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The Wedge Guy: Don’t forget the 4-wood

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Long ago, I determined that my best set make-up included just one fairway wood, and that is a 4-wood of 16-17* loft. In my opinion, this is a real hidden gem in the set make-up, but you don’t see too many golfers carrying one. Back in the “old days”, when Hogan, Nelson and Snead plied their craft, the 4-wood was a staple in the set. Of course, those guys played courses where they hit woods to the longest par fours and most par fives. So, the ability to hit it high and far was important. You might remember that Gene Sarazen’s famous double eagle on Augusta’s 15th in 1935 was holed out with a 4-wood, from 235 yards.

My own love affair with the 4-wood began in the 1980s, when I was a marketing/advertising consultant to Joe Powell Golf in Florida. Joe made the most gorgeous persimmon woods you ever saw, and I learned a lot about golf clubs from those years with him. When I saw this beautiful 4-wood in his shop one day, I just had to hit it…and I was immediately impressed with what it could do. At the time, I carried a driver and 3-wood, and still packed a 2-iron. This 4-wood changed my world, so to speak. I soon dropped the 3-wood and 2-iron and added a third wedge.

Since that first one nearly 40 years ago, I have been through many more, but it took a while before I could find a ‘4-metal” that could win out the spot that my Reid Lockhart persimmon 4-wood had owned for nearly 15 years. I always have my eyes open for one that looks just right, though.

I’ll share that I never miss having a 3-wood in the bag, as I just don’t find that I need a shot that goes 235 instead of 220 or so. That’s splitting hairs to me. And with only one fairway wood, I have learned to hit various shots; it’s a specialty club for me. I can hit it high when I want, and I can easily turn the ball over when I need the few extra yards a draw delivers. I can also hit it low –- kind of like Tiger’s “stinger” to hit tight fairways.

And the best thing? Carrying only a 4-wood allows an extra wedge in the bag, and I get lots more use out of that than I would an extra fairway wood.

You can experiment with the 4-wood pretty easily these days. There are lots of used clubs available online, and GlobalGolf.com has just introduced their UTry demo program. But as always, I strongly advise you to see your local clubmaker/clubfitter to have one built just for your swing.

The venerable old 4-wood! It should be in nearly everyone’s bag, in my opinion.

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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.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Blade Junkie

    Jun 12, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    In my modern bag I still play the Taylormade v-Steel 4-wood – 16.5° with 42″ steel shaft … c2005 … superb golf club 🙂

  2. Bob Gomavitz

    Jun 11, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Sorry, great read and thanks for bringing back great memories.

  3. Bob Gomavitz

    Jun 11, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    My main club not in just a persimmon head, but also in a metal head. Persimmon was a Tommy Armour Super Eye O Magic and the Metal was a Callaway 1st Gen Steelhead 4+. Played with Fred Couples in a foursome for a Jr Match Play in the 1st round after a stroke play qualifier. The most he said to me all day was when we were at the 1st Tee and it was, “heard about you and that 4 wood on the par 5’s”.

  4. CarterDog350

    Jun 11, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    I’ve been playing Taylormade Rocketballs 3HL for several years….I affectionately refer to it as my four metal…….Absolutely .Love it. Sneaky long with perfect shaft.

  5. Nick

    Jun 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    AMEN!!! I have been a big fan of 4 woods and there’s nothing better that I have found than PING. For a while it was the G25 16.5* 4 Wood and now I’m on to the G400 5 wood adjusted to 16.9*. The PING 4 wood has been the safest club in my bag for a while now and I even picked up a 20.5* 7 wood to go with it.

  6. JG

    Jun 11, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    Not sure I would abandon your current bag setup for this change, but it’s something I would keep in the rotation depending on the course and the necessity for an additional wedge versus a 3 or 5 wood. Most would benefit from a 4 & 7 (or hybrid) setup versus the traditional 3 & 5 wood setup for the reasons stated above in terms of actually being able to hit a high shot which is actually capable of holding a green from distance.

  7. Greg V

    Jun 11, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Or if you’re like me, a senior with decreasing club head speed, the 4-wood actually goes farther than a 3-wood most of the time. Ping G25 for me.

  8. gdaddy

    Jun 11, 2019 at 11:40 am

    Couldn’t agree more. Back in the persimmon days I had a wonderful Ram 5 wood that basically played like a 4 wood. I hit it higher and farther than the 3 wood. Now I have the Cobra f8plus 4 wood that does the same thing. At this point I’m hitting it almost as far as my driver. Maybe i should drop my driver and add another wedge. I’ve always found found four and five woods so versatile – just like you said – hit it high, low, cut, draw, punch shots from the tress (stays low and run forever). Thanks for making us think about our set makeup – and you’re right, you can always use another wedge.

  9. Robert

    Jun 11, 2019 at 11:37 am

    I believe the last Ping 4Wood (metal) I saw was a G15. G15’s were great looking fairways in my opinion.

  10. Bruce

    Jun 11, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Terry, I grew up in Sarasota and knew Joe when he had his shop on Clark Rd. 1975. He made great woods in the classic pear shape. Gamma fire inserts were all the rage then. I, too, am a 4 wood proponent especially at now 61 don’t have the club head speed to launch the 13 degree Titleist 904F anymore. Nice observation and very valid for more than 95% of the worlds’ golfers.

