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Three or Four wedges? What the Top-10 Wedge Players on the PGA Tour Use

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With the development and innovation of golf equipment through the years, golfers have more options now than ever. But with more options come more decisions. In this article, I share my research on an oft-debated topic: should you use three wedges or four?

Early on, golfers did not have much choice in the wedge department. They essentially had a relatively weak-lofted pitching wedge of around 50 degrees and a sand wedge around 56 degrees. In more modern times, short game guru Dave Pelz developed a very lofted wedge to help pros attack difficult pins. He persuaded Tom Kite to the “lob wedge” in tournament play and many pros followed suit. In 1984, Karsten Solheim, the founder of Ping, brought the lob wedge to the mass market. In the quest for distance and spin control, the lofts of iron sets have slowly gotten stronger. This started in the ’90s when cavity-back irons offered newfound levels of spin and launch.

A standard pitching wedge is now normally around 45 degrees, with better players’ sets coming in at around 46-47 degrees. During the transition in the ’90s, there was an issue with club gapping, as in many cases the wedge setup was potentially 46-56-60. The 10 degrees between the pitching wedge and sand wedge is a big yardage gap, and requires lots of finesse to dial in those middle distances. As a result of this trend, the gap wedge was born to fill the void and the modern option of four wedges arrived.

Modern golf balls have also played a part, as they have further stretched the yardage gaps between clubs. With the reduced spin rates and groove restrictions, more loft is required to guarantee control and accuracy when compared directly to traditional balata balls.

Top-10 Wedge Players

Top10WedgePlayers

Above is a list of the top-10 wedge players on the PGA Tour in 2015 based on average proximity from the hole from 50-125 yards. Their wedge setups are varied, but interestingly it’s a 50:50 split between three wedges and four.

At the top level of the game, wedge setup is likely to do with a combination of preference and gapping. Gapping plays a big part, but it’s not the be-all and end-all for pros. These guys spend many hours on the range and short game area, have great feel and most have no problems with what are know as “in-between” distances. They use loft, bounce, trajectory and spin to vary their shots routinely.

Some longer hitters use three wedges, some shorter hitters use four, and vice-versa. They use what works for them and they’ve all got one thing in common; they’ve thought about what wedge/club combination helps their scoring the most and so should you.

What’s the Best Setup for You?

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Not everyone carries four wedges, and not everyone needs to. We all know the importance of wedge play: getting up-and-down results in birdies and par saves at many levels of the game. Find your yardage gaps, consider your weaknesses and then build your setup to fill in the blanks.

A good starting point is to look at the loft of your pitching wedge then choose the highest-lofted wedge that you are comfortable using. Aim to fill the space between these two clubs with Bob Vokey’s recommended 12-15 yards of gapping between the scoring clubs.

The Four-Wedge Setup

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Pros: Yardage gaps are easier to reproduce with stock swings. Extra bounce options in your setup can help with awkward lies or varied turf/sand.

Cons: Shorter hitters may have bunched yardages with more wedges. Loss of a longer club can result in a yardage gap at the long end of the bag.

The Three-Wedge Setup

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Pros: No gapping issues at the long end of the bag. Less confusion with wedge choice.

Cons: Larger yardage gaps, so more difficult “in-between” yardages to circumvent. Need to spend more time practicing to dial in the partial shots.

If you spend endless hours on the range and can gauge yardages with feel, then any setup will work for you. If you are a weekend warrior who doesn’t have much time to work on the “in-between” shots, then thinking about your yardage gaps and aiming for 12-15 yards of separation is a good start. The loss of a long iron, high-lofted fairway wood or hybrid and addition of a wedge isn’t always bad, as you’ll likely be hitting more wedges than long irons during a round.

One thing is for sure, however; properly gapping your wedges will help you to lower your scores by saving strokes.

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Nick grew up in Northern Ireland and now resides on the Isle of Man where he is a dentist in private practice. He is most likely to be found on the golf course or at the range working hard towards his ambition of becoming a scratch golfer. He is a serial club tinkerer and changes clubs and specs more often than a tour van. His golfing achievements include two hole-in-ones, a seventy-three and four-putting from fifteen feet.

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. kenneth

    Dec 27, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    PING ZING2 wedges — W/G/LS/L … set 6-9 irons… lots of hybrids and fairways. PING G2 15.5 degree driver with stock soft shaft 47″…. 😮

  2. Tim

    May 3, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    More than anything, the chart tells me that Roberto Castro needs to chat with Sneds about putting.

  3. Hawk

    Apr 19, 2016 at 8:40 am

    I think it boils down to if you plan to play a wedge past your Sand Wedge. Not everyone needs a 60* wedge, and reality is most probably don’t. I’ve even been told stay away from a 60* and if I wanted to play a higher lofted wedge use a 58* because they are more versatile. However; a 3 and 4 wedge setup can be the exact same with the only difference being is there a 58*/60* or not in the bag.

