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The Most Overlooked Parameter in Iron Fitting

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In the chart below, you can see the average results for an iron fitting I did with one of my members at Biltmore Forest CC recently. Based on these three data points presented, which iron would you choose? Most golfers go with club No. 2. The club head speed is faster, the carry is the longest, and the dispersion is the second best. It’s a no-brainer, right? If you think this is a trick, you’re on the right track, and I’ll get back to that later.

Iron_Fitting_Parameter_1

Club fitting has become a very important of golf. Most golfers today are fitted in some way before they purchase clubs, but that hasn’t always been the case. Before club fitters could accurately measure ball flight and club delivery with launch monitors, they relied on static fittings that accounted for length, loft, and lie adjustments at setup. With the introduction of a lie board, they were then able to tell how the club was positioned through the impact zone. As a result, fittings became more based on impact and ball flight results. Fast forward to the availability of launch monitors like TrackMan, and fitters can see exactly what the golf ball is doing and how the golf club communicates a message to the golf ball. All of these advancements have made the fitting process more transparent, as well as enhanced a fitter’s ability to fine tune the clubs of each and every golfer. The bad news is that they’ve also made a lot of golfers completely obsessed with distance.

When it comes to club fitting, the conversation often revolves around the driver. Driver fittings are fun for both the player and the teacher, because who doesn’t want to see longer, straighter drives? While I completely concede that driver fittings and distance are very important pieces to golf improvement, I also think their focus can dilute the fitting process for the 13 other clubs golfers use. With a driver, fitters are almost always trying to help golfers achieve a higher launch angle while reducing spin. It’s a formula that’s great for longer drives, but not always better iron shots. Too often, I see golfers worried most about distance when they’re trying different kinds irons at a demo day, which often leads them to choose the wrong clubs for their game.

Equipment manufacturers have played a role in the distance craze, of course, promoting the additional distance their clubs offer compared to the previous model or a competitor’s product… and they have a lot to brag about. Advancements in engineering have allowed golf equipment manufacturers to move weight lower in their iron heads, which helps golfers launch the ball higher. They’ve made their iron faces thinner and more flexible, which also makes shots go higher, and increased the amount of shaft options available, particularly their lightweight shaft options, to give the vast majority of golfers a chance to find a stock shaft that works for their swing.

As a result of these changes, today’s irons have lower different lofts than those produced not even 20 years ago, as well as slightly longer shaft lengths to help golfers take advantage of the latest technologies. Below are the published lofts and lengths from two leading iron manufacturers (I’ve labeled them Company A and Company B) for the same type of iron sets: one released in 2000, one released in 2017. As you can see, there’s been an incredible transformation in 17 years. It’s great for some golfers, but not for others, and I’ll explain why.

Company A

Company_A_iron_Specs

Company B

Company_B_Specs

As you can see, the leading equipment manufacturers have reduced loft by 2-6 degrees with each iron, and they’ve added as much as 0.625 inches to the length of each iron as well. This will no doubt help golfers hit longer shots, but it can also have a negative effect on the control some golfers have over the golf ball when it lands on the green.

Control over the golf ball when it lands on the green is known as “stopping power,” and it’s is affected most by land angle (the angle at which the golf ball hits the ground). Land angle is highly correlated with how much the ball will bounce and roll once it has hit the ground, as each degree of reduced land angle is responsible for about 3 yards more of bounce and roll.

So what is a good land angle? For irons, I like to think about it this way. Anything coming into the ground at an angle more than 45 degrees is going more down than out when it lands; anything coming into the ground at an angle less than 45 degrees is traveling more out than down when it lands. That’s why the rule of thumb is that iron shots should have a land angle of at least 45 degrees.

There’s a caveat with this rule of thumb, however, and it’s that many golfers don’t have the swing speed to achieve a 45-degree land angle with all their irons. They need to be able to swing a 6 iron at about 85 mph to make it happen, and in the example below, the golfer I was fitting did not have that ability.

Fitting Example

Here is the same example from above — a golfer I fit hitting five different 6 irons — that now includes peak height and landing angle.

Iron_Fitting_Parameter_2

With the most important data added, there’s no question that this golfer needs to use iron No. 5. It flew almost as far and as straight as No. 2, but shots with No. 5 had a landing angle that was almost 3-degree higher, which means that shots will stop 6 yards sooner when they hit the green. That’s a big deal when hitting a shot to a protected front pin. Remember, the goal with irons is to hit shots as close to the pin as possible. Yes, within reason we want to hit the ball as high and as far as possible, but not at the expense of stopping power.

