December 12 2013
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
2013 saw a number of incredible shots, so it only seemed fitting that it ended with one of the standout par saves of the year.
Always a gritty competitor, Zach Johnson delivered a wedge shot for the ages when he holed out (from 58 yards) for a par on the final hole. It forced a playoff with tournament host Tiger Woods which Johnson eventually won.
There were a couple of lessons we can learn from Zach’s very timely wedge shot. Before we address the technical aspects of how to hit the mid-range wedge shot consistently, I want to highlight a very important mind-set lesson:
In my opinion Zach’s reaction to his failed second shot played a critical part in him hitting the forthcoming pitch shot successfully. After dunking his second shot in the greenside hazard – Zach’s poorest shot of the day – he smiled, looked up at the heavens, passed his club on to his caddie and strolled on down toward the drop zone from where he would hit his fourth shot. There was no visible emotional or physical reaction to the failure whatsoever.
His response was imperative as it allowed him to remain positive and focused, even though it appeared as if he had handed Tiger the victory. In truth though, Johnson still had a wedge shot for a par. Albeit improbable, a par was still possible.
Remember always that each golf shot brings with it new possibilities and in order to give yourself the best chance for success, each shot requires a positive and engaged mindset. Remember also that every shot you hit is only as good as the next one. So that next shot should not be clouded by a poor attitude from prior failures.
With regard to the technique required to hit mid-range wedge shots consistently well, there are a few principles to apply:
It goes without saying that your ball position and posture should be on the money. Do not go to sleep on the ball position – it should be located around the center of the stance to help ensure a slightly descending strike.
Favor the leading side with your body-weight. I would recommend that about 60-70 percent of the weight be set over the lead foot. Added to that, use the buttons on your shirt as a reference – throughout the swing, strive to keep the buttons, or your nose, over the ball. If you want to make more of a descending strike then keep the buttons in front of the ball throughout the swing.
Finally, make a more abbreviated swing. I would recommend a swing where the arms travel no further than about 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock on an imaginary clock-face. You can allow the wrists to hinge and swing the club further but keeping the arm-swing short (parallel with the ground) allows the club to swing more in front of the pivot. Keeping the arm-swing controlled and in front of the body makes it possible to keep the clubface square without too much hand action.
Just as an added thought, I am a big believer in the arm-swing and the body pivot operating as a marriage with each providing equal impetus to the movement. In my opinion there is no way that the body pivot can adequately drive the swing consistently. To control the clubhead speed and hence trajectory and distance I believe that the arms should swing and the body should pivot in support. Every great swinger and wedge player I have spoken to over the years has echoed that very sentiment.
So check your ball position and posture; stabilize your torso over the ball and then swing your arms in a controlled fashion around a supporting pivot and you too should be able to hit wedge shots consistently close to the target.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.