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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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Podcasts

Flatstick Focus: Interview with Garret Krynski of Geom Putters

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In Episode 7, we dive into Geom Putters and the story behind their work. Geom’s Founder Garret Krynski was kind enough to give us his time to help shed some light on the unique concepts that make Geom stand out.

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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Why haven’t you been fit?

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“Why haven’t you been fit?”

It’s a question I pose to most golfers when talking about equipment.

This conversation usually starts on the course after a few holes when playing with random golfers of varying skill levels. As someone who has worked for years as a fitter and club builder, it doesn’t take long to determine the likelihood that a golfer was fit for their clubs; seeing poor shot tendencies develop and a quick look into someone’s golf bag can put the puzzle pieces together pretty quickly.

I’m not out to shame or annoy people, rather, I’m here to try to help! Thanks to most golfers now having an adjustable driver, it can be as simple as a few quick clicks of a wrench to see improvements.

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons for not getting fit and see if we can help with your next equipment purchase.

“I’m not good enough”

This is the most common answer I hear when it comes to fitting, and if you are are in any way serious about getting the most enjoyment out of your time on the course, a simple fitting should be part of that. A basic level fitting includes: getting the right grip size and texture, length adjustment, lie adjustment, and shaft flex—including shaft material (graphite or steel). If you are a stronger player, then steel is generally the way to go. For players looking for extra speed or some shock absorption, graphite will provide the best option. At this level, it’s all about building a set that is going to provide the best opportunity to hit good shots more often.

“I always thought it was expensive”

The perception that a custom fitting is expensive has been drawn out for too long.  Depending on where you are purchasing clubs, many retailers wave the cost of the process when purchasing. This can even include clubs that are being bought off the rack and getting basic adjustments. NOTE: You should expect to pay for grips if you decide to get them changed.

On the other side of the coin, getting custom fit top-to-bottom with the latest and greatest from an appointment-only independent shop is an expensive process. You should expect to pay close to $500 for the fitting, which will be on top of the cost of any clubs.

“I only buy used clubs”

This statement hits home. I love hunting down used clubs. However, the idea that used clubs can’t be fit is seriously misconstrued and often stems from the fact that with online shopping, we can’t talk to a knowledgeable person face-to-face and clubs are sold as-is. Considering the often large cost savings of purchasing used clubs, for just a bit extra, you can make sure they are just right for you.

The first option is available before you even start looking for used clubs: book a professional fitting—generally between $75 – $100 per “piece” of equipment; irons, driver and woods,  etc.—and buy used based on those specs. Just be sure to let your fitter know in advance you are just looking for your specs and will buying used. This can be an intimidating thing to say, but you should know it is a common practice.

The second option is to buy based on the knowledge you have from what you may be using now and then take those clubs to a fitter and have them adjusted accordingly. Basic adjustments like lie and loft are around $5 per club, and the cost of grips varies depending on the models you are looking at. A more wholesale change like shafts can become more expensive, but you can mostly avoid that by taking some time to understand your needs before purchasing.

Everyone should have a set of clubs that allows them to get the most enjoyment from playing golf, and regardless of the avenue you take to purchasing your equipment, it doesn’t take much extra to make sure they are right for you.

 

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 112: Discover Golf in Puerto Rico!

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Host Michael Williams talks with J.P. Polo of Discover Puerto Rico about the return of the PGA Tour and the amazing golf experiences available every day. It also features Brooke Mackenzie of KJUS apparel. And Michael shares a personal story on the link between golf and health.

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