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With his latest victory, Phil Mickelson has taken a big step toward being the most supreme golfer on the planet.
With his latest victory, Phil Mickelson has taken a big step toward being the most supreme golfer on the planet. (PGA of America)

Knowing your wedges can help you manage your short game

Les MillerBy Les Miller,

When playing short par 4s or hitting your second shot on par 5s, I suggest you lay up to a full wedge shot distance. You can practice all you want, but the mid-range wedge shot (30 to 50 yards) is one of the hardest shots in golf, so leave yourself a full wedge shot distance when laying up.

Zach Johnson's win last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii showed how this strategy equals low scores.

Johnson laid up precisely to his full lob or sand wedge distance so that he could hit full wedge shots, achieving maximum distance control and optimum spin. This course management lets him play par 5s on tour better than many players who have more distance off the tee.

For improved wedge play, know thy distance

Every golfer, regardless of handicap, should know the distance that each of their wedges travels using a full swing. That's why many PGA Tour professionals, like Phil Mickelson, carry four or five wedges in their bags. This allows them to play shots from 60 to 120 yards using a full swing. They know they can make a comfortable full swing and hit most of their shots within 10 feet or so of the desired distance.

You can build your short game the same way.

First, develop a consistent full swing with your wedges, one that produces consistent distance and trajectory. Then make sure you carry enough wedges in your bag for the course conditions you are playing.

I would suggest four, which should give you many more options than you currently have. This course management leads to lower scores and more fun.

Les Miller was a longtime Golf Writers of America member who covered golf instruction for several newspapers and golf publications. His many years of experience as a golf professional, director of product development and tour relations for several major golf companies gave him a unique background and ability to help golfers increase their enjoyment of the game.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Over the top golf swing

    Frankie C wrote on: May 10, 2009

    I'm going to take the time to write to all of the teachers on this list (or as many as possible before the back nines of Tiger's and Lorena's bids to win their respective tournamments from 5 shots back) to ask this question. As far as I know, my Over The Top Golf swing is the only method available that teaches you how to swing over the top correctly instead of trying to fix the renowned swing flaw.
    It has been said that 80% of all golfers swing from over the top and most instructors concede that they always will.
    As no golf instructor is willing to admit that they really can't help these (mostly) 15-35 handicappers, what, from a practical standpoint, can you do for them?
    Frankie C
    Over The Top Golf