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The Wedge Guy: Golf by the numbers

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I’ve long expressed my opinion that the numbers on irons don’t mean much, because there are no standards for what loft and length a 9-iron should be, or what the specs on a 5-iron should be, etc. That’s why when I re-introduced Ben Hogan to the equipment industry, our irons were all marked with their actual lofts, and we went against the grain in length and loft progressions through the set. There was a method to that “madness.”

Every year, the entire industry seems to advertise their new irons as being longer than the other guys’. First, we saw that being achieved by simply strengthening lofts, which took “P-clubs” down to 44-45 degrees, a far cry from a true pitching wedge. More recently, we have seen the manufacturers widen the loft gaps between short irons to five degrees from the traditional four, allowing the 6-irons, and then the 7-irons to get ever stronger (because that’s what they have at demo days, and you certainly cannot afford for your 7-iron to be shorter than the competition’s).

Before I created the “every loft” concept for the SCOR wedges and then the Ben Hogan FT. Worth irons, I came up with an idea I call “Golf By The Numbers”. So here’s the premise.

No matter how long or short you are, the game can be dissected down to a series of shots of a given distance in order to hit fairways and greens. Regardless of what club you might have in your hand from 135, let’s say, you need to know how to hit the ball precisely that distance, right? And there are no “bonus points” for doing it with a club that has a “P” on the bottom, rather than one with an “9”. And no penalty if it has an “8” or even “7”. If you can hit it the prescribed distance, you can play pretty good golf.

Regardless of what brand and model of irons you want to play, you can build your optimum set of clubs by first creating your own “Personal Distance Chart”. In any round of golf, you will find yourself with no less than 18 approach shots of many different distances to the desired landing area, whether that is the flag or a spot on the green where you have more room for error or a desired landing area short of the green on a par-five or long par four.

To play your best golf, you need to know which club to pull to hit the ball any of those given distances. My premise is that you need a club in your bag to produce—with a normal full swing—the following carry distance

  • 75-80 yards
  • 85-90 yards
  • 95-100 yards
  • 105-110 yards
  • 120-125 yards
  • 135-140 yards
  • 150-155 yards
  • 165-170 yards
  • 180-185 yards
  • 200-205 yards
  • 220-225 yards
  • 225+ yards
  • Driver

That would give you 13 clubs, plus your putter, and fill out your bag.

You’ll notice that I have suggested 10-yard gaps in the shorter ranges, 15 yards in the middle, and 20-yard gaps at the longer end of the set. The reason for that is simple. When you are 85 yards from the hole, your target is smaller. You want the ball close to the hole to save par or make birdie. The ten-yard gap only leaves you 15 feet long or short, which is a makeable putt. At the long end of the set, however, when you find yourself over 180 yards to the target, you generally have a bigger target area and relaxed expectation for distance precision. Being 30-35 feet long or short of the target is generally quite good. And in the middle, 15-20 feet long or short is totally workable. And you can always simply grip down on any club by 1/2 to 3/4 inch and cut those distance gaps in half, giving you all the precision you need.

I’ll grant you that you can tweak these numbers a bit, maybe five yards this way or that, to suit your own game, but if you have big gaps at the short end, and small gaps at the long end, maybe you should look into tweaking your iron specs, removing/adding a club or two, to get the precision better golf requires.

This will give you all something to think about—and sound off about. I’m looking forward to that, as I always do.

 

* * *
I’ve heard from many of you that you want to be “in the know” when I make the big announcement in the coming weeks. Again, if you want to be invited to have a sneak peek at what I will be unveiling in January, please send me an email to Terry@TheWedgeGuy.com, and I’ll put you on the special invitation list. I promise this is going to be exciting.

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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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. jamho3

    Nov 6, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Good ism’ TK back on your horse. Let’s go!

  2. Jake Peters

    Nov 6, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    Did you not lead Ben Hogan brand to bankruptcy?

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Callaway Golf Tour Rep Simon Wood

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny sits down with Callaway Golf Tour Rep Simon Wood on MD5, his Top 3 Callaway wedges of all time and the excitement of launching Jaws on Tour.