Just because a set of irons has strong lofts doesn’t mean it will be bad for you. Some golfers need a 49-degree pitching wedge to perform their best, while others can perform their best with a 42-degree pitching wedge. The only way for you to know for sure what you need is to have an iron fitting that includes a focus on land angle. If it’s optimized, you will be a much happier golfer when you get out on the course with your new set.

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PGA Member and Golf Professional at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, NC. Former PGA Tour and Regional Representative for TrackMan Golf. Graduate of Campbell University's PGM Program with 12 years of experience in the golf industry. My passion for knowledge and application of instruction in golf is what drives me everyday.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Speedy

    Jul 3, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Shaft lengthening has done the most harm. Rather than pay for expensive custom ordering/fitting, make sure you choke down on each shot. Instill this in practice sessions.

  2. Lloyd Jackson

    Jul 3, 2017 at 1:25 am

    Company A 2000 model: Those specs would have been rather unusual even then. More likely the specs of a blade from the 1980s.

    As my very good friend, Jay Turner of RedBird/Avian Golf would say: With irons, it’s not HOW FAR, it’s HOW CLOSE.

    The number on the sole has little meaning and the deceptive loft jacking and shaft lengthening began with Callaway’s S2H2 irons.

    • Hunter Brown

      Jul 5, 2017 at 7:31 am

      Hey Lloyd thanks for your response and interest. One set was a game improvement iron and the other was a more typical cavity back mid to low hdcp option

  3. Dill Pickelson

    Jul 2, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    hi, can i ask why you extend your clubs? i’m tall too and used to have 1″ longer but every club is a different length anyway! i went back to ‘standard’ length and no issues. so, why bother changing shaft length?

    • TONEY P

      Jul 3, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      What did you do for the swing weight of each club extended. They had to feel heavier?

    • TONEY P

      Jul 3, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      Most golfers don’t have a clue what they’re doing or really need when buying clubs. If you can’t PUNCH your iron 3/4 it’s distance straight then the iron lie needs to be adjusted.. Good golfers know what to do so the other 97 % need to ask them .

  4. Joshua Chervokas

    Jul 2, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    This is never overlooked by actual fitters. The problem is that what they do at big box stores is not a fitting regardless of what they call it. Go to any Golf Digest top 100 fitter like myself and an iron fitting will focus highly on landing angle and we will weaken and strengthen lofts all the time.

  5. QV

    Jul 2, 2017 at 10:44 am

    You must be very lonely.

  6. Jeff

    Jul 1, 2017 at 10:36 am

    I certainly agree with the article. Too much hubris in the world today to go back to higher lofts in irons. If your buddy hits a 7 iron and you need to hit a 6, well that’s just emasculating now isn’t it? I originally thought though the article was going to be about lie angles being too upright and not enough emphasis placed on that since you included the left stat. I see so many people I play with that have that issue and then wonder why they pull their shots so often.

  7. CTGolfer

    Jul 1, 2017 at 6:08 am

    Why is Peak Height and Land angle not part of the “optimizer” in Trackman. What in the Optimizer correlates with peak height and land angle?

    • Me

      Jul 1, 2017 at 6:55 am

      When I do my club fitting clients, my trackman 4 has Height and landing angle in my front (top) page of my tiles used.
      Recently I fitted one of the younger assistant pros at an exclusive club
      When comparing recently the Titliest AP2 vs the Taylormade 770, both quality clubs. Both share the same lofts 33deg. It was clear visually even without the trackman the 770 went higher.
      with the track man the 770 peaked higher by 12 feet, went more than 10 yards further (177) a much steeper landing angle. But here is where it got interesting, the 770 consistently was 4700-5500 spin. The ap2 was 6000-7500 spin. Both clubs had the KBS tour FLT 120 g shaft.

      There was no question what the right club was based on peak, spin….the added distance was just a bonus.

    • Hunter Brown

      Jul 1, 2017 at 9:08 am

      Launch, Spin, and height are all included in the Optimizer. This determines land angle so although it is not expressly in the optimizer it will be a result of what is in the optimizer. You can also look at the ‘side/top’ view to see the trajectory window and optimized shot should travel vs what the trajectory it actually took

  8. Adam

    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    Gofwrx’ers I agree, BUT we should thankful for all the marketing. 98% of golfers are awful, but love to play and love to hit all their clubs as far as possible. More marketing= more bad golfers spending more on gear and more money at the course, which keeps more golf courses open, more staff employed and better conditions for me. We need more people attracted to the game these days more than ever.

