Those dreaded half-wedge shots. I know many of you would rather be 100 yards out than 40, so you can make a full swing. Why are these shots so difficult? When facing a shot that requires less than a full swing, many amateurs try to regulate distance with their hands and arms instead of the pivot of their bodies.


When the hands and arms take over, it makes solid contact—and, in turn, distance control—a hit-and-hope situation. Many times you end up hitting it fat (above) and leaving it short, or your club bounces off the turf and blades the ball over the green.

It should be fairly obvious if your technique is poor. If it is, you’ll rarely get that feeling of crisp contact with the ball and your divot will start behind the ball, or the grass won’t be bruised at all. Result: a chunk or skull and no control over how far the ball goes.

Your focus on these half-wedges should be blending the movement of your hands and arms with the rotation of your torso. That’s critical—and I’m guessing counterintuitive for you. You’ve got to rotate your body as if you were swinging an 8-iron. In fact, think of the half-wedge as a mini version of your full swing. In a full swing, it’s your body that’s the leader, not your hands.

A great drill to help you improve your pivot is to wedge a beach towel under your arms and across your chest as you set up with a wedge. Make practice swings while keeping the towel in place. Feel how your arms and body are unified as you swing back and through. This is not a big, dynamic swing. Feel your left arm moving across your chest in the backswing and your right arm in the through-swing. Note how your hands and arms are guided by the movement of your ribcage. Eventually you can let your wrists hinge and unhinge and hit balls (below).

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/instruction-folder-(kaspriske)/Leadbetter half wedge bad.jpg

Work on this drill, then hit some shots without the towel, trying to re-create the feel of the drill. You’ll stick these half-wedge shots if you remember to keep pivoting your body.

Images: JD Cuban