Adrenaline can do great things when you need to smash a tee shot. But what happens when you have to hit a controlled wedge shot under intense pressure? Power surges in those situations are bad news.
Justin Rose left his delicate 40-yard pitch three feet from the hole on 18, setting up the birdie that would win him the first Olympic gold medal in golf in more than 100 years. He did it by using a smaller version of his regular swing--not locking down his body and using just arms.
"A short pitch off a tight lie is one of the hardest shots in golf when you're under pressure," says top Michigan teacher Mark Hill, who is based at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City. "Most players get tense and stab at the ball, or they panic on the downswing and decelerate because they think the shot will go too far."
Rose's backswing and follow-through looked like the bottom of his regular swing with a full wedge, Hill says, with the same speed back and through. "He made a mini golf swing--taking the club back to 10 o'clock and through to 2 o'clock. The key is to turn your body through to face the target as you go through impact. Use your big muscles to control the shot--not your hands to help it into the air."
Catching the leading edge of the club in the grass and hitting it fat is also a common mistake. Top Maryland teacher Trillium Rose says you can clip that one by setting up with the face slightly open at address, and your weight favoring your lead leg. "Make that big rotation toward the target with your torso and come through the ball with the shaft leaning slightly toward the target," says Rose (the teacher), who is based at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville. "You won't take a divot because your hands reach the low point of the swing near your trail leg and the handle is rising through impact because of the torso rotation. The open face also keeps the bounce exposed to the turf, not the leading edge. This is how you make the ball hop once and stop--not by trying to smash down on it and take a lot of divot."