Setting Up For Successful Wedge Shots by Carl-Van Vallier, PGA

Have you ever wondered, “What the heck is wrong with me?” after hitting a low screamer across a green or chunking a golf ball some few yards in front of yourself?   The last hole I just knocked a perfect wedge shot to 10 feet from the hole.  Now, that same person just hit one of the worst shots imaginable…

Recently, I have been working with my students on good posture and the importance of consistent set-up routines.  I believe this can maximize their efforts in hitting quality golf shots by developing a consistent and athletic set-up.  For this lesson, we will focus on the set-up routine in regards to using your pitching wedge.  

The wedge shot is one of the most important shots for scoring in the game. It’s the distance range that offers golfers a good chance to hit the green and get close to the pin. Unfortunately more often than not, golfers view the wedge as a warm up tool before getting out their driver for the majority of their practice session.  By learning this set-up routine with your wedge, it will transfer to all the clubs in your bag.  If you implement and practice this set-up routine, you should also see more consistency with your shots.

We’ll begin by lifting the club in the air with your left hand.  Please remember to make sure the club face is lined up with the toe of the golf club pointing towards the sky (which means it will be square to your target). (Picture 1)

Student, Akemi Shapiro (Picture #1)

Next we’ll put our right hand on the club and cover your left thumb with the right hand lifeline.  It will feel like you’re holding the club in your right hand fingertips but that is okay. (Picture 2)

(Picture #2)

Thirdly your feet should be shoulder width apart and bow to the ball.  Keep your legs straight and bend over at the waist keeping your feet just under your shoulders, not too wide or too narrow of a stance.  Allow your golf club to drop as you are bowing to the ball as this will keep your posture nice and straight rather than rolling the top of your back. (Picture 3)

(Picture #3)

Last, flex or bend your knees.  This is a slightly bent knee position and helps release tension in the legs.  It also allows you an athletic stable base to swing from. (Picture 4)

(Picture #4)

Here’s a recap

  1. Lift the club with your left hand
  2. Cover your left thumb with your right hand
  3. Feet shoulder width apart & bow to the ball
  4. Flex your knees

To achieve the most effective and controlled pitch shot, your focus should be swinging through the ball to a well-balanced finish over your left foot. (Picture 5)

(Picture #5)

If you would like to improve any aspect of your game, please feel free to contact me for a lesson. I can be reached at 805-677-6770 or


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Eliminate Three, Four or More Putts

Have you ever found yourself standing on the green scratching your head because you just three, four, or more putt? Golfers suffer feelings of frustration, helplessness, and even anger when their putting lets them down.  Today I am going to explain how to consistently setup for a better putting stroke, define your putting style, create a putting swing that fits your style and give you a practice routine to become a better putter.

Setting Up for Putting Success

Here is a simple and repetitious routine for setting up for your putt.

1. Pick up the putter with your left hand.


2. Cover the left thumb with your right hand.


3. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and bow to your opponent (the golf ball).


4. Then flex or bend your knees slightly.


I am often asked what to do with the elbows when putting and I recommend one of two methods: leaving your elbow out  or tucking them into your hips either one is acceptable depending on preference.


“Stoke” or “Pop” – Defining your putting swing style

I help my students determine their style of putting  by having them toss and or roll several golf balls to a hole from about 30 feet away. What I usually see is they will either have a longer smooth style to roll the ball to the hole (like a bowler) or I will see them toss the ball to the hole with more of a short stopping finish.

As we see with our student, Melissa DeWeese, she is the longer roller of a ball


Therefore the best putting swing for her would be “stroke” style. This is typically a longer smoother style of swinging a putter that relies on the shoulders, arms, hands, and putter to move like one unit when gauging distance.


If we had determined that she was more natural or comfortable tossing the ball, she would subscribe to more of a “pop” style putting swing.  This is a swing that allows for a very subtle or slight “pop” or “release” with the hands and putter to gauge distance.  Typically this type of putter swing is more compact or has a shorter finish.

Both styles have their advantages and disadvantages but it is best to determine which one works best for you. 

Practice for distance control

Once you have determined your style putting swing, I prefer students to break putting practice into two parts: short and long putts.

I like to call the first part of your practice 5-foot free throws because I want you to measure a 5 foot distance from the hole then place a ball marker, tee, beverage, or some other marker so you ensure staying at 5 feet away from the hole.  This practice is about making short putts but when you miss one it should be within 12 inches of the hole.  Practice 5-foot free throws for at least 10 minutes a day and you will make more putts and build your confidence.

The second part of your practice will be long putting from distances of 30 feet away or further.  The point of this practice is to build a feel for long putts by watching your golf ball roll to a complete stop after you hit it.  This type of practice helps your hands and eyes associate the feeling of hitting your putt and how far the ball rolls.  It is something that is overlooked by many golfers and is one of the easiest ways to learn distance control.  Add this to your practice and you will roll your putts closer to the hole and make more of those long shots.