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 Wedge Guy: Birdie holes and other myths

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I am an ardent observer of self-destructive things I see golfers do and hear golfers say, and one that really gets me is when I hear someone stand on the tee and proclaim, “This is a birdie hole.”
Really? How do you know when you haven’t even hit your drive yet, much less your approach? If you’re a 12 handicap, let’s say, there are really only 5-6 “par” holes out here; how can you think this one is a “birdie hole”?

This game is tough, and making birdies is the toughest achievement out there. Very few are made without hitting two better-than-average shots, or at least one remarkable one, whether the approach or the putt. Think about that for a minute. You could be a scratch golfer and never make one! Eighteen pars and a bogey or or two will get you to scratch on most courses. If you are an 8 handicap, that means you average about 82 or so, which equates to 8 pars and 10 bogeys in a round – what are you doing thinking about making a birdie at all, much less while on the tee?

My advice is that if you are a 10 handicap or higher, your singular thought on the tee should be to not make a double or higher. Chances are you don’t hit the driver 280-plus and you don’t hit even half the fairways. If you track your rounds, I’d bet you will find a high relativity of drives out of the fairway to doubles (or worse) put on the scorecard.

So let’s assume you got off the tee well, now what? When you face your approach shot, my advice is to figure out which side of the green gives you the best chance of getting up and down and the least odds of facing a short-side difficult pitch. And there’s never anything wrong with targeting the fat middle of the green, regardless of where the pin is located. On most courses, a ball in the dead center of the green will give you a half dozen or more reasonable putts, and the rest will not be overly long or difficult. The next round you play, just stand in the middle of the green after you are done and survey the putt that ball position would have given you.

Here’s another interesting and enlightening drill for you if you find yourself out for a day of learning on the golf course. On each hole, after your drive and approach, play a second ball from the “safe” side of the green, just as if you had missed your approach to this safe side. Then hit a pitch or chip and putt it out. Keep that score on along with the score you actually made and see how you come out.

I’ve been blessed to have played to a low handicap my whole life, and I am an entrepreneur…but I really do not have a gambler personality. On the golf course, I want to have fun, and I’ve learned that trying to save pars from the short side really doesn’t deliver that. If I’m tuned in to my game, I play the safe side of fairways off the tee and the safe side of the hole with my approaches. I make my share of birdies, and keep big numbers and bogeys on short holes to a minimum by taking this approach.

Of course, I find a 73 or 74 with only one or two birdies more fun than a 78 with 3 or 4. You might not.

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Opinion & Analysis

Requiem for a push cart

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I can’t believe it’s over. In the last four years, you have been with me for 3,686 holes. But I understand you are just too tired to go on. Your break is busted. Your wheels rattle. It’s time for you to retire, I understand, but it makes me sad nonetheless; Hogan, my trusted push cart.

It is hard to believe that was 4 years ago! Oh, how the time has passed! How many great memories we have! Hundreds of rounds and thousands of miles. Our amazing travels, playing with great friends, meeting new people, and of course love! I will never forget the first time you meet Mary ClickGear. The way she rolled up, four wheels, wearing that beautiful pink trimmed outfit. How your umbrella all of a sudden burst open and how embarrassed you were. HA! It was amazing, my friend, and I am so glad we got to share the moments together.

There were also the bad times: my struggles with putting yips, then chipping yips, then putting and chipping yips together. Yet through it, you stood resolute beside me.

I also remember your dark times, like when you got called “overweight” at the airport or shortly after how you tried to thrust yourself in a lake (destroying my brand new rangefinder). In these times, I tried to be a source of strength for you and show you how much our time together meant to me.

What I will remember most is your enduring love. During the past four years, many have come and gone (including the M5 irons, the Ping G500 irons, Apex irons, a Ping putter, an Odyssey putter, a long putter, belly putter, three Scotty Camerons, and another Ping putter) but through good and bad, there was one thing I could count on: you. Always steads. Quick to hold my drink or my umbrella. Never judging when I took time for ball-hawking. Always down for a walk, regardless of the weather! A true friend!

That’s why yesterday, our last round together, was so special. I know you were hurting, that right wheel barely holding on and the lingering joint pain, but you never complained. Until the end; you were there for every shot and for that I am truly grateful. I hope you noticed the tears going up 18. They were real and deserved; you were the best push cart ever, my friend!

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