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The Wedge Guy: How many wedges?

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From the feedback I get, many golfers are not entirely confident…or are completely confused…about how many wedges they should carry. Those of you who know my work and writing over the past 25 years or so also know that I am a proponent of carrying a carefully measured “set” of wedges that give you the shotmaking control you need in prime scoring range. But what I’ve learned over those many years is that the number of wedges that is “right”, and the lofts of those wedges can be very different from one golfer to another.

The reason I think getting this right is so important is that your scores are more heavily influenced by your play from wedge range into the green, and your shotmaking around the greens, than by any other factor. The right “set” of wedges in your bag can make all the difference in the world.

As I repeatedly preach, taking your guidance from the PGA Tour players might not help you achieve your goals. These guys spend hundreds of hours each year perfecting their wedge play, and you simply cannot do that. The good news is that you can add some science to your wedge set make-up that can help you have more shot choices when you are in scoring range or trying to save par from a missed green.

My basic premise on the subject is that the answer can be approached scientifically for each golfer, and it is a multi-step process

  1. Begin by knowing the loft of the 9-iron and “P-club” that came with your set of irons, as optimum gapping begins there. The industry challenge of producing longer-hitting irons has led most OEMs to strengthen lofts throughout the set. Along the way, it was apparently decided to widen the gaps between the short irons to 5 degrees from the traditional 4 that stood for decades. What this does is increase the distance differential between your 9-iron and “P-club” from what I would consider optimum. For golfers of slower swing speeds, that 5-degree gap might well deliver a 10-12 yard differential, but my bet is that most of you are getting a difference closer to 15 yards, or even more. That just will not let you get the distance control precision you want in prime scoring range.
  2. The second step is to be honest with your distances. I am a big proponent of getting on the golf course or range with a laser or GPS and really knowing how far you carry each of your short irons and wedges. Hit a number of shots from known yardages and see where they land (not including roll out). My bet is that you will find that your distances are different from what you thought they were, and that the differentials between clubs are not consistent.
  3. Figure out where to start. If your actual and real distance gap between your 9-iron and “P-club” is over 12-13 yards, maybe the place to start could be with a stronger P-club. You can either have your loft strengthened a bit or make the shaft 1/4 to 1/2” longer to add a few yards to that club.
  4. Figure out what lofts your wedges should have. From there, I suggest selecting lofts of your wedges to build a constant yardage difference of 10-12 yards between clubs. Depending on your strength profile, that may require wedges at four-degree intervals, or it might be five – each golfer is different. Those with very slow swing speeds might even find that six-degree gaps deliver that distance progression.
  5. Challenge the traditional 52-56-60 setup. Those lofts became the “standard” when set-match pitching wedges were 48 degrees of loft. That hasn’t been the case in over 25 years. Most of today’s P-clubs are 45 degrees, which leaves a very large distance differential between that club and a 52-degree gap wedge. Some enlightened golfers have evolved to carry a wedge set of 50-54-58, which is a step in the right direction. But you can get whatever loft precision you want, and you should do that. At SCOR, we made wedges in every loft from 41 to 61 degrees, and our wedge-fitting tool prescribed lofts of 49-53-57-61 to many golfers, based on that 45* “P-club” and their stated distance profile. Those who took that advice were generally very happy with that change. We fitted and sold many sets at 49-54-59 as well. Though no company offers wedges in every loft, you can bend even numbers to hit your numbers exactly. Just remember, bending stronger reduces the bounce and bending weaker increases the bounce.

What many of you will find with this exercise is that it suggests that you should be carrying more wedges. That’s probably true for the vast majority of recreational golfers. I have come to realize that more wedges and less long clubs will usually improve your scores. After all, long or short by 25-30 feet is great at long range, but not acceptable in prime scoring range.

If you have more clubs at the long end of your bag (longer than a 5- or 6-iron) than you do at the short end (9-iron and up) then you should consider an honest self-appraisal of how often you use each club between your driver and putter. My bet is that it will be an enlightening analysis.

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, or his leadership of the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2014. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to slightly raise the CG and improve wedge performance. He has just announced the formation of Edison Golf Company and the new Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf, which can be seen at www.EdisonWedges.com. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Travisty

    Aug 27, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Sounds like the exact type of stuff you’d hear from someone who makes their living selling wedges lol never mind that this has already been statistically disproven and is just a golf myth.

  2. buckeye doug

    May 9, 2019 at 12:01 am

    I agree with the author’s premise that knowing your wedge distances is very important, and it is important not to leave big gap at the end of bag. I carry 2 cobra wedges or in actuality 10 I and 11 I(52 (+ 1 inch) 100, 56 (+1 inch) 85 yds Carbite 56 (0) 70yds carbite 60 (0) 55 yds. I play a 3000 yard par 35 layout, and do not carry any fairway woods. Driver 3-6H 8 down.

