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Amen Corner: Woodland’s wedge perfect form for the situation

  • Keep the feet together and your arms glued to your body to succeed with the type of chip shot that decided Sunday's U.S. Open. (Courtesy photograph)

Special to the Valley News
Published: 6/19/2019 9:00:29 PM
Modified: 6/19/2019 9:00:21 PM

How about that chip shot U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland pulled off on the 17th green at Pebble Beach on Sunday? It’s not often we are faced with a shot to hit directly off of the putting green. Wow, what a shot, and one of many shots on the back nine that won him the championship.

Better yet, I don’t think we’re allowed that shot off our home course greens, as it’s likely a local rule to drop the ball at the nearest point of relief without penalty.

Woodland practiced that shot growing up as a young professional under the tutelage of his swing coach to better improve his wedge game, much to the chagrin of the greens superintendent.

Why would they practice pitch shots off a putting green? It’s likely to shallow out the angle of attack of his wedges and learn how to use the bounce of the club, instead of the leading edge, when faced with a tight lie.

If the leading edge of the wedge is digging and taking divots on the smaller swings, there will be less loft on the club at impact, producing a lower shot. It’s also difficult to control the amount of dig, making the shot an inconsistent one.

A shallower angle of attack will make it easier to hit a higher shot with more backspin and makes for a more forgiving mis-hit. Woodland employed all of that in his career-defining situation.

For this shot, Woodland’s feet were super close together, and he set up with a slightly more vertical shaft. The ball was in the middle of his stance, and he didn’t press the shaft forward toward the target.

What I loved most about watching that pitch shot was how his upper arms and armpits were totally glued against the side of his body, and he used his body rotation to deliver the golf club. His body, arms and golf club turned back together and then, on the follow-through, his body, arms and club hit the ball together.

Another sign of a great pitch-shot player is, when he finishes, his body swings and arms swing together with arms extended out in front. It was awesome. His arms weren’t all flailing separate from his body like a lot of us.

By using the bounce on the wedge to contact the ground instead of the leading edge, Woodland became this year’s U.S. Open champion.

Peter Harris is the director of Golf at the Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon. His column appears weekly in the Recreation page during the golf season.

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