    An old pro once told me the wedges are simple, always have them evenly gapped. To go one step further look at the gap between your 9 iron and your PW and use that gap or 1* more to space out your wedges.

  4. BIG STU

    Apr 17, 2016 at 4:34 am

    Really it is a common sense approach as to what fits your game and works for you. Remember wedges are scoring clubs and not distance clubs. Personally I am a relic of the old school days when we only carried two wedges but I do carry 3 now and still use somewhat traditional lofts. I carry 48/52/57 and I have my bounces worked out for me. And yes I have seen some of these college and high school kids hit a PW 150 at sea level with a 43* PW and with delofting the face. I am a gambler but would not bet against that guy who says he hits a PW 160 or so. There are so any factors. LOL 150 for me now at sea level is my 38* 7 iron but that is ok 150 is 150

  5. Lol!

    Apr 15, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    It’s a longest pitching wedge competition…

  6. Ezra

    Apr 14, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Haha very good! That player plays 46, 52, 56 and 60. Btw, have u ever tried a XE1? Is it any good?

  7. Ezra

    Apr 14, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I play 46, 50, 56, 60. But I will soon change to 46, 52, 58. Because it’s less expensive, I like to keep it simple and to play with max 12 clubs in my bags.

    • :-p

      Apr 15, 2016 at 3:01 am

      Yeah so you can spend more money on an expensive hybrid or fairway wood that costs twice as much as the extra wedge. Yeah that makes so much sense :-ppppp

      • :-0

        Apr 15, 2016 at 8:21 am

        You’re not helping!

      • Ezra

        Apr 16, 2016 at 7:18 am

        Actually I prefer to have three different Scotty Cameron putters in my bags. Just to have more options depending on the grass length, color, smell…

        • RG

          Apr 24, 2016 at 3:21 am

          Exactly, wedges are for guys trying to save pars. knock it stiff and roll the rock I say. You need versatility in your putter for those stinky greens…

  8. Double Mocha Man

    Apr 14, 2016 at 10:58 am

    What about the Five – Wedge setup? I carry a 45-48-54-60-64. Almost perfect gaps from 70 yards to 130 yards. If needed, I tweak the gaps by gripping up. I prefer full swings (for consistency) to partial swings.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Apr 14, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Forgot to mention those are 15 yard gaps.

      • :-p

        Apr 15, 2016 at 3:04 am

        Those are pretty normal gaps, since your 45 is at 130, except that you have that extra 64 in it that most people wouldn’t have in this set up, they’ll do fine with the 60 and knocking it down. What do you have in the long end? Driver and 3w, then 4 hybrid? Obviously you’ve got enough distance from the looks of it

        • Double Mocha Man

          Apr 16, 2016 at 11:12 am

          I have driver, 3 wood and 21 degree hybrid. Irons start at the 5 iron. Jeez, I remember when I had 2 through 9 iron. And two wedges.

  9. Loser Smizzle

    Apr 14, 2016 at 3:32 am

    It’s the Indian and not the arrows! Thank you for this article!

  10. 11thatoneguy

    Apr 14, 2016 at 2:10 am

    “Other Paul” I have a 1000$ dollar challenge that says, you could not hit a PW 160 yards in carry distance and in real conditions. This I would assume would be carry distance, No one cares about roll with irons. I take it you play at a higher elevation than most, I play in Montana at elevation a lot and I get a significant increase in club distances. But those numbers are hard to fathom.

    • Other Paul

      Apr 14, 2016 at 8:54 am

      I suppose i could try and make a youtube video for you next i play golf and link it here. Don’t have a round planned at the moment…

      • Other Paul

        Apr 14, 2016 at 9:09 am

        Oops. Missed a word in my reply. Ha ha. I could hit some shots at a local performance center with my phone camera. And then go out doors and stand 10 yards back from a 150 yard marker and hit shots into the center of a green. But i have no idea if i can line my phone camera up to my laser for extra evidence.

    • David Ober

      Apr 14, 2016 at 10:36 am

      You would lose that bet to soooo many people. The amount of golfers with 120+ driver swings is ridiculous nowadays. Many college teams have two or three guys that can carry driver 290 – 310. Add that kind of clubhead speed to someone who has some decent shaft lean and turns down their irons through impact, and you have a 160 carry PW. There’s a kid on my college golf team (I’m a coach) that can do that under “normal” conditions (75-85 degrees, 1000 feet above sea level), no problem.

      But if by “normal conditions,” you mean “sea level at 50 degrees,” then the number of guys who can carry it 160 is much smaller! LOL!

      Seriously, though, you need to watch out with bets like that on the internet nowadays….

      • Other Paul

        Apr 14, 2016 at 2:07 pm

        Shhhh. His $1000 could buy me a knew G series driver and pay for my golf for a month. I do deloft a fair bit…

    • Other Paul

      Apr 14, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      I got a little flightscope time tonight. Averaged 158 carry and 159 total with no warm up. Longest was 175 (Broke a few balls to, they ruin my average because they only go 120-130). I made a little video, and i will probably be done work early tomorrow and might get in 9 holes after work. I will take my clubs with and make a second video on the course. It appears i can line up my phone camera with my laser so i can get you some solid evidence. Cheers.

