Meet new GolfWRX Senior Expert on Everything, Swanson. We recently spotted him playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with Al Czervik, David Simms and the “Tiger Woods” from Dan Jenkins’ Golf Digest Interview. Swanson asked to write a few articles for GolfWRX’s Front Page. We told him if the readers like his stories, we’ll let him keep writing. If not, he’ll have to go back to trolling the forums.
By far my least favorite part of playing tournament golf has always been deciding which 14 clubs to put in my bag, but I’ve learned a few tricks over the years.
During normal rounds of golf, I’ll have anywhere between 20-24 clubs in the bag; that includes drivers with different shafts, long irons (I don’t play fairway woods or hybrids), backup wedges and a few different Scotties.
Practice rounds are for testing equipment, not for playing by imaginary rules contrived by the USGA. But when it comes time to play in a USGA-sanctioned event, 14 clubs is the maximum they allow.
And this is a topic that really hits home for me.
You see, a few years back I qualified for the U.S. Senior Mid-Am Junior event in the second position after firing 71-68 (I hit 18 greens in regulation and had 44 putts in the first round), but a rules official saw I had 17 clubs in the bag after the event. I still have no idea how he saw the extra wedges hidden beneath my driver head cover, but I learned a lesson that day – the 14-club rule penalizes you two strokes for each hole played with more than 14 clubs, for a maximum of two holes. Safe to say, I didn’t qualify.
But now I’m an expert on selecting clubs for my tournament bag. And if chosen, they should be honored and thankful, and perform accordingly during the tournament. So do yourself a favor, print this out, put it in your bag and read it every time you’re deciding what clubs are going to make the cut for your next event.
Compile all of your driver heads and shafts, and head to your nearest Trackman facility. I have one in my basement, but you may need to go to a custom-fitting shop or a top teaching pro in your area. You don’t actually want a fitting or a lesson; you just want to rent the Trackman for an hour or two. Hit every driver head/shaft combination possible, and then print out a sheet of the averages.
Listen carefully, because this is the important part. You want to play the driver that has the lowest spin rate. No matter what. You can figure out how to launch it higher and make better contact (therefore increasing your ball speed) another time. I don’t hook or slice the ball, but if I did the low spin would help the ball curve less, and of course, it maximizes distance.
People say a 17-degree launch angle and 1700 rpm of spin is optimal, and I can do it every time with my forward-CG, low-MOI driver. You’re probably not good enough to play one, but maybe one day you will be. So buy the hottest low-spin driver every year on the off chance you start striping it one summer.
Editor’s Note: Swanson’s opinions on club fitting are his own, and don’t reflect the opinions of GolfWRX (at all).
Personally, I don’t use fairway woods or hybrids because:
- I don’t see the point.
- I don’t have yardage gaps big enough to need them.
I hit my driver 315 yards (on average), and carry my steel-shaft, hand-ground, muscleback 1-iron 275 yards. When would I hit a three wood or hybrid? From 290 yards into a par 5? And what par-5 in America would require me to hit a shot 290 yards on my approach?
None. The answer is none of the par 5s.
In making the decision on what long irons to carry, you’ll want to check the wind for the day, the par-3 distances and how many irons you’ll need off the tee on par-4s. I usually carry my 1, 2 and 3 irons during tournament play because it intimidates my competitors, and I can launch my 1-iron off the deck really high.
Most golfers will probably need to play irons that are more forgiving than the one-piece forgings I use, but you should test both. Blades are a huge advantage if you can play them, because they’re so much more workable and so much better in the rough.
Also, you may notice I use iron covers; you would too if your irons were hand ground from the same guy who forged Tiger’s Miura irons.
This is the trickiest part of the equation. In my current practice bag, I have eight wedges: 50 degrees (bent to 49.5), 54 (bent to 53.5), 54 (bent to 54.5), 56 (bent to 55.5), 56 (bent to 56.5), 60 (extra heel grind), 60 (v-grind) and a 63 (bent to 63.5).
I know how far every one of them flies to a dime, but predicting exactly what yardages I’ll need during a round used to be difficult for me. That’s why I started getting my hands on a yardage book of the tournament course, and picking my targets for each hole. Since I rarely miss my target, especially under tournament pressure, all I have to do is decide which wedges I’ll need most often. One time, through my preparation, I found out I wouldn’t need a club from 197-203 yards, so I didn’t need my 8-iron. I played with six wedges that event and won the National Ultra-Private Country Club Championship.
For beginners, I suggest letting your long iron/fairway wood/hybrid setups dictate the wedges you choose, and simply fill in the yardage gaps appropriately.
I sleep with both of my Tour-Only Scotties the night before any event; one on my left side and one on my right. Whichever putter I wake up facing is the one that goes in the bag.
Choosing a golf ball
Just kidding. They make other balls than a Pro V1x?
Club Junkie: Wedge Wednesday! New Edel SMS and Cobra Snakebite
Wedge Wednesday is here! We have some new wedges from Edel and Cobra that were just released. Edel’s SMS wedge with Swing Match Weighting System is made to be adjusted for each player’s swing. Cobra’s Snakebite wedge has wider and shallower full-face grooves for more spin out of any lie.
