Kyle Shevlin Golf

Improving Your Wedge Game

Yesterday, I received a pretty great compliment from a fellow scratch golfer whom I highly respect. He said, “Kyle, you make more birdies than anyone I know not going for par 5s in two.”

It’s true. I make a lot of birdies on par 5s where I layup. The biggest reason for that is how much my wedge game has improved in the last 5 years. With a wedge in hand, I know that more often than not, I’ll hit it close enough to the pin to have a decent look, whether it’s for birdie, or a chance to save par on a hole where I got into some trouble. It’s given me so much confidence in my game.

When you believe in your ability to wedge it close and get up and down, tee shots become less intimidating. You know a miss won’t kill you, that you can recover, which frees you up. And because you’re swinging freely, you miss less often. It’s a virtuous cycle. Let’s try and get one of those going for your game.

In this article, I’m going to go over the changes I’ve made, both mental and physical, to get better with my wedges. Hopefully some of them work for you, too.

Unlearning a misunderstanding

The most important thing I did to become a better wedge player was fix a misunderstanding I had about how to approach wedge play in the first place.

When I was young, I read a lot about golf, including lots of books on the short game. The same piece of advice showed up all over the place: “Leave yourself a full wedge into the target.”

My problem was I equated “full wedge” with “swing hard, just like you do longer clubs.” It was a ridiculous way to think about it.

Even as a good golfer with good hands, by swinging so hard, I had difficulty controlling my contact. This made it difficult to control my distance and trajectory. Not to mention, all the spin I was putting on the ball! Many times in the past, I’ve spun the ball off the green.

It wasn’t until I realized that “full swing” simply means “a complete swing” and “not a finesse shot” that I started to dial in my wedges.

When I was younger and naive, I would always try to hit the shortest wedge possible. If I was ever between wedges, I took the shortest one and swung harder. I would try and hit my lob wedge 105 yards because I saw that a pro did it once. I was severely mistaken.

Now, I never swing a wedge harder than about 75%. 80% is pushing it. I’ve taken 10-15 yards off of the “full” carry on my wedges, but I control the ball now, which more than makes up for any loss in distance.

So here’s your first tip. Assuming you already make good contact with your wedges, learn to swing them in a way where 75% is your “full swing”.

This change alone will start saving you strokes. Guaranteed.

Added Benefits

By swinging wedges at 75%, I gain a number of additional benefits that I want to cover in some detail.

More consistent contact

I hit the ball pretty solid most of the time, but wedges can be finicky. It’s easy to have one not compress on the face quite like it should and come out soft or on the wrong trajectory. Swinging with a little power in reserve smooths out impact, making the contact and flight more consistent. Because the flight becomes more consistent, you become more consistent with your distance control, allowing you to stick it close to the hole more often.

Lower trajectory

For many people, this might seem like a negative, but as you get better at this game, you’ll realize lower wedges are better wedges. Wedges that go in to the stratosphere are hard to control. A lower trajectory with a wedge means that the ball spends less time in the air. Less time in the air means the wind has less impact on the shot and the ball has less opportunity to fly offline.

Better spin control

I’ll be the first to admit, this tip is probably only applicable to single digit handicappers. It’s super cool to spin the ball backwards, no doubt, but if you’re good enough to generate that kind of spin, then you need to learn how to hit wedges that have less spin, too.

There are situations where it’s appropriate to swing with more speed to generate spin. The pin is tucked behind a trap or penalty area with a back stop behind it. In most cases, though, you can hit your wedge so that it just hops and stops. Swinging with power in reserve allows you to do this easily. It even makes it possible to stop the ball near the pin on greens with a lot of slope.

In fact, if you get good enough at this technique, you’ll learn to club up so you can hit a wedge that bounces forward and stops. This is very useful for back pins, allowing you to try and wedge it close without risking going over the green.

Build a system

Now, to the physical changes I made to my wedge game. In order to hit a wedge the distance you want, you have to develop a set of “feels” for different yardages. Not every yardage, but you need to develop some interval of distances you feel comfortable with. For example, you might be a mid-handicapper, and so working on intervals of 10 yards might be appropriate. If you’re slightly better, work on 5 yard intervals.

Essentially, you want to know what it feels like to hit the ball 100 yards, 105 yards, 110 yards, etc. If you want to take it the extra distance, learn to do this with multiple clubs. I know how it feels to hit a pitching wedge, gap wedge, and sand wedge 105 yards for example.

It’s not important which strategy you use to do develop these feels, it’s just important that you find one that works for you. For everyone, what works will likely be a little different.

One approach might be to follow the Dave Pelz’ approach, developing 4 different swing lengths and using them with all your clubs. He describes the lengths using a clock face. 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock, etc. This is very effective for some, but it didn’t work for me.

What works for me is thinking of the height of my hands in relation to my body. Waist high, chest high, shoulder high, and full swing. I can repeat these feels and that’s the important part. Find the feels that you can repeat.

I use these feels as benchmarks for my wedge distances. If I do this, I expect that. If I get something different, let’s take note of that and adjust.

By developing a system of feels, I’ve been able to increase both the consistency and the variety of wedge shots I can comfortably play. Just a few years ago, I would struggle to take anything off a wedge, but now I comfortably hit off-speed wedge shots without any fear of screwing it up. I frequently will take as much as 20 yards off a wedge shot if it creates the right trajectory and spin for the shot.


Let’s recap what we’ve learned. To improve your wedge play, do the following:

  • Mentally swap “full swing” for “complete swing”. It doesn’t have to be a “hard swing”
  • Make that stock complete swing more like 75-80%. It should be a swing that’s easily repeatable with good trajectory.
  • Build a “feel” system. Develop a set of feels that you can repeat. Practice those “feels” with each of your clubs til you have a matrix of shots you can play.

Hope this helps you with your wedge game and you make a few more birdies and save some pars in the process!