    • RG

      Apr 24, 2016 at 3:27 am

      Ill take that challenge. And I’ll give ya 2 to 1 odds. I’ll even use my putter if you like

  11. Matto

    Apr 13, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    46.52.58 at the bottom….Driver, Mini Driver, 5 Wood, 2 iron at the top. Works for me.

  12. mhendon

    Apr 13, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    Hmmmm I wonder who that could have been…………..?

  13. Mike

    Apr 13, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Good article. It does come down to knowing your yardages and knowing your short game skills.

    Nick, do people still use the Manx language?

    • Nick

      Apr 14, 2016 at 4:00 am

      Hi Mike, thanks for the positive comment. Manx is not widely spoken at all save for people using some old Manx sayings day to day. There is one school on the Island that teaches in Manx but think its only 2% of the population claim to be able to speak and write Manx Gaelic. You should visit, great golf and motor sport.

  14. markhd

    Apr 13, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    For those of us who don’t have the luxury of tons of practice, I would suggest consistent gaps and serious attention to bounce are the best guide from PW on up. 2 degrees one way or ‘tother don’t mean diddly. And, as we get older (like me), the long end of the bag gets less important as the short game becomes more critical. Find wedges that you really love and hold them dear. FYI, mine are the (modern) traditional 46/52/56/60. (The 46 is basically a 10 iron, which I seldom use around the greens.) Other clubs and creativity come in to play from there. Thanks for reading.

  15. golfraven

    Apr 13, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I am surprised not to see any of the top 10 world ranked players on above list. Are those players without a GW really at a disadvantage? I would say that most amateurs should have a 50ish wedge to close the big gap between PW and SW unless you are skilled player and enjoy those 3/4 swings with your PW.

  16. Other Paul

    Apr 13, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    So i hit it pretty far and use my wedges for these distances below. Should i add a 64° to have a club that doesnt go so far or would that be dumb? I could drop a 2 hybrid, that goes 275.

    Pw full swing 160
    52° 145
    56 ° 130
    60° 115-120

    • golfraven

      Apr 13, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Man, you should be on tour with thise numbers.

      • Brian

        Apr 13, 2016 at 3:39 pm

        I’m skeptical of anyone that claims to hit a 60* 120 yards. Tour players only hit their lob wedge around 95 yards on a full swing…

        • Other Paul

          Apr 13, 2016 at 7:25 pm

          Flightscope says i can do it. I average 117 MPH (can get to 125). Average drive is 306. Verified with a laser. I play a draw and i do struggle with a driver. I shoot in the low 80s. If i dont lose a ball of the tee then i have a 70% chance of making par or better. Im getting into stat tracking a little. I also only pulled out my 2 hybrid once in the last 18 holes. And i used every wedge.

          • Philip

            Apr 14, 2016 at 1:27 am

            With those yardages what is your effective loft with your 60 degree? Are you using the FlightScope off of grass? Sure, I can hit my 48 degree wedge almost 200 yards, but why would I if I can also do it with a my 6i. Nothing special with the yardages – just a question of whether it makes sense from a score point of view.

            • Other Paul

              Apr 15, 2016 at 7:58 pm

              They wont let me take the flightscope outside. I have about 8° forward shaft lean. So my pw is almost an 8i.

    • Jack

      Apr 13, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      You must have insane CH speed!!! Out of interest what’s your CH speed with driver??

      • Big Kid

        Apr 13, 2016 at 6:42 pm

        I have very similar numbers. My driver CH speed is upper 120’s. Working on feeling comfortable dialing that back to lower 120’s to pick up some accuracy.

      • Other Paul

        Apr 13, 2016 at 7:30 pm

        117 average but i can reach 125 on a hot day.

    • michael johnson

      Apr 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      just wanted to let you know that i hit low 64 135 and would definitely recommend it.

    • Deano Bravo

      Apr 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Hitting it that distance once doesn’t mean you do all the time. Its about consistent repeatable shots. I hit my PW 120m(132yds) but can hit it up to 130m(143yds) which i never do as i have no control or repeatability.

      Carry distance and total distance are different numbers as well

      • Other Paul

        Apr 13, 2016 at 7:28 pm

        I have hooked my 56° SW 175. And a 9I i had to hit under a tree and i crushed it and delofted the crap out of it for a gps verified 220 to the edge of a lake. It took one bounce and then in.

      • Other Paul

        Apr 13, 2016 at 7:34 pm

        I paced 5 yards forwards of a 150 yard marker last fall and hit 10 shots with my gap wedge. I figured they would land at the front of the green. It was getting dark so i couldnt see the balls land. So i hit 10 shots. I walked up to see the results and stood in the middle with my gps. It said 144 +/- 3 yards. 8/10 were with in 3 paces. That was pretty good for me.

