A short game skill every golfer should have is to hit two distinct shots with the same wedge — one shot in which the ball runs after it lands, and another in which the ball stops quickly.
The reason this is important to know is that the wedge you choose will be primarily determined by the distance to the pin. But, in one instance you might have clear ground all the way, in which case landing short and running the ball to the pin is the best choice.
In another instance, you might have to hit over something and not have a lot of green to work with. Now you have to throw the ball over the trouble and have it land there and stay there.
1. The Running Shot. This is a shot from my book, Better Recreational Golf, called the Air Chip. Play the ball in the middle of your stance with the clubface square to the target. Take the club back and let your wrists hinge naturally. On the downswing, let the wrists unhinge, but when they get to the ball arrest that movement and follow through with firm, but not rigid wrists.
In the follow-through, keep the clubhead as low to the ground as possible, and keep the clubface pointing at the target. The ball will take off lower than normal, check a little, then run to the hole. Experiment with your wedges to see what the air-to-ground ratio is for each one.
2. The Checking Shot. Align your stance about five degrees to the left of the pin. Open the clubface so it points to the pin. Put the ball in the middle of your stance. Swing back and through, letting the club arc upwards on each side of the ball. Swing along your body line, not at the target.
The key to this shot is club speed. The prime rule of the short game is speed = spin. Hit through the ball faster to get more spin on the ball. This, of course, is what will make the ball stop when it lands. I said faster, not harder. There’s a difference.
Since the clubface is open, the ball will go higher and thus shorter. You have to take a longer backswing than you think you need to so the ball will carry the trouble. Practice this part well, because it will seem at first like the right swing will send the ball way past the pin.