Your golf ball is sitting in the fairway inside 75 yards from the green. You have a chance to help your score with a par or a birdie. The loft and control in your sand wedge offers you the chance to hit your ball close to the hole and make it stop quickly. From this position, luck takes a backseat to skill and technique, provided you know how to play the shot.
Precise distance control will help you score better when you have a sand wedge from the fairway. PGA professional Jeff Ritter recommends a three-swing system where you control the distance of the shot by adjusting the length of your swing. On the range, practice hitting sand wedge shots with a quarter-length swing, a half swing and three-quarter swing. Pay attention to how far you hit the ball with each swing. This will help you know how long your swing needs to be to play a shot on the golf course. For example, if your one quarter swing travels 25 yards on the range, you should have a good idea how long a swing needs to be for 20-to-30-yard shots on the course.
Players often shy away from using the sand wedge in the fairway because they fear a fat shot that come up short or blading the ball over the green. According to instructor Hank Haney, a common cause of both misses is a club shaft that leans back toward the player’s right leg at impact. To avoid this, at address make sure the ball is in the middle of your stance and the handle points to the inside of your right thigh. On the backswing, hinge your wrists 90 degrees. Start the forward swing by rotating your lower body toward the target and maintain the wrist hinge until after you hit the ball.
With half- or three-quarter-length sand wedges, some players swing only with their arms, which produces inconsistent contact. Instructor Bill Moretti suggests you allow your shoulders to rotate a little going back. On your forward swing, strive for a follow-through position with your right knee, with the club and your belly button all pointed at the target, which will keep your arms, club and body working together throughout the swing.
Sand Wedge Chip
While pros use their sand wedges to nestle chips close to the hole routinely, amateurs often end up well short of the hole. You can learn to control some of that distance by varying your trajectory. Moretti suggests the simplest way to do this is to move the ball forward or back in your stance to hit higher or lower shots. More advanced players can also experiment with opening, squaring or closing the clubface at address as well.
David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.