    • Teaj

      Apr 14, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      figure out how hard you have to swing your PW to carry 110 and repeat swing with 52, 56 and 60 and it should step down your yardages nicely. I tried the 62 for this reason but could never get convertible hitting it on full shots unless I wanted to take a beaver tail which if you de-loft as much as you say you do then I can only assume you would do the same.

  17. Bob Jones

    Apr 13, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I play an old set of Hogan irons (Apex Red Line) so my wedges set up very neatly at 48-52-56-60.

    • Philip

      Apr 13, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      I’m the same – I’ve debated going to three, but I prefer my 52 for chipping, my 56 for pitches, and my 60 for lobs. Plus, my 56 with the greater bounce compliments my lower bounce 60 when holes go from hardpan to swampland approaches during the same round.

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Courses

Open Championship courses you can play (and when the best time to book is)

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The final major of 2024 is nearly here as the top golfers head to Scotland’s southwestern coast to battle for the claret jug at Royal Troon. Golf’s original major dates all the way back to 1860 and has been played at 14 different courses throughout the United Kingdom (yes, this includes Northern Ireland) providing countless memories including celebrations, heartbreak, and unique moments that will never be forgotten (looking at you Jordan Spieth).

With The Open teeing off less than a week from now, we wanted to highlight some of The Open Championship’s finest links courses that should play when you make the journey to golf’s homeland:

Old Course at St. Andrews 

Do we even need to say anything else? The “Home of Golf”, host of 30 Open Championships, the most coveted tee time in the WORLD, there are a million reasons to have St. Andrews on your links golf bucket list. From the double greens, to the tee shot over the Old Course Hotel, to the walk up 18th fairway with the town buildings framing a picturesque scene (especially at dusk), every golfer should make the voyage to St Andrews at least once in their life.

Carnoustie 

Carnoustie – Championship Course

Roughly 25 miles north of St. Andrews lies the devious links of Carnoustie, often recognized by the large white Carnoustie Golf Hotel as the backdrop of the 18th green. While the course has only hosted The Open 8 times, it is considered to be one of the hardest layouts in The Open rota (just ask Jean Van de Velde) although not that long, playing just under 7000 yards from the tips. 

Muirfield 

Located right next to this week’s host of Scottish Open (The Renaissance Club), this fantastic links layout has hosted the prestigious Championship 16 times since 1892. The narrow fairways and penal rough requires precise shots off the tee while avoiding the devious pot bunkers is a must. The course is set away from the coastline so you won’t get the sweeping ocean views, but a round at Muirfield is one the premier tee times in all of Scotland (so make sure you book early – 12-18 months at least).

Royal Portrush 

A view of the new 572 yards par 5, seventh hole designed by Martin Ebert on the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club the host club for the 2019 Open Championship in Portrush, Northern Ireland. © 2018 Rob Durston

Our next stop brings us across the Irish Sea to the northern coast of Northern Ireland and the popular Royal Portrush. Having hosted The Open only twice in its illustrious history, Royal Portrush is a golfer’s dream with 36 holes of pure links golf set against a gorgeous backdrop of the ocean and cliffs. The Open Championship will return to Portrush in 2025 and YOU CAN BE THERE to watch it all in person! 

Royal Troon 

TROON – JULY 26: General view of the ‘Postage Stamp’ par 3, 8th hole taken during a photoshoot held on July 26, 2003 at the Royal Troon Golf Club, venue for the 2004 Open Championships, in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The host of this year’s Open Championship, Royal Troon is home to one of the best par-3 holes in all of golf, “The Postage Stamp.” A downhill 125-yard tee shot to a minuscule green surrounded by bunkers on all sides makes it one of the more challenging holes. Another hole that adds to the challenge is the 601-yard par 5 that used to be the longest golf hole in Open Championship history. This year will be the 10th Open Championship held at Royal Troon, the first since 2016 when Mickelson and Stenson had a battle for the ages in the final round.

Royal Birkdale 

For the next course on the list, we have to head down to the northwest coast of England just outside of Liverpool. Consistently ranked in the Top 10 courses in all the UK, this 10-time host of The Open has hosted many other prestigious events such as Ryder Cups, Women’s Opens, and more! The course is laid out with fairways running through flat-bottomed valleys surrounded by high dunes which provide many blind shots throughout the course. The Open returns to Royal Birkdale in 2026 so it won’t be long before it is back in the spotlight.

Royal St. George’s 

For the final course on our list, we are staying in England, but heading across to the southeastern side of the country to Kent. Royal St. George’s is 4th on the list of most Open Championships hosted with 15 (1 behind Muirfield) the most recent being Collin Morikawa’s victory in 2021. RSG is the only active course on The Open rota in this part of the UK, but two former hosts (Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports) are within 3 miles of the property. The expansive course is laid out with holes separated by dunes with heavy rough, undulating fairways, and deep pot bunkers to challenge your game. While it may not be mentioned in the discussions of St. Andrews, Carnoustie, and the like, Royal St. George’s is still a Championship layout that is worth the trip across the pond.


