Lately I’ve been asked a lot of questions about why I carry 4 wedges in my bag. This months article is going to be a basic explanation of wedges and talking about something that I know a lot about from my father, Billy Casper and that is play around the greens. As most of you golfers know, my father Billy Casper is considered one of the greatest short games players in the history of the game. A lot has been talked about over the years about how much was feel and how much was mechanics. First I must say that my father had some of the most wonderful hands in the industry. He was able to manipulate his hands for different shots, even until he was in his 80’s, he still had incredible control of his hands But, there were also basic mechanics that were involved that every golfer needs to know.
I believe Byron Nelson was quoted once as saying “ The 60° wedge is the latest technology that every player should utilize”. I agree, on today’s golf course, having a 60 or 61° wedge is invaluable not only for short shots around the green where you have to get the ball up and down quickly but also for that mid range distance of 60 to 90 yards where you want to get a lot of spin on the ball.
I personally carry a 48° pitching wedge, 53° gap wedge, a 57° sand wedge, and a 61° lob wedge. I use my pitching wedge for shots at the 120 230 yard range. I use my gap wedge for 110-120 yards, my sand wedge 90-110 yards and my lob wedge for 55-85 yards.
Bunker (Sand) Shots
Bunker shots are much easier than your average golfer believes. Hitting out of the sand is relatively easy because your positioning is going to stay the same every time. You also get to swing hard and your club head never touches the ball.
Because you are wanting to lower your center of gravity, first get a real good grip in the sand by moving your feet until they dig in.
Then open up your feet so they’re facing to the left significantly and open the face of your club so it is slightly to the right of the hole. Depending on the distance you’re either going to take a lot or a little sand so once you’ve decided how far in back of the ball to target, create an imaginary line at that point and that becomes the grounding point of your club during the swing. Now using a very upright swing and a lot of wrists, swing hard down and through the sand.
Lob, flop or high trajectory shots.
These shots are great around the green when you have to get up and down relatively quickly. They’re also important when you want to get the ball stopped as quick as possible and don’t have a lot of green to work with.
Best way to hit a flop shot is to open the face of the club and then re-grip the club in the open facing position. Aim your clubhead facing the target and your feet left of the target and swing down the path of your feet. Swing hard and allow the club to bounce through and under the ball.
Pitch and bump and run shots
If there was one shot around the greens that my father, Billy Casper was especially incredible at, that was the bump and
run. His philosophy was very simple, you were much more accurate if you could get the ball on the green rolling in the direction of the hole rather than messing around with flying it all the way to the pin. It was a shot he was comfortable with and used constantly. Depending on the occasion and how much roll out he wanted he would use anything from a 7-iron (choked way down ) to a pitching wedge. The idea behind the shot is simple, and that is to pick a target roughly 1/3 to half way to the hole and land your shot there,
allowing the ball to roll out the rest of the way towards the cup. Play around with this shot and you might find that a 7, 8 or 9 iron works great for you with regards to control and distance.
Last but not least, as a Golf professional I often get asked about backspin and how to create the backspin that you see the pros using out on the tour. The way that you hit this shot
is by playing the ball off of your back foot, then putting your hands slightly forward at address so that when you hit the ball you’re hitting down hard on it and the ground at the same time. Instead of a big high finish you want to finish your shot with the club roughly facing the target. This is a very easy to control shot and with a little practice can be a reliable shot in your arsenal when it comes to stopping the ball on the green.
As always it’s my pleasure to pass on some of the knowledge that I got first hand working with my father, PGA Tour legend Billy Casper. And, I hope these short game fundamentals help you in your journey to greatness on the golf course.