How to Hit a High Wedge Shot, Golf Tip

There may be no handier shot in golf than the high, soft-landing wedge from 50 – 120 yards. During most rounds, you'll inevitably face a handful of situations that require it.

Fortunately, the high wedge is one of the easiest shots to execute. The wedges, after all, are designed to lift the ball high in the air. (The low wedge shot is more difficult for most golfers, including low handicappers.)

Hit the high wedge any time you've got a flag in the front part of the green, tucked behind a hazard, or when you need to stop the ball quickly on firm greens. Here's the basic setup and swing:

  • Stand with your feet close together, no more than 12” apart, square or slightly open to the target line.
  • Weight should be evenly distributed between your feet.
  • Play the ball in the center of your stance, or slightly left (forward) of center.
  • Your hands should be just barely ahead of the ball, with very little shaft lean toward the target.
  • Open the clubface a few degrees if you need extra height.
  • Make your normal swing, without attempting to “scoop” the ball into the air. The club's loft will take care of trajectory.
  • Be sure to take a divot, which means you're hitting down on the ball.

    • If you're not sure which wedge to choose for a shot – maybe you're between a sand wedge and a gap wedge – go for the less lofted club and swing a little harder. The extra clubhead speed will add height and backspin.

How to Hit High Wedge Shots

How to Hit High Wedge Shots

Your wedges are designed to hit the ball high. With plenty of loft and the ability to create backspin, a well-struck wedge shot should climb high up into the air with ease. Of course, that 'well-struck' part can be a little bit tricky. Also, while a standard wedge shot will fly rather high, an advanced golfer will also know how to hit the ball even higher on command. High shots tend to stop quickly, and stopping the ball quickly with your wedges will allow you to attack even difficult hole locations.

In this article, we are going to take an in-depth look at the topic of hitting high shots with your wedges. As you will see, it isn't necessary to swing the club extremely hard in order to hit the ball high, and you probably don't need to overhaul your technique. In addition to explaining what it is that makes the ball fly high, we are also going to look as some basic mechanical adjustments to make this outcome more likely. Additionally, we will talk strategy to highlight some opportunities to use your high wedge shots effectively.

While learning how to hit your wedges higher on command, you should remember that it isn't always going to be necessary – or even a good idea – to hit your wedges high into the sky. In many cases, playing your wedge shots lower to the ground will be the best course of action. Why is that? Simple – keeping the ball down makes it easier to control your distance properly, and distance control is the biggest challenge you face when playing a wedge. There will be times where it is necessary to hit the ball high, of course, but there will likely be even more times when playing the ball low into the green is the correct decision.

When trying to decide whether to go high or keep the ball low, you will need to think about how the shot is going to stop. On firm greens where a big bounce can be expected, it is more likely that you will want to pick the high route. Bringing your wedge shots in high on hard greens can lead to a more vertical bounce, meaning the ball won't move forward as far before it comes to a stop. However, when you are playing a course with relatively soft putting surfaces, you can afford to bring the ball in lower, knowing that the bounce is not going to be much of an issue. Every wedge shot you face is different, so taking the time to analyze the situation in front of you before making a swing is the best way to optimize your results.

All of the content below is written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Five Benefits of High Wedge Shots

Five Benefits of High Wedge Shots

In golf, it is important to be very specific and directed about the things you work to improve in your game. You only have so much practice time available, so it is important that you spend that time wisely. If you decide to spend your practice time working on things that are unlikely to help you play better golf, you will be stuck in neutral with regard to your performance on the course. All golfers want to improve over time, and intelligent practice can help you do just that.

With that said, it is important to understand the potential benefits of any shots you plan to practice before actually getting down to work. Knowing what you stand to gain is the best way to give yourself motivation, and the best way to confirm that you are working on an important piece of the golf puzzle. Below you will find a list of five benefits which can be enjoyed when you use high wedge shots effectively on the golf course.

