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The Wedge Guy: Building your “team” – Part 1

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Golf is a funny game, especially when it comes to the way most golfers buy equipment and put their sets together. It’s fun to review and explore the constant stream of new technologies offered by the club companies, as we are all constantly searching for that new ‘secret weapon’ that will make the difference in our scoring. Somewhere behind each purchase you make – whether it be a new driver, fairway, hybrid, irons, wedges, putter, balls, etc. – you have hope that this is another piece of the puzzle that will help lower your handicap.

But as you evaluate any new individual bits of technology, it is a great idea to pause and look at the entire arsenal of clubs you carry to assess them as your “team”. Each club in your bag is used one-at-a-time for the shot at hand, but collectively our clubs represent the “players” we’ve assembled to go into battle with the golf course, right?

As we approach the finale of the NCAA football championship game, think of your set make-up like a football team. Great coaches look for chemistry and compatibility, for sure, but they also must make sure they have balance. To have a bunch of big men and no speed doesn’t work. Nor can you have a bunch of defensive specialists and no offensive firepower. Almost every year, the team that wins the Championship has balance. Certainly, there are always areas that are stronger than others, but championship teams typically have no real weaknesses.

I’ve come to believe your “team” in your golf bag should follow the same strategy of balance . . . but in my observation, very few golfers approach it this way.

The most common set make-up I see includes a driver, a couple of fairways, 2-3 hybrids, and irons from 4 or 5 through P. Some golfers still carry a 3-iron, and some extend hybrids all the way to the 5 or 6; that’s a personal thing for your ‘team’. I think it fair to say that nearly all golfers have gained distance with the new club technologies, but in my observation, this too often results in a team that is unbalanced. Let me explain.

Let’s take a “typical” male golfer who hits his 5-iron 165-170 yards and shoots 85. Some of you are longer, some of you shorter, and some of you score better or worse than that, but please follow along with me here. That golfer probably hits a driver somewhere around 235-250, and 9-iron 120-125 or so. Let’s say he carries a 3- and 5-wood, a couple of hybrids, 5-PW and two more wedges. Adding the driver and putter, that gives him 14. With this set make-up, therefore, he has five clubs for all his shots that are 165-170 or longer (not counting the driver), and another 4-5 clubs for all his shots from 120-125 and in (not counting the putter).

If this golfer is a typical 85-shooter, he’s hitting driver 12-14 times and averaging +/- 32 putts; that means he has 12 clubs for the other 40 or so shots. If he’s playing the right tees for his skill level, he shouldn’t have more than 8-10 of those that are outside 5-iron range, so nearly half of his “team” is allocated for what likely amounts to about 25% of these non-drive/non-putt shots.

That same golfer will have as many as 15-20 shots from inside 9-iron range, including short-range approaches and recovery shots. That means he has five clubs for what amounts to as much as 50% of his non-drive/non-putt shots.

Please think about this line of logic, because I’m going to continue this discussion on Tuesday. If you would like to offer your thoughts and suggestions for that follow-up, please add your comments below and I’ll build them in to “Building Your Team – Part 2” next week.

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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.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Jan 2, 2020 at 11:10 pm

    My set-up includes…

    Driver
    4W + 7W (going into 9th season with this mix)
    4H
    4i-9i (4i refitted with hybrid shaft)
    Wedges 48* / 54* / 58* (58* replaces 60*)
    Putter

    Two seasons ago I had 46-50-54-58, but found the 46 and 50 duplicated each other on shorter shots. And, three wedges easier to manage (9i also part of wedge matrix)… only a couple of gaps in 3x matrix

    I can hit 4W longer than 3W (extra loft helps) and the 7W is really versatile: blows ball out of rough with distance, easy hit around 200 yds., and good on longish par 3 holes.

    4H more versatile, 4i more accurate (tight line for fairway on evil short Par 4s)… if I add fourth wedge one of these would stay home.

    May need to reshaft my irons as lighter from KBS Tour 90 to Recoil… something (maybe either Recoil 95 or ES780 in F3 flex). With old irons, dumped PX 5.0 in 2014. Need graphite so my my elbows don’t ache after consecutive golf days.

    May also need to reduce my D and FW shafts to below 60 grams; falloff last year especially in FW wood distance.

    I retired in May, but due to transition activities had a pretty lean golf season. Hope to have bag tweaked and ready by March.

    Also getting my right hip tweaked with rehab sessions to increase strength/flexibility to counter arthritis.

  2. freowho

    Jan 1, 2020 at 4:09 am

    I would add that a lot of par 3’s are 140m to 180m and this is often a poor spot for many club golfers with a big gap between a hybrid and their longest iron. You need clubs that you can hit a good three quarter shot with and this would be with a heavier shaft and a non tapered grip you can grip down on.