    Now I have played the same specs as my original titleist 680’s my entire golf career and have known my exact lofts and lie’s and think its more fun hitting high cut 2,3 irons than jacked 4,5 irons any day. So I think it’s funny…

  9. Thus

    Jun 30, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    The ball can have a huge affect on Landing angle and peak hieght some times more then the iron, dispersion is what I fit for the most, more front to back, then side to side, then height and spin..
    One of the biggest myths is flex, difference between flexes is minimal.

  10. Myron miller

    Jun 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    But almost, if not maybe more important is backspin on the iron. wHen I got fitted for my current iroons, The choice was between two different styles. Both had land angles less than 45 degrees, but the second one had over 3000 rpm more backspin even though its land angle was almost 4 degrees less. I just flat out spun that club way more. And having more backspin sometimes if more important in stopping the ball on the green than the landing angle.

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen players use a club and chip it about 40 yards onto the green with a land angle of less than 25 degrees but with a ton of backspin and the ball literally bounces once and backs up 2-5 feet. One can play that particular pitch two ways, with a very low landing angle but a ton of spin or a very high land angle and minimal spin. If there is a bunch of wind, then the lower angle is definitely the better shot. Same applies to longer approach shots. With windy conditions, higher land angles will hurt you more times than not.

    Land angle certain is important, but spin is easily as important and sometimes even more.

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      This situation you describe is hard to fathom. 3000 more rpm of spin and 4 degrees less of land angle is almost impossible to happen on a full shot land angle is directly effected by spin. More spin higher=higher land angle

    • TR1PTIK

      Jul 3, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Gotta agree with Hunter on this on too. Also, the situations you describe are caused by the actions of the player, not the performance of the club. You can take pretty much any iron or wedge and the two shots you described. To see that much variation in spin on full shots is unlikely unless you’re looking at SGI vs. Player’s clubs.

  11. Well now...

    Jun 30, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Kind of the argument the latest try of Hogan irons when loft comes into the argument. The number on the club is all relative and a point of reference in the end – you can call a club with a loft of 25* anything you want, in the end it’s still 25*.

  12. Iutodd

    Jun 30, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Good article.

    I’m hoping to get fit next year for irons – this article is getting saved for the experience. Never thought about landing angle before.

    • Iutodd

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Oh and I’m gaming MX-17s so my lofts are a lot closer to the “2000” lofts. I’m not sure how I’m gonna get a similar style – which is more “game improvement” but get lofts that work for me. The Z545s look similar to my clubs but the lofts are pretty different. I guess I’ll have to see if I’m good enough for the 745s which are much closer to my current lofts.

  13. TR1PTIK

    Jun 30, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I had a pretty good idea this article would lead to peak height and landing angle. Following closely behind those two metrics IMO would be spin; dispersion next, and then carry distance when trying to fit a set of irons or wedges. For anyone who has yet to see them, these Trackman averages from 2014 should give some good insight about what the irons should be doing… https://blog.trackmangolf.com/trackman-average-tour-stats/

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Good stuff here and you are exactly right. I will say that unfortunately not everyone can achieve “Tour Averages” because of the lack of speed. It is definitely better for most to look at the LPGA Average stats but understand that averages are exactly that and suitable for everyone

      • TR1PTIK

        Jun 30, 2017 at 1:27 pm

        I agree. In terms of landing angle though, either data set will apply.

  14. SoonerSlim

    Jun 30, 2017 at 10:05 am

    One thing I don’t understand whenever WRX presents these examples is they always use a golfer with much, much more swing speed than the average golfer. How many average golfers have a 6-iron swing speed of 80 mph?? In the mid to high 60s is more accurate!

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:32 am

      this particular gentleman was pretty average. He is in his mid 50s and about a 12 hdcp. His swing speed is maybe a little on the high end for his demographic but not by much

    • Grizz01

      Jun 30, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      I’m 54 and I still play my 1994 Lynx Parrallax irons. I don’t have a clue what my swing speed is but I still hit my 6 iron (normal conditions) 180-185yds. I don’t know what loft it is … but I do know that the PW is 50 degrees straight out of the box.

  15. xjohnx

    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:59 am

    I really wish the masses would start incorporating more logic such as this to golf marketing. It’s unfortunate that there is only one rule that trumps all else. Seemingly by no coincidence it was most famously said to me once by a regional TM rep, “distance sells golf clubs”.

