The Dreaded 40 Yard Shot!

You’re in Trouble land! You are 40 yards from the green, right in the middle of the fairway. You just hit your tee shot over a pond to be in this perfect, yet terrible position and you are shaking now more than when you were trying not to lose your ball in the “drink.” This makes for one of the hardest shots in golf. The legendary Dave Pelz has really good statistics about this exact 40-yard shot and how difficult it really is.

Lets talk about how to take the fear out of this shot:

The equipment side of me is telling you to check your wedges. Because of modern golf balls and course design there is a need for more wedges in the bag. I have posed the question multiple times on how many wedges should you carry? Most of your single digit handicap golfers and professionals go between 3 and 4 wedges including the pitching wedge. So, how many wedges do you have?

This shot is difficult because you can see so many different obstacles and conditions from 40 yards. By no means is a 40 yard shot near a full swing for most people. So why is it so difficult? One of the biggest faults is deceleration through the impact zone. So sequentially, golfers attempt to fix this and force acceleration with their hands, and create even more issues for themselves.


Many have been told that they decelerate, or slow down, on these shorter shots. So naturally most golfers use their hands to speed up the swing and they lose any control that leads to making solid contact. In a lot of cases, even when attempting to accelerate, the golfer will still decelerate through the impact zone.

Think for a minute of how you would light a match on a matchbox strip. If you just flick the matchstick across the strip (representative of only using your hands) the match will more than likely not light. However, if you drive the matchstick across the entire strip (representative of using your entire body) then the match will light. Acceleration is such a terrible term to use when teaching a student. Most of your amateur golfers don’t understand how to truly speedup their swing. Drive is a much better way to describe the needed action of “acceleration.” Most think of the word drive and they will use their entire body to “strike the match”, which will create an acceleration through the impact zone.


Connection is keeping everything moving in proper sequence to help create a repeatable swing. This goes from the feet, through the body and finish at the club head. If one thing is out of sequence, it will be difficult to have a repeatable swing you can rely on.

The first thing that I would like you, the reader, try is a drill I learned from a good friend. We will call this drill the Hold Drill:

  • Swing back until your hands are belt high
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds
  • Now swing through the ball and hold a complete finish
  • Also try this with the hands just beyond the thigh or chest high as well

A few things you should take note about this drill. On the first few tries almost everyone tops the ball. This is because the lack of connection. Most will have a difficult time making a complete finish in this drill, but it is a must. Remember my goal is to teach you how to “drive” through the ball. To make solid contact the feet, hips, shoulders, hands must all be moving together, through the ball.


The hands moving towards the target away from the body is a common fault and one that again is hard to repeat the same angle and speed. The goal is to keep the hands with the chest. Most do not know the proper feeling of this. The ball between the elbows drill is a perfect way to become in tuned to this feeling.

  • Place a ball (dodge ball or similar) between your elbows.
    • Make sure the ball is properly placed BETWEEN your ELBOWS. An error in placement will make this drill useless.
  • Now do the Hold Drill with this, as well.

If the ball falls out you have lost connection between the arms and the body. Done properly and the hands will follow your chest. In turn you will have now learned how to “accelerate” through the shot.

There are many other variables in play when trying to hit a 40-yard shot; however, if you practice these drills you will be one step closer to a repeatable and trustworthy shot. In order to more reliably hit the ball, exactly 40 yards, you should adjust where you place your hands in the Hold Drill. Using the Hold Drill, practice full swings, all the way to moving the hands just outside of your thigh. Make sure to make a complete finish, as that is key to driving the swing through the ball and “lighting the match.”

Learn how to “accelerate” or drive through the swing and you’ll be one step closer to not fearing the dreaded 40-yard shot!

Published by Bryan Montgomery 5/4/16

Published by Bryan Montgomery

Marketing is My Game | Golf is My Passion | Family is My Life I enjoy reading and writing when I am not doing any of my other many activities of life. This is my outlet to talk about the game I care for so much, golf has been with me since I was a young child. And yet I continue to learn new things everyday. Hopefully I can entertain and bring some of my passion for the game for others. - Bryan -

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