  11. DB

    Jun 11, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Completely agree, most people that only hit their 3-wood in the <230 range have no chance of holding a green with it anyway. It's not a very useful club for them on long par 4s or par 5s. It's fine off the tee, but honestly they are only gaining a few yards with it compared to a 4-wood.

    Really wish PING would bring back the 4-wood, I know you can turn up a 3-wood or deloft a 5-wood but it's just not the same. About 16-degrees is the ideal fairway wood loft for lots of people.

  12. M

    Jun 11, 2019 at 10:45 am

    You mean 3HL? lol
    Or one of any number of adjustable 3 or 5 that can be lifted up or down.
    And 15 yards is splitting hairs? Ya gotta be kidding. You’re playing the wrong game. Who doesn’t want to hit the green from 235 comfortably. You need to get a club with which you can.

    • BodineJCS

      Jun 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Yes … I switched to the 3 HL 17 degree and its the best thing I ever did . Adjusting the 15 degree 3 wood to 17 degree does not work as well and will mess with the lie of the club . My feeling is the modern 15 degree 3 wood is too low spin and it drops out of the air sooner than the 17 degree . Honestly when you hit the HL , its not much higher of a ball flight if at all and just as long …I use a M3 HL 17 degree

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Note to Sir Nick: Does Bryson DeChambeau really need to improve his wedge game?

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I especially enjoyed the final round of last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic—watching the battle of the two big ballers. As always, I was interested in Sir Nick Faldo’s commentary about the weakness in Bryson DeChambeau’s game–his wedges–and that he should make an equipment switch to tighten up this part of his game. Indeed, our Ryan Barath made the same suggestion in an article July 3.

I was all in—not only as a big fan of Sir Nick and Jim Nantz—but Bryson’s 6-iron-length wedges have always looked awkward to me. On Monday, I received several calls from instructor clients/friends asking if I could support Sir Nick’s analysis. Never one to back down from a challenge, I agreed to take a deep dive into the difference between Bryson’s game in 2019 and thus far in 2020.

The data is a bit thin—69 Shotlink rounds in 2019 vs. only 42 in 2020 through Rocket Mortgage. Nonetheless, I’d submit that we have representative samples.

Here is what I found.

DRIVING

Strokes Gained # and (Ranking):

  • 2019: .412 (24)
  • 2020: 1.11 (2)

This is a giant leap in Strokes Gained and ranking.  OK, but Strokes Gained is an abstract number and not all about distance. Why the jump? 

Distance:  302.5 (34) => 323 (1).  Again, quite a jump. 20.5 yards in distance ON AVERAGE. Impressive!

Errors:  .4 per round => .15/round. I have worked with lots of Tour players and reducing errors is extremely difficult. Most do it by prudently cutting back on distance. To pick up over 20 yards AND cut ERRORS* by 62.5% is miraculous! For perspective, the average of the PGA Tour in 2019 was .62 errors/round. So, Bryson is outdriving EVERYONE by 21 yards AND making less than 25% of the ERRORS*? Extraordinary!

[*Driving errors are Balls hit out of play that require an advancement to return to normal play or penalty results.]

APPROACH SHOTS

Strokes Gained:

  • 2019: .236 (Rank 54)
  • 2020: .428 (Rank 38)

Not a great improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. This is mainly because Bryson’s accuracy from the fairway went from 62% to 70%.

PUTTING

Strokes Gained:

  • 2019: .372 (Rank 28)
  • 2020: .690 (Rank 12)

Another substantial improvement. Two things stand out:

  1. Reduced 3-Putts from .49/round to .33 (Tour avg. is .51) – excellent jump!
  2. In the always critical 6-10 ft. range, his makes went from 54% to 62% (Tour Avg. is 52%). Again, over 42 rounds, this is as much improvement in a Tour player as I have seen.

WEDGE PLAY

In my work with Tour players, I consider this to be shots from 50 to 125 yards. Bryson may very well extend this range with his length, but I chose to stay with it because I have years of data on the Tour level play for comparison.

I measure:

  • # shots – How many shots a player faces on average per round.
  • % Greens Hit – As opposed to the Tour’s Proximity that includes greens missed w/i 30 yards of the edge.
  • Putting distance when hit (My Proximity)
  • Down-in – The average shots needed to get the ball in the hole.

I am going to stick with shots from the fairway only as they are over 70% of these shots for everyone.

*Avg. Putting Distance when the shots hit the green.

**Avg. Down-in:  The # of shots need to hole out.

Mr. DeChambeau has performed an extremely noteworthy feat in that he has not only dramatically increased his driving distance BUT his accuracy to boot. Further, he has improved EVERY facet of his game, including his oft-criticized wedge game. And not just a little. If we do the math on his Down-In improvement: 2.84 to 2.68 = .16/shot X 114 shots in 2020 = 18 strokes saved this year.

In my studies of the value of a stroke on Tour, at Bryson’s current top-10 level, each stroke is worth $50-70,000. I tip my hat to him!

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