A golf ball on a fairway on a golf couse

While some golf courses and driving ranges feature excellent short game practice areas, many are woefully lacking in this critical department.

The typical facility will offer targets in 25- to 50-yard increments, starting at the 50-yard mark.

If you lack an adequate place to practice your game from 50 yards and in, there's an easy solution right in your back yard – literally. Even if the grass isn't up to golf course standards (or you'd rather not hack it to pieces), you can buy a synthetic turf mat from your local golf retailer or an online shop.

You'll need one additional prop to use as a target, such as a laundry basket or bucket. Place the target in a good spot, then mark spots at 10, 20, 30 and 40 yards from the object. (If you've only got 20 yards of space, just go to 20.)

Start by hitting 12 balls from 40 yards out, then move to the next spot and so on. Within 15 minutes, you'll have hit four dozen practice shots. It may not sound like much, but do this
Several nights each week and you'll see marked improvement on the course.

How and Why Practice Wedge Shot Distance Control

How and Why Practice Wedge Shot Distance Control

In golf, the wedges are often referred to as the 'scoring clubs'. That name pretty much says it all in terms of the importance of your wedges – they are critical if you hope to shoot good scores. If you think about it for a moment, it makes perfect sense that your wedges would have a strong influence over your score at the end of the day. Hitting good wedges will set you up with short putts, and short putts are always going to be easier to make than long ones. If you can improve on your skills with all of the wedges in your bag, it is almost certain that your scores will quickly come down.

Good wedge play comes down to distance control. While you obviously need to get the ball on line in order to hit a good shot, doing so with a wedge is not a significant challenge. Most of your wedge shots will be on line, as it is very difficult to produce a big draw or fade when a wedge is in your hands. Knowing that you should be able to get the ball on line with little trouble, your success or failure is going to come down to your ability to manage distance properly. Most professional golfers are quite adept at this task, while many amateurs struggle.

In this article, we are going to cover a variety of topics related to your ability to control distance on wedge shots. This might seem like a relatively narrow topic to cover with an entire article, but it is extremely important that you manage to improve in this area. You will notice that the rest of the game will become easier if you are able to take a step forward with your distance management. Also, your distance control with the rest of your clubs should improve if you are able to dial in your yardages more accurately with wedges. By the end of this article, we hope you have all of the information you need to get out and work on this point for yourself.

Before you get started working on your distance control with the short clubs, you should take a moment to make sure you have the right collection of wedges in your bag. For most amateur golfers, carrying three wedges is going to be the way to go. To start with, of course, you will have your pitching wedge, which is likely part of your full iron set. From there, you should have two wedges which fall into the gap/sand/lob wedge category. The exact loft on these clubs will depend on your own personal preferences, as well as the kind of courses you usually play. It is common to have a 52* wedge along with a 58* wedge, but you could opt to go with 54* and 60* instead. If possible, experiment with different loft combinations until you settle on a set which fills all of your distance gaps nicely.

All of the content 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.

The Advantages of Great Distance Control

The Advantages of Great Distance Control

There are a number of ways in which your game will benefit when you learn how to dial up your distance control just right with a wedge in your hands. If you currently struggle with this part of your game, making even minor improvements will open up a whole new world of possibilities to you on the course. The list below includes a number of ways in which your game stands to be improved by simply learning how to hit your wedges the right distance time after time.

