Fowler and the Wicked, Woeful Wedge

Rickie Fowler Gives A Wedge Lesson for Golf Digest

I don’t know how many people are as afraid of their pitching wedge as I am, but I’ll bet that for many, it is, or is one of the most scary clubs in the bag. The wedge requires a range of distances, and different styles of shots. I have, on numerous occasions, taken long visits to Shanksville, Stubville, and Hamhandsville because of the wedge, and I know that a ton of strokes have been left on the course wherever I have played because of this infernal club.

The first great vulnerability I feel in pulling out a wedge is that I have probably hit a driver, or at least a long club, on the shot before. Suddenly, there’s this short, awkward stick in my hand that feels foreign to my last attempt. How do I swing this thing? With what parts of the anatomy should I swing it. How hard should I swing it? Grip? Height? Open face, closed face? What?!?

I believe that Rickie Fowler has done us all a big favor by submitting an article on his own past with the club, and how for a time it held him back. As he reminds us, his stats are generally up there with the rest of the winners, except for that club, until now. His average distance from the hole after using it has been around 21 feet. To paraphrase Fowler, think of the putts that would go in if we could chop off at least five or six feet from that distance.

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I feel the most vulnerable hitting a full wedge. The club doesn’t feel right for a full backswing. Fowler’s goes around 140, mine a lot less, but it still looks like a long way, so I use a driverish swing and hope for the best.  The shortness of the club bothers me because, as it is often pointed out, I am unwilling to unclench and bend my knees. Here is Fowler’s recipe for a full shot – backswing short and wide. That means the hands  and trunk  reach the top simultaneously. He suggests that we go for “consistent power, not maximum power.” A longer backswing is for a longer club.

What if the distance required for a wedge is less than your maximum, but still long? For most us, the response is to swing softer. That’s good discipline, right?  Fowler suggests choking down on the grip to get the yardage you want instead. All the way down, he says, can cut 20 yards off instead of wimping out on the swing and inviting all sorts of disasters.

For the shorter flop shot, open the face. That’s my number two vulnerability with the wedge. I’m going to shank it or even worse, if there is such a thing. You can’t just loft it over sand and expect it to stop (provided you have cleared the sand at all).  That requires, Fowler maintains, a ‘hybrid flop-pitch.”  This shot requires a weak grip. That’s my vulnerability number three. I’m going to scuff, blade, or almost miss it if I wimp out on the grip. Not necessarily. Take courage, use little backswing, just a slight turn with a little “wrist hinge.” Swing across the ball with a shallow divot, and have your “face to the sky” at the finish.
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Now comes the “normal” chip. This doesn’t scare me so much, except for reckoning distance. It’s an upper body shot, not from the hips. With a little more weight on the front foot, put hands ahead of the ball. Don’t dig at it. Soft wrists will help to eliminate “screamers” that leave the green at a tremendous rate of speed.

Fowler carries four wedges with him. Most of us carry two, pitching and sand. Maybe we should ditch one fairway wood, the one we hit the least well, and add another wedge. I’ve always thought that putting cost me the most strokes, but now I am of a mind that the wedge has forever put me in a bad position to make putts. I have a lot to think about.

Anyway, many thanks to Rickie Fowler for giving us this advice. As soon as the snow melts, I’ll see how it goes.

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