft swings to place the ball near the hole from inside 100 yards, but the average amateur golfer struggles mightily from this range. Taking the time to learn how to hit a three quarter wedge would be a wise investment in the future of your game.
The natural instinct of many golfers is to swing as hard as possible all of the time. Most players pull a club from the bag with the intention of smashing the ball high into the air regardless of the situation. It should go without saying that this is a bad strategy, and it is one that will cost you strokes as the rounds go by. If you are serious about becoming a better player, one of the first things you should learn to do is hit softer shots. By adding the ability to control the ball to your game, you will be better prepared to deal with a wider range of situations that you may face during a round. Also, learning how to make softer swings will help your feel for the swing as a hole, making it more likely that you will be able to solve problems when they come up.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Tuning Down Your Full Swing
You don't want to make an entirely new golf swing just to hit a three quarter shot. Instead, you want to make your usual swing, with just a few adjustments to tune down the speed a bit. By slowing everything down through a variety of mechanical adjustments, you can effectively take 10 or 15 yards off of your shots without having to radically alter your mechanics. You have worked hard to create the swing you have now, so it would be a mistake to overhaul it completely just to hit some three quarter wedges.
As you should already know, learning this kind of shot needs to happen first on the range before you try to take it onto the course. Using the following three adjustments during your next range session to work on learning the three quarter wedge.
- Choke down on the grip. The very first thing you need to do when learning the three quarter wedge is to choke down on the grip of the club. By coming down the grip of your wedge by an inch or two you will be able to shorten your swing and limit the speed you generate. Controlling your distance is all about controlling swing speed, and choking down on your wedges will put a limit on how much speed you build in the downswing. Not only will choking down on your wedges put a limit on your speed, but it will also help you keep the ball down lower to the ground, which is a great way to improve distance control effectively.
- Move the ball back in your stance. Both of the goals of a three quarter wedge – hitting the ball shorter and lower to the ground – will be served by moving the ball back in your stance. You don't need to move it way back in your stance, as just a couple of inches will make a big change in how the ball comes off the face of the club at impact. If you normally play your full swing wedge shots from the center of your stance, try hitting your three quarter wedges from a couple of inches behind that center point. As you practice, use a number of different ball positions until you are able to find one that gives you satisfactory results.
- Stand closer to the ball. This point should come along with choking down on the grip, but some golfers fail to move in closer when they choke down. Since you are making the club effectively shorter as you choke down, you need to stand closer to the ball in order to promote solid contact. Standing closer to the ball will also encourage an upright swing plane for this shot, which is perfect for driving the ball low toward the target with very little sidespin. Hitting a three quarter wedge is all about accuracy and control, and standing slightly closer to the ball is going to help you with both of those things.
If you only make the three adjustments listed above, you will be well on your way to hitting beautiful three quarter wedge shots. Of course, as you probably would guess, you are going to have to practice these adjustments before they become comfortable. The first few shots you hit with these adjustments in place might not be pretty, but stick with it. Your body and mind will adjust to the new positions that you have to reach in order to hit a good shot, and you will quickly start to see better and better results. It should only take two or three practice sessions before you begin to grow confidence in your ability to produce a nice three quarter wedge shot on command.
Planning a Successful Shot
The ability to execute a three quarter wedge swing is only part of the challenge – you also need to be able to plan the shot properly so that the ball will actually wind up close to the hole. If you fail to plan your shot, even the best swing in the world isn't going to do you a bit of good. Reading the terrain in front of you, getting an accurate yardage, and checking on the hole location are just a few of the points that you have to keep in mind.
The planning of a quality three quarter wedge shot requires several steps, each of which is outlined below.
- Get two yardages. Everyone on the course knows that you need to find the yardage to the hole before playing an approach shot – but that is only half of the equation. You need to know the number to the hole, but you also need to know the number that you have to carry to reach the green on your intended line. So, for example, on a wedge approach shot you may have 100 yards to the hole, but only 85 to carry the ball onto the green. Why does this second number matter? Since you will be bringing in your three quarter wedge shots lower than a full swing wedge, you have to know how far the ball needs to fly in the air in order to hit safely on the putting surface. If you are playing for a bounce up to the hole, you have to make sure that the ball is going to fly far enough to bounce on the green rather than getting stuck in the rough.
- Pick your club. Now that you have both yardages in mind for the shot, you can decide which club you are going to pull from your bag. For this example, let's continue with the yardages of 100 to the hole and 85 to the front edge. If you normally hit your sand wedge 95 yards, that isn't going to be enough club for the job – so you will have to go down to the pitching wedge. The pitching wedge, however, may fly around 115 with a full swing, meaning you will need to make a three quarter swing to navigate this shot.
- Pick your line. This is another point where many amateur golfers go wrong. It is tempting to simply aim directly at the hole and swing away, but that might not always be the best course of action. What if there is a bunker or pond lurking dangerously close to the hole? It would be too risky to aim right at the hole, so in that case you would want to aim away to the right or left in order to give yourself some margin for error. Also, if the green is severely sloped, you will want to aim toward the low side so you can play your next shot uphill instead of downhill. It requires patience to aim away from the hole with your three quarter wedge shots, but your scorecard will thank you in the end.
