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The Wedge Guy: Is wind golf’s toughest challenge?

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We all know this fascinating game we play can throw a wide variety of challenges at you, from trees to rough, to sand, to fast greens, narrow fairways…well, you get the picture. But maybe the toughest challenge of all is wind. And those who play in Texas, Florida, and other breezy places get more than their share of it.

Even on the PGA Tour, you typically do not see the super-low scoring when the wind picks up. Like many of the players said after the massacre at Medinah a couple of weeks ago, length doesn’t phase them anymore. Give them soft greens and it doesn’t matter how long the course is playing. But toss in a nice breeze of 15-20 mph or more, and that low scoring just doesn’t happen, does it?

There is even an old Scottish saying that goes something like: “If there be nay wind, there be nay golf.” A stout wind changes the game tremendously.

Having spent my whole life in Texas, playing in the wind is just as much a part of golf as grass. It is almost always blowing from one direction or another, and learning how to maneuver a small, light white ball through that wind adds a whole new dimension to the game. The two keys, of course, are to control trajectory and spin.

I will admit that the ball gurus have helped a lot with the newer golf balls, which spin a great deal less than our old balata balls that I learned with. That cuts down on both backspin and sidespin, which, in turn, makes hitting better golf shots into the wind or with crosswinds much easier.

But I’m finding that as the club manufacturers deal with that lower-spinning ball, they are producing clubs–from drivers to irons–that launch the ball a great deal higher than before. And to me at least, that makes filling in your set a much more challenging process.

I still prefer single-piece forged blade irons, as they allow you to have more control over trajectory in my opinion. (That’s why the majority of the best iron players on tour still play them as well). I watch friends fight the wind with their perimeter-weighted irons that were designed to put the ball as high into the air as possible. That’s what the designers were striving for, so it’s hard to fight all the science they have built into these new iron designs. I’ve gamed my irons for five years now—I designed them to be forgiving, while still allowing me a high degree of trajectory control.

Likewise for my driver—a prototype that never made it to production because of its small size (410 cc) and the fact that it was [maybe] not quite as “forgiving” as bigger designs. But it allows me to have a tremendous amount of trajectory control as well as the ability to work the ball in both directions off the tee, which is how I like to play the game.

However, my recent experience of trying to find the perfect fairway wood has been baffling and frustrating. As I’ve written, I’m a big fan of the 4-wood, and have had several I just loved—but I thought I would see about “upgrading” to one of the newer models that claim to be longer. I’ve tried several and all are long and solid, but they launch the ball so high, I cannot find a way to get the low, boring shot into the wind out of them. Comparing 17-degree models to one another, they all seem the same–long and high.

So, I have been forced to get creative with filling that gap in my set. And my solution was an early generation Sonartec NP-99 3-wood at 15 degrees (eBay: $45!), which I cut down to 42.5” in length. I can hit it high when I want, and have no problem hitting “stingers” or other lower-trajectory shots when called for into a stiff breeze.

All this to say you can still get creative when putting your set together to allow you to play the game the way you want.

Teasers from our survey

The GolfWRX editors and I thank you all who persevered our tech glitch and completed our survey. As we near 1,000 completed, the insight you all have provided will give us some deeper understanding of you and your games so that we can do our best to be more relevant to you going forward. I have a lot of work ahead of me to analyze and cross-tabulate your answers, but I will begin sharing insight you have given in the weeks ahead.

I can share that overall there were surprises, along with things we had pretty much figured out.

  • The GolfWRX readers skew a bit younger than the golfer population at large. This is no surprise as the younger generations are much more engaged on forums like this in any discipline.
  • The GolfWRX readers play much more golf than the golf population at large. Again, no surprise as you all are expressing your much deeper relationship with the game.
  • Likewise, GolfWRXers average lower scores than the general golfer population, again as we suspected.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to devote a portion of each blog article to sharing deeper insight into what we learned from you all. I think you will find this very interesting, so stay tuned.

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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.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Al

    Sep 4, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    The main point of Terry’s analysis is that if some have their way, weight would be taken out of the ball because the Pros hit it so far. If this insanity ever wins out, every one of the dissenting views of this article would completely evaporate..

  2. Chimchim

    Sep 4, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Wind is the hardest to play in, for sure. As much as I try, inevitably, the wind gets into my head at some point in the round – with not good results. No other condition does that. I will agree that inconsistent greens will impact putting, but I will take my chances once I am there.

    I have a couple of the sonartec np woods. they are /were nice. I just get more distance out of my current 3 wood and hit hybrids for the “5 wood”.

  3. gwelfgulfer

    Sep 3, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    The gap between the ears is the toughest challenge… How many million dollar swings are there out there with $2 brains…

  4. drkviol801

    Sep 3, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    A solidly struck ball won’t move much in the wind, y’all are just hacks.

    • drkviol801

      Sep 3, 2019 at 8:25 pm

      *Wont move much in crosswind when compressed, into and with the wind are fairly easy to judge…

  5. James

    Sep 3, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    So which would you rather: 30 mph wind or 20 yd wide fairways with 4 inch rough? I’ll take the wind.