With these big-name courses in such high demand, it is important to note that if you want to play them, you need to start planning your trip early. Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, the world’s #1 rated golf tour operator, suggests planning and booking your trip at least 12-18 months in advance in order to secure a tee time at the courses you want. The UK & Ireland specialists at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR have the knowledge to help tailor the perfect golf trip for your group so you can play big-name courses and hidden gems you might not have heard of. If you’re ready to start planning your bucket list trip across the pond, make life easier and go with Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR.

Editor’s note: This article is presented in partnership with Golfbreaks. When you make a purchase through links in this article, GolfWRX may earn an affiliate commission.

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Courses

Ryder Cup 2025: Crossing to Bethpage – New York State Park golf, Part 1

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The 2025 Ryder Cup matches will be held over the sprawling, bruising, Long Island acreage known as Bethpage Black State Park Golf Course. The course has hosted multiple national championships, most recently the 2019 PGA Championship. In September 2025, Bethpage Black will welcome teams from the USA and Europe to contest the 45th Ryder Cup matches. Team Europe, the defending champions, will be led again by captain Luke Donald. The U.S. PGA has not yet announced the name of its leader, yet all sources and speculations point to a 15-time major champion and an eight-time participant in the biennial event.

Bethpage Black will join Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester (1995) as the second Empire State course to host the event. The Ryder Cup matches were played in the metropolitan New York area once before, in 1935 at the Ridgewood Club, in Paramus, New Jersey. It’s fair to say that metro NYC is due to host this world-stage, golf event. I can’t wait. The USA’s loss to Europe in 2023 adds to the considerable drama.

What makes Bethpage Black an outlier in the world of championship golf, is its mere existence. It’s a state park golf course, one of five on property, each with a colorful name. The Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow join big brother Black as outstanding tests of golf in Farmingdale. Of the five, only the Green was not originally built as a state course. The Lenox Hills Country Club, designed by Devereux Emmet, opened in 1923. By 1932, the club had closed and the land had become property of the state. Its birth date made the Green the oldest of the five courses. New York State began to build on a series of adjacent parcels, guided by the hands of Alber “A.W.” Tillinghast, Joseph Burbeck, and Alfred Tull. The Yellow course, built entirely by Tull, was the last of the five to open.

State park courses just don’t hold major championships. Private clubs and elite resorts are the typical sites that receive the nod from the world’s golf bodies. It’s a testament to the lovers of Bethpage, the New York state government, and the PGA of America (among others) that Bethpage is as good as it is, and that it continues to improve. It’s a fitting site for the 2025 Ryder Cup matches, but the 2025 Ryder Cup matches need a beginning to their story. I’ll do my best to provide it.

The quintet of courses near Bethpage, New York, is just the beginning of the New York state park golf course system. 19 parks in total offer golf from the tip of Long Island, to the shores of Lake Ontario, through the Catskill mountains, to my home town. I’m a Western New York guy. The Buffalo area has been my home for most of my 58 years on the golf ball known as Earth. I live two miles from the westernmost, state park golf course: Beaver Island. The Beav, as everyone calls it, was designed by William Harries. It opened the year I was born, which means that it is close to 60 years old! Unlike the Bethpage property, where topography is king, the Beav is a flat course, albeit full of enough interest to bring you back for more.

As I considered the magnitude of the state park system, I realized that golfers who frequent those 19 state parks can point to their home course and say, “You know, the Ryder Cup will be at a state park course next year.” I started to count on my fingers, the number of state park courses I had played: Beaver Island, Green Lakes (Syracuse), James Baird (Poughkeepsie), and the five at Bethpage, I realized that I had played eight of the 23 total courses, and had visited a mere four of the 19 parks.

Bethpage is the only, multi-course state park across the Empire State. Other venues range from pitch-and-putt, to nine-hole, to regulation 18-hole courses. The majority occupy nice tracts of land, and feature 18 holes of memorable, enjoyable golf. PGA Tour professionals Joey Sindelar and Mike Hulbert grew up on one of those courses, and Dottie Pepper spent a bit of time on another, near her hometown.

There will be many stories that trace the path to Bethpage and its 2025 Ryder Cup, and I look forward to reading and hearing them. This one is my own, and I’m proud (and a little frightened) to undertake it. I’ll visit each of the remaining parks over the next 16 months, and report in with images and words that tell the story of each park and its golf course.

The Ones I’ve Played

The Bethpage Five

As mentioned above, I’ve played eight of the 23 courses, but the majority of that number is owed to a 2011 pilgrimage to Long Island. The Black had just hosted its second US Open championship, and the ink for the 2019 PGA Championship was not yet printed. I spoke with a Bethpage caddy, in anticipation of the trek. I wrote a series of articles on the courses on my own site, BuffaloGolfer. Down the road of this, current series, I’ll discuss the most poignant piece that I connected with Bethpage. That’s a story for another time. After all, Bethpage is a five-course meal.