  • Stopping the ball quickly. This is the obviously place to start, and we have already mentioned this benefit in the introduction. Stopping the ball quickly is a big help in golf because it means you can attack more hole locations without worrying about the ball bouncing over the green and into trouble. Even if the hole is cut in a narrow portion of the green with trouble all around, you should be able to take dead aim with your wedge. Approach shots hit with a wedge should always be seen as a scoring opportunity, and that is exactly what they will be when you are able to hit the ball high into the sky. If you are tired of watching your wedge shots land close to the hole before bouncing over the green, learn how to hit the ball higher in order to rid yourself of that frustration.
  • Get over trouble. Have you ever found yourself in a position where you would be able to attack the flag only if you had a high enough ball flight to clear a small tree? Most golfers have run into this situation from time to time, and it is frustrating to have to play around the tree simply because you don't have a high shot in your bag. When you add that high shot, you will be giving yourself one more situation that you will know how to handle successfully out on the course. As long as you are within wedge range of the green, you should be able to go over many of the obstacles that you will encounter.
  • Find the right tier. When playing an approach shot into a tiered green, it can be difficult to leave your ball on the correct level – especially if you hit low wedge shots. Taking the ball in high will make it easier to find the right tier, and you will have an easier putt as a result. No matter which tier the flag happens to be on, use your high wedge shot to drop the ball out of the sky perfectly at the proper depth on the green.
  • Spin the ball back to a front hole location. This is an advanced skill, to be sure, but it is one which you may be able to learn in time. When you are playing an approach shot to a front hole location, consider trying to land the ball just past the hole before spinning it back to get close. This will only be an option when you are playing from the fairway, and when the greens are relatively soft. It is hard to control exactly how much backspin you place on the ball, however, so you should only turn to this option when it is the only way to leave yourself a short birdie putt.
  • Stop the ball out of the rough. When you hit your tee shot in the rough, you will face a couple of challenges. For one thing, it might be hard to hit the ball far enough to reach the green. And, if you can hit the ball far enough, it may be difficult to stop the shot when it lands (due to a lack of spin). Should you face a wedge shot into the green from the rough, you may be able to use height to stop the ball effectively. Use your high wedge shot to bring the ball down steeply onto the green and you can limit how much bounce and roll you experience. This will never be as consistent as playing from the fairway, of course, but it can be an effective strategy when it is needed.

There are plenty of opportunities to use a high wedge trajectory on the golf course. This isn't going to be a shot that you play on every hole – or even in every round – but it will be quite handy when it is called for. Use the instruction provided in the rest of this article to learn how to hit high wedge shots on command and your overall game will improve as a result.

The Basic Technique

The Basic Technique

As you would expect, you are going to need to make some fundamental changes to your swing if you are going to move your low ball flight higher up into the air. However, you should note right away that you don't need to completely change your swing technique to hit higher shots. In fact, it would be a mistake to do so. Your swing is your swing, and it shouldn't be changed radically from shot to shot just to alter your ball flight. Instead, you should be looking to make very minor adjustments which will help you to produce a variety of shot types. In golf, subtle changes in technique can lead to big changes in shot pattern, so don't think you have to overhaul what you do just to hit a high ball.

So what are the keys to hitting your wedge shots high in the air? The following list will tell you just about everything you need to know.

  • Keep the ball in the middle of your stance. You might be tempted to move the ball up to the front of your stance when trying to hit a high shot – but that is usually not a good idea. Playing a wedge from a forward ball position may just cause you to slide toward the target during your downswing, and sliding is never a good thing in the game of golf. Rather, keep the ball in the middle of your stance for these shots, with the ball just an inch or two forward of the exact middle. Playing from this position will let you hit down slightly at impact, which is going to create backspin, and it's that backspin which will help the ball to climb high in the air.
  • Use your right hand aggressively. If you are going to hit your wedges high, your right hand is going to have a lot to do with your success. Fire the right hand through the hitting area as hard as you can in order to speed up the club head and expose the full loft of the club to the ball. If you were to drag the club through with your left hand, you would run into a couple of problems. First, the club would not be able to use its full loft at the point of impact, which means the shot is going to come out low. Also, you won't create as much speed as you could have by using your right hand, meaning you will miss out on some backspin and the shot will stay lower to the ground than you would like. It is a good idea to start the downswing by taking the back of the left hand to the ball, but at some point you need to let the right hand fire if you are going to hit a high shot.
  • Keep your head behind the position of the ball. This is another crucial point to hit on if you are going to send the ball skyward. As you swing down, work hard to keep your head at least even with the ball, if not a little behind it at impact. Again here, you will be improving your chances of exposing the full loft of the club to the ball at the point of contact. Sliding toward the target is a common mistake on the way down, and making that mistake is a sure way to hit the ball low. Stay centered, use your rotation to move the club through the ball, and keep your head back throughout the swing. You don't want to be leaning away from the target, but you don't want to be sliding toward the target either – keeping your balance perfectly is one of the biggest keys in this entire process.
  • Let it go. Many golfers try to 'aim' their iron shots as they swing through impact with caution and care. That isn't going to work here. If you want to hit the ball high, your only option is to swing through with confidence as the club head rips through the hitting area and into the turf. You need to be confident on this kind of shot, and you need to trust that your technique is good enough to execute the shot perfectly.

