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The Wedge Guy: Dissecting “the short game”

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In follow up to my article week before last about your “Short Game Handicap”, I thought might add a bit of clarity and expand on the topic. To start, I probably shouldn’t have used the term “short game”, as it appears there are many different definitions (and no consensus) as to exactly what that means. Is it wedge play only? Does it include putting? And just how far out from the hole does “the short game” begin?

So, I’m going to ask for a bit of a “do-over” and offer a new term to define what I mean. Let’s talk, then, about “scoring-range performance”. Hopefully, we all can agree that this means the entire game inside 8- or 9-iron range, so it is different for every golfer. That could be inside 150-160 yards for a strong player, or as close as 100-120 yards for one with a lesser distance profile. Regardless of the distance, however, I think it is fair to say that once inside that “short range performance” zone, you should be able to take on the golf course more aggressively.

So, to start, I would like to suggest we can break down “short range performance” into five distinct categories:

1. Full swing or mostly full swing short iron and wedge shots. These are the shots you hit from the outermost ranges in what you define as your own “short range”. But when I say “full swing” with a short iron or wedge, please understand this doesn’t mean going at it like you would with a driver or even mid-iron. Shorter clubs call for more controlled swing pace and power, so that you can build a distance chart that is repeatable and reliable. From those “full” swings, you can grip down up to 1-1/2” to 2” to change distance and trajectory with each club, which will also reduce the length of your swing naturally. If you want, you can also experiment with opening the face a bit as well in order to achieve different ball flights and distances. These shots take us into the range of…

2. Pitch shots. I consider this term to define all those wedge shots that are hit with much less than a “full” swing. This is an area where you just have to spend time practicing in order to learn what kind of swing produces what yardage and ball flight with each wedge you carry. From there we go to…

3. Chipping. This is a very different technique than pitch shots, but good chipping is the key to greenside scoring. Regardless of your age or strength profile, you can learn to be a good chipper of the ball. And after any of these shots that has been well executed, we get to…

4. Putting. I believe all of us would agree that putting is an art in itself and calls upon a different set of motor skills. A putting stroke is not a “little golf swing”, in that it does not have the dynamic movements of the lower and upper body, etc. And finally…

5. Trouble shots. I will consider this category to include any shots in scoring range that don’t fall into the routine. This would include bunker shots, sidehill/uphill/downhill lies, deep rough, other tough lies such as hardpan, and low runners from under trees. Very few of us practice these, maybe other than bunker shots, so we get anxious and nervy when faced with one. Ben Hogan used to say that you should never try a shot on the course that you haven’t practiced. Pretty darn good advice.

So, there you have my take on the five parts of “scoring-range performance”. Over the next few weeks, I’ll take us into a deeper dive on each one of these aspects to see if I can’t give you some tips and advice on how to make that part of your game better. Understand of course, I’m offering general advice and counsel to a large audience, so I certainly expect some of you to find my suggestions too elementary, while others may find it too advanced. But I’m going to do my best to give each of you at least a few takeaways that you may find helpful.

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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.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Jul 9, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    Let me see if I’ve got this right…

    After more than a decade of research, Dave Pelz in 2000 divided the short-game skills into distance wedges, pitches, chips and bumps, and sand shots. He included detailed instructions on each.

    In 2004 Debbie Steinbach sorts out the Venus pitch, chipping, sand sharking and the lob. Deb also included instructions.

    In 2012, tour veteran Dave Stockton and his sons parse the short game into low and high shots, bunkers, and trouble shots. Again, how-to tips abound.

    Further, Dave, Deb and the Other Dave all tell us how putting meshes with the short game.

    So, I’m struggling to find the value-added of our recent “Dissecting…” piece? If the Wedge Guy is having an off-week, it’s OK if he skips writing an article.

  2. Jamho3

    Jul 5, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Especially enjoyed this part.

    ““scoring-range performance”. Hopefully, we all can agree that this means the entire game inside 8- or 9-iron range, so it is different for every golfer. That could be inside 150-160 yards for a strong player, or as close as 100-120 yards for one with a lesser distance profile.”

    Keep going TK.

  3. Dan Coleman

    Jul 3, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    Why do most amateurs hit their wedges mostly on the toes of the face?

    Dan

  4. Jack Nash

    Jul 3, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    The only game I got is a buck’n a quarter in. Learned wedges following my old man around the course when I was a kid. He played with his buddies & I chipped around. Of course you know how long ago that was when you could do stuff like that. I’ve found the better you get the more aggressive you tend to be. Being avg. at best off the tee means you have to make up for your game closer to the hole. Very good article and totally agree with Utley’s approach.

  5. PSG

    Jul 3, 2019 at 10:15 am

    If anybody wants to read something with some actual thought behind it (“you just have to hit a bunch and see what you can do”… seriously?!) you should read Stan Utley’s “The Short Game Building Blocks of the Six Basic Pars”. Its really good. He defines them as tight lie long, tight lie short, fluffy sand short, fluffy sand long, tight sand long, deep rough long. he further theorizes that hard sand short and deep rough short are so hard they are not basic.

    I want to like “The Wedge Guy”‘s stuff, I post about wedges a lot on the forums, but come on dude. “Full Swing, Pitch, Chip, Putt, Other”. Forty years of experience and that’s the insight you can give us?

  6. Ugh

    Jul 2, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    Once again, I wasted my time clicking on this article.

    • Scotty B

      Jul 2, 2019 at 9:51 pm

      You wasted everyone’s time who read your comment.

    • Terry Koehler

      Jul 3, 2019 at 10:16 am

      Hello “Ugh”,

      I am sorry you did not find this article interesting. Would you mind sending me an email — Terry@TheWedgeGuy.com — and sharing your thoughts about why, and your ideas for what I could write about that you would find more interesting? As I’ve said, I’m writing for a very broad audience, and not everyone will find every article interesting. I get that. But it would help me if you and others would send me ideas for topics you would like me to address down the road.
      Thanks.

      Wedge Guy

  7. BigD

    Jul 2, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Matt Kuchar is a big donkey.

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