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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, or SCOR, but you would certainly know his most recent accomplishment: the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2015. 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. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have possibly stimulated other companies to also try to raise the CG and improve wedge performance.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. TeeBone

    Apr 24, 2019 at 4:52 pm

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. P-club

    Apr 23, 2019 at 11:28 am

    “P-club”??

    C’mon. No one says that.

  15. 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?

  16. Doug McManus

    Apr 23, 2019 at 10:13 am

    PW-50-54-60-64

  17. 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

A different perspective

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to play a round with two of the greens keepers at a local golf course and it was a fascinating experience. It gave me a chance to get a behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to make a golf course great.

Many of us play at public courses, and sometimes its luck of the draw if the course we are at is in good condition. In my case, if I find a course that is well maintained and taken care of, I make it a regular stop. In this case, I was at Ridgeview Ranch in Plano Texas and it is a great public course and I play here at least once a month.

The two guys I played with were Tony Arellano and Jose Marguez. Both were great guys to share a round with. Tony shared what it’s like to make sure that all the greens are maintained properly and watered correctly. He showed me where there were some issues with one of the greens that I would never have noticed. We talked about how the invasion of Poa annua grass forces his guys to pull it out by hand with a tool that is smaller than a divot repair tool. It became clear to me that as a golf community, we need to lift up the people that do this labor-intensive work and thank them for all they do. Ridgeview Ranch is without a doubt one of the better public courses in my area, and it is because of the hard work these men do that keeps it this way.

As we watched the Masters tournament a few weeks ago we were awestruck by the awesome beauty of Augusta National and in my case I believe that is what heaven looks like. I think we take that kind of beauty for granted and forget the massive amount of time and hard work that go into making a golf course look good. These people have to deal with all of the different factors that Mother Nature throws at them and be prepared for anything. In addition to that, they also have to make sure the watering system is maintained as well as all of their equipment.

I have played at other courses in the DFW area that have a terrible staff and a superintendent that either don’t care about the course or don’t know how to stop it from falling apart. The course won’t spend the money to go get the right people that will take pride in their work. Some of these places will charge you more than $80 per round, and when you get to the first green that has dry spots that are without any grass you feel like you have been ripped off.

We all love this game not because it’s easy but because it’s a challenge and being good at it takes a ton of effort. We also love it because it gives us a chance to hang out with friends and family and enjoy time outside in the sun– hopefully without cell phone interruptions and other distractions of our modern day. We spend a ton of money on green fees, equipment and sometimes travel. We want to get what we pay for and we want to have a great course to spend the day at.

I wanted to write this article to thank all of those men and women that start work in the early hours of the day and work through the hottest stretches of the summer to keep our golf courses in great shape. They are people that never get the credit they deserve and we should always thank them whenever possible. Tony and Jose are just two examples of the people who work so hard for all of us. Ridgeview Ranch is lucky to have these two men who not only work hard but were fantastic representatives of their course. So next time you are out there and you see these people working hard, maybe stop and say thank you let them know what they do really makes a difference.

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5 most common golf injuries (and how to deal with them)

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You might not think about golf as a physically intensive game, but that doesn’t change the fact it is still a sport. And as with every sport, there’s a possibility you’ll sustain an injury while playing golf. Here’s a list of the five most common injuries you might sustain when playing the game, along with tips on how to deal with them in the best way possible so you heal quickly.

Sunburn

While not directly an injury, it’s paramount to talk about sunburns when talking about golf. A typical golf game is played outside in the open field, and it lasts for around four hours. This makes it extremely likely you’ll get sunburnt, especially if your skin is susceptible to it.

That’s why you should be quite careful when you play golf

Apply sunscreen every hour – since you’re moving around quite a lot on a golf course, sunscreen won’t last as long as it normally does.

Wear a golf hat – aside from making you look like a professional, the hat will provide additional protection for your face.

If you’re extra sensitive to the sun, you should check the weather and plan games when the weather is overcast.

Rotator Cuff Injury

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder joint. This group are the main muscles responsible for swing movements in your arms. It’s no surprise then that in golf, where the main activity consists of swinging your arms, there’s a real chance this muscle group might sustain an injury.

To avoid injuries to this group, it’s imperative you practice the correct form of swinging the club. Before playing, you should also consider some stretching.

If you get an injury, however, you can recover faster by following RICE:

Rest: resting is extremely important for recovery. After an injury, the muscles are extremely vulnerable to further injury, and that’s why you should immediately stop playing and try to get some rest.

Ice: applying ice to the injured area during the first day or two can help. It reduces inflammation and relaxes the muscles.

Compress: bandage the rotator cuff group muscle and compress the muscles. This speeds up the muscle healing process.

Elevate: elevate the muscles above your heart to help achieve better circulation of blood and minimize fluids from gathering.

Wrist Injuries

Wrist tendons can sustain injuries when playing golf. Especially if you enjoy playing with a heavy club, it can put some strain on the wrist and cause wrist tendonitis, which is characterized by inflammation and irritation.

You should start by putting your wrist in a splint or a cast – it is necessary to immobilize your wrist to facilitate healing.

Anti-inflammatory medicine can relieve some of the pain and swelling you’ll have to deal with during the healing process. While it might not help your wrist heal much quicker, it’ll increase your comfort.

A professional hand therapist knows about the complexities of the wrist and the hand and can help you heal quicker by inspecting and treating your hands.

Back Pain

A golf game is long, sometimes taking up to 6 hours. This long a period of standing upright, walking, swinging clubs, etc. can put stress on your back, especially in people who aren’t used to a lot of physical activities:

If you feel like you’re not up for it, you should take a break mid-game and then continue after a decent rest. A golf game doesn’t have any particular time constraints, so it should be simple to agree to a short break.

If you don’t, consider renting a golf cart, it makes movement much easier. If that’s not possible, you can always buy a pushcart, which you can easily store all the equipment in. Take a look at golf push cart reviews to know which of them best suits your needs.

Better posture – a good posture distributes physical strain throughout your body and not only on your back, which means a good posture will prevent back pain and help you deal with it better during a game.

Golfer’s Elbow

Medically known as medial epicondylitis, golfer’s elbow occurs due to strain on the tendons connecting the elbow and forearm. It can also occur if you overuse and over-exhaust the muscles in your forearm that allow you to grip and rotate your arm:

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is the way to go to alleviate the most severe symptoms of the injury at the beginning.

Lift the club properly, and if you think there’s a mismatch between your wrist and the weight of the club, you should get a lighter one.

Learn when you’ve reached your limit. Don’t overexert yourself – when you know your elbow is starting to cause you problems, take a short break!

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TG2: Our PGA picks were spot on…and Rob hit a school bus with a golf ball

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Rob picked Brooks to win the PGA and hit the nail on the head, while Knudson’s DJ pick was pretty close. Rob hit a school bus with a golf ball and we talk about some new clubs that are going to be tested in the next couple days.

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

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