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The importance of the wedge game is vastly overrated by golfers

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As I have discussed frequently in my GolfWRX columns, the wedge game is vastly overrated by golfers. That’s because many golfers often judge what is important in their golf game by how often they are hitting shots from a certain distance. When we take a deeper look at where strokes are lost or gained, however, we often find that frequency does not always relate to importance in the outcome of a round.

With my Tour clients, I pinpoint the areas of the game that will most likely influence their performance in the next event. A great example is TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, where shots from 150-175 yards usually play a big role in how well a player performs. Other courses like Riviera tend to force the issue from 175-225 yards and putting from 5-10 feet. A course like Colonial typically stresses the driver.

Having examined where players tend to lose or gain the most shots on particular courses, I’ve found that it usually comes down to two factors: frequency and deviation.

Deviation is the measurement of all shots and how large of a difference there is within those shots from the mean. Frequency is what I just discussed: the amount of shots that are hit from a certain area. Typically, deviation plays a much bigger role in determining importance outcome than frequency. If there is a large deviation in shots from say, 240-260 yards, but that shot is only hit on average one time per round for the entire four rounds of an event, that distance range will not likely play much of a role in a player’s success in the event compared to shots from 125-150 yards where the deviation is smaller, but the frequency is much larger. This is why I hate seeing the statistic of make percentages on all putts from inside 10 feet.

Currently, the Tour average make percentage on all putts from inside 10 feet is 87.6 percent. This creates an inaccurate perception of a Tour player’s putting skill from inside 10 feet, because it doesn’t account for the high percentage of those putts being tap-ins.

Here’s a look at last season’s PGA Tour data on putts from inside 10 feet.

Putt Length

Nearly 60 percent of the putts from inside 10 feet were tap-ins, which Tour players were making nearly 100 percent of the time. That’s not to say that Tour players are not good putters, but it is to point out that the putts that matter most from inside 10 feet are putts from 5-10 feet because the deviation is larger, especially on a tournament basis.

If a tournament averages the same percentage of putts made in the table above, the player who can make 100 percent of their putts from 5-10 feet gains more strokes over the field than the player who makes 100 percent of their putts from 3-5 feet. That’s why the old adage, “putting is 40 percent of your score,” is not an accurate statement given all of the tap-ins a golfer is likely to have.

IN ORDER TO GET BETTER, A GOLFER HAS TO BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING MARKEDLY BETTER THAN THE AVERAGE, AND BECAUSE TAP-INS ARE MADE AT SUCH A HIGH PERCENTAGE, THEY SHOULD BE EXCLUDED FOR GOLFERS WHO ACTUALLY WANT TO IMPROVE.

The same applies to the theory of improving a player’s wedge game from 125 yards and in. The deviation in outcomes is smaller as the shots get closer to the hole. Here is a table using last season’s PGA Tour averages to illustrate the point:

Table 2

The most important column to look at is difference in feet, which is on the far right. This shows the difference in total feet per round that better players will hit their approach shot to the hole versus lesser players. This is essentially the likely deviation per round from those distance ranges.

The difference gets incrementally larger as the shots are farther away from the cup, however, and that changes when the shot distance goes from 175-200 yards to 200-225 yards. If we analyze that a bit further, we see that the average Tour player hits many more shots from 150-175 yards (2.939 vs. 1.727), but the deviation is far greater from 200-225 yards (3.387 feet vs. 1.875 feet) and the average proximity to the cup is much longer (45.104 feet vs. 30.942 feet).

While I enjoy analyzing the statistics of the game, I am more interested in understanding why great players come to their own conclusions. This helps me understand future Tour clients better and I can always check to see if I may have made an oversight in my analysis. I recently saw a tweet from Keegan Bradley, in which he supported the importance of the wedge game to his score. And I think Keegan’s metrics in his PGA Tour career points to the misunderstanding he has been making.

Keegan Bradley’s stats from 2011-2015

Metrics

Over his career, Bradley’s strength has been the long game, particularly his driving of the ball and Red Zone play (shots from 175-225 yards). His weaknesses have been shots from 75-175 yards, and while he’s been a pretty good putter he’s been inconsistent with his short game play. This season Bradley has had his finest year from the Yellow Zone (125-175 yards), but it has coincided with his worst season putting the ball, his worst season from the Green Zone (75-125 yards) and his worst season with his short game.

