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The Wedge Guy: Is wind golf’s toughest challenge?

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We all know this fascinating game we play can throw a wide variety of challenges at you, from trees to rough, to sand, to fast greens, narrow fairways…well, you get the picture. But maybe the toughest challenge of all is wind. And those who play in Texas, Florida, and other breezy places get more than their share of it.

Even on the PGA Tour, you typically do not see the super-low scoring when the wind picks up. Like many of the players said after the massacre at Medinah a couple of weeks ago, length doesn’t phase them anymore. Give them soft greens and it doesn’t matter how long the course is playing. But toss in a nice breeze of 15-20 mph or more, and that low scoring just doesn’t happen, does it?

There is even an old Scottish saying that goes something like: “If there be nay wind, there be nay golf.” A stout wind changes the game tremendously.

Having spent my whole life in Texas, playing in the wind is just as much a part of golf as grass. It is almost always blowing from one direction or another, and learning how to maneuver a small, light white ball through that wind adds a whole new dimension to the game. The two keys, of course, are to control trajectory and spin.

I will admit that the ball gurus have helped a lot with the newer golf balls, which spin a great deal less than our old balata balls that I learned with. That cuts down on both backspin and sidespin, which, in turn, makes hitting better golf shots into the wind or with crosswinds much easier.

But I’m finding that as the club manufacturers deal with that lower-spinning ball, they are producing clubs–from drivers to irons–that launch the ball a great deal higher than before. And to me at least, that makes filling in your set a much more challenging process.

I still prefer single-piece forged blade irons, as they allow you to have more control over trajectory in my opinion. (That’s why the majority of the best iron players on tour still play them as well). I watch friends fight the wind with their perimeter-weighted irons that were designed to put the ball as high into the air as possible. That’s what the designers were striving for, so it’s hard to fight all the science they have built into these new iron designs. I’ve gamed my irons for five years now—I designed them to be forgiving, while still allowing me a high degree of trajectory control.

Likewise for my driver—a prototype that never made it to production because of its small size (410 cc) and the fact that it was [maybe] not quite as “forgiving” as bigger designs. But it allows me to have a tremendous amount of trajectory control as well as the ability to work the ball in both directions off the tee, which is how I like to play the game.

However, my recent experience of trying to find the perfect fairway wood has been baffling and frustrating. As I’ve written, I’m a big fan of the 4-wood, and have had several I just loved—but I thought I would see about “upgrading” to one of the newer models that claim to be longer. I’ve tried several and all are long and solid, but they launch the ball so high, I cannot find a way to get the low, boring shot into the wind out of them. Comparing 17-degree models to one another, they all seem the same–long and high.

So, I have been forced to get creative with filling that gap in my set. And my solution was an early generation Sonartec NP-99 3-wood at 15 degrees (eBay: $45!), which I cut down to 42.5” in length. I can hit it high when I want, and have no problem hitting “stingers” or other lower-trajectory shots when called for into a stiff breeze.

All this to say you can still get creative when putting your set together to allow you to play the game the way you want.

Teasers from our survey

The GolfWRX editors and I thank you all who persevered our tech glitch and completed our survey. As we near 1,000 completed, the insight you all have provided will give us some deeper understanding of you and your games so that we can do our best to be more relevant to you going forward. I have a lot of work ahead of me to analyze and cross-tabulate your answers, but I will begin sharing insight you have given in the weeks ahead.

I can share that overall there were surprises, along with things we had pretty much figured out.

  • The GolfWRX readers skew a bit younger than the golfer population at large. This is no surprise as the younger generations are much more engaged on forums like this in any discipline.
  • The GolfWRX readers play much more golf than the golf population at large. Again, no surprise as you all are expressing your much deeper relationship with the game.
  • Likewise, GolfWRXers average lower scores than the general golfer population, again as we suspected.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to devote a portion of each blog article to sharing deeper insight into what we learned from you all. I think you will find this very interesting, so stay tuned.

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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. Al

    Sep 4, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    The main point of Terry’s analysis is that if some have their way, weight would be taken out of the ball because the Pros hit it so far. If this insanity ever wins out, every one of the dissenting views of this article would completely evaporate..

  2. Chimchim

    Sep 4, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Wind is the hardest to play in, for sure. As much as I try, inevitably, the wind gets into my head at some point in the round – with not good results. No other condition does that. I will agree that inconsistent greens will impact putting, but I will take my chances once I am there.

    I have a couple of the sonartec np woods. they are /were nice. I just get more distance out of my current 3 wood and hit hybrids for the “5 wood”.

  3. gwelfgulfer

    Sep 3, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    The gap between the ears is the toughest challenge… How many million dollar swings are there out there with $2 brains…

  4. drkviol801

    Sep 3, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    A solidly struck ball won’t move much in the wind, y’all are just hacks.