- Picture the shot. Now that you have selected the club that you are going to use and the line you are going to take, the last step in this process is to actually picture the ball flying through the air toward the green. This is a vital step that many amateur golfers choose to skip. How high is the ball going to fly? Is it going to curve to the right or left? What it is going to do when it bounces? The more detailed you are able to get with your visualization, the better chance you will have of executing the shot successfully when it leaves your club. It is a mistake to overlook the power of visualization in the game of golf, so be sure to give this last step in the process its just due.
At first, it might take you a bit of time to work through the four steps above. However, you should quickly get faster at making your way through this thought process as you gain experience and confidence. The majority of amateur golfers focus only on the actual swing when there is far more to playing good golf than just mechanics. Take the preparation for your shots just as seriously as you take the swing itself and you may be able to find improved success in time.
The Role of the Golf Ball
Your equipment plays a role in your ability to hit three quarter golf shots as well. Certainly, you need a good wedge with plenty of grooves left in order to spin the ball up toward the target. Also, you need a good golf ball. This is a point that is still overlooked by some players, and they pay the price when their shots don't come off as expected. You don't have to spend $50 per dozen to get a good ball, but you will probably need to invest a little bit of money if you want to hit great three quarter wedge shots.
The issue comes down to spin. If you are using the cheapest golf ball off of the shelf – or worse, a ball you dug out of a pond – you aren't going to get the kind of spin necessary to stop your three quarter wedge shots properly. The ball is going to be coming in lower than usual when you hit it with a three quarter swing, meaning you will need a good spin rate to stop the ball after a reasonable distance. You are going to be playing for one or two bounces, but the ball should stop cold after those bounces. If you use a cheap or worn out golf ball, it will likely bounce a couple of times and then continue to roll – meaning you will have almost no chance of stopping it near the target.
If you plan on playing three quarter wedge shots on a regular basis, you will want to pick out a golf ball that offers at least a moderate spin rate. The best way to judge the kind of spin you are going to get from a golf ball is simply to look at the retail price of that ball. Anything under $20 per dozen is highly unlikely to offer you a decent spin rate that will stop your wedge shots. Balls over $40 are certainly going to have plenty of spin, but they will also be difficult for the average player to control off the tee. Therefore, the sweet spot for the average golfer is going to be golf balls that are sold for somewhere around $30 per dozen. Balls in this range tend to be soft enough to spin pretty well on your wedge shots without getting out of control on longer shots.
While the price range of a golf ball will give you a good indication of its capabilities, you also need to test the ball for yourself to see how it performs when coming off of your clubs. Try to by sleeves of a few different ball brands that are in the right price range so you can test them out on the course. Once you have played even just a few holes with a number of different golf balls, you will likely have no trouble at all deciding which one you like best. Sticking with one brand of ball for a long period of time is a good way to develop a feel and trust for the ball that will help you dial in your wedge shots nicely.
Hit the Shot
One of the problems that is encountered by the average golfer who is trying to learn how to hit a three quarter wedge is the tendency to 'give up' on the shot part way through the swing. Since they know that the club they are holding is capable of hitting the ball over the target, many golfers will slow up prior to impact in an effort to take speed out of the swing. Obviously, this is the wrong way to go about the swing, and it is certain to lead to bad results.
Remember, the adjustments that you made before starting your swing were intended to take care of the distance problem, so you can just go ahead and swing the club. By choking down on the grip and moving the ball back in your stance, you will have effectively limited the club's ability to hit the ball its full distance – meaning your shot should come down somewhere near the target. Of course, that doesn't mean you should go all out trying to smash the ball at impact. A controlled, balanced swing is the best way to go, just as it is around the rest of the course. Focus on maintaining a smooth speed throughout the swing, and don't let up as impact approaches.
One of the great things that will come along with experience in hitting three quarter shots is the ability to feel certain distances. For example, after your ball has come to rest around 70 yards from the hole a few times, you will start to develop a natural feel for what kind of swing is required to hit the ball that distance. This isn't something that you can analyze or even teach – it is just a natural development that will occur as you hit more and more three quarter wedges. Regular practice of your partial wedge shots is important largely because that practice will allow you to develop your feel faster than if you only hit these types of shots out on the course.
Confidence is essential throughout all of golf, and the story is no different when you are hitting three quarter wedges. Before you ever step up to take your stance, you already need to believe in your ability to pull off the shot. If you don't have that belief, you may as well pick a different kind of shot to put the ball on the green. There is no faking it on the course – either you believe in yourself, or you don't. The best way to build confidence is by spending time working on various skills on the practice range. As you hit more and more three quarter wedges on the range, your belief in this skill will naturally grow and you will look forward to the opportunity to show it off on the course.
Possessing the ability to hit quality three quarter wedge shots on command is something that can greatly help you in the pursuit of lower scores. You will find multiple opportunities in each and every round to hit three quarter wedges, so this is a skill that you will get to show off on a regular basis. Build up your confidence on the range using the information contained above and you will be hitting it close out on the course before you know it.