During the past ten years the term finesse wedge has been heard on the PGA Tour and in the world of short game instruction. What’s a finesse wedge shot and how is it different from chipping and pitching?

What’s a Finesse Wedge?

Finesse wedge is a replacement for the old-fashioned terms chipping and pitching. It describes shots from 5 to 40 yards with a type of swing that creates a soft ball flight, uses the loft and bounce of the club at impact, and generally brushes the turf instead of making a divot.

Why the special term? Let’s start with a historical analogy. In the earliest days of golf through the 1850s there was little uniformity in golf clubs. Club lofts and lengths varied across clubmakers. A mashie (close to a 5 iron) from one club maker may play completely different than a mashie from another clubmaker, or even from the different sets made by the same club maker. Starting around 1900 companies began standardizing producing clubs with comparable designs and lofts, including putting number on their clubs. This consistency of clubs with progressive distances began to eliminate distance gaps and allowed players to better tune their games.

Time to Get Rid of the Terms “Chipping and Pitching”

The terms chipping and pitching have been in use for more than 100 years. Like the old golf clubs, chipping and pitching were loosely defined. Generally, chipping meant a short shot from off the green that rolled more than it flew, and pitching meant a longer shot that flew more than it rolled. Sometimes chipping implied a different technique than pitching. Sometimes not depending on who was doing the teaching. What do you call a short shot that flies more than it rolls? It can be confusing.

Like how clubs themselves became more standardized, in the 1990s forward-thinking short game teaches such as Dave Pelz and James Seickmann stopped using the terms chipping and pitching and began using the term finesse wedge. Pelz and especially Seickmann understood that most types of shots from 4 to 40 yards from the green used the same fundamental technique.

A few minor changes in the basic swing can produce a different ball flight and spin. For example, with a slightly wider and open stance from the standard finesse wedge setup combined with lowering the handle produces a higher, softer ball flight. Same fundamental swing with small changes produces a different trajectory that lands more softly.

At Short Game Artists Golf Academy we prefer the term finesse wedge. It better reflects the fundamental shots. It’s less confusing. And it’s a better way to play the game.

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