    I can’t imagine anyone with any common sense arguing the message behind this article. The ability to hit your shots closer to the hole is always going to potentially lower your scored more than a few extra yards. I almost feel bad for people who get so caught up in hitting their irons longer. Whether you have 7 irons and 3 wedges, or 6 irons and 4 wedges that all go the same distances, does it matter what number is stamped on the sole?

  16. Chris B

    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:14 am

    I would still go for iron 2, make them 1 degree weak if need be based on this. There is more to choosing the right set of irons than this data.

    It is a shame that what Hogan did dint take off, putting the loft on the club rather than a number. I was looking at a thread the other day on 3 irons, one person commented on how they had made their 4 iron 1 degree strong – to 18 degrees!

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Chris – you bring up some good points however EQM’s don’t just lower the loft and call it a day they know the irons would not perform if that was the case. Sometimes they account for the lower loft by lowering the cg, lighter shafts, etc. to launch the ball higher. Just because the loft of one club to the next may be different doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing. I am glad you are thinking the right way though!

  17. Daryl

    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Out of curiosity, would the 45 degree rule hold for the longer irons?

    • TR1PTIK

      Jun 30, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Yes. Follow the link in my other comment to view Trackman data. It is older, but plenty relevant for holding greens.

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:37 am

      Daryl – good question. If possible yes this would hold true but most people do not have the swing speed in order to accomplish this. Also course conditions and where someone plays needs to be considered.

  18. Jack Nash

    Jun 30, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Marketing indeed has taken over with the help of Media. GC is always touting how far X Golfer hits his driver. There’s part of the problem.

    • Scott

      Jun 30, 2017 at 9:01 am

      I agree Jack. No one should be able to hit 180 yard Wedges and 9 irons. A little truth in advertising would be nice. A 42 degree Pitching Wedge? That is between my 8 and 9 iron.

      • Lee Shaw

        Jun 30, 2017 at 10:43 am

        42 deg was my 8 iron in 1974, I hit it pretty good too, but saying that my 9 is now 40 deg and I’m not to shabby with that either.

      • Grizz01

        Jun 30, 2017 at 12:50 pm

        I still play with my 1993 Lynx Parrallax irons. I know the PW is 50 degrees. And I remember back then I thought wow! Technology has come along way. My previous clubs from the late 70’s were Wilson 1200’s. And I was suddenly using 1 -2 clubs less with the Lynx.

        Turns out not much technology as much as just renaming an old 5 iron a 6 or 7 iron.

        • Jeremy Thompson

          Jul 1, 2017 at 4:17 am

          which opens up a market for gap wedges…….when the separation between PW and SW becomes exaggerated.

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Opinion & Analysis

The 21 best golf podcasts you should be listening to in 2018

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What’s the best golf podcast? Debating that may be as fruitless as the Jack vs. Tiger debate, because there are a bunch of darn good ones out there right now. You don’t have to be an astute observer of the media space to know podcasting has exploded in popularity in recent years. Indeed, it seems like everyone has a podcast these days, including your grandmother’s Scrabble enthusiast pod.

Returning to the original question: this is a subjective list that isn’t meant to be exhaustive. If there’s a podcast you enjoy that finds itself outside the ropes, feel free to mention it in the comments.

So grab your earbuds, Beats by Dre, or wireless headphones if you’re really cool, and take a look at some notable podcasts by category.

GolfWRX Radio

Obviously, I’m strongly biased towards the GolfWRX’s podular offerings, and since this is, you know, GolfWRX, we’ll start with our pods.

19th Hole: Michael Williams talks to luminaries of the game and interesting folks alike in his pod. Heck, Michael’s first guest was Bob Vokey! Williams is well-wired and well-traveled, and oh, he has by far the best radio voice of anyone on this list, so he’s got that going for him. Other guests include Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Greg Norman, Scott Van Pelt, Rees Jones and many other legends.

Gear Dive: I’ll avoid any play on his last name, but Johnny Wunder’s Gear Dive is an inquisitive look into, well, golf gear. Wunder has spoken with everyone from Charles Howell III, to Fred Couples, to the boys at Artisan Golf. If you love golf equipment, or consider yourself a gearhead, this is the podcast is a must.

Two Guys Talking Golf: Editor Andrew Tursky and resident equipment expert Brian Knudson are the golf buddies you wish you had. The pair discuss equipment, club building, happenings on the PGA Tour, and an abundance of random golf-related and tangentially golf-related topics. Most recently, TG2 answered 30+ AMA-style questions from the @tg2wrx Instagram page, and they’ve had guests on such as Billy Horschel, Ping’s Marty Jertson, Scotty Cameron, Bob Vokey, Aaron Dill, GolfWRX Forum members and many others.