  • Set up more birdie putts. This should be the most obvious point on the list. When you wedge the ball close to the hole by controlling your distance nicely, you will frequently set up makeable birdie putts. Of course you aren't going to make all of those putts, but giving yourself more chances is going to result in a higher birdie total at the end of the day. As long as you are hitting enough good tee shots to give yourself wedges into the greens, you will have the enjoyable task of trying to drain as many birdie putts as possible over the course of 18 holes.
  • Save par after a bad drive. Often, when you hit a bad drive, you will find yourself facing a wedge shot after you have pitched the ball back to the fairway. These wedge shots frequently are played from between 50 – 100 yards from the green, and they are critical to your success. If you can get up and down for par from these kinds of situations, you will be able to keep your score on track. All golfers hit bad drives from time to time, and it is the ability to get out of those holes with a par which will largely determine your overall scoring capability. Pro golfers are great at saving par after they have made a mistake, and you should be trying to take your game in that same direction.
  • Avoid a big mistake. One of the worst things you can do for your score is to dump a wedge shot into a bunker, hazard, or another penalizing place. You need to take advantage of your wedge opportunities by turning them into pars at the very least – if not birdies. Making bogeys or even double bogeys when you have a wedge into the green is a mistake that you simply can't afford to make. If you are able to hit the ball the right distance with your wedges, you should be able to stay away from any major hazards with the majority of your wedge approaches. Even if you don't hit the ball perfectly next to the cup, at least knocking it on the green will keep you out of trouble and keep your score on track.
  • Greater confidence. Anytime you improve on your skills in one particular area of your game, you will grow your overall confidence on the course. And, as you might know, confidence is essential when trying to play good golf. You need to believe in yourself on the links, and you need to be sure that you have what it takes to move the ball around the course successfully. Once you learn how to control your wedge distances nicely, you will have yet another reason to feel confident when you play. Even though this is only one area of a wide-ranging game, you may find that your added wedge confidence spills over into other parts of your game almost immediately.

It should go without saying that your golf game will be improved overall if you are able to control the distance of your wedge shots. If you are willing to invest some time and effort in learning how to control your distances nicely, the results should be impressive. Throughout the rest of this article, we are going to offer advice on how you can do just that.

The Basics

The Basics

There are some basic 'rules' which apply to distance control when talking about wedge shots. While you don't necessarily have to follow each of these rules, they are highly recommended. If you go against any of these basic rules in a significant manner, you will likely struggle to gain control over your distances. Even if these concepts go against what you have previously thought about the wedge game, give them a try on the range before dismissing them altogether. Most likely, you will come to find that these tips do give you a serious advantage in terms of distance control with your short clubs.

  • Keep the ball down. This is one of the biggest points of confusion among amateur golfers. Most players think that they need to toss the ball high up into the sky when playing a wedge shot into the green. After all, your wedges have a high degree of loft, so why not use that loft to hit a high shot? This seems like a good plan, but there is one major problem – you will lose control over the distance of the shot when you hit the ball high. While it is up in the air, the ball can be affected by the wind, and it can carry longer or shorter than expected based on launch angle, spin rate, and other factors. It is a far better plan to keep the ball close to the ground. When you play low wedge shots, you take many of the variables out of play and you wind up with more consistent results. Thanks to the spin on the ball, you should have no trouble stopping your wedge shots quickly, even though they are taking a lower trajectory than you might have used previously. Once you get used to playing low wedge shots into the greens, you will wonder why you ever bothered trying to hit the ball so high.
  • Make a compact swing. There is simply no need to make a long, loose swing when you are holding onto a wedge. Instead, you should be making a compact move which keeps your arms in close to your body throughout the motion. There is no need to create significant speed when hitting a wedge, so you don't need to be making a long swing. In other words, your wedge swing should look nothing like your driver swing. If you can teach yourself to keep your arms in close to your body as you hit wedges, your distance control will quickly become more reliable. Also, as an added benefit, you will improve your ability to achieve a clean strike when you employ this method.
  • Use soft hands. You should always have your hands relaxed while holding onto a golf club, but that point is especially important when it comes to wedge shots. If you are playing a wedge into the green and you need to control your distance perfectly, one of the best things you can do is to keep your hands relaxed and loose. You have to hold on tight enough to keep the club in your hands, of course, but you need to avoid squeezing tightly as you swing. Soft hands will allow you to swing the club through with a smooth rhythm, and that rhythm is going to help your ability to dial up the right yardage.
  • Have a specific number in mind. This might seem like a silly tip, but it is one which many amateur golfers actually overlook. Before stepping up to hit your iron shot, you need to know exactly how far you are trying to hit the ball. Do you need to carry the shot 80 yards, or 85? How much bounce do you expect to get after the ball lands? You need to be as specific as possible when preparing to hit the shot. Unfortunately, many players get sloppy with their yardages when they get close to the green, thinking they can judge the distance with their eyes instead of an actual measurement. Don't make that mistake. Take a moment to get an accurate yardage to the target and then keep that number in mind as you plan out your shot. Paying attention to detail in this area is going to be a big help in the battle for more accurate wedge shots.