  6. Alex

    Sep 3, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Heavy Wind is the hardest challenge in golf hands down imo. 12/15 mph is fine and a lot of courses are actually designed for it. Usually a south wind that longer holes play into that almost need the wind for it to play correctly. When it gets up around 30 that’s when it’s a curve ball. 12-15 is usually steady when it’s 30 you’ll get gusts in the 40s or it’ll swirl on you and wreck your yardage control. Gimmick pins are 2nd. When I say gimmick pins I mean holes that you’d rather be 20 feet below than 4 feet above. None of us are good enough to be upset hitting it to 4 feet and a bad hole location that doesn’t reward a good shot will make you want to walk off the course and scream at the superintendent. Pga tour guys have that game. I’’m gonna be extremely pissed off if I stuff a par 3 or approach on par 4 to have a defensive don’t make a bogey putt from inside 6 feet.

    • Ryan

      Sep 4, 2019 at 10:11 am

      I was playing with a group here in Texas one windy summer morning. We were on 17, which was a par 3. It was playing into the wind and although short, it was still a middle iron to long iron for a shorter hitter. Guy hit a great shot to 3 feet. I turned and said, “great shot, good luck with that putt though”. It was a full on gimmick pin. He barely tapped the putt, it missed the hole and went 10 feet by. He then missed the next one, for a nice little bogey. Thought he was going to strangle the super. He went in the clubhouse looking for the guy but didn’t find him. He gave them an ear full about the pin location. In his defense, it was a ridiculous pin. The flag was nearly at an angle.

  7. ChipNRun

    Sep 3, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Wind is a factor, but not the biggest challenge for everyday golfers. For us average WRXers, I would say inconsistent course manicure is the biggest challenge.

    I played a tournament at a former country club that became a decent municipal course. Only problem – whether the rough got mowed the day before can make for a 2- to 4-stroke swing in scores. I mean, the “first cut” gets ankle deep really fast.

    Two of the par 5 holes are notorious. No. 3 runs along the north edge of the course. It’s blind tee shot, and anything move than a foot into the left rough can end up being a lost ball. Same problem on No. 16 – a crowned fairway runs along the south edge of the course, and anything that bounces left seemingly leaves the planet.

    As far as wind goes, around 35 MPH gets touchy – but I prefer not to play in such weather. Call me crazy, but in persimmon-headed driver days a player was expected to be able to handle the wind. For a head wind, tee the ball low, or punch up a tuft of grass about an inch to keep the ball low and hot. Last time I checked, the wind blows on everyone. Time of day can matter if the wind gets stronger in AM or PM – but that’s golf.

    Being this is the Wedge Guy’s column, let’s talk cross winds. Inside 70 yards, if I’m facing a crosswind with an open green front, I may take 7i punch-and-run to keep the ball low.

    For full iron shots, the iron designers suggest taking an extra club or two into a headwind rather than trying for an unpracticed knock-down. If it’s a cross wind, you can work it or fight it. One of my favorite shots in golf is an iron shot draw back against a left-to right crosswind.

    Learning to handle the wind is part of GOLF. Learning to handle jungle rough… well, sometimes it can’t be handled.

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Why we play golf

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I played golf the other day with friends. COVID-19 restrictions, but we got out. They will attest that I stunk, but that isn’t news or the basis for this piece.

Normally that kind of golfing experience has me in borderline depression searching for a swing change that I know will allow me to play at my fantasy level. What was remarkably different was the pleasure. Being outside, sunshine, fresh air, joking with friends, enduring the glares from my partner. It was four hours that were singular in their positivity made more so by the daily media barrage of doom and being essentially quarantined for all other activities.

To start, one of the great things about golf is when you play, it requires total concentration—world events, personal issues are put on hold. You see, golf isn’t fun, it’s hard and that element is what brings us joy no matter how small our victories.

I’ve played the game for some 70 years and studied it for 40, working in the industry. One of my favorite exercises over the years has been to ask someone who played recently to describe their best shot of their previous round. Immediate answers flow accompanied by a smile or whimsical expression. Whether it’s a tee shot, a chip, putt, it’s a moment of slaying the dragon. And this is golf. Not an 18 or even 9-hole score—one shot, immediate recall and the reason to play again.

We find ourselves today bordering on panic—daily feeds from the media, warning us, frightening us. For those who play the game, it is a needed respite. There have been some articles, and I’m sure more coming, about what will happen in the distant morning. Massive unemployment, lost wages, and crashing investment portfolios, a small sample. Sadly, the media is going to have bad news to emphasize for months to come and there is no question that some of the collateral damage will be human lives and financial well-being.

It’s easy to sit and critique humans making decisions. But when asked the question about affecting lives now or in the future, it’s way more complex. Political expediency focuses on the now knowing there will be a pivot down the road.

What does all this have to do with golf? The game provides an instant middle ground. People can have four hours in the sun and fresh air and the difficulty involved forces them to temporarily shelve daily tribulations. Even with reduced course services as a precaution, just the chance to go to bed at night knowing the weather looks great and you can escape to the course for a few hours…it’s something that brightens one’s outlook.

So, I’m championing the playing of golf, while accepting various related restrictions. I’m championing a few hours where we can forget the drama, the panic, and get our butts kicked by a little white ball. And when done, we’ll make arrangements to play again.

Oh yes, now that the internet is overflowing with tips from golf teaching experts, I really need to play, because I have this new move that is guaranteed, guaranteed, to produce 12 more yards off the tee. You see, it all has to do with the position of the shaft vs. the left knee and…

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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