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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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Opinion & Analysis

A road trip to St. Andrews

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In 2017, my son Brian and his wife Lauren, proposed a family trip to Scotland. Both of them have traveled a surprising amount for a couple barely 30 years old, but for us it would be a huge trip. We couldn’t get it scheduled for 2018 but everything lined up for October, 2019, a trip that might even include playing the Old Course in St. Andrews, if we got lucky. The amazing Lauren made all the arrangements, beginning with multiple email exchanges with the staff at the Old Course, who were extremely gracious and encouraging in their communications.

Unlike most other courses, in order to play the Old Course, you have three options: One is to book a very expensive trip through a travel broker who will guarantee a tee time. This is the only way to make your arrangements in advance, but you’re paying thousands for the package, which would include at least three other days of golf. Sounds great but above our budget. Secondly, you can take a real gamble and just show up at the starter’s window the day you are hoping to play, and get in line as early as 3 a.m., put your name on the list and then wait, maybe all day, maybe hopelessly. It’s no way to budget an entire day on your vacation. The third way is to use what is called the “ballot system,” submitting your request for a tee time via email to standrews.com, 48 hours ahead and hopefully getting a spot.

Now, it’s not as grim a prospect as it may sound for planning to play golf in St. Andrews. The above only applies to getting onto the Old Course. We were able to make a tee time for the Jubilee Course, one of six other courses (Jubilee, Castle, New Course, Eden, Strathtyrum, and Balgove), all part of the St. Andrews Links complex, “The Home of Golf” as their brochure proclaims. Since we were scheduling our trip for the tail-end of the golf season, the gentleman from St. Andrews wrote that he was cautiously optimistic we would be successful using the ballot system.

This wasn’t just a golfing vacation, the five us had an outstanding time touring the west coast of Scotland, including the Oban Whisky distillery, the Harry Potter train in Glencoe, Ben Nevis—the highest peak in the UK, Fort William, and the spectacular Highlands, the town of St. Andrews, and finally the marvelous city of Edinburgh. We ended up spending one night in St. Andrews, at The Saint, a lovely four-room hotel, a 10-minute walk from the Old Course. That evening, walking down cobblestone streets, with the R&A clubhouse coming into view, was like walking in a dream.

Our day started out by driving directly to the new Links Clubhouse, which has wonderful views of the courses from the restaurant. We had lunch, and I must admit to being a bit nervous over my chicken bacon mayo sandwich. We’d parked our bags in the locker room down below, it’s just what you’d expect in terms of world-class accommodations and feel. I could just imagine the pros suiting up there as they prepare to play in The Open.

Our day of golf at the Jubilee Course was spectacular, although it got off to a rainy start, but the weather cleared by the fourth hole. Mary, Jill, and Lauren formed our gallery as we teed off, then they went for a walk around the lovely town. I parred the first hole and told Brian that made my entire trip to Scotland. I was on fire, shooting 42 on the front nine but hitting only three fairways and two greens in regulation. Brian shot 45. We’d decided on match play, and I was up by three on the 11th hole. Brian then said the fateful words, “You haven’t hit into a pot bunker all day!” Which I promptly did. My game immediately tanked while he proceeded to make a total of nine pars, shooting 42 on the back, and won the match 2 & 1. Our gallery re-appeared on the 17th hole, the sun was shining, and we were in golf heaven! We ended the day with a pint at the famous Dunvegan Pub by the R&A clubhouse.

Earlier in the day, Brian had received an email from St. Andrews, unfortunately stating that we had not been selected for the ballot to play on the Old Course the next day. He resubmitted our request for the following day with fingers crossed. We headed to our next stop, Edinburgh, looking forward to exploring this ancient yet cosmopolitan city. During our walking tour, Brian received the email notification that we’d scored an 11 a.m. tee time on the Old Course for Friday. He and I would be making a road trip back north while the ladies spent the day in Edinburgh.

It was about an hour ride back to St. Andrews but traffic was quite manageable and we arrived at 9:30, plenty of time for breakfast at the Links Clubhouse. I felt that anticipatory excitement I always have right before marshaling at a big event, like a U.S. Open, where the atmosphere of the place is nearly overwhelming. Not really nervousness, but we were about to play the Old Course! Isn’t that every golfer’s dream? To say Brian was wound up tight would be an understatement, he could barely choke down half a scone. The walk over toward the starters shack, where we would meet our caddies, with the R&A clubhouse right there at the first tee was unreal.

The clerk was so gracious, taking our 130 Scottish pounds green fee (about $160), and handing us a very nice valuables pouch complete with an amazingly detailed yardage book, tees, pencils, divot tool, and scorecard. We were then approached by our two caddies, who between them had nearly 30 years of caddying experience. I got John, whose personality was perfect for me, quiet, calm, not too chatty, yet personable. Brian’s guy, Steve was just right for him as well, right from central casting with a thick Scottish brogue. He instantly bonded with Brian to become his playing partner/coach, which was just what he needed to get over the first tee jitters.

The starter, Richard, approached us as we made our way over to the first tee, greeting us much like you see them do at the start of the Open Championship. He made our presence there seem extra special, despite the fact he’d probably done the same routine 10 thousand times. He even took our picture. We were then introduced to our two other playing partners, both former members of the course, so they didn’t need caddies to show them the way. These guys were hilarious, self-deprecating, with brogues so thick I could understand maybe one word in three, not the best golfers by any stretch, which was somehow quite reassuring and certainly less intimidating. Brian proved to be the best golfer in our foursome by far although he had a rough start, hitting his drive into the Swilcan Burn.

I was really calm on the tee, it helped that there were very few spectators as it was drizzling and maybe 50 degrees. John told me where to aim, (“at that gorse bush off in the distance”) and I was able to do exactly that. As we walked off the first tee Steve said “now you can all breathe again!” I found having a caddy to be such a wonderful added dimension to this whole experience—not just as a guide to point out where in the world I should be aiming on this alien golf layout, but also to set an expectation for me on each shot which I then tried my best to fulfill. The greens weren’t too scary as I felt used to the speeds having played Jubilee, but having John read the subtle breaks and provide aiming points was terrific.

I played bogey golf through the first 12 holes but the rain only intensified and despite John’s best effort to keep things dry, the final 6 holes were a mess. Brian was one up on our match at the turn, then went on to win decisively at 5 up, with a total for the day of 5 pars and a birdie, including par on 17, the famous Road Hole. As the day went on, we found ourselves saying over and over to each other, what a wonderful experience this was despite the conditions. Steve took the traditional picture of us on the Swilcan Bridge, on our way to finishing on 18, which Brian almost parred. He later said he had such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, having conquered the Old Course.

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Podcasts

TG2: Brooks and Peter Kostis rip Patrick Reed

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Brooks Koepka and Peter Kostis both talk about Patrick Reed and his cheating allegations. Brooks was on SiriusXM and Kostis on No Laying Up don’t hold back their feelings on cheating. Kostis also has some PGA Tour beef, saying that they don’t care about the television broadcast.

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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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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