If you’re familiar with the term “Texas wedge,” you know it doesn’t involve a wedge at all. It’s actually a shot played with the putter from off the green when a standard chip or pitch is too difficult or risky.
Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino, both native Texans, were famous purveyors of the ploy. With the advent of hybrid clubs, which are quite handy around the greens, the Texas wedge is used less often these days. Still, it’s a nice weapon to have at your disposal if you’re not comfortable using a hybrid for chip shots.
Here are a few instances when the Texas wedge comes in handy:
- You’ve got a very tight or firm lie and fear hitting a chip shot thin or fat.
- There’s more fairway or fringe than green to work with. For example, you’re 25 feet from the cup, of which fairway makes up the first 15 feet, with the green as the final 10 feet. Rolling the ball all the way is easier than trying to land the ball in the perfect spot on the green or fringe.
- There’s a significant slope between you and the hole, and choosing – then hitting – a landing spot is tricky. Again, a rolling shot reduces the guesswork and degree of difficulty.
- Your ball sits down in light, greenside rough. In this case, play the ball slightly back in your stance and hit down on it to “pop” the ball out and get it rolling.
One thing to look for when considering the Texas wedge, especially if you play on bermuda grass, is the direction of the grain. If it’s growing into or against you, the ball will bounce unpredictably, killing its roll. You might be better off chipping or pitching.
Playing the Texas wedge is simple. Just take your normal putting stance and grip, and aim for a spot a few feet past the hole to make sure you hit the ball hard enough.
When and How to Play the Texas Wedge
There are a lot of terms tossed around on the golf course – some of which you probably know, and others you may not. For example, do you know what is meant by the term 'Texas wedge'? Don't worry if you have never heard of this expression, because you have likely use the shot it is referring to anyway. A Texas wedge actually isn't a wedge at all – it is simply a shot that is played with a putter from off of the green. If you choose to pull the flat stick out of your bag even though your ball is not yet on the putting surface, someone in your group may compliment (or criticize) your choice of the Texas wedge to handle that particular shot. While playing the Texas wedge isn't going to be the right choice is many situations, it certainly can help you get out of a tight spot under specific circumstances.
Most likely, this shot is referred to as the 'Texas wedge' because of how useful it would be on courses like those found in the state of Texas. Golf in Texas is often played over wind-swept courses that have extremely dry turf and firm conditions. When that is the case, chipping with a traditional wedge can become rather difficult. Rather than trying to work the club under the ball on from a tight lie, many golfers choose to hit the shot with a putter to make it easier.
You shouldn't feel any shame or guilt when playing the Texas wedge, even if the other players in your group might give you a hard time for not chipping the ball normally. The only goal in golf is to get the ball as close to the hole as possible – it doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you are playing within the rules of the game. If you feel like the putter is your best option even when your ball is off the green, feel free to make that your weapon of choice.
Obviously, if you are going to use the Texas wedge on a somewhat regular basis, you are going to need to learn how to pick and choose your spots correctly. You won't be able to hit good shots with your putter from every lie that you encounter around the green, so it is important to observe both the lie of the ball and the terrain between your ball and the hole. Many times, you will be forced to play a traditional chip shot simply because of what sits between you and the target. However, there will be opportunities to use the Texas wedge from time to time, and you should consider using this technique when it will help you save strokes.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Texas Wedge Benefits
If you decide to test this technique out for yourself, you will find that there are several advantages to be had. Of course, if there were no benefits to this technique, you would be wise to stick with your standard chipping methods. When playing shots from around the green, you should be thinking 'up and down' the whole time. While it would be great to knock the ball into the hole from off the green, that isn't going to happen very often. Instead, you should be focused on playing the ball to within a foot or two of the hole – setting up an easy tap in for your up and down save. Players who can get the ball up and down from a variety of positions around the green hold a huge advantage over those who struggle in this aspect of golf.
Following is a list of advantages that you may experience when employing the Texas wedge for yourself –
- Eliminate the disaster. Playing a shot from off the green with your putter is a great way to take the 'big miss' out of play. For example, if you hit a chip shot from a tight lie with your 60* wedge, there would always be a chance that you could hit the shot fat and have the ball only move a couple feet in front of you. Alternatively, you could hit the ball thin and send it shooting across the green. Both of those outcomes are highly unlikely when you use the Texas wedge approach. It should be easy to make solid contact with your putter, and you should be able to push the ball up onto the green essentially every time. While you might not always place the ball right next to the hole, your average result will typically be much improved.
