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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Spin 2: An examination of impact

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Last week, I gave an overview of all the factors that I believe affect spin and promised to dive deeper into the dynamics of impact this week.

But first, thanks to all of you who chimed in with your comments. Those keep me going, whether you totally agree with me (or completely disagree) I enjoy reading what you all have to say. I will be the first to admit that the science of golf is unsettled…we continually learn more and more about the dynamics of swinging a golf club and striking a ball. And that’s a good thing.

In today’s post, I want to share what I believe to be true about impact – lessons learned from observing thousands of golfers of all skill levels, interacting and analyzing over 50,000 wedge-fitting profiles from our online engagements, and analyzing data from Iron Byron testing of wedges of all lofts, makes and models over the years.

So here goes.

From all that input I’ve gained over the years, I believe that some golfers are just always going to spin the ball better than others. I also believe that anyone can learn to spin the ball better, if they are willing to invest in instruction and practice, but that is what it takes. Ever since the USGA and R&A changed the rules on groove geometry in 2010, and eliminated those sharp-edged square grooves, spin just isn’t “for sale” anymore.

So, let’s first dive into the dynamics of the wedges you play. But we’re not going to address clubhead speed, as I believe we all agree that faster speed results in more spin. While that doesn’t mean you should try to hit your wedges harder, it is a piece of information you should know. What you can do with that is try to leave yourself lay-up shots that give you more full-swing wedges into the green than those dreaded ‘half-wedges.’

There is no question that very new wedges, with fresh grooves and no face wear yet, will help you spin the ball better than an old worn out wedge. But is it realistic to think that all of us can just run out and get new wedges every 40-50 rounds, as one major wedge manufacturer suggests? Probably not.

The next best thing is to keep your wedge face and grooves as clean as possible for each shot. After you take your practice swings on that wedge shot, give your club a good wiping down with a towel to get it as clean as possible – that will definitely help.
Likewise, I have learned that softer shafts will help you spin the ball better, as will graphite over steel in my opinion and observation.

One of the most critical factors of wedge spin as a result of impact is the exact point on the face where impact is made. We’ve all heard “thin to win,” and that is truer with wedges than any other club. Generally speaking, the lower on the face you make contact, the lower launch angle you will get and the more spin the ball will take on.

In the many Iron Byron tests of wedges of all makes and models that I have analyzed, I’ve learned that spin will dramatically drop off as impact is moved higher on the head and toward the toe as well. In a recent test, we saw top-brand wedges deliver spin variances as much as 35-45 percent from impacts as little as 3/8” from center. When we measured the range from maximum spin (low face) to minimum spin (high face and toe), most wedges would see variances of as much as 55 percent!

I will tell you that tour players and top-level amateurs generally strike their wedge shots lower on the face than most recreational players. So, if you want to learn to spin your wedges better, practice making impact lower on the face. Impact tapes are a good way to see your own results and the effect of your practice. The two photos below are from a well-known tour player’s wedge (above) and that of a low-single-digit player’s wedge (below). That lower impact pattern of just 2-3 grooves gives the tour player a lower launch angle, more distance and much more spin on a consistent basis.

Tour pro

low single digit

The other element of impact that you can learn and improve on is your angle of approach to the ball, and the quality of your impact. To get maximum spin from your skill set and strength profile, you must make absolutely sure you contact the ball before the turf, and that your clubhead is moving slightly downward at impact. You don’t need to dig up “beaver pelts,” but you do need to make clean contact with the ball first. A very good amateur golfer I knew well would never take much divot at all, he just nipped the ball clean and “shaved” the grass with each iron shot. But darn, he spun the ball and controlled his trajectories as well as anyone I ever saw that didn’t do this for a living.

So, I hope this helps those of you who would like to learn to spin the ball better with your wedges. To recap:

  • Make sure your grooves and face are clean before the shot that counts.
  • Learn to make contact lower on the face consistently.
  • Learn how to make a clean descending path through impact (A tip I can offer that works for most golfers is to focus your eyes on the forward edge of the ball for all wedge shots – the side toward the target. It really does work)

I hope you all enjoyed this two-part series on spin. I would also appreciate you sending me an email with ideas of things you would like me to address in future articles. My knowledge, insights, and opinions are yours for the asking. Just send that email to [email protected].

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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.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. jamho3

    May 10, 2019 at 8:17 am

    TK in 2020!

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, I can see how difficult it is to get things just right when so many factors are in play. Science, real experience, knowledge of Am’s, Pros playing conditions and so forth.

    I appreciate the discernment that goes into your writing with your efforts to help us.

    New product by 2019 The Open or we’re going on strike!

  2. Brando

    May 8, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    I think lie angle is overlooked when it comes to wedges and putters. It’s very important in my opinion. My lob wedge is the flatest club in my bag. I just bent my putter 1 degree flater and putting so much better now and hitting the sweet spot again.

  3. Layne Yawn

    May 8, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Terry:
    I have a lob wedge with 10* of bounce. All my lob wedges in the past have had about 5*-6* of bounce. Is it possible to shave a small amount off the bounce? Our fairways are extremely tight as well as the chipping areas around the green. I just don’t seem to hit the quality wedge shots like I use to and being 65 doesn’t help. I like the wedge, I like the way it looks and feels. A lower bounce was not an option offered by the manufacturer. What would you suggest?
    Thank you

  4. Luke

    May 7, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    Any opinion on re-grooving with groove tools?

