Wedging Your Bets
Mike Merchent, Director of Golf at Purgatory shows how to get out of trouble and back into the game
Don’t ever be afraid to take a divot. In order to get the ball up, the club needs to be striking the ball in a descending blow. If the club is moving level or up at any point when striking the ball, that is going to have topspin on it, and it’s going to go down.
Understand that the sand wedge is your most versatile club. You don’t have to use it only in the sand. It has a dig sole on it, which you might understand this way: While in your car, stick your hand out the window and hold it flat, fingers extended. Cuts through the wind, doesn’t it? Then tilt your thumb down. The wind just forces it down, right? That’s what happens with a dig sole. Once it makes contact with the grass, or sand, the club is pulled to the surface. This ensures that you get the proper trajectory on your swing.
Use the 3-wood off the tee. “A lot of people are trying to kill it off the tee, and what they don’t realize is, the less loft you have on a club, the more room for error there is. And for what? Maybe a slight advancement in yardage?” The 3-wood will be more accurate, get you in the fairway more frequently and set you up for better shots later.
Keep your focus on the hole when putting. It’s like playing catch in baseball, or shooting in basketball, when your eyes are on the catcher’s mitt or the rim. “Looking at the hole helps you calculate how far away that target is,” says Merchent. “Make one or two practice strokes looking at the hole, not the ball. Then, step up to the ball without much delay, shift your eyes back and forth, back and forth, then make your putting stroke.”
How To Shoot
“This par-4, 409 yarder can be discouraging because it comes so early.” The idea: Bite off as much water as you can chew. The reward: a much shorter second shot. Play it safe off the tee–maybe a 7-iron to the right, then hit a 7 again into the wide fairway before the green. You’ll end up with a third shot that’s a pitch. So, you have a chance to get a 4 without risk (You’ll likely get a 5). Take the risk and you might run into unlimited trouble.
“How would I play it? On my tee, I’d aim directly at the third bunker from the right. Once safely in, I’m aiming for the right of the green. I might leave a long putt, but I’d rather stay away from the left side of the green that falls down toward the water.”
Pro Tour, Wedging Your Bets, Indy Men’s Magazine, May 2003.