- Gain speed control. The big challenge for most amateur golfers when chipping and pitching the ball from around the green is controlling the distance of the shot. It is pretty easy to get your short shots on line, but you may struggle when it comes to getting the right combination of carry and roll to stop the ball near the target. Since you are already used to controlling speed with your putter, you may find that this skill is easier when you opt for a Texas wedge. It should still be easy to get the ball on line, but the odds of using the right pace at the same time will have increased.
- Manage your nerves. Chipping is one of the most difficult things to do on the golf course while under pressure. If you are feeling nervous, the chances of a fat or thin chip shot increase, simply because your hands won't be as steady through the shot. Therefore, when the nerves do make their way into your body, consider using your putter from off the green to reduce your risk of a poor shot. Even if you are still feeling nervous, the easy-to-hit nature of the putter will give you a good chance to play a quality shot under pressure.
- Predictable outcome. When chipping, you have to figure out exactly how much the ball is going to spin in order to play the shot the correct distance. If the ball spins too much, you will come up short, while the shot will run long if you fail to get enough spin. It takes tremendous skill and experience to consistently use the right amount of spin for the shot at hand. Unless you are adept that this skill, you may be better off taking spin totally out of the equation by simply rolling the ball up to the target.
Each of the four benefits above could all help you save strokes by the end of the day. Of course, not every golfer will find that each of these benefits actually plays out on the course, so you will have to experiment with the Texas wedge for yourself before deciding if it is a shot that can help you play your best.
Picking the Right Spots
The Texas wedge is only going to be a smart choice in very specific situations. For most of your short shots around the green, you will have to eliminate this option right off the bat because of the lie of the ball or the land between your ball and the hole. Part of the skill required in using the Texas wedge successfully is knowing when it is a viable option, and knowing when you need to pick a different club. If you are trying to use your putter on the majority of your short shorts from around the green, you are definitely doing something wrong.
As you walk up to the ball, the first thing to evaluate is the lie that you have in the grass. Are you sitting in the deep rough around the green? If so, you can check off the Texas wedge right away. Playing a shot from the deep rough with your putter simply isn't going to work, because the grass will get caught between the face of your putter and the ball. If you were to use a putter in this kind of situation, you would have to get extremely lucky to even have the ball finish on the green. When in the rough, you have little choice but to pull out one of your wedges and do your best to hit a quality shot.
Knowing that you can't use a Texas wedge from the rough, you should be looking for a clean lie when thinking about using this shot. If your ball is resting on the fringe of the green, or any other fairway-height grass, your putter may be a viable option. However, having a good lie on short grass isn't enough – you also need a clean path to the hole. Is there any long grass between your ball and the cup? If there is, you will again need to reach for a wedge so you can carry the ball over that longer grass. Putting through the rough would be a mistake as it is nearly impossible to judge the speed of such a shot correctly. The best choice in this scenario is to play the ball over the long grass so that you can land it on the green and allow it to bounce and roll the rest of the way to the target.
As you can see, your options for the Texas wedge are gradually being narrowed down. To start, you need a good lie, and you also need a clear path of fairway-length grass between you and the green. Depending on the type of courses you play, you will likely only run across the situation once or twice per round at the very most. In fact, you could easily go several rounds in a row without having a chance to use the Texas wedge if you play on American style golf courses with plenty of rough. However, if you play on links style courses like those found in much of Europe, you will notice that putting from off the green is quite common. Links courses often have little or no rough to speak of, meaning you can opt for your putter from many different locations.
One final point that should be make regarding picking your spots has to do with the slope of the course. Imagine a situation where you have a clean lie short of the green, fairway-length grass between you and the target, and a downhill slope all the way to the hole. A perfect time for the Texas wedge, correct? Maybe not. Depending on the severity of the slope and the condition of the course, you may be better off chipping the ball. When you putt from off the green, you lose the ability to stop the ball with spin. The ball will simply roll toward the hole and it will only stop when it runs out of momentum. With a chip shot, you can add backspin to the ball in order to force it to stop faster. On a downhill slope, that backspin may be your only chance to get the ball to stop near the target. Putting from off the green may be the safer play in this case, but chipping might be required if you wish to hit a great shot.
