It’s no secret that you can’t strike the ball solidly on every shot. But just because you’re a little off with your swing doesn’t mean you can’t score well. You have to get up and down, especially from positions 30 feet or closer around the green. I would like to teach you three shots that you can play with your sand wedge using essentially the same swing. This gives you the opportunity to play the shot most appropriate for the situation. By simply adjusting the clubface position, ball position, and hand position, you can design effective shots that will steadily improve your scoring ability.
The setup is essentially the same for all three shots. Using a sand wedge (or a pitching wedge if you don’t own a sand wedge), grip down one or two inches on the club and stand one or two inches closer to the ball. This will give you the control you need for the shot. Bend from the hips with your knees slightly flexed. Now take a narrow, slightly open stance with your weight set evenly between both feet. Finally, remember that these are finesse shots. Your grip pressure should be just tight enough to allow you to control the golf club throughout the swing.
The swing itself is a miniature version of your full swing. The backswing starts by swinging the golf club, hands, and arms back together. There may be some wrist break on the backswing of longer shots, but it should be minimal. Swing the golf club an equal distance back and through with the upper body. Any movement of the lower body occurs simply as a reaction to the lead of the upper body. Think of tempo and rhythm with this shot and strike the ball with a slightly descending blow. With this standard method, you can play the three shots with only minor adjustments.
The first shot is a pitch and run. Play this shot when you have plenty of green to work with, or when running the ball up a slope. Set the ball just right of the center of your stance and position your hands and the handle of the club at your left pocket, well in front of the ball, so that the shaft of the club leans forward with the clubface square to the target line. When you strike the ball, be sure that your hands and the handle of the club are ahead of the clubhead th rough impact. This results in a low shot that gets on the green quickly and rolls to the target.
Note the setup characteristics common to all three shots: gripping down one or two inches on the grip, standing closer to the ball, bending from the hips. Look at the ball and hand position here. The ball is back in the stance, hands and club handle opposite the left pocket. The shaft leans forward with a square clubface.
If you have a little less green to work with, or you are pitching down a slope, try a slightly higher shot that flies and rolls about the same distance. Position the ball in the center of your stance with your hands and the handle of the club set at the middle of your body, and open the clubface slightly at address. The clubhead and hands should reach the ball at the same time, producing a softer, more lofted shot, with minimal roll.
By playing the ball in the middle of your stance and positioning your hands and the club handle in the center of your body with a slightly open clubface, you can produce a shot that flies and rolls about the same distance.
Finally, you may face some situations where you need to pitch the ball up into the air and have it stop quickly near a close-cut pin. Move the ball forward in your stance, opposite your left heel. Again, set your hands at the center of your body and open the clubface of your sand wedge a quarter of a turn. This will set up a swing in which the clubhead reaches the ball before the hands, resulting in a higher trajectory. The ball pops up and lands softly, without much roll.
To hit a shot that pops up and lands softly with very little roll, play the ball forward in your stance, opposite the left heel. Keep your hands and the club handle pointing at the center of your body and open your clubface about a quarter of a turn, setting up a shot in which the clubhead reaches the ball before your hands.
If you practice this simple technique to greenside shots, you’ll develop a feel and comfort that will allow you to get the ball close and save valuable strokes.