It’s safe to say the the Bethpage property is unlike any other, municipal, golfing space in the world (at least, those not named the Links Trust of St. Andrews!) The park encompasses nearly 1500 acres of wooded land and offers much beyond golf to its visitors. As pilgrimages go, Bethpage is it. For a New York state resident, on a weekend, it would cost a total of $257 dollars … to play all five courses. Even for those outside the state, the trip to Bethpage is worth consideration. Each course rambles over uneven, heaving land. Holes carry along falloffs and bend unexpectedly around corners. Greens are benched into hillsides and settled into valleys. All five courses remind you of the others, yet none of them says to you “You’ve played this course before.”

James Baird State Park 

One of the hats that I wear, is high school golf coach. Each spring, golfers from my team travel to Poughkeepsie to play the James Baird State Park golf course. Pronounced “Bard,” the course was opened in 1948, after a middle-aged, Robert Trent Jones, senior, put pen to paper to lay out the course. Jones was about to become a household name, as he would offer renovation advice to many of the country’s classic clubs. He was most famously associated with the Oakland Hills Country Club near Detroit, the host site of the 1951 US Open. You know, the one where Ben Hogan purportedly gasped “I’m glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees.”

Trent didn’t leave a monster in Poughkeepsie. What he left was something that locals call Baby Bethpage. The James Baird course is blessed with topography similar to its five-course cousin, but it offered a challenge that Bethpage does not: a huge expanse of marsh across the belly of the property. There was not going over nor through it, so Jones simply went around it. He created something that he never, ever did: a short par three. Jones was a fan of the brutish, 200-yard plus, all-carry, par three hole. For the third hole at Baird, he had all of 120 yards, and it was downhill! Jones placed a green in the marsh, connected to the mainland by an earthen bridge. He then turned north for a time, then returned south, outside the marsh. Trent Jones had another stretch of tricky land to navigate, this time, on the inward half. He brought a trio of holes (pars 4-3-5) through a challenging corner of the property, before returning to the open meadow that hosts the majority of the layout.

James Baird is a tremendous golf course, one that prepares our high school competitors well for the next step: the state federation championship at, you guessed it, Bethpage Black. Six golfers move on to compete against other, high school divisions, at the big brother of them all.

Green Lakes

The Baird course came to life 13 years after Trent Jones opened his first, New York state parks course. Originally from Rochester, New York, Trent ventured 90 minutes east to Manlius, near Syracuse, in 1935, to lay out one of his first ten courses. RTJ was gifted the magnificent land that abuts the two glacial lakes in central New York. The lakes are meromictic, which we all know means that surface and bottom waters do not mix in the fall and spring, as happens with dimictic lakes.

Trent Jones placed his clubhouse and finishing greens (9 and 18) in an interesting portion of the property. The ninth hole is an uphill, par five that plays fifty yards longer than its measured distance. Once home to upper and lower greens, the lower has been expanded and enhanced, and the upper is now abandoned. On the other side of the clubhouse, the sneaky 18th moves out of a corridor of trees, into the open space beneath the clubhouse. It’s a bit reminiscent of the 18th at Bethpage’s Green course. It’s not a long hole, yet when you walk off with five or six on your card, you wonder where you went astray.

The front half of the course plays along a vast meadow, above Green Lake, the larger of the two, nautical bodies. The inward side forages among the tree above Round Lake, before finally emerging at the home hole. The apparent contrariety of the two nines is resolved through expansion of fairway corridors on the treed nine, and the constriction of playing paths with bunkers and doglegs, on the exposed side.

If you’re a walker, Green Lakes will make you a fit one. It will also demand all the clubs and shots that you can fit in your bag.

Beaver Island

“Tame” isn’t the proper term to describe Beaver Island, the state park course near my home. I believe that “calm” is a better term. It may seem ironic, given that the 1965 course occupies a tract of land at the southern tip of Grand Island, where the Niagara River splits east and west, before reuniting at the north end. When we think of the Niagara, we think of the mighty rapids and cascades near the brink and bottom of the falls. At the southern split of the river, however, you can throw a canoe in the water and have a paddle. Beaver Island knows that it is adjacent to the river, but you never get the sense that this golf course borders water. I’ve redesigned the park hundreds of times in my head, moving the golf course to the banks of the river, where the trails, beach, playground, and other amenities are currently found. In the end, not every great golf course can, nor should, be built.

William Harries trained under the famed competitor and architect, Walter Travis. Despite this exposure to the master, Harries went his own way with his golf courses. The most striking difference is in green construction. While Travis was extraordinarily creative and daring, Harries was the polar opposite. His greens are routinely flat and easy to navigate.

He designed a number in the western New York area, including Brookfield Country Club. Originally known as Meadow Brook, the club hosted the 1948 Western Open, won by the aforementioned, Ben Hogan. The majority of Harries’ work was in municipal courses, and he designed Sheridan Park for the town of Tonawanda. That course hosted the 1962 USGA Public Links championship.