The reason why Bradley has not won more often is in large part due to shots from inside 125 yards. However, the reason why he has been such a good Tour player over the past five years is due to him excelling at the parts of the game that count the most on Tour: Red Zone play, Driving and Putts Gained.

I feel that the average golfer can take note of this and use it to improve their game. Realize that the area where you most frequently hit shots may not be the most important part to lowering your handicap. Often times, the area where a golfer most frequently hits shots is the result of hitting poor shots from a more important area. If an amateur chunks 160-yard approach shots repeatedly, they may be left with more 40-yard shots into the green. They could improve their scores more rapidly by learning to hit the 160-yard shots better, instead of focusing on the leftover 40-yard shots.

Analyzing these statistics can also serve as a way to determine a golfer’s best bag setup. Perhaps golfers may want to leave that gap wedge at home in order to carry that extra long iron or hybrid so they are properly gapped on their long approach shots. And it can help the golfer understand what exact length putts are more important in lowering their scores, too.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. myron miller

    Sep 22, 2015 at 10:22 am

    I too feel this article is not well suited to the amateur golfer. I carry a 9 handicap. But I only average 1-2 greens in regulation. So 16-17 times per round I have a shot of 10-40 yards to the green. If I get up and down 8 times I shoot 80-84 depending on other mistakes and penalties. If I get up and down 12 times I shoot low to mid 70s. If i only get up and down 4 times, then I’ll shoot upper 80s to low 90s.

    Yes, working on hitting the green more would help. But physically I can’t hit the ball that far (i’m in my 70s and severely disabled). So on most par 4s I’m laying up (have 175-225 left) to a wedge distance or missing the green close by. I’d love to be inside 175 most of the time to shoot at the green but generally i’m 200-225 left and that just isn’t in my wheel house when my drive was only 180 or less.

    Each round I keep track of where I lose shots to par and i’ve found that generally its the wedge shot inside 75 yards that isn’t close enough to one putt. I lose more shots there than anywhere else, so of course, I spend way more time there than anywhere else. That makes the wedge game by far the most important for me (and I’m pretty typical of most seniors and super-seniors. Saying the longer irons and driver is more important may be fine for pros but those of us who can’t hit it as far and therefore don’t hit as many greens in regulation from the whites find that wedge play is by far the most important part of the green. And we can prove by statisstics. (but do statistics tell the entire story (as another said there are lies, damn lies and statistics. (and yes, I am a trained professional statistician so I do know statistics pretty well). But they can be miss used. And just because some stats apply to one group that doesn’t mean they apply to other groups as well.

  2. Ben

    Sep 14, 2015 at 2:06 am

    I’m a real fan of cerebral topics when it comes to golf but this goes against what I consider correct. I don’t have real time stat numbers to back this up bu the majority of my knowledge for the game “125 yards and in” is derived from Pelz’s “Short Game Bible”. Putting it in my own words. Pelz studied hundreds of rounds of golf and found that for the average tour player-grant it this was 15+ years ago-took the maority of their shots from 125yds and in. He then took this further by making the point that a mishit with a 3 wood would be much more off target than a mishit with a pitching wedge. For example, take 10 shots with a wedge from 100 yards and measure how far each ball lands from your intended target(i.e. the exact point where you wanted the ball to land). Then take a wood from 215 yards and do the same thing. Take the average distances from both sets and you’ll find that your average distance with the wedge makes for a much tighter grouping of shots. This is because any swing errors you make are exentuated with the more club you have in your hand. Now this being said, I think this applies more to competitive amatuers and professionals. The only reason I wouldn’t include the weekend golfer is because of the overwhelming damage that any innacuracy off the tee can have for a player who doesn’t know the first thing about controlling the ball with their stance, target line, swing path, etc.. If the proper mechanics and skill aren’t there and a golfer’s failing to consistenly make at least decent contact then they’ll be struggling to even find their ball, let alone putting themselves in a position to make a hittable approach shot. Now it applies for Pros because they’re the most consistent of the flights. This consistency and the fact that the majority of shots are taken from 125 yards and in, means that Pros would rather take their chances of hitting it up close with a 125 yard wedge shot opposed to a 175 yard 7 iron. In my opinion, some of the ideas/theories are concrete but the wrong conclusions were made. I’m not trying to be argumentative nor do I deny that what was stated couldn’t be true. Golf is relative to each individual. Every golfer has the ability to choose his or her own thought path when it comes to the game. Read everything you can get your hands on and make your own informed decisions about how you should be approaching your game.

