Are Full Shots and Short Shots the Same?

You might have heard or believe that the short game wedge shots are just a smaller version of the full swing.  There are many similarities between the two, but they are very different in many areas.  So the answer to the title questions is a definite “NO”.  If you are trying to hit your short game shots like your full swing, you are making it harder on yourself.
The full swing is a “power” swing and the wedge swing is a “softer touch” motion.  In the power swing, there are three power elements, clubhead speed, weight shift, and torque (the turning motion of the shoulders and hips).  All three parts done together, in proper timing and rhythm, gives you the maximum amount of power. Starting from the top of the swing, the sequence is slide (weight shift moving to the front foot), then hip turn, and then the hands and arms coming down.  The full swing varies in speed generated at impact based on the club and distance involved. The maximum driver swing will create a much faster clubhead speed then a full sand wedge shot from 80 yards.  However, the sequence of how the body reacts to get to the impact is the same.  For iron shots the goal is to strike the ball first and take a divot that will start past the ball.  In order to do that, the weight needs to be moving over to the front foot and your hands ahead of the clubhead at impact.

For wedge shots around the green and up to 60 to 70 yards away, there is not the need for an aggressive power swing.  These swings become more of an arm swing with the body providing stability and flow to build touch and feel.  In the full swing you want to take a divot, but in the “soft touch” swing you want to make little or, ideally, no divot.  The sequence that starts the downswing is quite different from the power swing.  The first element that moves on the downswing is the club and clubhead.  The arms or even gravity swings the club back to the ball to impact.  In the hitting area the club grazes the grass and then the body reacts and moves smoothly to your front foot as the body turns to accommodate the club swinging through on the correct arc. 
There is a point where the “soft touch” swing turns into a “power” swing sequence.  This depends on the type of shot you are playing.  You can play a power sequence 40 yards half swing shot that will go low and hit and check and hit a soft touch 70 yards shot that will go higher but will land softly.  Choosing one over the other depends on the lie and position of the flag on the green.  When close to the green and with a clean lie, there is no need for weight shift or power gained by an aggressive turn.  The body is positioned to support the swinging motion of the club on the correct path and then react to allow the club to swing through naturally.
The following group of pictures shows the setup, the position at the end of the backswing, position at impact, and the finish.
earl pitch setup2


For the soft touch pitch, note the feet are close together and slightly open with weight evenly distributed at 50% on each foot or to up to 70% on the front foot.  Shoulders are close to level and shoulders and hips slightly open to the target.  Ball position is slightly back of center with the hands hanging straight down.  Tension is relaxed and loose for best feel.
earl pitch back2


At the end of the backswing for this short pitch shot, I have swung the club back with my arms with a little break in the wrists.  Note that the body has not turned or moved to the right side.  Nothing in this position is designed for power!
earl pitch impact1

At impact I have swung the club back down the same path and returned the club to bottom out at the ball and then go through with grazing the grass.  Note the hands are slightly forward then at the start with little movement forward and with my shoulders having maintained their level position.  When hit properly, I will take no divot and club will be in contact with the ground for about two to three inches.  I want to take advantage of the bounce of the club and not get my hands way in front of the club so as to dig the leading edge into the ground. 
earll pitch finish1

On the finish, I want to have my body REACT to my swing and move over to the front foot and turn to the target.  Note the right shoulder has rotated around and maintained its level position that it started in.  In another way of saying it, I want the club to swing on the correct path and as it swings through, have the body clear out of the way so the club can effortlessly swing through to the finish.  The club and arms lead the action, which is unlike the power swing where the body leads the action.

Shots from inside 100 yards are where the professionals on the major tours are dramatically better than the average amateurs.  From my teaching and observations, I see too many amateurs powering their short game wedges and forcing their shots around the green.  If you are one of those players, consider changing your technique and strategies.  Yes, the big hitting pros can drive it over 300 yards, but they play the short game shots for little or no power.  Change your concept and philosophy of the short game and your scores will improve.  Are full swings and short shots the same?  No. Now, you have an insight into the differences.


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