Unlocking Your Golfing Potential: This instructional podcast series hosted by coach Will Robins teaches golfers how to improve their games without improving their technique. If you want to lower your scores, and change your outlook on the game of golf in general, I highly recommend this podcast.

Listen to all the GolfWRX podcasts on SoundCloud or iTunes.

DFS golf podcasts

Golf is one of the fastest growing and most popular DFS sports. Accordingly, every DFS site in the world and most major outlets have a fantasy-related podcast. These three are among the longest running and finest in the space, although Matthew Wiley of Golflandia deserves a special nod for his spectacular rambling ridiculousness and high entertainment value.

Pat Mayo: Mayo is an OG of the fantasy sports podcasting game in general and fantasy golf pods in particular. And honesty, he must have cloned himself sometime in the past because his output absolutely mind-boggling. Plus, he’s one of the few podcasts on this list that records video, so if you’re looking for a pod with a visual component, Mayo is your man. Listen here.

Fantasy Golf Degenerates: Brad and Kenny go together like, well, Brad and Kenny. These two have been grinding out a weekly fantasy golf podcast since PGA DFS was in diapers a few years back. Brad is the ownership god and Kenny’s course previews are second to none. Well worth a pre-tournament listen every week. Best enjoyed with Crown Royal. Listen here.

Tour Junkies: PGA DFS podcasting’s other dynamic duo, David and Pat, have similarly been ‘casting since the early days of the…hobby? Come for the weekly entertainment, but stay for their inside knowledge of Augusta National (where David was a caddie). The pair have branched out into interviews–Kevin Kisner, Bob Parsons, John Peterson–which are well worth checking out too. Listen here.

Now, let’s take a look at some of what the the PGA Tours and Golf Channels of the world have under their umbrellas, as well as the rest of the colorful bouquet of golf golf-related podcasts that focus on everything from the intersection of golf and science to the intersection of Barstool Sports and golf.

From longstanding outlets

Talk of the Tour: While Mark Immelman’s “On the Mark” is good, on “Talk of the Tour” John Swantek “visits with a variety of players, writers, broadcasters, industry leaders and insiders from throughout the world of golf,” as the official description indicates. Given the Tour’s access and reach, the results don’t disappoint. Listen here.

Golf Channel Podcast: Is the title creative? No it is not. Is the podcast good? Yes it is. Not only does the whole range of on-air GC talent appear on occasion–Brandel Chamblee’s recent appearance was excellent, as was Tiger Tracker’s. Listen here.

Golf Digest Podcast: The folks at GD get top-notch (to quote Judge Smails) guests and turn out quality takes from a strong team of writers. Listen here.

European Tour’s Race to Dubai: Yes, turning the season-long points race into the title of a podcast is odd, but Robert Lee’s (not the Civil War general) podcast “features exclusive interviews with star names, incisive analysis of the latest action, all the key news and a light-hearted look at life on tour,” per the description. Listen here.

Matty & The Caddie: ESPN’s Matt Barrie and former comedian/current ESPN golf analyst Michael Collins join forces to interview both athletes and celebrities, inside and outside the ropes. Lately, the list of big name guests includes Golden Tate, Nick Faldo, Chris Webber, Joe Theismann, Alfonso Ribiero, Brian Urlacher, Joe Carter, George Lopez, Jack Nicklaus and more. Listen here.

Other ‘casts

No Laying Up: From Twitterers with day jobs to an upstart media outlet, NLU’s podcast was the tool that led to the merch, the features, and Soly, Tron and company’s other efforts. If you’re unfamiliar, start with the most recent episode (Justin Thomas) and work your way backward. You won’t regret it.

The Fried Egg Golf: Andy Johnson has become a force and a voice in the world of golf media in a very short period of time. While he and his guests do good work in discussing the pro game, Andy’s forte is golf course architecture, and he cooks up architecture discussions better than anyone in the podcast universe right now. Listen here.

Fore Play: Honestly, the iTunes description for Barstool’s golf pod is pretty good: “Trent, Riggs and their wide variety of guests talk about everything golf like normal folks sitting at a bar watching coverage, venting about the game’s difficulties, and weighing in on pro gossip. Your classic golf addicts, the “Fore Play” crew brings a young, unique voice to the rapidly-evolving game, discussing freely and openly everything golf.” Pretty much sums it up. Listen here (warning: explicit).