  3. Big Man

    Sep 10, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    The comments here show a lack of reading comprehension and an inability to apply things one reads correctly. Of course, Richie is correct. The problem is that many of you assume a bogey golfer will be (or should be) playing from the same tees as a scratch golfer or a tour caliber player.

    I don’t think Richie or anyone else would offer that as a suggestion. Point is yardages, etc. are all relative but the underlying result is consistent. That is, focusing on wedge play at the expense of ones long game is an ineffective use of time.

  4. Rich

    Sep 10, 2015 at 9:50 am

    The problem I have with this article and many that you do Rich is that you use tour statistics to prove a point for the average player. While I understand what you are getting at here, your logic of using tour stats to lead to a conclusion for the average player regarding short game vs long game is rubbish. No good being on the green from 160 out if you’re just going to three putt.

  5. uda

    Sep 10, 2015 at 3:48 am

    Lets all be Gents here and be honest.
    90% of general public golfers just don’t have the time to hone their skills. They would rather just get out and play the course and have a good time.
    And show me a cheap local muni in a metropolitan area that most people play that might have a good enough chipping/pitching/sand area to actually work on said short game! From my own personal experience, even some of the more expensive golf courses open to the public barely have a good enough area to pitch or hit sand shots 50 yards or 80 yards to real greens!

    • apl

      Sep 10, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      Yup…. REAL practice greens running at and playing the same speed and condition as the course is the key. Most Average Joe doesn’t get enough practice seeing how the ball reacts, using the ball they would use on the course. Cheap range balls just don’t cut it. Show me an Average Joe who can afford to have a bucket of 100 of their playing balls they would use for practice; you might only see that with somebody who kept all his old balls for the past 5 to 10 years.

  6. Jm

    Sep 9, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    As it relates to tour players maybe not but to regular golfers they have a different set of variables to consider. First of all for tour players it is hard to gain strokes in the short game because they are all very proficient at the short game relative to each other. They can separate themselves through the long game because as the actual distance of the shot increases the difference in actual feet away from the hole increases as it relates to % error becuse the ball travels further so if one player has a 3% error and another has a 5% error as distance of shot increases so does the distance between their misses.

    For an average golfer they simply cannot (physical and time limitations, etc) or do not want to spend the time it would take to increase proficiency from 150-225 yards. It would probably be easier for them to work on the short game for a short time to simply hone their feel for a shot they have a decent chance of executing (chip/pitch/putt) than to work on getting better from 150-225 which is basically just a measure of how good their swing is.

    Just My opinion, but just because it could potentially impact scores more if improvement could be made in the long game you also need to consider how long it would take to improve in that area and if improvement would be hindered by physical limitations, time constraints, etc

  7. Ryan

    Sep 9, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Also debunks the theory about laying up to a full wedge distance (100, 110 whatever it may be) on an unreachable par 5. Seems like Avg Prox 2 Hole is much lower the closer you are. Do you have any data for 50-75yrds?

  8. Rob

    Sep 9, 2015 at 11:31 am

    I think it would have been beneficial if it had been mentioned that the yardages for red, yellow, and green zones can be scaled down for amateur golfers. Each player will have their own Red, Yellow, and Green zone yardages based on how far they hit the ball. Track your approach shots over the course of a few rounds. After your drive record your shortest approach yardage and longest approach yardage on the par 4’s and divide it up into 3 zones. If you do this, the same principles that apply to tour pros, now apply to you as well.