    • Terry Koehler

      May 8, 2019 at 10:40 am

      Hello Luke, the main issue with re-grooving wedges is that the process removes material, of course, which will then likely make your grooves exceed USGA specifications, and possibly sharpen the edges too much as well. If you and your golf buddies don’t mind your wedges being non-conforming, I guess it’s not an issue. But you should be aware of this . . .

  5. Tom Newsted

    May 7, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    So the question in my mind is what is a realistic number of rounds before we look to replace a wedge. Currently I do it once a year but then again I use all three a great deal and I normally get in about 60-70 rounds a year.

    • Terry Koehler

      May 8, 2019 at 10:43 am

      Good question, Tom. A major brand is saying that wedges exhibit significant spin loss after 50 rounds, but they are not specific on how many shots that represents. If you practice a lot with them, you might not even get that many.
      My suggestion is to get a good magnifier and visually examine the grooves and face texture often, comparing the center impact area to the perimeter of the scored area where you make impact much less often, and make that call yourself. I also recommend that you practice with your older wedges if you replace them, and keep your new ones fresh for actual play.

      • Chris

        May 8, 2019 at 8:15 pm

        Wow, as simple as the thought of practicing with an old wedge is, I never thought about it. Thanks.

      • Revanant

        Jul 30, 2019 at 12:58 pm

        Hey Terry,

        The rule of thumb I’ve heard regarding wedge condition is to run your finger nail down the grooves–as long as you hear a click, you have good grooves.

        Is that an over-simplification? Should I be looking for major wear and chipping, kind of like in the photo of the tour pro’s wedge? I feel like that wedge is definitely on the verge of replacement, whereas my wedges don’t yet have wear spots but I’ve put probably about 60 rounds through them and a fair amount of practice. But, most of my wedge usage is chipping, pitching, and half-swings, or bunker play. My 54 degree is only good for 70 yards on a full swing, so most of my gapping on full shots is covered by my Hogan Redline Equalizer through my 9 iron for shots between 80 yards and 110 yards.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What makes a golf course ‘tough?’

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I found this past weekend’s golf to be some of the most entertaining and thought-provoking of the season. While the men of the PGA Tour found a challenging and tough Muirfield Village, the women of the LPGA were getting a taste of a true championship-caliber layout at Olympic Club, the sight of many historic U.S. Opens.

In both cases, the best players in the world found themselves up against courses that fought back against their extraordinary skills and talents. Though neither course appeared to present fairways that were ridiculously narrow, nor greens that were ultra-fast and diabolical, scoring was nowhere near the norms we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the professional tours.

So, that begs the question – what is it exactly that makes a course tough for these elite players? And is that any different from those things that make a course tough for the rest of us?

From my observation, the big difference for both the ladies and the men was the simple fact that Muirfield Village and Olympic shared the same traits – deep rough alongside each fairway, deep bunkers, and heavy rough around the greens. In other words — unlike most of the venues these pros face each week, those two tracks put up severe penalties for their not-so-good shots — and their awful ones.

Setting aside the unfortunate turn of events for John Rahm – who appeared to be playing a different game for the first three days – only 18 of the best male players in the game managed to finish under par at Muirfield Village. That course offered up measurable penalties for missed fairways and greens, as it was nearly impossible to earn a GIR from the rough, and those magical short games were compromised a lot – Colin Morikawa even whiffed a short chip shot because the gnarly lie forced him to try to get “cute” with his first attempt. If you didn’t see it, he laid a sand wedge wide open and slid it completely under the ball — it didn’t move at all!

On the ladies’ side, these elite players were also challenged at the highest level, with errant drives often totally preventing a shot that had a chance of holding the green — or even reaching it. And the greenside rough and deep bunkers of Olympic Club somewhat neutralized their highly refined greenside scoring skills.

So, the take-away from both tournaments is the same, the way I see it.

If a course is set up to more severely penalize the poor drives and approaches — of which there are many by these players — and to make their magical short game skills more human-like, you will see these elite players struggle more like the rest of us.

So, I suggest all of you think about your last few rounds and see what makes your course(s) play tough. Does it penalize your not-so-good drives by making a GIR almost impossible, or is it too challenging around the greens for your scoring skills? Maybe the greens are so fast and diabolical that you don’t get as much out of your putting as you think you should? Or something else entirely?

My bet is that a thoughtful reflection on your last few rounds will guide you to what you should be working on as you come into the peak of the 2021 golf season.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: My 3-wood search, Mizuno ST-Z driver, and Srixon divide golf ball review

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I am on the search for a 3-wood this year and talk a little about my top 3 that I have been hitting. Hit on the pros and cons of each option and what might be in the bag next week. The Mizuno ST-Z was on the course and a really good driver for players who want forgiveness but don’t need any draw bias. The Srixon Q-Star Tour Divide is a cool 2-tone ball that makes short game practice more interesting.

 

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: How to turn technical thinking into task-based think in your golf game

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The mind can only be in one place at a time at 40 bits of information per second. To build a golf swing this way would be like an ant building New York City this way: a most impossible task. When you are task-based you are using the human self-preserving system, that works at 40 million bits per second, choose wisely.

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