My coach and I have a regular game against each other. We play nine holes where he chooses the tee. Usually our tee box is somewhere in the fairway or first cut, but sometimes it’s a sidehill stance in the deep stuff, or even in a fairway bunker. He can get pretty creative with his short-course routing. The yardage ranges from 40 to 120 metres, so it’s all about dialling in random distances – and then sinking the putt. My coach is Mike LaBauve, in Scottsdale, Arizona, and he played some tournaments on the US PGA Tour, so I have to grind hard to beat him. I trust Mike when he says mastering every club in the bag starts with the wedge. You can learn almost everything there is to know about the swing with this one club, then apply the feel to your irons and woods.
Ever have a good warm-up but then fall apart on the course? Mike says the fastest way to uncover your swing issues is to skip the long clubs and practise half-wedge shots. Proper wedge technique is the full swing on a smaller scale. That makes it easier to identify if you’re scooping through impact or getting a nice, compressed hit on the ball. You’ll hear the difference.
The goal with wedges isn’t to hit them as far as possible, so that naturally slows the swing. The other reason golfers unlock great tempo by hitting wedges is that they make a better pivot. When you hit partial shots, the instinct is to focus more on turn, less on swing. That’s good. What you don’t want to do is stand there flat-footed and slap at the ball with your hands and arms.
It’s silly, but it’s human nature to always choose the club that can barely reach the green. Only with a wedge do most of us learn to ditch our egos and swing in control. When you make abbreviated swings, you hit lower, more piercing shots. The key is to apply this same disciplined mind-set to all your clubs.
– Cheyenne Woods is Tiger Woods’ niece and is in her second year on the LPGA Tour.