  9. Ryan

    Sep 9, 2015 at 10:40 am

    While I agree that this may not be terribly relevant to the “average golfer”, I see parallels to higher-level amateur play here. Basically he’s saying all good players hit their wedges fairly close. Additionally, they all have good chipping/pitching games and all putt pretty well from inside five feet – therefore there is little to be gained, against the field average, on putting a ton of effort into making an incremental improvement in those areas. To truly differentiate you need to get better than the average at the longer shots, where incremental improvement will “gain” you more against the average due to the higher deviation. It does make sense. I’m not a long hitter but compete very well in our Am Tour’s Champ Flight for that very reason – straight balls and hitting lots of greens with mid irons and hybrids. Thanks for a different, and interesting, take on this.

    • Mat

      Sep 10, 2015 at 10:17 am

      This. It’s relevant, but it’s mostly an article making the case of how to go from an 8 to scratch. It’s NOT about “average” golfers. Average players (think 18-28 caps) need to get their short game in order to reach single digits. THEN, this is all relevant.

    • Scott

      Oct 1, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Ryan is right. If you constantly miss greens from 150 yards, you need to practice 150 yard shots. Most amateurs have a better chance two putting from the green then getting up and down from off of it.

  10. Jafar

    Sep 9, 2015 at 2:31 am

    Impressive analysis and much food for thought.

  11. Chris C.

    Sep 8, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    For my own game, the short game is everything and it is not even close. My drives rarely get me into trouble. When my approach irons are hot I may see a two shot improvement in my score. When my short game is hot I may see four shot improvement in my score. If I had the short game of one of the more senior members of my group, my handicap would be closer to 4 rather than my current 8.

  12. 8thehardway

    Sep 8, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    I have 200 yard drives and average 77 from the White tees (6000 yards) and 72 from the Yellow tees (5500 yards). You’d think that longer drives would be the fastest way to lower scores from the Whites, but I (and most armatures) have a problem the pros don’t… if I added 50 yards to my drives I’d have to play from the Blue tees and I’d be in the same boat, maybe worse because then I’d have to learn to hit all my other clubs longer.

    My analysis suggests adding no more than 8 – 10 yards to my drives (so I’ll need one club less on approach shots) which will allow me to enjoy myself at the Whites without upsetting my golf buddies and continue to chip away at my handicap with wedges and putter; starting tomorrow I’ll do some push-ups and see how things work out.

  13. birly-shirly

    Sep 8, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Just don’t know how well this applies to amateur golfers. Red zone play differentiates between tour pros because from that range, good players hit to where they can consistently get down in 2 and poorer players more often take 3.
    But it seems likely to me that amateur, handicap golfers will find it much easier than pros to find a competitive edge against the field MUCH closer to the cup.
    There are 4 par 5s on my course, and 3 or 4 short par 4s. With reasonable drives and second shots, I’m unlikely to putt for eagle very often but very likely to have wedge shots to the green. Wedge shots, to the par 5s and short par 4s are easily my best chance at making birdie – but only if I hit those wedges pretty damned well.
    I understand the importance of driving the ball consistently enough to be in position to hit those wedge approach shots, but without sharp wedge shots you’re looking at a 2-putt par and no significant advantage over other players hitting relatively poor quality approaches, or hitting from further back or out of the rough.

  14. Josh

    Sep 8, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Rich, how as an amateur golfer can you track your stats like this?

  15. dapadre

    Sep 8, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I think that most people arent reading carefully what the writer is trying to say. The title says : VASTLY OVERRATED. Its doesnt say not important, not need, dont require a short game etc. Overrated, meaning the importance placed on it is more than it should be and he is backing this with hard facts whereas most arguments I see/read are based on subjective opinions backed by incidental occurrences etc.

    How many times have you not heard someone ask how can I get my handicap lower and the answer: work on your short game. I know I have, until I started chatting with a fellow young golfer here in Holland with great potential.