The Clubhouse with Shane Bacon: Mr. Salt-Cured Pork has had something of a come up, hasn’t he? The Fox hosting duties and more are well earned, as Bacon is a strong voice, and his network affiliation ensures a quality roster of guests. Listen here.

ShackHouse: Geoff Shackelford joins forces with “podcast personality” per the iTunes description, Joe House to “break down the biggest golf stories, interview some of the biggest personalities in the game.” Really, this show is all about Shack’s singular perspective. Listen here.

Feherty: I mean, what can you say? If you like David Feherty and his show, you’ll love his podcast (I do), because it is essentially his show. And if you don’t, you won’t. Listen here.

The Erik Lang Show: Ah, the singular Mr. Lang, who, doing things his own way, wrote his show description in the first person: “Hi! I’m Erik Anders Lang. I’ve worn a bunch of hats in this life from waiting tables, photography, doc filmmaking, hosting Adventures In Golf (PGA TOUR / Skratch TV) and now – a PODCAST! The Erik Lang Show is me pontificating on life, golf and travel.” Listen here.

Callaway ShipShow: Far from a content marketing gimmick, Callaway’s content marketing is, well, really good content. Harry Arnett’s “ShipShow” is kind of like the younger, goofier brother of “Callaway Live.” Billed as discussion about “compelling people, culture, narratives, and current events in golf,” the ShipShow is always a swashbuckling good time. Listen here.

Golf Science Lab: Cordie Walker pulls back the curtain and cuts through the hooey of the “mythology” of golf instruction and the game in general. He says he’s “making a difference in the way golf is taught, learned, and practiced,” and honestly, he’s not wrong. If you’re an instruction and improvement enthusiast, this is your ‘cast. Listen here.

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Opinion & Analysis

Do you know how to drop in 2019? Are you sure?

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Starting January 1, 2019, golfers will have to get used to the new Rules of Golf. Many changes were made to create the new rules, but one of the most important changes without any doubt are the dropping rules. You might say: “Come on, it’s easy! We just have to drop from knee height, right?” Well, it’s not that simple. There are quite a few other things you need to know, which I will clarify below.

Q1. What is “knee height” exactly?

“Knee height” means the height from the ground to your knee when in a standing position. 

Q2. So I cannot just kneel and thereby place the ball instead of dropping?

Good thinking… but no 🙂

Q3. What part of the knee do I have to drop from?

It’s not (at the moment) clarified which part of the knee is “the knee,” but there cannot be any doubt that you can drop from the whole knee.

—-o0o—-

FACTS: “CORRECT WAY TO DROP”

The 2019 Rules of Golf state that you are dropping the ball correctly if all these requirements are fulfilled:

  1. The player himself must drop the ball
  2. It must be dropped from knee height
  3. The player must not give it any spin, etc.
  4. Before the ball hits the ground, it must not touch any part of the player or the player’s equipment (e.g. his bag)
  5. It must be dropped in the relief area (the relief area is defined in the rule you are taking relief under), i.e. it must first touch the ground inside the relief area when dropped.

If just one of these requirements is not fulfilled, you are not considered to have dropped in a correct way. You must re-drop until you have dropped in a correct way (without any limit as to the number of re-drops).

If you play a ball not dropped in a correct way, you incur a one-stroke penalty — unless you played from outside the relief area, in which case you incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or lost hole in match play (see FACTS 2).

—-o0o—-

Q4. What is the penalty for not dropping from knee height?

You can and should correct your error before playing the ball. If you re-drop in a correct way, correcting your error, there is no penalty. If you don’t and make a stroke at the ball, you incur a one-stroke penalty (since you did not drop in a correct way). See “FACTS 1”.

Q5. What if I drop almost from knee height.

Well, as a starting point you have to drop from knee height. If you dont’t, you will have to correct your error by re-dropping correctly (see “FACTS 1″). 

There is a “I-did-my-best-so-please-don’t-penalize-me-rule” saying that when finding a “location,” you are not penalized for finding a wrong location if you made a reasonable judgment. It is for now not certain if this rule also encompasses a situation in which you don’t drop exactly from knee height simply because you cannot see that spot with certainty when looking down.

On one hand, you could argue that this interpretation would be in accordance with the spirit of this rule (don’t penalize a player doing his best). On the other hand, it seems that the knee cannot be that hard to find (!) and that a “location” probably must be interpreted as “a location on the golf course.” My conclusion would be that there is no excuse for not to being able to drop exactly from knee height, and thus this rule did not apply in this situation.