  3. Gary Lewis

    Apr 25, 2019 at 12:36 am

    Found a 50-55-60 over the years works pretty well with the 45 degree pitching wedge. The 55 is bent from either a 54 or 56 degree.

  4. golfraven

    Apr 24, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    Current setup is 48, 54, 58 Vokeys. Wanted to get a 60 lob but ended with 58 which is probably more consistent over time. been playing 54,58 for the last decade.

  5. TeeBone

    Apr 24, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    I carry one wedge, 55 degrees. My 50 and 45 are part of my iron set.

  6. Bob Jones

    Apr 24, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    My PW is 48, so I continued with 52-56-60. Having a collection of wedges beyond a PW and SW doesn’t help you unless you know what you need the other ones for and how to use them.

  7. Billy Coe

    Apr 24, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    I loved the SCOR wedges. I bought several of them over the years and found them to be easy to control, consistent and accurate. I still look for SCOR wedges on eBay. I’d love to see SCOR wedges return to the market.

  8. handyquacks

    Apr 24, 2019 at 7:28 am

    if your an amateur, take out ur p wedge from anywhere from 100-130 yards and you will experience so much success and add some much needed feel in your game. Nothing worse than when I see guys at my home course swinging their ass off with a 56 degree from 110 and wondering why they skulled or chunked it.

  9. Scratchscorer

    Apr 23, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    “your scores are more heavily influenced by your play from wedge range into the green, and your shotmaking around the greens, than by any other factor.“

    Based on the actual data and statistics this is completely false. Mark Broadie has proven this through statistical analysis. I don’t know why anyone would still think this way nowadays with all the resources available on this topic.

  10. Scott

    Apr 23, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Having 716cb set, replaced standard pw with 48 vokey then added a 54 and 60 degree wedge. Apart from gapping, bounce was main thing for me in selection. 48 has standard f grind with 8 degrees bounce for full shots whilst majority of shots with 54 s grind with 10 bounce around greens as so simple to hit. Chose L grind with only 4 degrees bounce for lob wedge primarily as my home course has hard packed sand bunkers and found k grind with 12 degrees bounce difficult to hit out of them unless a course has fluffy lies. Grinds were chosen on how I prefer to open up blade though in reality not a massive consideration.

  11. BettiBoop

    Apr 23, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    My set PW is 43*. I then go to a 47* GW, 54* SW, and 60* LW. I can hit any yardage I need within 100 yards with a full or 3/4 swing with those 3 wedges.

  12. Tim

    Apr 23, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    I play a 44* PW, a 50* gap and a 56* SW Thats it.

    I have no desire for a 60, nor another gap wedge to make my set look perfect on paper. If its inside 80 yards, I take a bite of the sandwich, sip of a beverage and grab my 56* from the cart and go to my ball. I have 80, 60, 40 and 20 yard pitches with that club and Im damn good with it.

    Adding more wedges may seem like a clever idea on paper (especially if you sell wedges), but ask yourself if you really want to be dinking around with that many tools while enjoying yourself on a sunny day at the course. How bout instead, you have a little fun and learn to play well with one or two wedges. Imo, it will make the game more fun and will make you a better wedge player, ultimately lowering your score.

    • Jim

      Apr 24, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      Pretty much agree with Tim. Much of the thinking behind today’s club technology, marketing and sales is simply geared toward selling more clubs. I mean why let a player get away with using only 1 or 2 wedges when you can brain-wash them into thinking that 3-5 are better? I use an older lofted set of irons, 3-PW (just hit a 6 instead of an 8 – the ball does not know the difference) ending with a 52PW. I carry only a Sand Wedge (56) in addition to those. That’s all I’ve ever needed. Playing through the transition period of the late 70’s-80’s, I can only say technology does not make you a better golfer – it may help you minimize errors and turn in a better score, but nothing more. Better golf is achieved through more practice with less forgiving clubs.

  13. Tim

    Apr 23, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Most amateurs need 2 wedges…their P and their SW. Outside of that, you are just wasting money….I can hit my PW anywhere from 60-115 yards….shotmaking ……SW is anything under that.

  14. JD

    Apr 23, 2019 at 11:41 am

    So I generally agree with this, and went from a 46 (stock PW), 52, 58 setup to a 46, 50, 54, 58. I freaking love that 54, I do everything with it… but i’m finding that at around the 115-120 mark, i’d rather hit a choked up PW than a full tilt 50* gap wedge, because I can tend to balloon wedges. So there are so many times I get back from a round and I realize I never touched that 50. Any suggestions?

    I’m thinking of going Adam Scott and just doing a 48, 54, 60. But then I’d have a weird 46 and 48, unless I use the 48 to replace my stock PW.