    I have known him since he was 11 ( he is now 16) and has a HCP of 1.1. When he started at 11 he was around a HCP 20 and steadily dropped his HCP. The last couple of years he has gotten down to his 1.1, since in Europe you can only drop your HCP past 4.0 by playing in tournaments. To make a long story short I was chatting with him looking for advice and he actually said exactly what this writer is saying. He got a new coach about a year ago and this coach focused more on scoring than the short game. From 100, 125, 150, 175. he would pay more attention and craft drills around hitting in from these yardages. He also got the boys in his squad to work on hitting the driver farther. This chap was hitting around 260/275 prior and he now averages around 290. I know we get the fish stories on here but I have played rounds with him and I can vouch that when we play he is always around that 300 yds with the occasional 320+ blast. Anyways I started working on this approach and I can only tell you that I have seen a steady improvement in my game. I still keep my short game warm, but with focusing more on my Driver and importantly that second shot from 100,125, 150, 175 I have seen tremendous improvement.

  16. marten swe

    Sep 8, 2015 at 2:55 am

    Interesting and fact-based article. However, I think one very important part is omitted: how should/could we as recreational golfers get to a similar fact&data based analysis looking at our own game? Every one of us is likely to fall into the same “trap” as Keegan: we THINK or FEEL that one group of shot is more important than the other, without KNOWing the actual data. The PGA guys have access to all the data in the world and still have trouble pinpointing their actual weaknesses.

  17. Graham

    Sep 8, 2015 at 2:47 am

    Rich, not to be argumentative, but don’t you need to multiply the “low deviation” and “high deviation” columns by the average 1-putt (and 3-putt as well though for tour players tends to be negligible) frequencies for the analysis to be worth anything? My point being that sure over the course of any given round a player more skilled with a long iron is saving himself more feet in proximity to the hole, but at the end of the day the only number being recorded is the score. If the make percentage from 30 and 40 feet are roughly identical (which they are) but the make percentages between 8 and 12 feet vary pretty significantly (which they also do), the case could certainly be made that the 4 feet saved with the wedge are actually much more significant than the 10 feet with the 4-iron…

  18. Progolfer

    Sep 8, 2015 at 1:48 am

    I also forgot to say I think golfers waste too much time on wedge play. I saw a golfer practicing 40-50 yard pitch shots for hours while I was practicing putting, and I thought to myself, “How many times do you face a 40-50 yard pitch in a round of golf?!” Practice the shots that matter, folks.

    • Scooter McGavin

      Sep 8, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      If he is a below average golfer that doesn’t hit the green, he may face those shots quite often. Using myself as an example, when I played at a par 3 course recently, I only hit two or three greens. Granted, it was a long part 3 course, and probably 3 or 4 holes were over 200 yaeds, but still, I found myself facing 20-50 yard pitches, that I would need to get close if I wanted a par. Could I work on my iron play in order to hit more greens? Sure, but I have found that it’s easier and cheaper to go out to a practice green or my back yard and practice chips and pitches than it is to buy numerous buckets of balls per week to practice my irons. Everyone is different when it comes to what works best for them to lower their score.

  19. Progolfer

    Sep 8, 2015 at 1:44 am

    Rich, this is the best article you’ve ever written. It’s clear, concise, and pertinent. Well done, and thank you for the information!!

  20. Brandon

    Sep 7, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    I think most people are taking the article a little too literal. Although the stats of tour players are being used, it still applies to the amateur’s game. When I started golf, short game work is how I got from the mid 90s to an average score of 80-83, BUT it wasn’t until I started hitting more greens, especially from 125-200 yards, I was finally able to dip into the 70s. GIR and putts are the key to going low. Chips, pitches and bunker shots prevent bogey but birdie opportunities come from GIR.

    To me the article is saying, spend more time on your ballstriking so that you can have more birdie opportunities instead of so much emphasis on short game practice to just save par.

    Greens equal birdies and pars, missed greens equal pars and bogeys.

    Choose a side

  21. patricknorm

    Sep 7, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Rich, another excellent article. For those of you who have not studied statistics in school then I can sort of understand your disbelief. What Rich does with these articles is present facts from numbers collected on tour. If you are a tour pro and wondering why you are not scoring well then its pretty simple to collect statistics collected by the PGA, hand them over to a statistician like Rich and he will give you an interpretation and hence a solution.
    For those of us who play in the amateur ranks, what first must be done is to track your own individual statistics and then make the necessary adjustments.
    There’s a saying in pro sports that can often be applied to amateur sports and that is ” the numbers never lie”.

