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Opinion & Analysis

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

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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, 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.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  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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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: How is the new PGA schedule looking? Gross golf bag cleaning story!

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The new PGA schedule is out and how will so much major golf look in the fall. What golf gear would you buy with your stimulus check if you could blow it all on golf? Knudson has a gross story about cleaning out a golf bag.

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

Tiger at the Masters: The 3 that got away

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This time last year, Tiger Woods earned his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters, breaking a 14-year drought at Augusta National and completing a storybook career comeback (see Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters WITB here).

Between his 2005 and 2019 victories, Woods gave himself several chances to reclaim the green jacket, but for one reason or another, the championship continuously eluded the 15-time major winner.

Looking back on that drought, three years in particular stick out in my mind where Woods (being the ruthless closer that he is) could, and maybe should, have capitalized on massive opportunities.

2007 Masters

A unique tournament broke out at the 2007 Masters with chilly and windy conditions meaning we would see an over-par score winning the event for the first time in a generation.

Unusually however was the fact that Tiger Woods had got himself into a fantastic position heading into the final day’s play—one stroke back of the lead and in the final group.

By the first hole on Sunday, Woods had a share of the lead. A couple of holes later, and he was the sole leader. But instead of the game’s greatest ever closer doing what he does best, we saw the first small chink in Tiger’s major armor.

Unable to keep up with the improved scoring on Sunday, Woods finished the championship two strokes behind Zach Johnson. It was the first time Woods lost a major in which he held the lead at some point in the final round.

11th hole Sunday. Woods saved par.

Summing up after the round why things hadn’t turned out the way the entire golf world expected, Woods said

“Looking back over the week I basically blew this tournament with two rounds where I had bogey, bogey finishes. That’s 4-over in two holes. The last two holes, you just can’t afford to do that and win major championships.”

2011 Masters

In one of the most exciting final rounds in Masters history, an electric front-nine charge from Woods coupled with a Rory McIlroy collapse saw the then 35-year-old tied for the lead heading into the back nine.

After back-to-back pars on the challenging 10th and 11th holes, Woods found the green on the 12th before it all slipped away. A disastrous three-putt was followed by a deflating five on the par-5 13th and an agonizing near-miss for birdie on 14.

In typical defiant fashion, Woods then flushed a long iron on the par-5 15th to give him five feet for eagle and what would have been the outright lead. But he couldn’t find the cup.

Directly following his round, a visibly miffed Woods said

“I should have shot an easy 3- or 4-under on the back nine and I only posted even. But I’m right there in the thick of it and a bunch of guys have a chance. We’ll see what happens.”

What happened was eventual champion Charl Schwartzel did what Woods said he should have done—shooting 4 under on the back to win his first major.

2013 Masters

Luck, or lack of, is a contentious topic when it comes to sports fans, but at the 2013 Masters, Woods’ shocking fate played out as if those on Mount Olympus were orchestrating the tournament.

Woods entered the 2013 Masters as the World Number One, brimming with confidence having won three out of his first five tournaments to start the year.

By Friday afternoon, Woods had cruised into a share of the lead, before crisply striking a wedge on the par-5 15th as he hunted for another birdie.

In a cruel twist of fate, Woods’ ball struck the pin and ricocheted back into the water. “Royally cheated!” shouted on-course announcer David Feherty. Nobody could argue otherwise.

A subsequent “bad drop” turned a probable birdie into a triple-bogey placing Woods behind the proverbial 8-ball for the rest of the tournament. The game’s ultimate closer should have been in the lead with two rounds to play on a front-runner’s paradise of a course; instead, he was in chase-mode. (From 1991-2012, 19 of the 22 winners came from the final group).

Woods tried to rally over the weekend, but if he didn’t think the 2013 Masters was ill-fated for himself by Friday evening, then he would have been excused to do so on the eighth hole on Saturday.

 

Had Woods’ golf ball missed the pin at 15 on that hot and humid Spring afternoon in 2013, then he not only wins, but he likely wins going away.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Power Leak No. 1: Your grip

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One of the things I like the best is when a friend or stranger asks me to take a look at their swing to see if I can help them. I never get into the “lesson” business, because that is the domain of our golf staff at the club. But I have spent a lifetime in this game, and have studied the golf swing pretty relentlessly. I also have been blessed with a pretty good eye.

So, the other day, I was out hitting some balls in the afternoon, and a good friend from the club asked if I’d take a look at where he is losing power. Darrell is a big guy and a good player, but not nearly as long as you would think he’d be. He plays with the “big dog” money game, which has a few really big hitters that can be quite intimidating.

I’ve played with Darrell enough to know exactly where his power leaks were, so when he came out to the range, I watched him hit a few and dropped the first one on him.

“It’s your grip!”

He, like so many amateur golfers, was holding the club too far out on the end, and much too high in his palms — not low in the fingers like you should. I’ve always been of the opinion that the grip is the most important fundamental in the entire golf swing. Without a solid and fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, the rest of the swing cannot function at its best. Hogan thought it was so important, he dedicated a whole chapter of “Five Lessons” to the subject.

You’ll see the occasional pretty good scorer at the club with a funky grip, but you never see a bad grip on tour. The golfer who has mastered a great grip is the most teachable there is.

In my opinion, the grip is only ‘personal’ to a small degree. Whether you like to overlap, interlock or use the full finger grip (not baseball)…whether you like to rotate your hands a little stronger or weaker . . . the fundamentals are the same, and they aren’t negotiable.

The club has to be in your fingers to allow the “lag” that builds power, and to allow or even force the optimum release of the club through impact. The last three fingers of the left hand have to control the club so that it can be pulled through the impact zone. The right hand hold is limited to the curling of the two middle fingers around the grip, and neither set of forefingers and thumbs should be engaged much at all. One of the best drills for any golfer is to hit balls with the right forefinger and thumb totally disengaged from the grip. Google “Hogan grip photos” and study them!!!!!!

So, with the changes in the grip I had Darrell make, he immediately began ripping drivers 15-20 yards further downrange than he had. The ball flight and even sound of the ball off the driver was more impressive. So we went out to play a few holes to see what happened.

Historically, Darrell is only 5-10 yards longer than me at best, and sometimes I outdrive him. But not anymore!! On those five holes we played late that afternoon, he consistently flew it out there 20-25 yards past my best drives.

And that made us both really happy!

Next Tuesday, I’ll talk about the second in this series on Power Leaks.

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