Wedge distance control can be one of the biggest improvements anyone can make to their golf game.
I’ll show you how to create a matrix of your distances for each wedge in your bag, then share some drills to help you master them on the golf course.
Getting to know your wedge distances will arm you to successfully execute any intermediate distance shot you face in the short game. 40 yards with a tight landing zone versus 40 yards with plenty of room to roll…you’ll probably play each differently and likely with different clubs.
But how much of a swing do you take for that shot when using a 50-degree wedge versus a 58 degree?
Learn Your Wedge Distances
Spending the time to learn your distances with multiple reference points in your swing is the way to go in my opinion.
It also happens to be the method of some of the all-time greatest golfers, including Sir Nick Faldo.
Clock Position – Reference Points
Imagine there is a clock face behind you. When the club is addressing your ball, you are at 6 o’clock. As you take your club back, you’ll go past 8, 9, 10 o’clock etc. Think of your bottom hand position being in each of those positions.
Now, this doesn’t have to be exactly 9 o’clock. When another player watches you, they may say you are going to 9:30…it’s about what you feel and being able to replicate that same position repeatedly.
You could also think of it as a 1/4 swing, 1/2 swing, 3/4 swing, and a full swing.
Some golfers may think of it as body parts, knees, waist, shoulder, and full.
Whatever works for you, the point is to have each of these reference points and be able to hit each wedge from each of the reference points.
Establish Your Wedge Yardages
If you have access to a launch monitor, this will be incredibly easy. Well, easier than any other method that is. Without a launch monitor, you’ll need to spend some time at the range or in an open field. I used a GC3 from Foresight Sports to establish my distances.
Get yourself a good average with each of your wedges from all reference points. If you are able to record both carry distance and total distance, that would be ideal. Hit several shots with each wedge and capture your distances.
Once you have a good average with each club in each of the reference positions, you can create a simple reference card that you can keep in your bag. If you have a yardage book, this would be an ideal place to keep your wedge distance matrix.
Maximum Distances With Wedges
A 60 degree wedge will typically go between 70 – 80 yards. A 50 degree wedge will typically go between 95 – 110 yards. This depends on the golfer however and really comes down to swing speed.
Every golfer is different – but my preference is to use 1 wedge (my 58 degree) from 75 yards and in. Anything over 75 yards, I typically go with a 50 degree and use the clock system to dial-in my total distance.
How to Use Your New Wedge Matrix
You’ll notice some overlap in distances with your wedges. Some distances will have multiple distance overlaps. This is a good thing, those are your options when you are faced with a specific distance on the golf course.
If the shot you are faced with requires a higher shot, use the club with the most loft and swing from your reference point that matches your wedge matrix.
If you are faced with a shot where it doesn’t necessarily matter which club you choose in terms of trajectory, go with the club that you are most confident with. Alternatively, pick the club that matches the clock position you are most comfortable with.
Once you’ve established your numbers, your short game distance control is going to go through the roof!
PGA Tour Pro, Rickie Fowler talks about the importance of establishing these “tweener” yardages.
I use 3 wedges. I have a standard Pitching Wedge, Gap Wedge, and a 58 degree. My 58 degree is my go-to for most shots. If I’m faced with needing to get the ball in the air more, I’ll just open up the face.
Because of this, I’ve established my yardages with the reference points AND the club face in multiple degrees of openness.
One of the downsides to this however, when I take a more full swing with the club face open, the ball fades and I need to account for that. The harder the shot, the more fade.
Anyway, Once I figured out what my 50 yard, 75 yard, 100 yard shots all felt like, it became fairly simple to “fill in the gaps” when faced with something in-between on the course. As I’ve continued to practice, I’ve started dialing in to 10 yard increments. I can’t always execute, but its getting better!
Wedge Distance Control Drills
There are several ways you can practice and challenge yourself. You can get as creative as you’d like! Here are a few things that work for me.
Although not necessarily a “drill” per-se, its still incredibly beneficial. Prior to playing, I’ll warmup incrementally. I’ll hit 5 – 10 balls 50 yards, 5 – 10 at 75 yards, then at 100 yards. I’ll adjust the number I’m hitting based on how I’m feeling. If my body is loosening up quickly, I’ll progress a bit faster.
If I’m not making good contact, I’ll spend a little more time at the shorter yardages until I’ve gotten it out of my system.
You can hit these into the net if your course has one, or obviously on the driving range works too!
5 Yard Increments
Take 5 balls, hit the first one 10 yards, then 15, 20 and so on. Basically make a ladder with each shot being a few yards further. It’s a little harder than you’d think!
I typically use the chipping area at my local course for this. We have a pretty long “tee” area to hit from, it goes to about 30 yards from one end to the other. It’s usually empty, so when it is, I’ll hit from one end and try to put a ball in every position players will normally hit from.
Other times I’ll hit toward the chipping practice green, actually kind of beside it. I’ll just try to get my golf balls to line up.
Progressive Wedge Distance Control Challenge
If you have access to a launch monitor, or a range with solid distance markings, this is a fun drill that will have you practicing your wedge shots for much longer than you planned.
You can modify this as much as you need to correspond with your skill level.
Start at 50 yards. You must hit 3 out of 5 balls within 5 yards of the 50 marker. Once you succeed, move to 75 yards. 3 out of 5 must be within 5 yards again. If you fail, go back to 50. If you pass, move to 100.
If you are really good, make it 3-of-3, or reduce the margin of error. See how long it takes you to get through all 3 distances. You can use whatever distance works for you as well. 25 yards, 40 yards, whatever it is you’d like to work on.
With the progressive nature of it, this drill puts some pressure on you, especially at the end.
With your wedge matrix, randomly select a number on the chart – Now hit it!
Switching between clubs and various distances can certainly be difficult, especially if you are only taking one shot on each. But it is also a great way to practice because it is a much more realistic representation of what you’ll actually experience on the golf course.
If you have not crated a wedge matrix yet, not to worry. If you’re on the range, just randomly select intermediate distances to hit to. Try hitting 50 yards with your highest lofted wedge, then hit 50 with your lowest lofted. Bounce around to 75, 25, wherever.
Short Game Final Thoughts
We all know how important the short game is. I spent a lot of time increasing my swing speed, and it helped, but my game improved significantly when I started to dial in different distances. As part of my pre shot routine, I know what clock position I need to hit from and I will visualize it before taking a swing.
When I take my practice swing, it’s from the clock position and I visualize the ball doing exactly what I want it to with the perfect distance.
I’ve managed to have much more control and have been pin high significantly more often because of it.
I hope these tips will help you with your wedge distance control. If you take the time to develop the wedge matrix, I’m confident you’ll get a lot out of it.
Good luck on the golf course!