  22. Jason

    Sep 7, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Mat–you are dead on! Average players don’t play from the same distances as pros–and if they are then Tee it Forward for the love of god!

  23. Mat

    Sep 7, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    This is rigged.

    If you want to get from high-to-medium, you have to hit better short game shots.

    If you want to get from medium-to-low, you have to hit better approach shots.

    If you want to get from low-to-scratch, you have to start sinking longer putts, and scrambling at a high percentage.

    This article is “how to get from high handicap to single digits in one statistic”. Sure, if you did that, it would work until it doesn’t. If the golfer portrayed here was to suddenly get better from 200 out, they’d still suffer from a poor short game. But the biggest miss on these stats is just way, way off. If you are a weekend player, and you’re in areas where 200 yard approach shots are consistently presented, you either are teeing off with a wedge, or you are playing the WRONG DAMN TEES. No setup within any common sense will have white tees with a consistent 175-225 approach. It just doesn’t happen.

    This is why these statistics don’t relate to anyone with double-digit caps – it isn’t the same game. If you are a double-digit handicap, please play the “whites”. Then your wedges will in fact be important, you’ll start to score better, etc. etc., and eventually these statistics might apply.

    • other paul

      Sep 10, 2015 at 8:07 am

      You got it. I can’t remember the last time I had a 225 yard approach (I have a lay up on par 5 policy). So my 100 yard game is something I really work on. When I have a normal round I shoot mid 80s and a great round can get me near par. And I just learned to hit it a lot farther. Once my accuracy catches up again I will really start lowering my score again.

    • Duncan Castles

      Oct 2, 2015 at 4:14 am

      It’s not rigged; the analysis works. And I believe Rich has comparable figures for amateur golfers.
      Forget about how many 175-225 approaches a course requires a player to make (and some require a good number of these in these days of long-yardage courses), the take-home message is simple.
      The longer your shot into the hole is, the longer the distance you are likely to leave it from hole, and – critically – the more variation in performance between a skilled and less skilled golfer.
      Therefore improving your long-game performance delivers more of an advantage over other golfers (and against the course) than improving your performance with wedge shots.
      In numbers, the best PGA Tour wedge player ends up an average of 4.1 ft closer to the hole than the worst PGA Tour wedge player on 75-100 yard shots. The best PGA Tour long-game player earns up an average of 11 ft closer to the hole than the worst PGA Tour long-game player on 150-175 yard shots. And hits three times as many of those shots a round. That’s a 33 ft of shorter putts to hole a round – a significant advantage.
      As PGA Tour players are all very good by definition, you would expect there to be a far greater range of variation in amateur performance on the long game. If that’s the case then the advantage of being a more skilled than average long game amateur will be greater than for professionals, offering even more of an incentive to target more of our practise on the long game…

  24. Man

    Sep 7, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Manure

  25. Munihack

    Sep 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Years ago Hogan said the key to scoring in golf is turning 3 shots into 2. For different skill levels that means different shots. The stat world the pros live in applies only to their world. For other players those three shots are many times within 100 yards so the wedge, chipping and putting should be a big focus. The driver of course sets the tone so you have to work on that. That is the long and short of it for over 90 percent of players.

  26. Chuck

    Sep 7, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Just my opinion….

    It’s dangerous to compare (or base decisions) on the strengths, weakness or equipment choices of professional goflers. Aside from the “WRX effect” where seemingly 99% of members here drive 50 yards longer than the PGA tour average, the vast majority of golfers do not play a game in the same league (figuratively) as pros. Having said that…

    Quoting:
    “The reason why Bradley has not won more often is in large part due to shots from inside 125 yards. However, the reason why he has been such a good Tour player over the past five years is due to him excelling at the parts of the game that count the most on Tour: Red Zone play, Driving and Putts Gained.”

    This statement seems to state that winning is based on wedge play, but playing well is not (at the professional level). Again, in my opinion that type of reasoning based on statistical analysis would lead a player (in this case Bradley) to NOT work on a portion of his game where it is proven statistically that he needs work, and instead work on the part of his game where he is seemingly playing well.