    • Vas

      Apr 24, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      Food for thought: My set consists of a 45* PW, a matching 50* AW, a PM 56* SW, and a PM 64* LW. The 56* PM goes about the distance of a 58* because it’s so big, but is by far my most versatile wedge. I didn’t really need a lob wedge, so I decided to put in the 64* PM as an emergency club and did a count on how many times I actually used it per round. I’m a 2 hcp, and I averaged 2.5 uses per round. YMMV as I play in the northeast on pretty classic courses where you short-side yourself very easily. I love it from 35-45y from high grass over trouble. I also love it for impossible chips. It was a good move for me that I wouldn’t have tried without that 56* PM wedge. A standard 56* wedge would require a 60* partner.

  15. P-club

    Apr 23, 2019 at 11:28 am

    “P-club”??

    C’mon. No one says that.

  16. dat

    Apr 23, 2019 at 10:27 am

    What’s your take on carrying only two wedges, and using the P and “A” or “G” wedge that comes with a set?

  17. Doug McManus

    Apr 23, 2019 at 10:13 am

    PW-50-54-60-64

  18. Brian Fives

    Apr 23, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Terry , I consider myself one of your first Irish customers for a set of both the EIDOLON, or SCOR wedges, they seem to work really well on links ground. I have recently worn out the faces of the Scor wedges, and would like to purchase a replacment set, any thoughts as close to Scor as possible? Brian

    • David C

      Apr 24, 2019 at 1:35 pm

      Have you taken a look at Terry’s Been Hogan wedges? He had a similar sole on the Hogan’s as you had on the SCOR wedges.
      Good luck!

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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By definition, there will be no 2020 U.S. Open. Here’s why the USGA should reconsider

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In 1942, the USGA decided to cancel the U.S. Open because it was scheduled so soon after U.S. entry into WWII.  They did this out of respect for the nation and those called to war. There was a Championship however called The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, which was contested at Chicago’s  Ridgemoor Country Club. It was a great distraction from the horror of war and raised money for the great cause.

All the top players of the era (except Sam Snead) played, and the organizers (USGA, Chicago Golf Association, and the PGA of America) did hold qualifying at some 70 sites around the country. So effectively, it was the 1942 U.S. Open—but the USGA never recognized it as such. They labeled it a “wartime effort to raise money” for the cause.  Their objection to it being the official U.S. Open was never clear, although the sub-standard Ridgemoor course (a veritable birdie fest) was certainly part of it.

The USGA co-sponsored the event but did not host it at one of their premier venues, where they typically set the golf course up unusually difficult to test the best players. Anyway, Ben Hogan won the event and many thought this should have counted as his fifth U.S. Open win. The USGA disagreed. That debate may never be settled in golfer’s minds.

Ahead to the 1964 U.S. Open…Ken Venturi, the eventual winner, qualified to play in the tournament. His game at the time was a shell of what it was just a few years earlier, but Kenny caught lighting in a bottle, got through both stages of qualifying, and realized his lifelong dream of winning the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Ahead to the 1969 U.S. Open…Orville Moody, a former army sergeant had been playing the PGA Tour for two years with moderate success-at best. But the golfing gods shone brightly upon “sarge” through both stages of qualifying, and the tournament, as he too realized the dream of a lifetime in Houston.

Ahead to 2009 U.S. Open…Lucas Glover was the 71st ranked player in the world and had never made the cut in his three previous U.S. Opens. But he did get through the final stage of qualifying and went on to win the title at Bethpage in New York.

Ahead to 2020…The USGA has decided to postpone the event this year to September because of the Covid-19 virus. This was for the fear of the global pandemic. But this year there is a fundamental difference—the USGA has announced there will be no qualifying for the event. It will be an exempt-only event. By doing so, the event loses it status as an “open event,” by definition.

This is more than a slight difference in semantics.

The U.S. Open, our national championship, is the crown jewel of all USGA events for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is just that: open. Granted, the likelihood of a club professional or a highly-ranked amateur winning the event—or even making the cut—is slim, but that misses the point: they have been stripped of their chance to do so, and have thereby lost a perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to realize something they have worked for their whole lives. Although I respect the decision from a  health perspective, golf is being played now across the country, (The Match and Driving Relief—apparently safely)

So, what to do? I believe it would be possible to have one-day 36-hole qualifiers (complete with social distancing regulations) all over the country to open the field. Perhaps, the current health crisis limits the opportunity to hold the qualifiers at the normally premier qualifying sites around the country but, as always, everyone is playing the same course and is at least given the chance to play in tournament.

In light of the recent “opening” of the country, I am asking that the USGA reconsider the decision.

 

featured image modified from USGA image

 

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TG2: Reviewing Tour Edge Exotics Pro woods, forged irons, and LA Golf shafts

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Reviewing the new Tour Edge Exotics Pro wood lineup, forged irons, and wedge. Maybe more than one makes it into the bag? Fujikura’s MCI iron shafts are some of the smoothest I have ever hit and LA Golf wood shafts get some time on the course.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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