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The Wedge Guy: Scoring Series Part 6: Trouble shots

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So here we are with the last part of this series on scoring range performance. I hope most of you have enjoyed this adventure into the part of the game that makes or breaks your rounds, most of the time. That is always my goal with this blog–to leave most of you with at least one tidbit of help that you can immediately incorporate into your game right away.

This last piece of the series is probably the hardest one to write about, as we can get presented with a practically endless variety of shots that fall outside the norm of “routine” irons shots, wedge shots, pitches, chips, and putts. That’s what makes this crazy game so baffling, frustrating, and alluring all at the same time.

So, it is an inevitable matter of fact that we are going to face shots every round that don’t fall into those normal situations. The good news is that I believe each one of those will require some variation on the basics of chipping, pitching or putting that we work on during every round. So, let’s dive into some of those situations.

Bunkers. I’m not going to try to explore bunker techniques here, as that is a subject to itself, on which thousands of words have been written and hours of video have been produced. I believe it is a good routine (if you have the opportunity) to hit a few bunker shots before you go to the golf course for each round, as bunker shots can help set the pace and tempo routine of your swing for the entire round. I will also offer that becoming proficient from the bunkers requires a combination of the right bounce in your wedges for the sand you face, and a technique that you trust, so that you can make confident swings. And practice—lots of practice—is just unavoidable if you want to become a proficient bunker player.

Odd lies. We are going to face uphill, downhill and a variety of sidehill lies around the greens—that’s just a fact. To me, the first challenge of these shots is to not let the lie distort your alignment and ball position, which it will most certainly do. So, when you are faced with one of these shots, spend a bit more attention and focus on your set up alignment and posture and the ball position that is being “forced” on you by the lie. In general terms, an uphill lie will cause you to put the ball a bit further forward, and a downhill lie will place it further back. The key is to have the ball in the right relation to your body core, not your feet, as that will determine the bottom of the swing arc. Generally speaking, your downhill foot will be further from the ball than with a level shot, the body’s way of achieving balance. Likewise, sidehill lies will generally distort your aim right if the ball is above your feet and left if it is below. Again, these are generalities, but pretty common distortions.

Low runners. When you find yourself unable to hit a lofted pitch, you have to resort to the low running shot, one that we probably do not practice much, if at all. Because of that, I believe the best solution is to let the club do the work of keeping the ball low and running, and do not try to “invent” some technique that you have not practiced. It is amazing how simple it is to put a 5-iron in your hand instead of a wedge and then just execute a basic pitch or chip swing with the ball a bit further back to keep the ball low and running.

High lob shots. There are times when you simply have to get the ball up quickly and hopefully have it stop equally quickly. Again, I am always in favor of simplicity to hit the out-of-the-ordinary shots, and the simple way to get the ball up quicker and stopping shorter is to take a club with more loft than you would choose otherwise, and execute your familiar confident technique. And you can always add even more loft by opening the face a bit, but be sure to aim further left (for right-handed players) when you do this.

Practice these shots. I know that is a boring idea, but you cannot expect to be able to execute shots you have not practiced. You probably go to the range to hit a few balls to warm up before a round, even if you are not a “range rat” that loves to practice. If so, I promote ending each pre-round session with a dozen or so chips and pitches to work on your tempo and execution. If you can, even give yourself some tougher shots to practice.

A very wise teaching pro once told me that if you end your warm-up session with some chips or pitches, then the first one you face in the round will allow you to draw on very recent “muscle memory.” It also helps to slow down your tempo from the drivers you probably were just smashing in anticipation of the opening tee shot. I’ve followed that advice since I heard that from him.

So, that concludes my high-level dive into scoring range performance. I hope you all got at least a few things out of these past six weeks that will help you improve your enjoyment and scoring on the course. If you have ideas or questions about things related to scoring or the tools we choose to play this crazy game, please drop me an email at Terry@TheWedgeGuy.com.

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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.

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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Urban Golf Performance owner Mac Todd

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Fujikura, Johnny chats again with his old pal Mac Todd Owner and Operator of Urban Golf Performance in Los Angeles. They cover the growth of the business, what the new Club member experience may look like and much much more.

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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Podcasts

The Gear Dive WITB Edition: Adam Scott

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In this WITB edition of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with JJ VanWezenbeeck and Aaron Dill of Titleist Golf on the ins and outs of Genesis Invitational Champion Adam Scott’s setup.

Adam Scott WITB details below

Driver: Titleist TS4 (10.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting, 2-gram weight)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 X

  • Scott put the Kuro Kage in play this week. Per Titleist’s J.J. VanWezenbeeck, “Adam Scott switched to the TS4 driver at the ZoZo Championship due to head size, shape, and improved launch to spin ratios. This week, after discussions with Adam, he went to a shaft he had previously played for increased stability. He felt the shaft went a little far and he lost head feel. We went on course with lead tape to get the feels to match up then weighted the head to preferred swing weight after testing.”

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (16.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Rombax P95 X

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (3-iron), Titleist 680 (4-9 irons)
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (48.08F, 52.08F, 56.10S), Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (60.06K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Xperimental Prototype Rev X11 (long)

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Scott marks his ball with dots in the pattern of the Southern Cross, which is featured on the Australian flag.

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

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