Driving and approach shots are the strengths of my game, which is why I spend a lot of practice time on shorter shots—especially in that 40-to-60-yard range. Although it’s the middle of winter, you can really get good at these shots this time of year without worrying about frostbite. Let me explain.
One thing I see a lot from amateurs when hitting these shorter shots is too much effort. Not only is it unnecessary to create a lot of swing speed to get the ball to the hole from these distances, it also makes it tougher to hit a good shot. Remember, these are shorter-than-normal swings. If you throw extra speed into them, there’s virtually no time to recover from a bad position. Also, the faster you swing, the more likely you’ll want to slow the club down as it approaches the ball, because you’re worried you’ll hit it too far. You end up dumping it short.
“Hold off your finish like this on these half-wedge shots.”
Instead of going after it, swing with a relaxed-and-steady tempo. In the winter, it’s actually good to practice indoors without a ball. As long as you’re not worried about smashing a fancy vase, swinging without a ball takes away the emphasis of making good contact and replaces it with better awareness of the tempo and speed of your swing. You’ll also start to notice that your hands needn’t do much to get the club to bottom out—on the carpet—in a square or slightly open position. When the hands get too active, it’s really tough to control the clubface.
So while you’re waiting for spring to arrive, grab your lob wedge, head into the den, and practice your half-wedge tempo while watching us play in warmer locations on TV. You won’t be so rusty once you can get back on the course. —with Ron Kaspriske