    • drkviol801

      Sep 3, 2019 at 8:25 pm

      *Wont move much in crosswind when compressed, into and with the wind are fairly easy to judge…

  5. James

    Sep 3, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    So which would you rather: 30 mph wind or 20 yd wide fairways with 4 inch rough? I’ll take the wind.

  6. Alex

    Sep 3, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Heavy Wind is the hardest challenge in golf hands down imo. 12/15 mph is fine and a lot of courses are actually designed for it. Usually a south wind that longer holes play into that almost need the wind for it to play correctly. When it gets up around 30 that’s when it’s a curve ball. 12-15 is usually steady when it’s 30 you’ll get gusts in the 40s or it’ll swirl on you and wreck your yardage control. Gimmick pins are 2nd. When I say gimmick pins I mean holes that you’d rather be 20 feet below than 4 feet above. None of us are good enough to be upset hitting it to 4 feet and a bad hole location that doesn’t reward a good shot will make you want to walk off the course and scream at the superintendent. Pga tour guys have that game. I’’m gonna be extremely pissed off if I stuff a par 3 or approach on par 4 to have a defensive don’t make a bogey putt from inside 6 feet.

    • Ryan

      Sep 4, 2019 at 10:11 am

      I was playing with a group here in Texas one windy summer morning. We were on 17, which was a par 3. It was playing into the wind and although short, it was still a middle iron to long iron for a shorter hitter. Guy hit a great shot to 3 feet. I turned and said, “great shot, good luck with that putt though”. It was a full on gimmick pin. He barely tapped the putt, it missed the hole and went 10 feet by. He then missed the next one, for a nice little bogey. Thought he was going to strangle the super. He went in the clubhouse looking for the guy but didn’t find him. He gave them an ear full about the pin location. In his defense, it was a ridiculous pin. The flag was nearly at an angle.

  7. ChipNRun

    Sep 3, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Wind is a factor, but not the biggest challenge for everyday golfers. For us average WRXers, I would say inconsistent course manicure is the biggest challenge.

    I played a tournament at a former country club that became a decent municipal course. Only problem – whether the rough got mowed the day before can make for a 2- to 4-stroke swing in scores. I mean, the “first cut” gets ankle deep really fast.

    Two of the par 5 holes are notorious. No. 3 runs along the north edge of the course. It’s blind tee shot, and anything move than a foot into the left rough can end up being a lost ball. Same problem on No. 16 – a crowned fairway runs along the south edge of the course, and anything that bounces left seemingly leaves the planet.

    As far as wind goes, around 35 MPH gets touchy – but I prefer not to play in such weather. Call me crazy, but in persimmon-headed driver days a player was expected to be able to handle the wind. For a head wind, tee the ball low, or punch up a tuft of grass about an inch to keep the ball low and hot. Last time I checked, the wind blows on everyone. Time of day can matter if the wind gets stronger in AM or PM – but that’s golf.

    Being this is the Wedge Guy’s column, let’s talk cross winds. Inside 70 yards, if I’m facing a crosswind with an open green front, I may take 7i punch-and-run to keep the ball low.

    For full iron shots, the iron designers suggest taking an extra club or two into a headwind rather than trying for an unpracticed knock-down. If it’s a cross wind, you can work it or fight it. One of my favorite shots in golf is an iron shot draw back against a left-to right crosswind.

    Learning to handle the wind is part of GOLF. Learning to handle jungle rough… well, sometimes it can’t be handled.

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The 19th Hole (Ep. 165): One-on-one with Shane Bacon

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Host Michael Williams talks with the co-host of the Golf Channel’s Golf Today about the Open Championship and Collin Morikawa’s place in the history books.

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What’s old is new again

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All of a sudden, today’s newest trend in golf is yesterday’s clubs.

Golfers are making a move towards old classics the way car enthusiasts would ogle a classic Porsche 911 before they would look twice at a new Tesla Model 3. On the spectrum of art to science, Tesla is peak science and focused on efficiency in every fathomable way. The other will absolutely get you from A to B, but you are more likely to have a smile on your face while you take the detour along the water while enjoying the journey to get there. It is the second type of club that is enjoying this latest resurgence, and I can’t get enough.

New businesses are springing up to refurbish old clubs such as @mulligansclubmakers and @twirledclubs with price tags approaching (and exceeding) the RRP at the time of release of many of the clubs in question. These old clubs are often found in pictures of major champions being used in the 1970s and 1980s, which serves to make them more valuable and interesting to enthusiasts. Other clubs are simply polished examples of the clubs many of us owned 25 years ago and now regret selling. The more polish on an old blade, the better, with classic designs from brands like Wilson Staff, Mizuno, or MacGregor seeing demand and prices increase every month. Seeing these old clubs reimagined with shiny BB&F co ferrules, updated shafts, and grips can get some golfers hot and bothered, and they will open their wallets accordingly.

