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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Just who are you guys? (survey results part 1)



Again, I want to thank all of you who took the time to participate in the first Wedge Guy/GolfWRX Survey. It was good for me to get a clearer picture of who you are and how you play the game so that I can do my best to be as relevant as possible with my articles. That said, you GolfWRXers do make up a diverse slice of the 25 million golfers in the U.S. (and a larger number counting the rest of the world).

So, let me direct today’s post to giving you some “high level” results from the survey to hold you while I dive into the nitty-gritty of cross-tabulating results to get more granular insights into this demanding audience.

Let’s start with who are you readers? The survey indicates the largest age group is 25-40, with 40 percent of the respondents. The second-largest age group was 41-55, with another 24.5 percent. But nearly 32 percent of you GolfWRXers are over 55. This diversity helps explain many more of the answers about how you play the game.

You represent all areas of the country nearly equally, with 20 percent of you residing outside the U.S.—a true international audience. Over half of you have been playing golf most of your life and only 20 percent have played less than ten years—a very experienced group, for sure.

You all are more proficient at the game than the golfer audience at large, which is reported to average scores of 90 or above. Only 13 percent of GolfWRX readers are in that category. From the survey, 12 percent of you score 75 or better, and another 37 percent 76-81. The largest group of you falls into the 82-90 scoring category. Kudos to you all for having that dedication.
And you are all very active players, with over half of you playing over 40 rounds per year. Only 13.5 percent play less than 20 rounds. That scoring proficiency is likely due to the fact that you tend to be active practice range visitors, with 43 percent saying you practice “Frequently” or “As often as I play”. Only 3.7 percent said they never practice.

In those practice sessions, the most time is spent on iron play, with chipping/ pitching/bunker play ranking just behind it. You spend the least time practicing with your fairways and hybrids, and putting ranked just ahead of driver practice.
It was a bit surprising to me that you seem to not be an overly competitive bunch (at least on the golf course), with 61 percent saying you rarely or never gamble on the golf course, and only 20 percent saying it’s a regular part of playing golf. Likewise, only 21 percent report being active tournament participants, and 24 percent saying they have no interest in tournaments at all. My takeaway is that you play golf for the sheer enjoyment of hitting quality golf shots more often.
So let’s now look at what you said about your equipment.

With regard to your drivers, 43 percent said you’ve played your current gamer less than a year, but 19 percent have played their current driver more than 3 years. You overwhelmingly favor that driver for its accuracy (61 percent) to its distance (37 percent). You were pretty equally divided in your preferred shot pattern between straight (31 percent), fade (26 percent) and draw (28 percent), but 14 percent said you like to be able to work the ball both ways. That was interesting, because 46 percent of you also said you would like to shape your ball flight better, hitting draws and fades more reliably.

Looking at your answers about your iron play rendered some interesting insights, in my opinion. For age of your irons, the answers followed the driver question pretty closely, with 24 percent playing their current irons less than a year, and 34 percent playing them more than 3 years. You are stronger players, with 39 percent reporting that a “comfortable” 6-iron distance is over 175 yards, and another 43 percent saying it was 155-175 yards. Where you would most like to improve your iron play was in distance control (46 percent) and hitting the “in between” shots more reliably (40 percent). Similar to the responses to the driver question, 33 percent said you would like to hit draws and fades more reliably.

Because I’m “The Wedge Guy”, I’m going to reserve diving into the wedge section of the survey until next week, where I can give you a deeper insight into your answers and my analysis of them.

I’ll close the analysis part of today’s article by sharing that your single most desired improvement was hitting more greens (28 percent), followed by hitting more fairways (19 percent) and improving your putting (15 percent). When asked what most determines your overall enjoyment of a round of golf, you ranked “Feeling good about the quality of most of my shots” first, followed closely by “shooting a good score” and “enjoying the people I played with.” Dead last was “winning my bets,” obviously because most of you don’t gamble much or at all.

But let me leave you with this one key thought derived from the survey. The majority said you wanted to control iron distance and hit the in-between-clubs shots better, and that you want to hit more greens and more fairways. Well, all of that comes from a having a controlled swing on your drives and your “typical” or “comfortable” iron shots. For us recreational golfers, that means throttling back the power.