Technique with the Texas Wedge
As you might expect, your putting technique doesn't need to chance much when you are playing the putter from off the green. Your basic putting stroke will be the same, and you will want to stick with most of the fundamentals that serve you well when you are actually on the green. However, if you choose to employ the Texas wedge from time to time, there are a few minor adjustments that you may wish to make. None of these tweaks will dramatically change your putting stroke, but they can help you get the best possible results from your Texas wedge attempts.
- Stand a little taller. Most likely, you will need to hit your putts from off the green harder than you do when you are on the putting surface. Standing slightly taller at address will give your arms more freedom to swing, making it easier to add pace to your putts. To stand taller, simply bring your feet a little bit closer together at address while keeping everything else the same.
- Move the ball forward in your stance. Even though you are only playing this shot from fairway-length grass (and not long rough), you will still want to make sure the ball gets up and rolling on top of the grass as soon as possible. If you were to hit down into the ball at impact, you may force the ball down into the grass right off the face of the putter. This type of impact would then cause the ball to bounce back up off the ground, and it would likely come up short of the hole. By placing the ball further forward in your stance than normal, you can contact it slightly on the upswing. Hitting up on your putts helps the ball to stay on top of the grass and roll smoothly all the way to the target.
- Read the early part of the putt carefully. Normally, you need to concern yourself much more with the end of your putts than you do the beginning. As the ball slows down it will take the break of the ground more than it will when it is moving quickly, so the tail end of the putt is where you should spend most of your time reading the green. However, when putting from off the surface, the longer grass of the fairway cut will have a relatively strong influence over the path of the ball. That means that you need to pay close attention to the slopes off of the putting surface in order to get an accurate read on the putt as a whole.
- Consider a grip change. When you really need to hit the ball hard with your putter in order to get all the way to the hole, consider using your full swing grip instead of your putter grip (assuming they are different to begin with). Many golfers use an interlocking grip for their full swing while employing a reverse overlap grip with the putter. If that is the case for your game, consider switching to the regular interlocking grip when facing a long putt from off the green. The standard putting grip is built for control rather than power, which means it is hard to get your wrists involved in the stroke when you need them to provide some extra boost.
The beauty of the Texas wedge is that you can basically use your normal putting stroke to take on some of the most challenging shots that you will face during a given round. Therefore, you don't want to make any dramatic changes to your stroke just to hit a shot or two from off the green. Use the tips above to slightly modify how you go about rolling the ball while using the Texas wedge.
A Few Final Thoughts
This technique of getting the ball close to the hole is not reserved for amateurs alone – plenty of pros use this method as well, depending on the the style of course that they are playing. Like with any golf technique, using the Texas wedge successfully takes practice, so make sure to try out a few putts from off the green as part of your next practice session. Before you put this shot to use on the course, however, be sure to consider the following thoughts.
- Not ideal in wet conditions. When the course is wet from a recent rain, you will likely be better off chipping the ball rather than using the Texas wedge. Water on the surface of the grass can make it difficult to judge the speed of the roll, so you will probably have more success simply flying the ball up to the hole in the air. Remember that the course will likely be softer after some rain, so play the ball slightly back in your stance on the chip shot to avoid hitting it fat.
- Difficult up a ridge. If the course you are playing features greens with multiple levels, you will want to think twice before using a Texas wedge shot to play up a slope to a higher tier. This is another situation where backspin can come in handy, and you won't have any of it to use if you putt from off the green. In order to get the ball close to the hole when playing up a significant ridge, you have to have perfect distance control with the putter – using a wedge to chip the ball will offer you more margin for error.
- Visualize the roll of the ball. Since the name of the game when playing a Texas wedge is speed control, try to visualize the roll of the ball prior to playing this shot. Stand behind the ball and picture it rolling through the fairway, onto the green, and up next to the hole. If you can visualize the roll of the ball two or three times quickly before playing the shot, you may find that your touch improves dramatically.
- Take the pin out when putting uphill. While you can legally leave the pin in the hole without penalty when playing from off the green, it is almost always better to take it out when dealing with an uphill shot. The ball is unlikely to be rolling too fast when it reaches the cup in this situation, so having the pin out should give your shot the best chance to fall in should it happen to hit the hole.
The Texas wedge is a useful shot that can save you strokes when put to use in just the right circumstances. You may only use it once a round – or once every few rounds – but having this shot at your disposal will make you a better all-around player.