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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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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Fujikura, Johnny has a serious heart-to-heart with six-time Tour Winner and all-around legend Rocco Mediate. This is a must-listen! They talk gear, sobriety, the 2008 U.S. Open, and Rush.

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 Gear Dive WITB Edition: Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates talks Viktor Hovland

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In this WITB Edition of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates on the ins and outs of Puerto Rico Open Champion Viktor Hovland’s golf bag.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

They also cover Jim Wells Putters and the legendary Ping Eye 2 wedge.

Viktor Hovland WITB

Driver: Ping G410 LST (9 degrees @ 8.5; flat standard, CG shifter in draw)
Shaft: Project X HZURDUS Black 6.5 (44.5 inches, D3 swing weight)

3-wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees @ 14.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei Blue AV 85 TX

Irons: Callaway X Forged UT (21 degrees), Ping i210 (4-PW)
Shafts: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-85 X Hybrid (21), KBS Tour 120 X (4-PW)

  • Standard length, .5 degrees flat, D2+

Wedges: Ping Glide 3.0 (50-SS, 56-SS @ 55, 60-TS)

  • 50SS (35.25 inches, 1-degree flat, D3, “Half Moon” Grind)
  • 56SS (35 inches, 1.5-degree flat, D3+)
  • 60TS (34.75 inches, 2-degrees flat, D4)

Shafts: KBS Tour-V 130 X

Putter: Ping PLD Prototype “Hovi”

  • 36″, 20-degree lie, 2.5-degree loft, stepped shaft

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Golf Pride MCC White/Black 58R

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Realistic expectations

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(Today’s post is one I actually wrote nearly eight years ago, but I’m using it to start a series about “thinking your way to better golf.” I hope you enjoy the next few weeks.)

One of the great regrets of my life is that I missed the fatherhood experience, never having had children of my own. As I get older, I find that I gravitate to the younger folks, and offer my help whenever I can, whether on the golf course, on the water fishing, or just life in general. One of my joys is working with younger kids on their golf. That includes instruction, of course, but what I think is more important for them in the developmental stages is to learn to manage
their expectations. Actually, we all could benefit from that bit of advice.

On Sunday, I had the joy of playing with the 16-year-old son of one of our partners at SCOR Golf. Kyle is a tremendously talented young man who I’ve worked with quite a bit, but he really hasn’t committed himself to golf yet. I’m talking about the kind of commitment that keeps him working hard at it as long as there is daylight. He might not ever get that, and that’s OK, but he hasn’t figured out yet that your expectations can only rise from your achievements, and not from your desires.

On a core level, Kyle has great strength but hasn’t learned to harness it yet. He wants to choose his clubs based on his maximum distance with that club—if everything falls exactly into place. Like most golfers, and especially young ones,
he’s enamored with the power game. When we play, I show him that throttling back and controlling the shot is much more reliable.

What I discovered Sunday is that Kyle has very unrealistic expectations about what a round of golf should really be like. He, like most of us, expects all the shots to be struck solidly and fly like he imagined. So I explained that he hasn’t
earned the right to have such expectations yet. His scores average around 90-95 and his best ever is an 85.

So, here’s my point (finally)

Kyle was off to a good start with three pars and two bogeys in his first five holes. He kind of “fat-pulled” a 4-iron approach on a 200-plus yard par three. His shot left him only 10-15 yards short and left of the green, but he wheeled around, dropped his club and expressed his disgust with the shot. And I got on him about it. “What’s wrong with that? It’s a difficult par-3 with a 20 mph crosswind and you are in good position to get up and down or at least make no worse than bogey on one of the hardest holes on the course.”

I went on to explain that he was only two pars away from tying his best round ever, and if he just played for bogeys – and stay excited—he would probably make twice that many or more. And I seemed to get through to him of the reality
of golf, or his golf at least. He stayed in the moment, with only a little more cajoling from me, and shot an 86—one shot off his best ever! And I MADE him congratulate himself on his accomplishments. Instead of focusing on those few
shots that were bad, and the 2-3 doubles he made, I told him to focus on the good that came out of that round.

So, here’s my point (or points) for managing your expectations, too.

  1. If you are a low single-digit player, you’ll still only hit 2-3 shots a round just like you wanted.
  2. If you play to a 12 or higher, any shot that keeps you in the game isn’t really all that bad.
  3. Regardless of your skill level, there is no such thing as a “birdie hole” when you are standing on the tee. A “birdie hole” can only be claimed when you have executed an approach to makeable putt range.
  4. If you are a 12-15 handicap player, you only need to make 3-6 pars to beat your handicap, as long as you don’t chop up any holes. Bogeys are good scores unless you regularly shoot in the 70s!

So, the next time you are on the golf course, try to set and manage realistic expectations. Your golf will be better for it, and you’ll have a ton more fun.

NOTE: I read a great article this morning by Geoff Ogilvy about the quality of golf being played on the PGA Tour. It reflects what I’ve often said about how the modern tour professional plays the game. Here it is.

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