There is also a “naked-eye rule” saying that if the fact (here: the ball was not dropped from knee height) could not reasonable have been seen with the naked eye, the player is not penalized even though video evidence shows something different (i.e. that it in fact was not dropped exactly from knee height). In my opinion, this naked-eye rules is not applicable here, since a player will be said to be able to find the knee with a reasonable effort. 

So… in my opinion there is no excuse not to drop from knee height!

—-o0o—-

FACTS 2: RELIEF AREA.

A relief area is the area in which you have to drop (see “FACTS 1”) and in which your ball must end after a drop. 

Example: If you deem your ball in the rough unplayable, you can for example choose with a one-stroke penalty to drop a ball within two club lengths from — and not nearer the hole than — the spot where the ball lay. This area is called the “relief area.”

If your ball ends outside the relief area in your drop, your required action depends on whether or not you dropped in a correct way (see “FACTS 1”). 

  1. If you did not drop in a correct way: You must re-drop again (without penalty) without any limitations as to the number of re-drops until you have dropped in a correct way. 
  2. If you did drop in a correct way: The player must re-drop (in a correct way!) a ball one time (without penalty). If the ball still ends outside the relief area, the player must then (without penalty) place a ball on the spot where the dropped ball first touched the ground in the re-drop. If he player does that, no penalty is incurred. If he does not but plays a ball from outside the relief area, he plays from a wrong place thereby incurring a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or a loss of hole in match play.

—-o0o—-

Q7. Who should drop the ball?

Only the player can drop the ball. Not the caddie, not other players, not anyone else! See “FACTS 1”.

Q8. What is the penalty if your ball strikes your bag or yourself in the drop?

The answer depends on when it happens (i.e. when it strikes you or your equipment):

  1. If it happens before the ball strikes the ground: There is no penalty presupposing that you re-drop before you play the ball. You have to re-drop no matter how many drops it takes for you not to strike your bag or yourself. If you don’t re-drop and play the ball, you incur a one-stroke penalty.
  2. If it happens after the ball has struck the ground: There is no penalty, and you shall not re-drop.

Q9. Where must I drop?

You must drop in the “relief area,” which is defined in the rule you are dropping under. If you declare your ball unplayable, for example, then one of the options is to drop within two club length – not nearer the hole – than where the ball lay. This area is the “relief area” in which:

  1. Your ball must land in the drop (see “FACTS 1”) and
  2. Must end (See “FACTS 2”)

Q10. What if I drop from shoulder height?

That probably will happen quite a few times in the beginning of 2019. In this case, you are not dropping in a correct way, and you must re-drop without penalty before you make the stroke. See “FACTS 1.”

Q11. When do I have to re-drop?

The re-dropping rules are simplified. Under the current rules, there are a lot of situations where you are required to re-drop, e.g. when the ball rolls closer to the hole than the nearest point of relief, when the ball rolls into a bunker (and stays there), when the ball rolls more than two club lengths from where it first struck the course, etc. These rules are quite difficult.

In 2019, it gets easier. You have to drop in a “relief area,” and the balls needs to end it that area. If you drop outside this area or if the ball rolls and stays outside this area, you are required to re-drop. See “FACTS 1” and “FACTS 2.”

Q12. Do I have to re-drop (as it is today) if the ball rolls more than two club lengths away from the spot that the ball first struck the course in the drop?

First of all, in 2019 there is not such a “two-club-length rule.” The re-dropping rules are explained in “FACTS 1” and in “FACTS 2” above. 

  • If you take relief (e.g. from a path) and must drop within one club length (of the nearest point of point of complete relief), you will always have to re-drop if it rolls more than 2 club lengths (since the relief area is exactly two club-lengths long measured from the two points farthest from each other). 
  • If you drop after a rule requiring you to drop within two club lengths, sometimes you must re-drop if the ball rolls more than two club lenths and sometimes not. The only thing that matters is that the ball must be dropped in the relief area (see “FACTS 1”) and must end in the relief area (see “FACTS 2”). Otherwise, it must be re-dropped.

Q13. I have a bad back and therefore I cannot take my arm down far enough to be able to drop from knee height. What do I do?

I don’t know. My guess would be this: A player who cannot drop from knee-height due to back-problems most likely cannot play golf at all. In other words, a player able to play golf will almost always be able to drop the ball from knee height.