There isn't anything confusing or complicated about what you need to do in order to hit your wedges high. If you are able to swing through in a balanced manner while using your right hand aggressively, the job should be done – the ball should shoot up into the air sky high before dropping down gently onto the putting surface.

The Role of Your Equipment

The Role of Your Equipment

When you think about your golf equipment, you probably do what most golfers do – you think first and foremost about your driver. It seems that the majority of golfers are really only concerned with their driver when it comes to gear, even though there are 13 other clubs in the bag (and other gear, as well). If you are going to be a well-rounded, consistent player, you need to worry about every piece of equipment you use while on the course.

In the case of high wedge shots, it is really two specific parts of your bag that you need to pay attention to – the wedges themselves, and the golf ball. With regard to your wedges, they should be in good condition with relatively fresh grooves. You don't always need to have brand new wedges in your bag, but they really shouldn't be old and worn, either. Old wedges will not have as much groove depth left on the face, and worn out grooves will not allow you to produce as much backspin as you could with newer clubs. If you play a lot of golf, it is probably a good idea to replace your wedges every year – if you are an occasional player, every two years should be good enough.

Assuming you have good wedges, your attention should turn to your golf ball of choice. Again here, we are concerned with the ball due to the importance of spin rate. Using a golf ball with a hard cover is going to prevent you from spinning your wedges at a high rate – and it will be nearly impossible to hit high wedge shots as a result. Hard golf balls may fly pretty far from the tee, but they aren't much use when trying to control a wedge into the green.

Unfortunately, hard golf balls tend to be the cheapest one on the shelves. That means that if you want a golf ball which will spin at a high rate, you are going to need to pay a bit more for a softer cover. Do you need to buy the most expensive ball on the shelves? Absolutely not – but you shouldn't be buying the cheapest ball, either. For most golfers, picking a ball from the middle of the available price range is going to be the best plan. Unless you play at a high level and regularly shoot in the 70s, there is simply no need to spend the money required to play with a tour-level ball.

When to Keep It in the Bag

When to Keep It in the Bag

If you follow the advice provided in this article on swing technique as well as equipment, you should be hitting high wedge shots in no time at all. That's great – but it's not the end of the story. Once you are hitting those high wedge shots, you need to learn how to pick the right spots to use them. It isn't going to do you much good to hit the ball high if you do so at the wrong time. The list below highlights some of the situations when it would be best to opt for a lower flight.

  • Attacking a front hole location on a soft green. If the greens are soft and you are playing to a front hole location, you will be better served to bring the ball in low. Why? Simple – a high wedge shot with a high spin rate could easily spin back off the front of the green. The front of the putting surface is often sloped back toward the fairway for drainage purposes, meaning it won't take a ton of backspin to cause the ball to trickle off the green. You want to avoid this outcome, so keep the ball down and bring it in under control. The ball should still stop quickly thanks to the soft conditions, but it shouldn't roll back toward you.
  • Playing a downwind shot. It might be tempting to 'ride' the wind when you are playing in the same direction as the breeze, but that would be a mistake. It is nearly impossible to control your distance when hitting a high wedge shot downwind, so you will simply be hoping to get lucky with regard to the ball coming down out of the sky at the right time. If you choose to keep the ball down lower, however, you can take the wind mostly out of play and regain a large degree of control over your shot.
  • Aiming for a hole cut in the back of the green. When the hole is positioned near the back of the putting surface, do your best to bring the ball down in the middle of the green before letting it bounce the rest of the way to the target. Carrying the ball to the back includes a great deal of risk, as you could fly your shot over the putting surface and into trouble. Play it safe by hitting a lower shot which will bounce in the middle and hopefully end up close to the cup when all is said and done.

Adding a high wedge shot to your arsenal is a great way to become a better overall golfer. Sure, this isn't a shot that you will use as often as your driver swing or your putter, but it is still going to come in handy quite frequently on the course. Each time you add a new shot to your game, you become a better overall player. Good luck!