In Ben Hogan’s first book “Power Golf,” he divulged his yardage chart for all his clubs, and while lofts and technology have changed dramatically since then, the key takeaway from this chart was that he listed the “maximum” distance for all his clubs—driver to irons—as 25-35 yards longer than his “regular” distance.

If you don’t have at least 10-15 yards “in reserve” from what you consider your “comfortable” distance with all your clubs, I suggest you learn to throttle back a bit to get there. You will find your accuracy off the tee and distance control with your irons to greatly improve, and you’ll have two options on those in-between shots—either crank up the shorter iron a bit or simply grip down on the longer club. Either one works, and you’ll have the option.

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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.



  1. A. Commoner

    Sep 11, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Perhaps the word tabulate would be more descriptive than the word analysis. I was a bit disappointed. No doubt the author can offer more than this.

  2. BigD

    Sep 11, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    Kdoooooooooooouche, kduoooooooooooche, kduoooooooooooche….

  3. Donkey Face

    Sep 10, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    Matt Kuchar is a big donkey.

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Opinion & Analysis

PGA Tour players on the rise and on the decline heading into 2020



At the end of each season, I compile data on every PGA Tour player and then analyze which players are on the rise and the decline for the upcoming season. There are a number of variables that are historically quality indicators of a golfer’s future performance such as age, club speed, adjusted scoring average, etc. I tend to focus on what I call The Cornerstones of the Game, however, and these Cornerstones include:

  • Driving effectiveness
  • Red zone play (approach shots from 175-225 yards)
  • Short game shots (from 10-20 yards)
  • Putting (5-15 feet)
  • Ball speed

All that is needed to execute the Cornerstones of the Game is for the player to be in the top half on the PGA Tour in each metric. That’s the beauty of the concept; a player does not need to be dominant in each metric. He can simply be average at each metric and it increases his likelihood of not only having a great season but recording a PGA Tour victory. I can then use the Cornerstones concept to more accurately project players on the rise for the following season.

This past season, there were 10 players that reached The 5 Cornerstones of the Game and they made an average of $4.7 million on the season. Given their success, I focused my analysis more on players that narrowly missed The 5 Cornerstones and their metrics to determine what players will be “on the rise.”

Players on the rise

*The following rankings are based out of 194 players

Joaquin Niemann

The young Chilean golfer reached every one of The 5 Cornerstones of the Game, but he made the least amount of FedEx points of any of the golfers that executed all of the Cornerstones.

This was due to Niemann’s early struggles with the putter. However, his putting improved significantly as the season went by.

The dotted black line in the chart represents Niemann’s trendline and that shows a strong upward trend in his putting performance.

Niemann ranked 107th in adjusted par-5 scoring average, and given his quality of ballstriking and distance off the tee, that should greatly improve. The projections are for him to win soon. If he can continue to improve his putting, particularly from 3-5 feet (he ranked 160th last season) he could be a multiple winner this upcoming season.

Sung Kang

Kang recorded his first victory at the Byron Nelson Championship but flew under the radar for most of the season. He also executed The 5 Cornerstones of the Game.

Back in 2017, Kang almost executed The 5 Cornerstones, but I was lukewarm to putting him on the list of Players on the Rise as the one cornerstone he failed to reach was red zone play, and that’s too important of a metric to miss out on.

Kang struggled in the 2018 season, but his red zone play greatly improved. In the meantime, his driving greatly suffered. He continued to struggle with his driving early in the 2019 season but made great strides right around the Byron Nelson and ended the season ranked 80th in driving effectiveness. Meanwhile, his red zone play has continued to be strong, and he’s a sound short game performer from 10-20 yards and putter from 5-15 feet.

While I am a little more on the fence with Kang, given his putrid performance from the yellow zone and generally inconsistent play, his putting suffered from ranking 181st on putts from 25-plus feet. That is more likely to move towards the mean and greatly improve his putts gained next season. He’s also 32 years old, which is a prime age for Tour players hit their peak performance of their career.

Sepp Straka

Straka had a good rookie campaign striking the ball and was a competent putter. The only Cornerstone that Straka failed to execute was short game shots from 10-20 yards. However, we can see that as the season went by Straka’s short game improved

That’s also recognizing that short game around the green has a weaker correlation to success on Tour than most of the other Cornerstones like driving, red zone play and putting from 5-15 feet.