In the extremely rare situations where a player cannot drop from knee height but can play a round of golf, there is a “do-what-is-fair-rule” stating that in situations not covered by the Rules of Golf, you should do what is fair. Maybe that would lead to the conclusion that it was OK for a player to drop from a place higher than knee height (e.g. just from the position the arm is when it is stretched and relaxed alongside the leg).

Q14. Is a taller player going to drop the ball from a higher place than a lower player?

Yes!

Q15. Isn’t that unreasonable?!

Well, that’s for you to decide 🙂 Who said that the 2019-Rules of Golf where easy to understand?

Rules Mentioned in Article

  • 14-3: Dropping the ball
  • 20-2c: “Naked-eye-rule”
  • 1.3b(2): “Reasonable-judgment-rule”
  • 20.3: “Do-what-is-fair-rule (when the situation is not covered by the rules).
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Opinion & Analysis

How to qualify for the U.S. Amateur (in-depth statistical analysis and tutorial)

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This is a follow-up of sorts to an article that I published on GolfWRX in May 2017: A Modern Blueprint to Breaking 80.  

With the U.S. Amateur concluding at iconic Pebble Beach last weekend, I thought of the many amateurs out there who would love to one day qualify for this prestigious event. Personally, I made it to the State Amateur level, but work and life got in the way and I never made it to the next step. For those who aspire or wonder, here’s an outline of what your game should look like if you want to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.

Scoring

To start with, your USGA Index needs to be 2.4 or lower to even attempt to qualify. If your course is rated 71.5/130*, the best 10 of your most recent 20 scores should average 74.3. This score will adjust slightly up if your course is rated more difficult, and slightly down if it’s rated less difficult. For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming the average course and slope rating above.

*Note: 71.5/130 is the average rating of courses played by single digit handicap golfers in the ShotByShot.com database of 340,000 rounds.

Your average scores by par type will be:

  • Par 3:  3.21
  • Par 4:  4.20
  • Par 5:  4.86

The Fastest and Easiest Way to Lower Your Scores

Every round is a mix of good shots, average shots and bad shots/errors. The challenge is to determine which piece of your game’s unique puzzle is your greatest weakness in order to target your improvement efforts on the highest impact area. If you track the simple good and bad outcomes listed below for a few rounds, your strengths and weaknesses will become apparent.

Tee Game or Driving 

Goals: Hit EIGHT fairways and limit your driving errors to ONE, with the majority being the less costly “No Shot errors” (more on this later).

Distance: I will ignore this and assume you’re maximizing distance as best you can without sacrificing accuracy.

Fairways: Hitting fairways is crucial, as we are all statistically significantly more accurate from the short grass.

Errors: Far more important than Fairways Hit, however, is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of misses. To help golfers understand the weaknesses in their game, my golf analysis program allows users to record and categorize the THREE types of Driving Errors: 

  1. No Shot: You have missed in a place from which you do not have a normal next shot and require some sort of advancement to get the ball back to normal play.
  2. Penalty: A 1-stroke penalty due to hazard or unplayable lie.
  3. Lost/OB: Stroke and distance penalty. 

Approach Shots 

Goals:  ELEVEN GIRs and ONE penalty/2nd             

Penalty/2nd:  This means either a penalty or a shot hit so poorly that you are left with yet another full approach shot from greater than 50 yards of the hole.

The chart below displays the typical array of Approach Shot opportunities from the fairway (75 percent fall in the 100 to 200-yard range). The 150 to 175-yard range tends to be the most frequent distance for golfers playing the appropriate distance golf course for their game.

Short Game (defined as shots from within 50 yards of the hole)

Chip/Pitch: If you miss 7 greens, you will have 6 green-side save opportunities. Your goals should be:

  • Percentage of shots to within 5 feet: 40 percent
  • Percentage of Saves: 47 percent (3)
  • Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green):  6 percent, or approximately 1 in 17 attempts.

Sand: You should have 1 of these green-side save opportunities. Your goals: 

  • Percentage of shots to within 8 feet: 35 percent
  • Percentage Saves: 32 percent
  • Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green): 13 percent, or approximately 1 in 8 attempts.

Putting: You need just over 31 putts.  Aim for:

  • 1-Putts: 6
  • 3-Putts: 1

The chart below displays the percentage of 1-Putts you will need to make by distance, as well as the typical array of first-putt opportunities by distance. Note that 62 percent of your first-putt opportunities will fall in the 4 to 20-foot range. Adjust your practice efforts accordingly!

Good luck, and please let me know if and when you are successful.

For a complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to ShotByShot.com and sign up for a 1-round free trial.

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