It is that time of year. The time in which most golfers have accepted they won’t be able to get out as much. It brings a tear to my eye. I am an avid golfer that likes to play two or three times a week and I am going to be lucky to play once a week in North Carolina in November, December and January. An alternative to playing 18 or 27 holes is to hit the driving range to get some swings in. Some driving ranges have mats which can wreck havoc on an amateur golfers swing. If you are new to golf and learning how to hit short irons and wedges DO NOT hit off mats. Let me repeat; DO NOT hit off mats.
I recently published a review of the Optishot Golf Simulator in which I described why a golf simulator is not good for those looking to hit crisp irons and wedges. When hitting a great wedge or short iron you are going to hit the ball first and then hit the ground and take a divot. You see it every week from the PGA Tour pros. Some of their divots look like beaver pelts. There are some fantastic slow mo videos of how to strike down on a ball and hit the ground after hitting the ball.
This is a great video of Rory McIlroy with a wedge in his hand on the driving range at Kiawah Island. You will see that he strikes the ball first before the leading edge of his blade hits the turf of the driving range:
Note that the below video is of Tiger Woods hitting a two iron but it will give you an idea of hitting the ball before the iron hits the ground. You can imagine the steep angle of attack with a lob, gap or sand wedge.
If you start to hit off mats and it hurts your hands there is a good chance you will not want to come in steep anymore. This is especially true when it gets cold outside. No one wants to slam a wedge into the mat over and over. I have seen golfers that end up blading or hitting with the leading edge over and over because they hit off mats.
Many golfers have been around the green and have tried to use a 56 or 60 degree wedge. They will blade or skull the ball because they do not get the leading edge down far enough. If this becomes a habit it is nearly impossible to chip. Some of my friends have given up on chipping with a lofted wedge and they end up using a pitching wedge or 9 iron all the time. It is fine to use a pitching wedge or 9 iron but remember there will be greens in which you have to carry a bunker or water to put the ball where you desire.
When playing some of the more difficult green complexes around the state of North Carolina I quickly learned that I needed to figure out how to get the ball in the air with my wedges when chipping. The best way to do this is to come in steep and take a divot. If you practice doing this on mats it is going to be extremely difficult.
The only time I will hit off mats is when I know I can sweep the ball with a longer club such as a long iron/wood or hit a driver off a tee. If you are a beginning golfer trying to learn how to hit crisp wedges that go sky high and spin on the greens you should not be hitting off mats this winter. Hit some drivers and 5 woods but do not pull out that lob wedge or gap wedge. It is going to do you no good.