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Two Drills to Help You Get a Grip on Your Wedge Distance Control

Dustin Johnson is one of the most prodigious drivers in professional golf, but he didn’t win the 2020 Masters by just bludgeoning the course.  For an athlete with such remarkable power potential, DJ also has also developed tremendous wedge distance control on his approach shots.  It’s almost an unfair combination.

When DJ has a scoring club in his hand, announcers often note that he has been using a launch monitor during range sessions 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 World #1 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
Dustin Johnson precision wedge shot at 2020 Master's tournament

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.  The 12th is responsible for derailing dozens of potential would-be championship rounds over the years, and was responsible for Tiger Woods’ highest score ever on a hole since his TOUR career began.

Wedge distance control is imperative at the 12th, and on the course in general.  If you’re short, you’ll roll back into Rae’s Creek.  If you’re 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.  Finishing at 20-under, DJ didn’t NEED the birdies on the 12th to claim the green jacket, but they were 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, DJ was able to build confidence in his feel on the course.

2 Drills to Help Practice Wedge Distance Control

The good news is that implementing a system to improve your accuracy inside of 150 yards will improve your scoring.  The better news is that you don’t need his $20,000 launch monitor to do it.  

Here are a couple of drills you can do with or without a launch monitor

1) Dispersion Testing with Ian Poulter

The week before the Masters, Ian Poulter posted a video to his Instagram story of how he tested his wedge control using a series of cones as targets.

He also breaks down a number of wedge distance control tips in this article.

Understanding dispersions is especially helpful for identifying your biggest opportunities for improvement.  If you don’t have a launch monitor like the Rapsodo MLM, you’ll need several cones and 150 yards of open space.  If you do have a launch monitor, you can duplicate this exercise by creating a closest to the pin competition in the MLM app.

2) Clock Drill 

Obviously, feel matters on the golf course, but establishing a reference point for backswing lengths is what you can base this feel off of. Here’s PGA TOUR player Ben Crane and short-game coach James Sieckmann demonstrating the Clock Drill.

Another benefit of this type of work?  The test is productive practice.  Most golfers hit balls without goals or parameters for success.  A simple test like this provides both.

Most golfers think the path to improvement is only based on HOW MUCH they practice, but data suggests that HOW they practice is just as important.  Games like these don’t just develop your skill set on the course, they elevate the quality of your practice off the course, as well.  

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.