Things you can do to become a better wedge player
You can hit all of the 300-yard bombs off the tee that you want but if you’re not a good wedge player your potential as a golfer is going to be at least somewhat limited. And you can look no further than Dustin Johnson as an example.
Johnson has seized control of the top spot in the world rankings and has done so because in addition to being one of the longest players in the game he’s now also one of the best wedge players.
And wedge play is even more crucial for average golfers, most of whom aren’t capable of generating such exceptional distance off the tee.
All that said, many golfers still don’t give their wedges the attention they deserve. More specifically, they’re not picking sole grinds/shapes that will work best with their respective swings or the course conditions where they play most often.
Additionally, many players aren’t carrying enough wedges and/or the wedges they have are creating issues with yardage gapping.
To help TGW customers when it comes to their wedge play, we reached out to PGA teaching professional Tasha Browner Bohlig for her thoughts on picking the right wedges, as well as some tips on how to improve wedge performance both on full shots and around the green.
Here’s what she had to say, and if you take her advice to heart, you’ll have a good chance to start shooting some lower scores.
TGW: With lofts seemingly getting stronger and stronger in iron sets every year, is a gap wedge of some sort basically essential these days?
BROWNER BOHLIG: The stronger lofted sets with stronger pitching wedges make having a gap wedge in the bag an absolute must. When looking into adding a gap wedge, make sure that the loft of that wedge fits with your set. For example, if you have a 44-degree pitching wedge and a 56-degree sand wedge, you may want a 50 degree gap wedge to split the difference. Also, keep in mind that every degree of loft equates to 3-4 yards of distance. So without a gap wedge, the "gap" between your 44-degree pitching wedge and 56-degree sand wedge would be 36-48 yards. Obviously that’s way too much of a yardage gap to have in your bag.
TGW: In your opinion, what are the biggest mistakes that recreational golfers make when it comes to choosing wedges for their bag and how many wedges would you advise that they carry?
BROWNER BOHLIG: I would recommend carrying at least three wedges to avoid major distance gaps. When selecting these important clubs, one of the biggest mistakes that I believe golfers make is to carry all of the same type or model of wedge. In other words, golfers buy a set of clubs and then buy wedges separately with different weights, bounce, and shafts, or they buy only the wedges that match their set. In my opinion, the key is to match your pitching and gap wedges to your set to help with distance consistency on full shots, which is where those wedges will be used most often, because they will then have similar weighting and the same graphite or steel shafts as the rest of the iron set. Then buy sand and/or lob wedges separately that are heavier in terms of swing weight and that are suited to your needs and preferences in terms of finish, bounce, head shape, and sole grind to help you hit those specialty shots around the green.
TGW: The concept of bounce can be quite confusing for golfers. Keeping it as simple as possible, what does the average player need to know about bounce as it relates to picking wedges?
BROWNER BOHLIG: The average golfer should carry medium-bounce wedges that range from 8-12 degrees of bounce depending on the loft of the club. This allows you the flexibility to adapt to different textures of sand and various heights of grass. To customize your bounce, it is important to understand your swing and the type of turf at the courses you play. For example, if you tend to sweep or pick the ball off the ground and play courses that have tight lies and firm fairways, carry wedges that have less bounce. Conversely, if you swing more steeply and play courses that have a lot of high grass or where conditions are typically softer, carry wedges that have more bounce.
TGW: Along with more practice, what’s a good tip that you would give average golfers to help them hit better full shots with their wedges?
BROWNER BOHLIG: In order to improve this important part of the game, treat full wedge shots like any other full shot. Many golfers think they need a different swing when they are hitting full shots with their wedges and this makes the game challenging when you are trying to make a different swing. The next time you are at the range, play holes on the range, imagining shots and aiming at different targets. For example, hit your driver like you might off the first tee, then a 3 wood, and then a full wedge. This will help you transition your swing smoothly from one club to another, and it will help your wedge game immensely.
TGW: Do you have any drills that you use with your students that you find especially effective as it relates to improving chipping and pitching around the green?
BROWNER BOHLIG: I would recommend a drill that works on hitting your landing spots. You can practice bump-and-run shots, chipping, and pitching with this one drill. Hit shots from 30 yards away from the pin and place three golf tees (or small towels) in the ground between you and the flagstick at 5, 15, and 25 yards away. Practice hitting each of the tees or towels, which are your landing spots, with each shot. This drill helps you focus on where to land the ball and how it will react using different clubs and shot types rather than focusing too much on the hole.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tasha Browner Bohlig is a Class A PGA Teaching Professional and the Director of Instruction at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, California, where she has more than 300 students under her tutelage and oversees all instructional programs. A collegiate standout at Washington State University, she competed in three consecutive NCAA Championships and earned All-Pac 10 and Academic All-America honors. She is TPI Certified and a Certified Fitness Instructor, and was also a competitor on Golf Channel’s Big Break III.