How He Hit That

5 keys to hitting half-wedges tight like Jon Rahm

November 05, 2021

Cliff Hawkins

If it wasn't enough of a challenge to hit your short irons their stock yardages, a less-than-full shot requires touch, feel and good technique. We asked Golf Digest Best in State teacher Jason Guss to take you through Jon Rahm's deadly off-speed wedge game and offer some takeaways for hitting it tight more often.

Half-swing might not mean what you think

"Let's start by clearing up one misconception right away," says Guss, who runs academies at Warwick Hills Country Club and Eagle Eye in Michigan. "When players think of 'half wedges,' they often categorize it as a half-speed swing. But you can adjust either the size or the speed of these swings—or both—to hit the shot you want.

For example, Rahm hits this shot (below) with a shorter backswing than standard, but with full speed because he wants to rip it to a back pin with a lot of spin. In general, the more speed you use, the more spin and stop you apply."

Use less arm speed for more roll

"These intermediate-length pitch shots are in a nether region between short game and full swing, and they require a lot of practice," says Guss.

"Look how much less aggressive his pacing is here (below) compared to the last swing. He has moved the ball back in his stance to bring the trajectory down, and the slower pace produces more run-out. The most common mistake I see is when players use a lob wedge to try to fly these shots very close to the hole. The shot is much more forgiving when you can swing slower and use more run."

Stay off the gas

"This is a much bigger swing with a higher finish—a kind of dead-arm shot that is designed to produce more loft," says Guss.

"But what you really want to understand here (above) is that Rahm is so good at producing constant speed. Whether it's slower or faster paced, he makes the same speed all the way through. Players who struggle with off-speed shots are usually either slowing the club down through impact or adding a bunch of speed late. That compromises the quality of contact and makes it really hard to produce consistent distances."

Gain control over loft

"The loft on the club you're using obviously changes the height and distance you hit a shot, but you have a lot of other tools at your disposal, too," says Guss.

"Look how open the face is on this shot (below), and he has taken the club back only to about 9 o'clock. By changing the face, ball position, length and pace of the swing, you can dial up higher or lower shots.”

Take the guesswork out of ‘feel’

"Feel doesn't come from magic. You have to get feedback from what you're doing to see that the things you're doing are producing the outcome you want," says Guss.

"To set your own off-speed wedge baseline, take each of your wedges and make a stock half-length swing from center ball position with a square face. Now you have four basic distances and heights with your pitching wedge, sand wedge, gap wedge and lob wedge.

“Then you can experiment with adjusting the four variables to add more and more shots. Rahm does almost all of his adjusting with club choice, ball position and swing pace."