As one of the most prodigious drivers in professional golf, Dustin Johnson understands the importance of focusing on wedge distance control during his practice sessions.
With the combination of DJ’s remarkable power and his wedge play, he becomes a competitor with an almost unfair edge on the golf course.
Each time DJ is taking a wedge shot, announcers often note that he has been using a launch monitor to dial in his wedge distances. It’s almost comical how frequently it’s been mentioned over the years, but it’s also something Dustin credits with achieving his #1 World ranking.
“Before a few years ago, I never practiced my wedge play. I mean, I’d hit wedge shots, but I never had a set practice plan.
The thing I needed to improve a lot was [wedge] distance control. I’d never structured my practices with wedges in mind.I never really knew how far the ball would go with different swings in that 75-to-150-yard range.
Literally, I would just guess. I was still fairly decent but playing completely by feel.”
– Dustin Johnson
Mastering Wedge Distance Control
DJ’s distance control was on display at Augusta National’s 12th hole, a tricky Par 3 playing just 155 yards. This 12th hole is responsible for derailing dozens of potential would-be championships over the years. It is also responsible for being the hole where Tiger Woods’ had the highest score since his PGA Tour career began.
Wedge distance control is imperative at the 12th, and on the course in general. If your wedge yardage is short, you’ll roll back into Rae’s Creek. If you go long, you face a downhill chip or bunker shot with water long. DJ played the hole 2-under during this Master’s tournament, hitting the green three times and settling on the fringe once.
Thanks to his skillful wedge approach shots, DJ finished at 20-under. The birdies on the 12th weren’t necessary to claim the green jacket, but they served as a representative of his well-rounded skill set. Instead of playing offense on Par 5’s and defense everywhere else, DJ was able to create a scoring opportunity whenever he had a wedge in hand.
In an article with Golf Digest, DJ described a system that he developed to establish four different carry distances with each of his wedges: his half swing, his three-quarter swing, his full swing, and his max swing. By establishing objective carry distances for each swing during his practice sessions, DJ was able to build confidence in his feel on the course.
Two Drills to Help Practice Wedge Distance Control
For those that have a launch monitor, improving your short game is easy. Though not as accurate, it is still possible to practice your wedge distance control without one.
1) Dispersion Testing with Ian Poulter
The week before competing in the Masters, Ian Poulter posted a video detailing how he tested his wedge control while using a series of cones as targets. This helped Poulter to visualize the dispersions of his swings. Understanding golf club dispersions is especially helpful for identifying your biggest opportunities for improvement.
If you don’t have a launch monitor like the Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor (MLM), you’ll need several cones and over 100 yards of open space to practice. For those with a Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor, duplicate this exercise by creating a “Closest to the Pin Competition” in the MLM application.
2) Clock Drill
Having the feel for a swing is important on the golf course, however, it’s not always accurate. Establish a reference point for backswing lengths to base your feel off.
For help on establishing a reference point during your shots, let’s watch a video from PGA tour player Ben Crane and his short game coach James Sieckmann.
This drill is often called the “Clock Drill”, which tests both your goals and parameters. It’s quite easy to do and serves as productive practice. While on the course, you can even use this method as a pre-shot routine.
Make Every Practice Productive with Rapsodo
Most golfers think the path to improvement is only based on the amount they practice. However, data suggests that how they practice is just as important. Quick games during practice don’t just help develop your skillset on the course, they also elevate the quality of your practice off the course.
You don’t need a launch monitor to perform these drills. However, to get the most accurate wedge distance, having one can be a huge help.
The Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor is a great, affordable way to accurately track the distance you hit any of your clubs. With video playback and club gapping features, it’s a great tool to perfect your golf game.
Find out more at rapsodo.com/golf/mlm.