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.
The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Tour Operations Manager Lance Vinson Part 1 of 2
In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with TrackMans Lance Vinson on an all things TrackMan and its presence on Tour. It’s such a deep dive that they needed two shows to cover it all.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
An open letter to golf
I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.
It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.
On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.
This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.
As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.
I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.
When you are able to return in full, I will be here.
Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)
The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact
One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.
As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.
I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.
So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.
So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.
I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.
I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.
If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.
[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]
It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.
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