Straka should improve greatly on par-5’s (104th last season). He made a lot of birdies last year (25th in adjusted birdie rate), but made a ton of bogeys (155th). These numbers project well at tournaments that are birdie fests like Palm Springs or courses that are relatively easy on shots around the green such as Harbour Town.

Sam Ryder

Ryder only missed The 5 Cornerstones with a poor performance from 10-20 yards. He’s an excellent putter and iron-play performer, and that is usually the parts of the game that the eventual winners perform best from.

Wyndham Clark


One of the new metrics I’ve created is called “power-to-putting.” This is a combination of the player’s putts gained ranking and their adjusted driving distance ranking. Earlier this year I wrote an article here about where exactly distance helps with a golfer’s game. In essence, the longer off the tee a golfer is the more likely they will have shorter length birdie putts on average. That’s why long hitters like Bubba Watson can make a lot of money despite putting poorly and why shorter hitters like Brian Gay have to putt well in order to be successful.

The “honey pot” is for a golfer that hits it long and putts well. This means they will sink a ton of birdie putts because they are having easier putts to make and they have the requisite putting skill to make them.

Clark finished first in power-to-putting (Rory McIlroy finished second). On top of that, he was an excellent performer from 10-20 yards which is usually the last step in a long ball hitter becoming an elite performer. Clark’s iron play was very poor and that downgrades his chances of winning on Tour. But, with his length, putting, and short game, he can very well get four days of decent approach shot play and win handily.

Players on the decline

Charley Hoffman

Hoffman ranked 64th in FedEx points but was 139th in adjusted scoring average. Most of Hoffman’s metrics were not very good, but he was a superb performer from the yellow and red zone. The other concerning part of Hoffman is his age: He is at the point of his career that player performance tends to drop-off the most. He only made two of his last seven cuts this past season with the best finish of T51 at The Open Championship.

J.B. Holmes

Holmes finished 166th in adjusted scoring average and was greatly helped by having a favorable schedule as he ranked 21st in purse size per event. The best thing Holmes has going for him is his distance off the tee. He also had a good season around the green that helps long hitters like Holmes when they hit foul balls off the tee.

After that, Holmes did not do much of anything well. He was 179th in adjusted missed fairway–other percentage (aka hitting foul balls off the tee) and his putting was horrendous and doesn’t appear to be bouncing back anytime soon.

Patton Kizzire

Kizzire only made two of his last 11 cuts last season, and it’s easy to see why with his ballstriking struggles. It also doesn’t help that he was poor from 10-20 yards. He’s one of the elite putters on Tour, but elite putting only helps a player so much in the big leagues.

Phil Mickelson

The biggest positive for Mickelson is his newfound power that he exhibited last year. He will also play a favorable schedule as he ranked 16th in purse size per event and has lifetime exempt status on Tour.

For fantasy golf owners, I would be averse to picking Mickelson in the short term. The question with Lefty is if his newfound distance caused him issues with his iron play, short game and putting, or if that is just a temporary slump that once he works thru those issues with his newfound speed, he may be winning tournaments again. But at his age, history is not in his favor.

Francesco Molinari

Molinari turns 37-years-old in November. There’s still plenty of years for good golf, but Molnari’s lack of power and routine struggles with the putter means that he needs to have impeccable driving and iron play in order to be competitive in big tournaments and the majors. Last season he was an average driver of the ball and he was below average from the red zone.

The positive for Molinari is that he has typically been an impeccable ballstriker, so the issues in 2019 may have been a one-time slump. And while he putted poorly, he putted well from 5-15 feet. He ranked 184th on putts from 15-25 feet and 157th on putts from 25-plus feet, and those are more likely to progress towards the mean over time and help his overall putting.

But, Molinari has never been a great putter, and at his age, it will be very difficult to keep up with his impeccable ballstriking to get back to the winner’s circle.

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Bogey Golf

Bogey Golf: Can a club fitting get you to hit longer drives?



Larry D interviews a club fitter and talks about his first club fitting. They go into detail about how the process can improve your game, even for higher handicap golfers.

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: Rory or Brooks?



Host Michael Williams breaks down the Player of the year controversy in a must-listen open, and we give you a perfect destination for Fall Golf! Guests include acclaimed golf writer Adam Schupak and Giants Ridge Director of golf John Kendall.

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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19th Hole