Club-fitting series: High-lofted wedges

Matt Killen, 26, is a proponent of the high-lofted wedge. Here he works with Kenny Perry (left).

Matt Killen, 26, is a proponent of the high-lofted wedge. Here he works with Kenny Perry (left).

At 26, Matt Killen already lists Kenny Perry, J.B. Holmes and several other touring pros among his students. Obviously, Killen is talented. He also is unafraid to question conventional wisdom or formulate his own theories.

Killen’s analysis of wedges might be called revolutionary, because he is an outspoken advocate of high-lofted wedges for skilled players. His advice flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

“Get the ball on the ground and let it run,” we are told of chip shots. “Lower is more reliable than higher.”

To this day some older golfers such as Tom Watson limit their high-loft arsenal to a 56-degree sand wedge. Higher lofts are often viewed with suspicion.

Not so fast, Killen advises. He likes lob wedges of 60 and 64 degrees that enable golfers to carry their ball to a point nearer the hole. He even urges hitting flop shots a certain way – ball forward, hands low between the legs, extra knee bend. From there, he advocates setting the wrists early and maintaining that wrist angle as the body rotates through the shot. This limits any wrist action and, according to Killen, reduces the inconsistencies of the lob shot.

At the 2009 Masters, Perry bogeyed the last two holes and ultimately lost a playoff for the title. At the 71st hole, he thinned an 8-iron chip shot well past the hole.

“In hindsight, I should have hit the 64 on 17 rather than the 8-iron,” Perry said.

Killen is a new-breed instructor who wants his students to be comfortable with higher, softer shots around the greens. Perry is a high-profile reflection of this philosophy.

Killen is a close friend of Perry’s son, Justin, and the two played on a high school golf team that was coached by Perry in his spare time. Killen later attended Western Kentucky University, majoring in business management. He teaches at the Killen Golf Academy, located near Bowling Green, Ky., at a facility named Olde Stone.

Killen’s basic teaching philosophy: “I try to teach players based on their body types. All people can’t swing the same way. They have different physical restrictions. You have to devise a plan, and I think that’s what has led me to be successful.”

However, Killen believes all advanced players, regardless of body type, should learn to use high-lofted wedges.

“The worst thing is that you’re afraid of them,” he said. “Put them in your bag. Practice with them. Learn to play with them.”

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