By Doug Hammer, Golf Contributor - Archive - Email
Score Like Zach!
Zach Johnson started the final round at last weekend's BMW Championship three shots off the lead, but cruised a 6-under 65 to gain the victory.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I have to say, congratulations to Zach Johnson for winning the BMW Championship last week and for propelling himself into the hunt for the FedEx Cup. I am a huge Zach Johnson fan, having played against him a few times in high school and of course being from Iowa originally myself. But what actually makes me a big Zach Johnson fan is how he goes about winning.

Zach doesn't go out and lead the field in driving distance and make Sportscenter every week with big drives and flashy long irons to tight pins. No, Zach goes about winning much differently, and it can work for you all as well.

When Zach Johnson won the Masters in 2007 he did so by not attacking a single par 5 in two. Instead, he layed up to a comfortable wedge distance and the result was 13 birdies on Par 5's! And of course who can forget wedge to tap in distance on the final hole. Yes, Zach goes about winning with stellar wedge play, something I feel every golfer in the world can benefit by working on.

If you ever have a chance to visit Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale, be sure to take time to join one of our short game clinics. What you hear first may surprise you. We instruct all of our clients to not bring their putters to our short game clinic. Our philosophy is simple, have shorter putts after you hit your wedges and putting gets easier! I am going to give you all a little taste of what we give our clients each month in our short game academy.

Your intermediate wedges shots are crucial to scoring. What is an intermediate wedge shot? That is a wedge shot that is not a full swing. Those critical half wedge shots that always seem to come up at the worst time and never seem to be the same distance from the green from round to round.

The first step in understanding how to control your wedges is to make sure that all of your wedges have a defined full swing yardage. For example, if you have 3 wedges, Pitching, Sand, and Lob, then all 3 should have a defined yardage for a full swing.

Let's just go with the following for easy math:

  • PW - 100 yards
  • SW - 80 yards
  • LW - 60 yards

    Now if you were to grip down on each of these clubs appx. 1 inch, you can take 5-10 yards off the full swing distance without changing your swing. We just created access to 3 more yardages with your wedges without changing your swing! So now you should have the following distances covered:

    Full Swing             Choked down Full swing
    PW - 100 yards         PW - 90-95 yards
    SW - 80 yards          SW - 70-75 yards
    LW - 60 yards          LW - 50-55 yards
    Now if we learned one less than full swing, say a 3/4 swing, we can add 3 more distances to our arsenal. Whenever we take a less than full swing, it is important to maintain a balanced and consistent swing length. In other words, swing the club back and through the same distance and maintain positive acceleration through the ball. Most players make the mistake of trying to slow down the forward swing to take off distance. This will take off distance, but make it very hard to predict how much. So now you should have the following yardages covered:

    Full Swing             Choked down Full swing    3/4 Swing
    PW - 100 yards         PW - 90-95 yards          PW - 75-80 yards
    SW - 80 yards          SW - 70-75 yards          SW - 60-65 yards
    LW - 60 yards          LW - 50-55 yards          LW - 45-50 yards
    So far you have only made one swing adjustment and have created access to 9 different yardages from 45 to 100 yards. You may notice that we overlap in the 75-80 yard range. If this was your distances you can read this as this is your strong yardage. You have options between 70 and 80 yards. You can take a full SW, a choked down SW, or a 3/4 PW to access those distances. Options are good!

    You also may notice that 80-90 yards is not covered. We can now identify this distance as a weak distance and avoid this yardage at all costs. If you have to lay up, lay up to a full 100 yards, or try to get down in to the 70-80 yard range.

    Once you know your strong yardages and your weak ones it can help you to plan your strategy on long par 4's and Par 5's. Plus following this strategy only encourages 1 in swing adjustment, limiting the risk for mistakes. Now get out there and work on your wedge game!!

    Doug Hammer * Director of Instruction * Troon North Golf Club
    p 480-585-5300 ext. 251 * f 480-585-5161
    10320 E Dynamite Blvd. * Scottsdale, AZ 85262 Managed by Troon Golf
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