    If I play well with my mid-irons (which I do) but suck rocks with my wedges (which I do) my scores week in and week out will suffer. My “living” in this game is to play all aspects of it as well as I can, beat my buddies and the course. Poor play in a specific area becomes a focus for instruction and practice. That (at least to me) is just common sense.

  27. Joe

    Sep 7, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    There are lies, damn lies, and …..statistics.

  28. Desmond

    Sep 7, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Yep, agree. For best long term results, focus on the long game.

    A good short game can’t overcome a poor long game, not over a period of time.

    • Progolfer

      Sep 8, 2015 at 1:52 am

      Exactly. Trevino said it best: “There are two things that won’t last in this world, and that’s dogs chasing cars and pro’s putting for pars.”

  29. Dpavs

    Sep 7, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Unfortunately this is a classic case of over analysis and statistical suicide. Further the article probably should have been titled “The importance of the wedge game is vastly overrated by professional golfers”. First let’s agree on something simple – PGA statistics are completely irrelevant in regards to the average golfers game. You and I don’t play to the level of Rory, Jordan, Jason, etc. Nuff said right?
    That said I will go on to what I think is applicable and why the wedge game is more important to me and probably to you as an average Joe. It’s pretty simple really. I don’t hit most greens in regulation landing inside of 10 feet from the pin. I’m also not hitting 85%+ of my putts from that distance. In fact I miss a lot of greens close either being just short or just long. So unless we are saying that chipping is not part of the wedge game… which I think is not appropriate to me the wedge game includes full shots, pitch shots, chip shots and all are equally part of it. So given all this why is the wedge game important? It’s simple…it’s called saving par. And for the average guy a good wedge game is often times the difference between saving par or suffering a bogey.

    • Golfraven

      Sep 7, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      I agree. While playing on weekend in my club championship I had fairly poor long game (or just call it inconsistent) but my wedge game kept me alive and I came still 3rd. I shot chip and pitch shots almost pin high after missing greens or after laying up after poor tee shot. 1-2 three-putt less and I was close winning it.

    • Andrew S

      Sep 9, 2015 at 2:32 am

      I would take it a step further. I would title the article, “The importance of the wedge game is overrated for some golfers.” Not all tour players play the same kind of game and neither do amateurs. Keegan Bradley does not play the same type of game as someone like a Luke Donald or other shorter hitters. While Keegan may only be 170 to the flag, shorter hitters will be 200+ to the flag making it more difficult to hit the green in regulation. This will put stress on their wedge game to be able to get up and down. The example also works in my amateur scenario. I play in a men’s 9 hole league where we play from the blue tees (just under 6400 yards). I am one of the short hitters in the league and their are a couple long par 4’s where it would take a herculean shot for me to hit the green in 2. Even on the shorter par 4’s the longer hitters will have wedges for approach where I will have at least an 8 iron. The 8 iron is definitely not an automatic for me to hit the green in regulation which means my scrambling will be tested more than some of my playing partners.

  30. John

    Sep 7, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    While it makes sense that it might not SAVE your game, it’s probably one of the easiest places to kill your game. So many amateurs don’t know how to get out of greenside bunkers or rough areas. They don’t know how to play shots that require a lot of precision. That’s where the wedge game is so important, not approach wedges from the fairway.

  31. Brad Ingarfield

    Sep 7, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Another great article from Rich Hunt. Looking forward to this year’s Pro Golf synopsis.

  32. Kevin

    Sep 7, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Loved this one. Easy to follow. Made tremendous sense to me. Thanks

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Opinion & Analysis

Bryson DeChambeau, the oh so human ‘Golfing Machine’

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The golf world has fired up its Bryson DeChambeau talk to a new decibel since his win at the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. Much of the banter centers around the idea that the young Californian is “revolutionizing the game” by playing it in a way that hasn’t been seen before. The proposition couches the question of whether his style of play will influence and change the way other Tour pros and top-level amateurs and college golfers will play the game as well.