On Grand Island, Harries traced his layout around three ponds. The massive, western one, comes into play on the second through fifth holes. The middle one plays games with the approach to the eighth green. The final one, on the inward side, forces golfers to carry their tee shot over water, to the 14th fairway. Beaver Island bears no resemblance to the topography of the other locales mentioned previously. There is no heaving, no tumbling, no turbulence, along its fairways. Beaver Island is more St. Andrews in its flattish presentation, which makes it an honest, what-you-see, sort of golf course. It’s an enjoyable walk in the park, a not-too-demanding one.

Part Two: south-central New York-Soaring Eagles, Chenango Valley, Indian Hills, and Bonavista

https://www.rydercup.com/ PGA of America Ryder Cup Trophy

Ryder Cup Trophy @ Bethpage – Photo courtesy of PGA of America

 

 

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Travelers Championship betting preview: Patrick Cantlay to continue impressive play

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The third major championship of 2024 did not disappoint as Bryson Dechambeau capped off a sensational week with the second U.S. Open victory of his career. The season rolls along to Cromwell, Connecticut, where TPC River Highlands hosts the 2024 Travelers Championship. This is yet another designated event with a $20 million dollar purse.

TPC River Highlands is a 6,841-yard par-70 that has been a PGA Tour stop for 40 years. Home of the only 58 in Tour history, it is possible to go extremely low at this Pete Dye design. However, TPC River Highlands does feature a difficult closing stretch with holes 16-18 all historically averaging scores over par.

The Travelers Championship will play host to 72 golfers this week. Being a signature event, almost all of the best players on Tour will be teeing it up. 

PGA Tour U winner, Michael Thorbjornsen, will be making his season debut this week at the Travelers. 

Past Winners at The Travelers Championship

  • 2023: Keegan Bradley (-23)
  • 2022: Xander Schauffele (-19)
  • 2021: Harris English (-13)
  • 2020: Dustin Johnson (-19)
  • 2019: Chez Reavie (-17)
  • 2018: Bubba Watson (-17)
  • 2017: Jordan Spieth (-12)
  • 2016: Russell Knox (-14)

Key Stats For TPC River Highlands

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for TPC River Highlands to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach sits at the top spot in the stat model this week. The course is relatively short, and golfers with multiple types of skill sets compete here. Iron play is often the great equalizer allowing the shorter hitters to compete, and that should be the case again this week.

SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.61)
  2. Corey Conners (+1.11)
  3. Sepp Straka (+0.92)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+0.91)
  5. Tony Finau (+0.88)

2. Par 4 Birdie or Better %

With only two par-5s on the course, the importance of par-4 scoring cannot be understated. Whoever plays the par-4s most effectively this week will put himself in the driver’s seat.

Par 4 Birdie or Better % Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Eric Cole (25.4%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+24.6%)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+23.5%)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+22.8%)
  5. Wyndham Clark (+22.7%)

3. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Ball striking combines off the tee and approach and will be the stat I use to incorporate off-the-tee play this week. The over-emphasis on approach play will incorporate golfers who give themselves plenty of birdie looks in the event.

SG: Ball Striking past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.56)
  2. Ludvig Aberg (+1.67)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.57)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.44)
  5. Corey Conners (+1.31)

4. Course History

Course history has proven to be a major factor at TPC River Highlands. With seven golfers who have multiple wins at the course, familiarity could be the key at the Travelers Championship.

Strokes Gained: Total at TPC River Highlands per round over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.03)
  2. Patrick Cantlay (+2.02)
  3. Brian Harman (+1.98)
  4. Rory McIlroy (+1.97)
  5. Scottie Scheffler (+1.54)

5. Strokes Gained: Total Pete Dye Designs

TPC River Highlands is another prototypical Pete Dye track where many of the same golfers play well consistently.

SG: Pete Dye per round Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.49)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+2.22)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+1.86)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.66)
  5. Patrick Cantlay (+1.61)

6. Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA Mix

TPC River Highlands is another prototypical Pete Dye track where many of the same golfers play well consistently.

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA Mix Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.41)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+1.04)
  3. Keegan Bradley (+1.01)
  4. Robert MacIntyre (+0.98)
  5. Wyndham Clark (+0.84)

The Travelers Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (26%), Par 4 Birdie or Better % (13%), SG: Ball Striking (20%), Course History (13%), SG: Putting Bent/POA (14%) and SG: Pete Dye (14%).

  1. Xander Schauffele
  2. Rory McIlroy
  3. Scottie Scheffler 
  4. Viktor Hovland
  5. Corey Conners
  6. Sahith Theegala
  7. Brian Harman
  8. Keegan Bradley
  9. Collin Morikawa
  10. Tony Finau

2024 Travelers Championship Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2500 (FanDuel)

When a player contends in a major in the previous week, I typically like to fade said player the following week. However, this week feels a bit different to me. Cantlay has been struggling all season, and I can’t help but feel like the former FedEx Cup champion found something during the U.S. Open. I also don’t think he was incredibly disappointed with the result. He played well on Sunday and was impressive over the weekend, finally getting a true feel of what major championship contention felt like. It was all positives for Cantlay at Pinehurst.

