How to Manage Wedge Distances Like a Pro

How to Manage Wedge Distances Like a Pro

The famous “clock drill” is ruining your wedge game and ability to go low. 

I know, I know… you’re thinking, did he just say that? I’ll let Phil Mickelson (aka the wedge wizard) explain why that drill is pointless in a second.

Today, the goal is to help you dial in your wedges so you save strokes from close range. There isn’t much more frustrating than bombing a drive, only to flub a wedge and try to save par instead of putting for birdie.

These tips will help your wedge distance control like never before. 

Improving Your Wedge Game from Short Range 

To make these changes stick, let’s divide wedges into two types of shots: short range (inside 60 yards, less than full L-wedge) and longer wedge shots

Alter Your Setup 

For shorter shots, the first thing to do is alter your setup. This will act as a reminder that this shot isn’t a full length swing and requires a shorter backswing. 

Start by narrowing your stance as you don’t need a wide base for 30-60 yard shots. Then, make sure to choke up on your LW or SW. 

Finally, make sure more weight is on your lead foot (about 70%) to ensure you make a descending blow. 

Always Accelerate 

The clock drill is one of the most well-known drills in all golf but it’s outdated and hurts your performance from inside 100 yards. Here’s what Phil Mickelson said about the clock drill in this Callaway Golf video when hitting the 50-yard shot. 

The master magician with a wedge said, “I see so many instructors teach this clock method where you want to go back and through the same distance… that’s crazy! You want to accelerate into the ball and if you take the club way back up here you have way too much energy the ball is going to sail past the hole.” 

Phil suggests going shorter back and accelerating into the finish. 

This will give you aggressive contact to get more spin and hit it close to the hole. When you take the club back too far, deceleration is inevitable. 

Improving Your Wedge Game from Long Range 

Rarely do we get perfect distances on the golf course. The lie, wind, weather, pin location, and other factors usually require you to get creative for in-between distance. 

Here are a few tips that will help you hit it closer and manage your distances when you’re between wedges.  

Choke Up > Clock Drill

While Phil Mickelson isn’t a fan of the clock drill for short chips, I’m not a fan of it on full wedges either. I think it’s very difficult to feel 9 or 10 o’clock when you’re in the heat of battle on the golf course.

Instead, I alter my grip to change my wedge distances. Choking up an inch or two reduces the total distance without changing my swing. I spent a lot of time calculating three distances for each wedge on the range with a launch monitor. 

When I find myself between the perfect wedge distance (which is pretty much every shot), I adjust my grip, not my swing. This makes it easier to dial in my distance without getting overly mechanical on the golf course. 

For example, here are my three distances for pitching wedge:

  • Full swing: 134 yards
  • Choke up one inch: 127 yards
  • Choke up two inches (nearly to the steel): 120 yards

When you do this with each wedge you will never have an awkward distance again. 

Factor in the Pin Location

Another way to manage your wedge distances is to factor in the pin location when you’re between clubs. 

  • Front pins: Take the shorter wedge and hit it hard so it will have more backspin than a knockdown shot. 
  • Middle pins: Your choice of wedge based on the wind direction and weather. If it’s into the wind, I take more club and hit a knockdown by choking up. If it’s downwind, I take less club and plan for the ball to skip slightly once it hits the green. 
  • Back pins: Take the longer club and hit a knockdown shot so it hits in the middle and skips toward the back of the green. This should also help you not miss the green long and have a tough chip to save par. 

Whether you’re hitting a 30-yard shot or a knockdown wedge, the biggest tip is, again, to always accelerate through the shot

Deceleration leads to chunks and sculled shots that will leave you frustrated and still not on the green. Keep your weight forward, accelerate, and trust the distance to control your wedge distances. 

About the Author
Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard is a full-time writer, author, creator of Wicked Smart Golf and +1 handicap amateur golfer. He left his corporate, national sales career in 2017 to pursue entrepreneurship and professional golf; since then, he’s competed in 160+ tournament days and went to Q-school in 2019.

Now, his mission is simple -- help more golfers play better without swing changes. Learn more about his book, Wicked Smart Golf, to play better golf without changing your swing on Amazon now!


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