If you would like to arrange a putting lesson, you can contact me at or call Olivas Links at 805-677-6770.  Follow us one Facebook

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Ladies Only Classes Forming in Ventura County

It’s spring time and the days are getting longer and warmer so I will be starting  some Ladies only classes.   

The Ladies Only Get Golf Ready  Program at Olivas Links is  5 session class that covers everything from putting to driving the ball.  Each class is 1 hour 30 minutes long with the first 45minutes being driving range instruction and the second 45 minutes is on the golf course applying the daily topic. 

We focus on practical golf fundamentals in a fun and no-pressure environment with our primary goal to be helping everyone enjoy their level of golf as much as possible.  I help each student with the class topic of the day at their level so no worries if you’re a total beginner or are playing more frequently.  It’s always good to cover the core principles of the golf game and apply them to your swing.

I will be offering Saturday morning classes from 8:00am to 9:30am beginning March 10th and also a weekday session on Friday’s from 4:00pm to 5:30pm beginning March 16th.  The cost for the 5 class session is $99 payable by cash or check made out to me, Carl-Van Vallier.

If you would like to sign up please let me know which day you want to register for and if you know anybody that may be interested please forward this email to them so we can them out for some golfing fun.

Contact me @ or call 805-677-6770

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Bunkers Aren’t So Bad After All

Many golfers fear sand-traps and just that name alone evokes dread for most casual golfers however simply changing your perspective can help alleviate anxiety often associated with these shots.   

Technically they are called bunkers and it’s one of the only hazards on the course that are regularly conditioned and maintained by the golf course superintendent to play as consistent as possible. This is why many professionals would rather be in the bunker as opposed to the rough around the green.

First and foremost when you find yourself in a bunker, your goal is to simply get the ball out and onto the green.  To leave your ball in the sand is a difficult reality for golfers everywhere and one I hope to help you experience less often.  With a little practice applying these techniques, your confidence will grow and you will begin to create a ‘feel’ of how to hit better bunker shots. 

The definition of a bunker shot is a pitch shot that we intentionally chunk or hit behind the ball.  We do not want to actually hit the ball cleanly when making a bunker swing.  It is often referred to as a “splash” or “blast” shot because we splash out sand and the ball at the same time.

Set up for the bunker shot:

To start, we need to hold our club with a slightly open-club face to allow for maximum height in the shot and to ensure we utilize the design of our sand wedge. Our setup should be a good athletic position with feet shoulder width apart with a good posture as if we are going to make a full swing but with more of our weight on our forward foot.  Ball position in the bunker should be more forward in your stance like where you would position a fairway club or hybrid. 

Student Michelle Hart with proper bunker shot set-up.

Swing thoughts for the bunker shot:

The bunker swing itself is a shoulder high to shoulder high swing creating enough speed to get a fair amount of sand out of the bunker along with the ball.  You should feel as if the club is moving quickly up on the takeaway to an “L” or 90 degree position  

Correct Up-Swing Alignment

Correct Up-Swing Alignment

On the forward swing you are looking to create another “L”or 90 degree angle finishing about shoulder high.   

Correct Forward-Swing Alignment

I tell my students to imagine taking a bowl full of sand around the ball when making a bunker shot.  It helps keep your mind visualized on the sand around the ball rather than the ball itself.  Remember, the swing is the same as a medium length pitch shot with the sand “splashing”  the ball up and onto the green.  

Splashing sand along with the ball will get you up and out of the bunker.

With a little practice, you will begin to build a feel for using the sand to work for you and getting the ball up and out of the bunker and closer to the hole.Soon you will be looking at bunker shots in a positive light as do the Pro’s.  If you would like to arrange a bunker lesson you can email me at or call Olivas Links at (805) 677-6770.

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Hello! My Name is Carl-Van Vallier, PGA


My Name is Carl-Van Vallier, PGA. I am the Director of Golf and teaching professional at Olivas Links and Buenaventura Golf Course in Ventura, CA.

Aside from daily operations and play golf, I am most interested in player development and growing the game of golf. I love to share my passion for this game with people of all ages and playing abilities.  Golf truly is the sport of a lifetime and something people can start playing at  a young age and continue through adulthood.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts, tips and more with my audience and from time to time, I may invite fellow PGA members  and/or my PGA apprentices to write content for the blog to give readers an fresh perspective.

My courses are Get Golf Ready participating facilities and we offer affordable lessons for beginners. For those of you who are familiar with golf and are eager to learn more, I am available for instruction including private and small group lessons. Classes can be co-ed or ladies only depending on the needs of my students. 

To see what we offer golfers of all playing levels and abilities, please visit

See You on the Links! -CV

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