Making Your Pitching Practice More Effective

By: Cheryl Anderson, Director of Instruction, Mike Bender Elite Golf Academy

As you work on your technique it is important to be able to measure your progress so that practice doesn’t become complacent and you always are working on improving your results relative to a physical target.

One of the training stations at the Mike Bender Elite Golf Academy is our Wedge Range. Mike Bender designed this wedge range at the beginning of 2007 and it already has been copied by more than 100 other facilities around the world.

The original idea was to create a practice area where Mike’s long-time student, Zach Johnson, could sharpen his wedge game. What Mike came up with is eight cement blocks each made of a 4-foot by 4-foot slab of concrete, placed in 10 yard increments – from 30 to 100 yards – scattered across the practice range. This set up forces the student to have to re-set their aim and alignment each time they change yardages so they have to create the same preparation for each shot that they would have to use if they were playing the golf course. The idea is to see how many tries it takes to hit all eight blocks on the fly.

Our junior students who train here every day, take the Wedge Range challenge once a week to see how many blocks they can hit in 100 balls. Some may only get to the 50- or 60-yard block in 100 attempts and that becomes their “course record.” Their goal is to improve on that number each time that they attempt the challenge.

During Zach’s first practice session on the wedge range, it took him 168 shots to hit all eight blocks. After months of practice, he set his personal record by hitting all of the blocks in only 50 shots. In April 2007 at the Masters, Johnson laid up to his preferred wedge distance on every par 5, birdieing 11 of the 16 par-5 holes to win the MASTERS tournament and secure his first green jacket. Since that time, Zach has been considered one of the best wedge players on the PGA Tour.

If you want to improve your wedge play, practice to similar fixed targets (even cones on set on your range are helpful) and you will find it much easier to see improvement when you head out onto the course.

Email Cheryl Anderson


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