Ways to Win: Up and down – The Spieth rollercoaster notches a rare short game win
Jordan Spieth is back! After a long hiatus from the winner’s circle, Spieth was able to break through at the Oaks Course at TPC of San Antonio to capture his 12th career PGA TOUR victory at the Valero Texas Open. It wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing ever is with Spieth. The Golden Child always seems to find a way to add dramatics whether its shots from the driving range to steal the British Open from Matt Kuchar or holing a bunker shot to force (John Deere) or win (Travelers) a playoff. That sense of drama and fun that has surrounded the always-vocal Spieth has been missing in recent years as his weekend struggles had him plummeting down the World Rankings.
Earlier this year, he started showing signs of life with a handful of 54 hole leads, only to be undone with mediocre Sunday performances. Through eight holes on Saturday, sitting at +1 for the day, it looked like this would also be just another missed opportunity. But then Spieth did what Spieth does. He made birdies in bunches and showed off that terrific short game.
Spieth has never been traditional in the way he wins. Though he is probably best known for his putting stroke, in his best years, he was also quite dominant with his irons. This week was no exception. We can use V1 Game’s Strokes Gained Stacked view to see how Spieth performed in Driving, Approach, Short Game, and Putting over the four rounds.
The first thing that jumps out, looking at Spieth’s performance, is his short game. Speith gained well over 4 strokes over the average PGA Tour player for the week. This is not common for PGA TOUR winners. The main reason is that gaining strokes in the Short Game requires opportunities from inside 75 yards. In order to have opportunities, that typically means that you have to miss greens. Most PGA TOUR winners do not many miss greens on their way to a trophy, however Jordan Spieth missed many at the Valero Texas Open. In fact, he finished the week tied for 66th in greens in regulation (GIR) hitting only 58 percent. This is certainly more of an outlier in terms of GIR for tour winners, but when you have a short game as good as Spieth’s, you can get away with it.
The second observation is that Spieth was almost perfectly average with Driving. He came out positive in strokes gained for the week, but finished 38th in the field for Strokes Gained Driving. Strokes Gained Driving accounts for both distance and accuracy and while Jordan is certainly not one of the longest hitters on tour, lately his struggle has been with accuracy. He is hitting around 50 percent of his fairways and while the rough was not overly penal this week, several times Spieth was putting himself into recovery or difficult situations.
Known for his putting, Spieth demonstrated exactly why this weekend. For starters, he had no three putts. While a lot of the field struggled to get the ball in the hole, Jordan minimized mistakes. In fact, Jordan gained strokes on the field putting from every distance bucket <25 ft. He gained almost more than one stroke per round on the field from four -15 ft each day. Those strokes add up at the end of the week and Spieth’s putter certainly gives him an advantage.
Spieth is peaking just in time for The Masters at a golf course where he has traditionally played very well. But what should he be working on heading to Augusta? We can use V1 Game’s Virtual Coach to breakdown his game and give us some insights on how he should be practicing this week.
V1 Game’s Virtual Coach tells Jordan that first he should work on Driving as it is currently the weakest part of his game (relative to other Tour professionals). The quick insight shows that he is missing to the right more than 30 percent of the time and is losing, on average, around a third of a stroke per round from putting his tee shots into recovery situations.
Next, V1 Game’s Virtual Coach highlights Approach as his next-biggest area of focus. With the Virtual Coach, we can go as deep as we want to go to get specific targets for practice. Clicking on “WORK ON NEXT” takes us to the Approach Histogram which shows us that Jordan is gaining strokes for most yardage buckets, but struggling from 151-175 yards. This is where he should spend some time practicing, but we can go even deeper than that. Clicking on the insight takes us to a breakdown of his performance from that distance, shows that he only hit the green 25 percent of the time and tended to miss long. These key insights could help Spieth fine-tune a problem area heading into one of the most important weeks of the year.
As a Spieth fan, I was delighted to see him breakthrough and win again on the PGA TOUR. Golf is better when Jordan Spieth is adding his theatrics to the mix. His combination of approach and putting mixed with unbelievable short game is a thrill to watch. It is rare to see a PGA TOUR winner do so much damage with the short game. This proves there is more than one way to win on tour and more than one way to get it done on the golf course.
If you want to play like Jordan Spieth and start practicing the areas that will impact your game the most, V1 Game can help simplify the results of your performance and get you focusing on the right areas to improve the fastest. Download the app for free and get started on your path to better golf.
Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Responsible speed training for sustainable personal bests
It is truly awesome what is happening with Bryson DeChambeau and Kyle Berkshire and more of their young friends who are in shape are joining the bandwagon. But at an all-out slash fest trying to get 160mph ball speed with a 7-iron for a two-hour session would send 90% of us to the hospital. It’s safe to say it is not for everyone. To increase your clubhead speed responsibly long term really starts with us.
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