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Opinion & Analysis

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, 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. 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

Breaking down The Challenge: Japan Skins—pros and cons for each player

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For the first time in over a decade, the PGA Tour will have a skins game event on its calendar, with Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, and Rory McIlroy participating in “The Challenge: Japan Skins.” With the abundance of star power in their foursome, here’s a quick look at why each of them may or may not walk away with the most skins at the end of their round.

Tiger Woods

PROS: The skins game system and exhibition match atmosphere will be a new experience for his competitors, but Woods has played in these types of events before. The excitement and pageantry from the event will be a familiar setting for him, and he may have an intimidation factor in his favor. The reigning Masters champion still can catch fire during a round, as well. For the 2018-19 PGA Tour season, his five-hole streak of scoring birdie or better during a single round was the longest such stretch among his fellow skins game participants. If he creates a similar streak on Monday, it may result in a profitable day on the course.

CONS: Tiger hasn’t played a competitive round in over two months, with his last start coming at the BMW Championship in mid-August. The competitive juices may take a while to get going, and coupled with his recent knee surgery, the rust on his game may be on full display.

Jason Day

PROS: With the skins game format rewarding aggressive play, Day will look to capitalize with his par-breaking ability. During the 2018-19 season, he made birdie or better on 22.9% of the holes he played. Additionally, he seems to like this time of the year; over the past couple of seasons, the Aussie has played very well in the month of October on the PGA Tour. In 2017 and 2018, his worst finish on the Asian swing of the schedule was T-11. He continued his good play in Asia with a T31 finish at The CJ Cup in South Korea this week.

CONS: While he a solid season on tour, it wasn’t to the same standard Day normally displays. He missed five cuts, the most times he missed weekend play since 2010. Prior to The CJ Cup, he missed the cut in two of his past four PGA Tour starts.

Hideki Matsuyama

PROS: Playing in his native Japan, Matsuyama looks to continue his great success in his home country. While he has enjoyed international success, he’s even better at home, with eight of his 14 professional wins coming in Japan. Additionally, Matsuyama can fill the scorecard with red numbers with the best of them. The Japanese star was third-best on the PGA Tour in total birdies during the 2018-19 campaign. His birdie barrages helped him finish tied-fifth for most sub-par rounds for the most recent season. Spurred on by his countrymen, the golfer representing the host nation will look to put on a show, and he has the firepower to do so.

CONS: The support of the crowd in Japan may be a double-edged sword, and the pressure to perform well may throw Matsuyama off his game. If the skins come to a putting contest, he will have the biggest challenge of all the competitors. His strokes-gained-putting statistic was the worst of all four competitors for the previous PGA Tour campaign.

Rory McIlroy

PROS: The reigning PGA Player of the Year may be the favorite on Monday. He played well throughout the season, with wins scattered throughout the calendar. His most recent play was hot, as he finished the campaign with a win at the Tour Championship. Among the leaders in nearly all the scoring categories, his competitors will have to be on top of their game to win skins from the Northern Irishman. McIlroy was the best on Tour in scoring average, helped by his making birdie or better on nearly 26% of all holes he played. His scoring average was even lower during later tee times, and with the finish to be set under floodlights, the bulk of the competition will occur during McIlroy’s favorite time of day.

CONS: Like Woods, this event will be McIlroy’s first since August. Not having played in nearly two months, coupled with this event being his first foray in an exhibition skins match, may be a disadvantage.

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Bogey Golf

Bogey Golf: Playing a round with pro

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Larry plays a round of golf with PGA Canada pro Evan Bowser. Evan teaches Larry a bunch of tips. We also discuss would you quit playing golf for 30 million dollars? and construct a Frankenstein’s monster to create the greatest golfer of all time.

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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The 19th Hole Episode 97: The one with Butch Harmon

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The great Butch Harmon is was honored at the 2019 Houston Open, and he shares his experiences from a lifetime of golf with host Michael Williams, including what’s in the bag for the greatest teacher ever. Also features PGA Tour winner Troy Merritt talking about wining despite adversity and his work with Galvin Green golf apparel.

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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