First let’s define the phrase ’bomb and gouge,” that has inserted itself rather quickly into golf’s present-day vocabulary and has come to characterize Bryson’s game. Bomb and gouge refers to the strategy of hitting the golf ball as far as one can then if it happens to land in the rough gouging it out with a short iron onto the green. But did we really see anyone other than DeChambeau this past week purposely play Winged Foot this way? Certainly not.

Nor with all of this talk about how Bryson’s style will change the game (and despite Bryson in interview after interview himself encouraging all golfers to “swing their swing” and play golf their own way) are we really hearing a chorus of Tour pros singing out about how much they want to be individuals yet who want to play golf just as Bryson DeChambeau does? Absurd, right?

In fact, Bryson’s uniqueness as far as swing technique goes has everything to do with Homer Kelley’s book ‘The Golfing Machine’, which Bryson’s teacher Mike Schy gave to him when DeChambeau was just a teenager. That book views the swing as comprised of a blend of 24 components parts, with each component possessing between 3 and 15 variations. Cross multiply and combine the components and their variations and the number of possible ways to swing the club has so many zeros after its “l” that it takes someone with a degree in advanced mathematics to know this number’s name.

Yet all Bryson has done and all any golfer needs to do is to assemble a swing with one variation from the list of 24 components. If this still sounds a bit complicated, you wouldn’t be wrong to think it, but perhaps the most unique way in which DeChambeau has earned his non-conformist status and badge is the manner and degree in which he has embraced and enjoyed the game’s complexity and difficulty. There’s very little just “grip and rip it” going on under that Ben Hogan cap of his. Or, as Homer Kelley in The Golfing Machine puts it:

“Treating a complex subject or action as though it were simple, multiplies its complexity because of the difficulty in systematizing missing and unknown factors or elements. Demanding that golf instruction be kept simple does not make it simple-only incomplete and ineffective. Unless this is recognized, golf remains a vague, frustrating, infuriating form of exertion.”

Some also say he’s revolutionizing the game because he’s trying to hit the ball as far as he can. Let’s set aside for a second the fact the Bryson isn’t even in the top ten on the list of the Tour’s Driving Distance leaders. What is revolutionary about him is that he has succeeded in adding distance to his drives while taking strokes off of his scores, whereas many other Tour pros throughout the game’s modern history at least found their scores rising right along with their newly gained driving distance numbers.

DeChambeau, with another assist from The Golfing Machine, also stands out in the manner in which he has freed himself from the “Mechanical vs the Feel Player” duality trap, even as many people describe him almost by rote as a “mad scientist” with a robotic swing and game calculated on nothing but the impact numbers read off of a launch monitor.

The mantra “Mechanics produce and feel reproduces” is one central to Homer Kelley’s philosophy in The Golfing Machine, and it’s a one-two punch DeChambeau both strives to achieve and often discusses during his press interviews and in interview after interview.

Therefore, with all of the talk about his single length set of irons, (Bobby Jones used one too), his physical bulking up (Johnny Miller, Tiger, even Anika Sorenstam added significant muscle to their frames), his diet and workout routines (Gary Player was ahead of him by 70 years in this regard!), the one thing rarely discussed about Bryson DeChambeau is just how central to his career remains the book The Golfing Machine.

While the book has often garnered vicious criticism over the years, with proponents of its pages criticized by some unsparingly, to put it mildly, Bryson DeChambeau has put an oh so human face onto this work of genius by Homer Kelley. Just look at the young man’s smile of joy as he hoisted the 2020 U.S. Open trophy!

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On Spec

On Spec: Titleist CNCPT irons, Costco wedges, fitter FAQ, and finding “YOUR” best value

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This episode covers the retail release of the Costco Kirkland signature wedges, the announcement of the new Titleist CNCPT series irons, and how although very different, both offer value to the golfer that will buy them.

The second half of the show gets into answering popular questions on club building and fitting from host’s Ryan Barath weekly Q&A on Instagram.

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Flatstick Focus

Flatstick Focus: Interview with Eric Wind

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In Episode 24, Parker chats with Eric Wind. Eric is the Owner and Founder of Wind Vintage, a company that specializes in selling vintage watches. Eric was previously the Vice President, Senior Specialist of Watches at Christie’s Auction House, and is also deep in the putter rabbit hole.

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