  3. William Terry

    Dec 31, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    Ive been thinking a ton about my bag this season… I’m a decently hard swinger, driver goes 290+. I am planning on rebuilding my entire set based on the course I play most frequently.

    Here is my current plan:

    Driver for maximized distance on holes I can chase. That’s about eight holes. Well struck drives put me under 150 from my usual tees.

    4 par fours between 150 and 180

    6 holes left… 260+ three wood works on all but one. Two are par fives where driver can put me into trouble and I can still get home with three wood. One is a long par five with no upside to driver. Two are short par fours I can get inside 150 with a three wood. Last one is 350 uphill, so 250 straight is the smart play.

    Low lofted hybrid for that. Club number three. Have an Adams hybrid in this slot… will hopefully replace with something built for me.

    3 clubs for tee shots, add putter… I’m at 4. So let’s move to the other side.

    I hit my pitching wedge 150. I carry a gap, sand and lob wedge. This is where I should be doing most of my work… I replaced my gap wedge this year with a vokey… I’m thinking about going a different route now. I use my wedges a ton and mostly on 1/2 swing shots. I’m not as good at distance control as I need to be to really score. It might make more sense to go with a glide setup for the last three… my mizuno hot metal pro pitching wedge has been good… I built it to get a feel for the mizunos but then hit a cash hiccup.

    So that’s 8 clubs. Covers the majority of my round when things go right. 6 left to cover 100 yards, I can go 225 and then 200, and leave myself 4 clubs 190, 180, 170 & 160… I could bump that to 13 yards and add a fifth wedge.

    With modern lofting, 46 pitching wedge, 50 gap, 54 sand, 58 lob in forgiveness and then a work horse wedge at 60 with an aggressive grind to use for tricky stuff around the greens.

    I don’t know, I’ve been building and rebuilding this set for years… hopefully I’ll have the cash this year… be nice to replace my 22 year old irons!

  4. Tom Watson

    Dec 31, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    I’m a low single digit hdcp but I play with quite a few 10-20hdcps. The club I usually see as a waste in their bags is the 3 wood. Short of some odd match scenario, it pretty much never makes sense for these players to try to reach par 5s in two. They simply bring too many disasters into it with their poor ballstriking.

    I would say most avg male 15 hdcps should go driver (likely a 12deg) then 3/4 hybrid with hybrids down to 5 or 6 depending on swing speed.

    D
    3h
    4h
    5H
    6H
    7i
    8i
    9i
    Pw 44
    48
    52
    56
    60

    That is a full set with no useless clubs in theory. The 3h might actually be useless to be honest.

    I’m not a fan of going to wedges more lofted than a 60. This tightly spaced set of wedges might also be tough to gap on full swings for these mid cappers.

    • Deacon Blues

      Dec 31, 2019 at 9:34 pm

      I agree completely that going for par-5 greens in two with a fairway wood is unwise for hackers like me. Over the years, it’s resulted in far more triples and quads than birdies and eagles. It’s been years since I regularly bagged a fairway wood, and I don’t miss them at all.

      About a year ago I downsized my bag to 11 clubs: driver, 18 and 24 degree hybrids, 6i-PW, 52 and 58 degree wedges, putter. All clubs are reliable and forgiving, yardage gaps are manageable, and decision-making is much easier.

  5. Chelsea’s Dad

    Dec 31, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Good points. I’m a single digit myself (bounces from 5 to 9) that hits ball decent length (driver 250 -260 carry, 7 iron 160-165) and I’ve realized changing the gaps at the top of my bag has helped. Go driver, 3 wood, 18 degree hybrid, 4 iron or 20 degree hybrid depending on course needs, then 5-Pw, 50, to, and 60. I found that by leaving 15 yard gaps from 3 wood-hybrid-4 iron that I can make any shot and just need to determine if I need to miss short or long. Having the extra wedge available gives me many more options on full shots and green side shots. Sometimes I can even remove a hybrid or 4/driving iron and add a 62 wedge if the course will provide opportunities.

    • Joel

      Dec 31, 2019 at 1:39 pm

      I’m similar to you, albeit not quite as good. I typically shoot about 80 on my two courses, par 68 and 70. They aren’t long either so I don’t really need too much just below the driver. Coupled with the fact that hitting the green from over 200y away is somewhat hit and miss, I much prefer having more options at the bottom end. I hit my 7I about 160y, driver 250y total unless it’s really dry.

      So my set-up is usually:

      Driver
      3 or 5 Wood
      4I
      4H or 5I
      6I-UW
      54
      58
      64
      Putter

      Wedges are of far more use than another club at the top, a 64* is a godsend.

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