Cantlay will now head to a spot where he’s had an incredible amount of success but has not yet notched a victory. In his last six starts at the course, he’s not finished worse than 15th. His best start came last year, where he finished T4. He ranks 1st in the field in Strokes Gained: Total at TPC River Highlands. Cantlay is also a Pete Dye specialist and ranks 4th in the field in Strokes Gained: Total on Dye tracks. The 32-year-old ranks 3rd in Par 4 birdie or better percentage.

Cantlay was spectacular across the board at Pinehurst. For the week, he ranked 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach, 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 10th in Strokes Gained: Putting. I fully expect him to build off of that performance and contend once again at one of his favorite Tour stops.

Sam Burns +3500 (DraftKings)

Sam Burns had a great Sunday at Pinehurst, which is always a bonus heading into the following week. He shot -3 in his final round, which got him into the top ten (T9) in what was a successful major for a player who’s not performed his best in them historically.

Burns is a prolific birdie maker who can win a boat race to -20 as well as anyone on Tour. He’s also had some success at both Pete Dye courses, where he ranks 13th in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds, and at TPC River Highlands, where he ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds.

Burns has been playing some solid golf of late. He has four top-15 finishes in his past starts including a T13 at the Wells Fargo Championship, 10th at the RBC Canadian Open and 15th at the Memorial Tournament. He has gained strokes on approach and off the tee in five of his past six starts.

The LSU product can win golf tournaments in a variety of ways. His ability to make putts if it turns into a wedge and putting contest makes him a strong candidate to contend this week.

Sahith Theegala +4500 (BetRivers)

Sahith Theegala has been playing some solid golf over the last few months. As we saw last year with Keegan Bradley, a missed cut at the U.S. Open shouldn’t necessarily scare someone off from a player who fits TPC River Highlands, which I believe Theegala does.

TPC River Highlands is the site of Theegala’s near victory a few years back. He finished in a tie for 2nd in 2022 after making double-bogey on the 18th hole with a one-shot lead, losing to Xander Schauffele. Theegala will now head back to the course as a more mature player who is in the midst of the best season of his career.

This season, the former Haskins award winner in having strong finishes in some of the season’s most important events. He finished 5th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, 6th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 9th at the PLAYERS Championship, 2nd at the RBC Heritage and 12th at both the Memorial Tournament and PGA Championship.

In his past 24 rounds, Sahith ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 11th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, 18th in Par 4 birdie or better percentage and 8th in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bent/POA mixed putting surfaces.

If this turns into another shootout, Theegala has the type of ball striking and putting combination that can win a race to -20.

Sungjae Im +6600 (BetRivers)

After seemingly regaining his form over the past month, Sungjae took a step back at last week’s U.S. Open. The South Korean missed the cut, shooting +10 over his first two rounds. Despite the disappointing result, I don’t believe one poor start at a long and difficult golf course is enough reason to give up on him. 

Although the score was regretful at Pinehurst No. 2, Im hit the ball pretty well from tee to green. In his two rounds, he gained strokes both off the tee and on approach. His downfall was with the putter, which can be extremely hit or miss, especially over the course of this season.

Prior to the U.S. Open, Sungjae had finished in the top ten in three of his previous four starts. He finished T4 at the Wells Fargo “Signature Event” at Quail Hollow, T9 at the Charles Schwab Challenge and T8 at The Memorial Tournament. He’s also gained strokes off the tee in nine straight events.

Im has made three starts at TPC River Highlands, finishing 21st, 58th and 29th respectively. Im hits fairways at a high clip, which will be a massive advantage this week and his lack of driving distance won’t be an issue. He also ranks 12th in the field in his past 24 rounds in Strokes Gained: Total on Pete Dye designs.

It’s been a long time since Im has won an event (2021 Shriners), but I believe he’s back on the upswing and is still a higher end talent on the PGA Tour with another win coming soon.

Tom Kim +6600 (BetRivers)

After a sluggish start to the 2024 season, Tom Kim has come on strong over the past month or so. The South Korean started his stretch of impressive play at Valhalla for the PGA Championship, finishing 24th. After that, Kim put together finishes of T4 at the RBC Canadian Open and a T26 at last week’s U.S. Open. In between, he finished T43 at The Memorial, but hit the ball great from tee to green.

Tom has done an impressive job of playing well at long and difficult setups, but this week, he will head to a course in TPC River Highlands that should his game immaculately. Both of Kim’s wins have come at short setups that mitigate his biggest weakness, which is driving distance. The course is short this week and fits the mold of the tracks Tom has had great success at over the past few seasons on Tour.

In his past 24 rounds, Kim ranks 7th in Par 4 birdie or better percentage, which will come into play this week. He also ranks 19th in the field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Kim is already a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and has shown that if he gets a sniff of contention, he can close out a tournament with the best of them.

 

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