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The Wedge Guy: Scoring Series Part 6: Trouble shots

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So here we are with the last part of this series on scoring range performance. I hope most of you have enjoyed this adventure into the part of the game that makes or breaks your rounds, most of the time. That is always my goal with this blog–to leave most of you with at least one tidbit of help that you can immediately incorporate into your game right away.

This last piece of the series is probably the hardest one to write about, as we can get presented with a practically endless variety of shots that fall outside the norm of “routine” irons shots, wedge shots, pitches, chips, and putts. That’s what makes this crazy game so baffling, frustrating, and alluring all at the same time.

So, it is an inevitable matter of fact that we are going to face shots every round that don’t fall into those normal situations. The good news is that I believe each one of those will require some variation on the basics of chipping, pitching or putting that we work on during every round. So, let’s dive into some of those situations.

Bunkers. I’m not going to try to explore bunker techniques here, as that is a subject to itself, on which thousands of words have been written and hours of video have been produced. I believe it is a good routine (if you have the opportunity) to hit a few bunker shots before you go to the golf course for each round, as bunker shots can help set the pace and tempo routine of your swing for the entire round. I will also offer that becoming proficient from the bunkers requires a combination of the right bounce in your wedges for the sand you face, and a technique that you trust, so that you can make confident swings. And practice—lots of practice—is just unavoidable if you want to become a proficient bunker player.

Odd lies. We are going to face uphill, downhill and a variety of sidehill lies around the greens—that’s just a fact. To me, the first challenge of these shots is to not let the lie distort your alignment and ball position, which it will most certainly do. So, when you are faced with one of these shots, spend a bit more attention and focus on your set up alignment and posture and the ball position that is being “forced” on you by the lie. In general terms, an uphill lie will cause you to put the ball a bit further forward, and a downhill lie will place it further back. The key is to have the ball in the right relation to your body core, not your feet, as that will determine the bottom of the swing arc. Generally speaking, your downhill foot will be further from the ball than with a level shot, the body’s way of achieving balance. Likewise, sidehill lies will generally distort your aim right if the ball is above your feet and left if it is below. Again, these are generalities, but pretty common distortions.

Low runners. When you find yourself unable to hit a lofted pitch, you have to resort to the low running shot, one that we probably do not practice much, if at all. Because of that, I believe the best solution is to let the club do the work of keeping the ball low and running, and do not try to “invent” some technique that you have not practiced. It is amazing how simple it is to put a 5-iron in your hand instead of a wedge and then just execute a basic pitch or chip swing with the ball a bit further back to keep the ball low and running.

High lob shots. There are times when you simply have to get the ball up quickly and hopefully have it stop equally quickly. Again, I am always in favor of simplicity to hit the out-of-the-ordinary shots, and the simple way to get the ball up quicker and stopping shorter is to take a club with more loft than you would choose otherwise, and execute your familiar confident technique. And you can always add even more loft by opening the face a bit, but be sure to aim further left (for right-handed players) when you do this.

Practice these shots. I know that is a boring idea, but you cannot expect to be able to execute shots you have not practiced. You probably go to the range to hit a few balls to warm up before a round, even if you are not a “range rat” that loves to practice. If so, I promote ending each pre-round session with a dozen or so chips and pitches to work on your tempo and execution. If you can, even give yourself some tougher shots to practice.

A very wise teaching pro once told me that if you end your warm-up session with some chips or pitches, then the first one you face in the round will allow you to draw on very recent “muscle memory.” It also helps to slow down your tempo from the drivers you probably were just smashing in anticipation of the opening tee shot. I’ve followed that advice since I heard that from him.

So, that concludes my high-level dive into scoring range performance. I hope you all got at least a few things out of these past six weeks that will help you improve your enjoyment and scoring on the course. If you have ideas or questions about things related to scoring or the tools we choose to play this crazy game, please drop me an email at [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.

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The Gear Dive: The TXG Boys are back!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny catches up with Ian Fraser and Mike Martysiewicz of TXG. They discuss their top club picks of 2020 and what to expect in 2021.

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The Wedge Guy: Is lighter always longer?

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One of the continuing trends in golf clubs – particularly drivers – is the pursuit of increasingly lighter shafts; this obsessive goal has given us the premise that the lighter the club, the faster you can swing it. And that idea is driven by the relentless pursuit of distance at all levels, and for all golfers.

But as long as he is, for example, Dustin Johnson ran away with the Masters because he was exactly that – a “master” at ball control and precision. DJ outperformed almost everyone in the field in terms of fairways and greens. That gave him more birdie putts, better looks because of his precise approach shots, and many fewer tough par saves.

But my topic today is to pose the question: “Is lighter really the key to being longer for all of us “recreational” golfers?”
Let me begin by saying that “recreational” doesn’t mean any lack of seriousness or dedication to the game. Hitting better shots and shooting lower scores is the goal for all of us who care about our golf games, right? What I mean is that we do not make our living playing the game. We do not practice incessantly. We do not spend hours at the gym every day specifically preparing our bodies to optimize our golf skills.

Today I’m going to put on my “contrarian” cap and challenge this assumption of “lighter is longer” on a couple of bases.
First, if you watch every accomplished player, you will see that the body core rotation is fast enough to “beat” the hands and clubhead to the ball. All instructors agree that the big muscles of the legs and body core are the key to power and repeatability in the golf swing. The faster you can rotate your body through impact, the more power you generate, which flows down the arms, through the hands and shaft and to the clubhead. This is a basic law of “golf swing physics”.

The simple fact is, the speed at which you can fire these big muscles is not going to be measurably impacted by removing another half ounce or less of weight from your driver. But what that removal of weight can do is to possibly allow for your hands to be faster, which would aggravate the problem I see in most mid- to high-handicap players. That problem is that their body core is not leading the swing, but rather it is following the arms and hands through impact.

Secondly, speed without precision is essentially worthless to you, and likely even counter-productive to your goal of playing better golf. Even with the big 460cc drivers, a miss of the sweet spot by just a half inch can cost you 8-12% of your optimum distance. You could never remove enough weight from the driver to increase your club speed by that amount. So, the key to consistently longer drives is to figure out how to make consistently more precise impact with the ball.

No golf adage is always true, but my experience and observation of thousands of golfers indicates to me that the fastest route to better driver distance is to get more precise with your impact and swing path, and not necessarily increasing your clubhead speed. And that may well be served by moving to a slightly heavier driver, not a lighter one.

I’ll end this by offering that this is not an experiment to conduct in a hitting bay with a launch monitor, but rather by playing a few rounds with a driver that is heavier than your current “gamer”.

Continuing with my “contrarian” outlook on many aspects of golf equipment, the typical driver “fitting” is built around an intense session on a launch monitor, where you might hit 30-40 or more drives in an hour or so. But the reality of golf is that your typical round of golf involves only 12-13 drives hit over a four-hour period, each one affected by a number of outside influences. But that’s an article for another time.

For this week, think about pulling an older, heavier driver from your closet or garage and giving it a go for a round or two and see what happens.

I would like to end today’s post by wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. It’s been a helluva year for all of us, so let’s take some time this week to count our individual and collective blessings.

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TG2: Reviewing the first major OEM (Cobra) 3D-printed putter!

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The first major OEM with a 3D printed putter is Cobra Golf! I took the new Limited Edition King Supersport-35 putter out on the course and found it to be a great performer. Cobra partnered with HP and SIK Putters to create a 3D printed body mated to an aluminum face that features SIK’s Descending Loft technology.

 

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