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The Wedge Guy: Thinking your way to better golf

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I’m going to wrap up this three-week series on using your mind to improve your golf. I am a firm believer that for the vast majority of adults, your mind is the most powerful route to playing your best golf ever.

Of course, there are many aspects of the mental side of the game. There are volumes written about getting your mind right when you are playing a round of golf, and nearly every tour player these days has a “mental coach” to help them optimize their attitude and focus, stay out of their own way, etc. Certainly, that’s all very important, but what I’m trying to share with you are a couple of other aspects of the mental game.

Truly understand your objective

That’s where I was trying to go with last week’s column. Your body can’t do what your mind can’t process. If you don’t have a solid understanding of the basic physical movements of a solid golf swing, you have zero chance of executing one. That’s why the first building block of better golf is to REALLY UNDERSTAND swing fundamentals and embrace them as your own.

Improve the soundness of your grip on the club by keeping a golf club, or even the grip end of one, handy to your desk and sofa or favorite chair. While you are on the phone, or watching TV, practice a solid grip until it becomes second nature. From there you can practice proper posture, the positions of the backswing and follow-through. Do this by posing in front of a mirror if you have to. All these things can be learned at home, away from a golf ball. In fact, they are better learned away from a golf ball. Once you have them figured out, committed to muscle memory and clear in your mind, then you can put a golf ball in front of them.

Play the game

Sounds simple, but it really isn’t. When you are on the course – regardless of where you are with your golf swing – lose yourself in the moment. In the book and movie “Seven Days In Utopia,” by Dr. David Cook, the young pro is encouraged to “See it. Feel it. Trust it.” To play well, you have to see the golf shots you are facing. See that drive taking the right path down the fairway. See that approach flying just like you want it to. Around the greens, try to clearly visualize all the options of how you can get the ball close to the hole. There are always several different chips or pitches that will do that … find the one that seems to be your best choice. Only with that clear picture can you effectively rehearse the right practice swings to feel the one that will produce that visualized result. Once that is accomplished, you really have no choice but to trust that you can produce that practice swing for real. That gets you out of your own way, and you know, if you don’t pull it off … it’s just golf.

Enjoy yourself

In my opinion, that is the final – and maybe most important – element of the mental game for recreational golfers. You have taken time away from work, family or something else. You’ve given yourself a few hours on the course for the sole purpose of enjoyment, so make sure it gives you that! That’s where I was going with the first article in this series talking about the idea of managing your expectations. Tour pros practice incessantly. They devote countless hours to short putts, more to bunker play, and hit thousands of balls every week. They have a right to expect top-level results … but they still hit some “uglies” every week. So, what should you realistically expect out there? How many hundreds of practice balls did you hit last week, last month, last year? How many hours did you spend on the putting green, grooving your stroke on 5-6 foot putts? How many thousand chips, pitches and bunker shots are you hitting each week?

Again, my point here is for you to be realistic. You can build a very solid golf swing, from the grip upward, if you will just spend the time to understand exactly what that looks like, feels like, and works like. And you can manage your way around a golf course with little damage and lots of thrills if you will keep your mind engaged. And you can—and should—have fun every time you play, regardless of the outcome of your round.

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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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. geohogan

    Mar 14, 2020 at 10:57 am

    “Your body can’t do what your mind can’t process. If you don’t have a solid understanding of the basic physical movements of a solid golf swing, you have zero chance of executing one. That’s why the first building block of better golf is to REALLY UNDERSTAND swing fundamentals and embrace them as your own.”

    A solid golf swing is a complex chain action of physical movements, controlled subconsciously by our brain, specifically the motor cortex.

    We have zero chance of executing a golf swing successfully unless we understand the structure of our motor cortex and how genetically our hands and face are the keys to this complex chain action.

    The fundamentals of golf swing, as it is for every complex chain action movement are in the motor cortex.
    Unlike the “grip” which is unique for every major winner on the pga
    the allocation of neurons in the motor cortex is the same for everyone.
    ie 80+% is devoted to the hands and face.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Z425-CHY1c
    6:37-12:75

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Podcasts

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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On Spec: Blades vs cavity backs | Classic gear vs. modern equipment

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In this episode, host Ryan talks about a recent experience of playing poor golf and what it took from an equipment perspective to get his game back on track.

The talk is wide-ranging and offers an inside look at what equipment tweaks or experiments might help you play better golf—or get you out of a rut.

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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