The four points above will take you a long way toward accurate wedge shot distances. As mentioned earlier, be sure to give these points a try before you dismiss them out of hand. It is important that you work on each of the points individually as they can lead to a powerful effect when all added up.

The Practice Challenge

The Practice Challenge

You are going to run into a very specific problem when you set out to work on your wedge distance control – where do you practice this skill? While the first place that comes to mind might be the driving range, you will soon find that your local driving range is of little use in this area. Since you are hitting range balls rather than real range balls, the distances you see on the range are irrelevant when trying to figure out how far the ball is going to travel on the course. You should never base any distance decisions for your golf game on what you see happening on the range, as those golf balls cannot be trusted. Many of them are flight restricted, they may not have many dimples left, and the core could be battered from so many uses. Simply put, it is important to ignore all distances you see on the range.

So, if the range is out, where do you turn? You may be able to find a golf course near you with a large short game practice area where you can hit some wedge shots. Some courses offer a short game area which extends back to 50 yards or so, if not a bit farther. That isn't going to allow you to hit full shots, but it is enough to allow you to work on your partial wedges. To find a facility with such a practice area, call around to local golf courses and ask what they offer for short game practice. With any luck, you will be able to find one or two options in your local region.

The other option is the golf course itself. As you play, be sure to write down your distances on each wedge shot you hit. You will likely hit quite a few wedges during any round, so you should quickly develop a 'book' on your own distances. If you are vigilant about writing down distances over the course of a few rounds, you will start to get a great picture for how far you hit each wedge. Then, as you make changes to your technique and shot selection, you can note how those distances evolve. Your best learning tends to take place on the golf course anyway, so it makes sense to look to your on-course play for progress in this area.

While the driving range is not going to help you in terms of learning distances, it should still be used as a place where you can sharpen your technique. Practice hitting low wedge shots with a controlled swing over and over again on the range. Always pick a target for these kinds of shots, and pay attention to all the small details in the swing just as you would on the course. The driving range should be about more than just launching drivers into the distance, which seems to be the only thing most players want to do when at the range. Include time for refining your wedge swing and it will be a bit easier to repeat your distances over and over again on the course.

Reading the Bounce

Reading the Bounce

One of the biggest skills you need to develop with regard to wedge play is learning how to read the bounce of the ball. You need to be able to predict how the ball is going to bounce before it has even hit the ground – which can be a challenge, to say the least. Fortunately, this is a task which is going to get easier with experience. Once you get comfortable with the typical trajectory of your iron shots, and the course conditions in your area, you should be able to reliably guess at how far the ball is going to bounce after it lands on the green.

To give you a boost in this area, we have provided a few quick tips below.

  • Pay attention before the round. Prior to walking to the first tee, pay attention to how the ground feels below your feet during warmups. Does the ground feel hard and dry, or is there some give in the turf? Most likely, the turf conditions around the practice area are going to closely match the conditions out on the course itself. Soft conditions are obviously going to lead to shorter bounces than firm conditions, so make note of what you find and keep that information in the back of your mind as you play.
  • Trajectory is important. A wedge shot which comes in on a low trajectory is going to take a long, flat bounce, while a higher wedge shot will bounce back up higher into the air. Think about the trajectory you plan on using for the wedge shot in front of you, and take that into consideration while trying to predict the bounce. Remember, the lie of the ball is going to influence trajectory greatly, so plan on a higher shot when you play from an upslope (and a lower shot when playing from a downslope).
  • Be quick to adjust. If you guess wrong about the bounce of the ball on the first couple holes, don't be too stubborn to adjust your way of thinking. Use the information you have picked up from those early holes to make better decisions as the round goes on. If the ball is bouncing farther than you expected, adjust your distances accordingly and hit the ball shorter in the air. The golfer who comes out on top at the end of the day is often the one who is willing and able to adjust on the fly. Learn from early mistakes and make yourself better as the round progresses.

The ability to dial up accurate wedge distances is rare among the amateur golfing crowd. If you can teach yourself to excel in this area, you will certainly have a leg up on your competition at the local club. Take the advice we have provided above and get to work on this important skill. With your wedges now flying a predictable distance, you will be a big step closer to playing the best golf of your life – and you should have more fun on the course in the process. Good luck!