InstructionMay 7, 2012

How He Hit That: Rickie Fowler's killer wedge

*Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin analyzes the pinpoint wedge shot from 131 yards that Rickie Fowler hit in the first playoff hole on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship. He bested World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points to claim his first victory on the PGA Tour.

*Roger Schiffman

Managing Editor

Golf Digest

Twitter: @RogerSchiffman*

By Kevin Hinton

Twitter: @KevinHintonGolf

Here are a few thoughts on hitting great short-iron shots, as well as what you can take from Rickie Fowler's unique, but extremely effective, golf swing. Check out the video here and notice how Fowler keeps his weight left throughout his swing, and flattens the shaft on his dowswing.

1. Left is right. I believe the average player benefits from setting more weight on the left side at address when hitting higher-lofted irons, say 8-iron through lob wedge. It's an approximation, but I'd shoot for about 60 percent on your forward leg. In your backswing, avoid transferring any weight onto your back leg with these lofted clubs. This is a bit of a hot-bed issue among teachers, but from my experience, I see the average golfer making better contact this way. It also helps to keep the ball flight lower, minimizing the effect the wind will have on the ball, and helping your accuracy.

2. 80 percent max. Rarely will you see a tour player hitting short irons at 100-percent effort. I give my students the 80-percent rule. When you swing harder than this, you are inviting poor contact and less directional control. Also, when you swing at 100 percent, the ball often doesn't go farther, only higher. Unless you're hitting over a tall tree, this is not helpful. One of my favorite examples is Tiger's holed pitching wedge on No. 15 at Pebble Beach in 2000 during his chase of Byron Nelson for consecutive wins on tour. This controlled action is a great image to copy.

3. Steep stinks. Rickie's extreme flattening of the shaft in the downswing is one reason he is such a good short-iron player. This shallow approach into the ball is great for accurate wedge play. Tour players don't like to see huge, gouging divots on these shots. Rather, a smaller, shallower divot implies that their angle of attack was not excessively steep. While you certainly need to hit down on these shots (which will happen automatically when you follow point No. 1 above), doing it to excess makes it hard to control the spin and the distance the ball flies. Take note of the size of Rickie's divot from the video. It's not very big. Many great iron players throughout history have had similar looks--re-routing the club to the inside or flattening the shaft on the downswing. Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, Nick Price and Hubert Green are all great examples.

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