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How to hit a wedge from a hard lie

Golf tips by Donald K.. Burleson

May 2010

The hardest shot in golf is hitting a lob wedge off of a hard-packed lie, but it's also one of the most rewarding shots in golf, a one-sized fits all killer-shot that can trim strokes from your handicap.

High Risk, High Reward

It�s hard because the club must be super-precise.  An 8th inch fat and you duff, or worse, an 8th inch thin, and you send the ball a country mile! 

But executed properly, a well struck wedge off of a hard surface is a work of art, a high loft, high backspin shot that sticks like glue to even the hardest green

To get high backspin from a wedge you must accelerate aggressively into the ball on your down-stroke, as the backspin is exclusively a function of:

  • Impact loft: It's important to keep you head in proper alignment to get the high launch angle.  Move your head too far forward and you hit a thin shot, careening off of the back of the green.
  • Club head speed:  Backspin is primarily about the spin that occurs when the balls rolls up the face of the club at impact, and you must have at least a 60 MPH club head speed to create good backspin.
  • Wedge Grooves:  The new USGA 2010 pitching wedge groove rules are now available for some wedges like the new Callaway.  You can still get square grooved wedges in the �Vintage� wedge area.

The new laser milled wedge grooves cannot be sharpened and gone are the days when you �self sharpen� your grooves with a tool.  Today�s laser edged surfaces are not meant to be messed with.


The hardest shot in golf is a wedge shot off of a hard lie.  When there is no grass and the lie is close ground.  In a carry bag, I like to use my sand wedge.

The problem is the "bounce", the design of the wedge that allows me good loft from the sand is NOT ideal for hitting off of a hard packed ground surface.

In some cases it's better to use a 54 degree wedge without bounce so that you can successfully "chop under" the ball to create backspin.

Brad Clayton, author of  Puzzle Duck Golf: Migrate to a More Efficient Game notes this on hitting a wedge from a hard dirt lie:

Hitting almost any club from hard pan is relatively easy. A thin or solid shot is just that, a thin or solid shot, whether the ground is firm or soft, but....if you hit behind the ball, there is a huge difference. If the ground is soft we all know what happens....splat and fat!

But, if the ground is firm and hard it will actually help you move the club through the ball. Just think of the last time you hit from an old mat or off hard pan. If you hit it good or thin then so it is, but if you hit behind the ball the club "skipped" into the ball and probably produced at a least a decent shot, were hitting a wedge that had "bounce".

Maybe a gap wedge or sand wedge. These are the clubs that make hitting from a hard pan lie difficult. They are difficult because the leading edge of the club sits higher than the trailing edge.

When you hit the ground too soon the club will skip up and the leading edge will strike too high on the golf ball causing it to be "bladed" and go too far with very little if any height. There is simply, very little room for error! So...........what do you do?

  1. First, accept that it is a difficult shot!

  2. Second, try to play a little more conservative and make sure that you give yourself room for error where you are playing your shot. This means to hit to a safe area of the green, even if it is a little further from the hole to make sure that you can get down in at the most 3 strokes, take out the big number potential. This would of course depend on your comfort and skill level.

  3. Third....use the least lofted club you can to get the job done. The less loft, the easier it is to hit the ball solid. A pitching wedge is typically the most lofted club in your bag without "bounce", so if you need height, see if you can get away with using, it. Now on to some technique if you need to use that sand wedge or gap wedge.

It makes no sense to me to take a club and turn it into something it is the ball back in your stance, putting your weight in your forward foot, leaning the shaft toward your target, trying to hit "down" on the ball.

These things are simply taking the club you have chosen and, in effect, turning it into another less lofted club that you could have chosen to use, yet without all of the special adjustments necessary to make that club work.

It also requires one to be very precise and leaves little room for error. But sometimes you need a little extra spin, and those adjustments will help you put a little more on the ball. Do this only if you must.

A few points that I highlight with basically any short shot are:

1 - Grip down on the club for control.

2 - Make sure your shoulders are aimed parallel left of your target line!!!

3 - Make sure that your ball position is under your throat!!! Getting your shoulders parallel left and the ball under your throat will ensure that the bottom of your swing is "under" the ball so that you can strike it solidly. If your ball position is off, striking the ball to your target and solidly is almost certain "not" to happen.

4 - Keep your lower body stable in the backswing.

5 - Get through the ball and to your left side. Use your right hip to push through. This will do many positive things for you. No helping the ball up! Think THROUGH!

6 - Make sure that the grip of the club and the head of the club is always moving in the same direction.

7 - Hold your finish position in balance.




Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

Suggestions?  We are always seeking new tips for the professional at leisure, and any suggestions would be most welcome.  If you find an error or have a suggestion for improving our content, we would appreciate your feedback. 

Copyright � 1996 -  2010 by Donald K Burleson. All rights reserved.