While sitting on an elevated tee waiting for the fairway to clear, a PGA friend and I started discussing the biggest problems in the golfing world. We were able to check out several different greens and we agreed on one aspect. Amateur golfers consistently get hesitant around the greens and that always leads to trouble. The difference between practice swings and the actual stroke is alarming in most cases. People tend to take an aggressive swing during the practice stroke, then step up to the ball and decelerate and chunk it or blade the ball and send a knuckle ball flying across the green. It is hard to get comfortable with the concept of swinging hard on short shots. Once it is done your short game will improve a great deal.
Modern wedges have up to 64 degrees of loft. While these can be helpful tools in many situations, most amateurs rarely use them to their full potential. The following is a simple explanation of what causes spin and allows great short shots. As with anything in golf there is always another level of information, but this will be a good start for most golfers.
With a sand, lob, or x (or whatever else you want to call a 64 degree) wedge you do not need to help the ball get in the air. Let the loft of the club do the work. I constantly see people try to add loft with their hands or swing and it just does not work. There are a couple keys to hitting shorter shots with a lot of spin. The first being an aggressive swing. There is more to an aggressive swing than just speed. The key is when the speed comes into play. Most golfers decelerate on short shots trying to control distance on the downswing, which does not work consistently. Learn to control it with your back swing. Practice taking half and quarter back swings and ending with a full follow through. This will ensure you are accelerating through the ball, the first key to creating spin.
No matter what kind of shot you are hitting make sure your hands are ahead of the ball at impact. This is rarely done by amateurs and is a must in creating spin. You can open a 60 wedge and add loft, swing through the ball, and keep your hands ahead of the ball and you have a hard spinning lob shot.
Start by practicing this on the range, not on the practice green, it may take some time to dial in the shots. If you can’t get the hang of it simply take a short lesson from your PGA professional dedicated to short shots around the green. It may not be as fun as hitting drives another five yards but it will save many more strokes.