Around 15 years ago, I bought an old set of blades from the brand Wood Brothers. For many years, I was unable to find out a single thing about those clubs, until @woodbrosgolf came out of hibernation this year onto Instagram and into a frothing market for handmade classic clubs from a forgotten past. I was able to get information that the blades had come out of the Endo forging house in Japan, and my decision to keep the clubs in the garage all these years was vindicated. Now I just need an irrationally expensive matching Wood Bros persimmon driver and fairway wood to complete the set…

Among other boutique brands, National Custom Works (@nationalcustom) has been making pure persimmon woods with the help of Tad Moore to match their incredible irons, wedges, and putters for some time, and now the market is catching up to the joy that can be experienced from striking a ball with the materials of the past. There is an illicit series of pictures of persimmon woods in all states of creation/undress from single blocks of wood through to the final polished and laminated artworks that are making their way into retro leather golf bags all over the world.

There are other accounts which triumph historic images and sets of clubs such as @oldsaltygolf. This account has reimagined the ‘What’s in the Bag’ of tour pros in magazines and made it cool to have a set of clubs from the same year that shows on your driver’s license. I hold them wholly to blame for an impulse buy of some BeCu Ping Eye 2 irons with matching Ping Zing woods… The joy to be found in their image feed from the 70s and 80s will get many golfers reminiscing and wishing they could go back and save those clubs, bags and accessories from their school days. If you want to see more moving pictures from the era, @classicgolfreplays is another account which shows this generation of clubs being used by the best of the best in their heyday. Even better than the clubs are the outfits, haircuts and all leather tour bags to match.

It seems that this new generation of golfer – partially borne out of COVID-19 — is in need of clubs that can’t be sourced fast enough from the major OEMs, so they have gone trawling for clubs that were cool in a different time, and they want them now. Those golfers who match the age of the clubs are also experiencing a golfing rebirth, as the technology gains from the OEMs become incremental, many are now finding enjoyment from the classic feel of clubs as much as they are searching for an extra couple of yards off the tee.

Either way, the result is the same, and people are dusting off the old blades and cavities from years past and hitting the fairways more than ever before. With the desire shifting towards fun over challenge, they are even creeping forward to the tees that their clubs were designed to be played from and finding even more enjoyment from the game. If only I hadn’t got rid of those old persimmons in high school…

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The Wedge Guy: Top 4 reasons why most golfers don’t get better

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A couple of years ago, I attended a symposium put on by Golf Digest’s research department. They explored the typical responses as to why people quit or don’t play more – too much time, too expensive, etc. But the magazine’s research department uncovered the real fact – by a large margin, the number one reason people give up the game is that they don’t get better!

So, with all that’s published and all the teaching pros available to help us learn, why is that? I have my rationale, so put on your steel toe work boots, because I’m probably going to step on some toes here.

The Top 4 Reasons Golfers Don’t Improve

  1. Most golfers don’t really understand the golf swing. You watch golf and you practice and you play, but you don’t really understand the dynamics of what is really happening at 100 mph during the golf swing. There are dozens of good books on the subject – my favorite is Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.” But pick any good one and READ IT. LEARN IT. It will help you immensely if you understand what the swing is really all about. Use a full length mirror to pose in key positions in the swing to match the drawings and photos. All the practice in the world will not help if you are not building a sound fundamental golf swing.
  2. Learning golf doesn’t start in the middle. A sound golf swing is built like a house. First the foundation, then the framing, roof, exterior walls, interior, paint, and trim. You can’t do one before the other. In golf, it all starts with the grip. If you do not hold the club properly, you’ll never accomplish a sound golf swing. Then you learn good posture and setup. If you don’t start in a good position, the body can’t perform the swing motion properly. With a good grip and a sound setup posture, I believe anyone can learn a functional golf swing pretty easily. But if those two foundations are not sound, the walls and roof will never be reliable.
  3. Most bad shots are ordained before the swing ever begins. I am rarely surprised by a bad shot, or a good one, actually. The golf swing is not a very forgiving thing. If you are too close to the ball or too far, if it’s too far forward or backward, if you are aligned right or left of your intended line, your chances of success are diminished quickly and significantly. The ball is 1.68 inches in diameter, and the functional striking area on a golf club is about 1.5-inches wide. If you vary in your setup by even 3/4 inch, you have imposed a serious obstacle to success. If you do nothing else to improve your golf game, learn how to set up the same way every time.
  4. Learn to “swing” the club, not “hit” the ball. This sounds simple, but the golf swing is not a hitting action: it’s a swinging action. The baseball hitter is just that, because the ball is in a different place every time – high, low, inside, outside, curve. He has to rely on quick eye-hand coordination. In contrast, the golf swing is just that – a swing of the club. You have total control over where the ball is going to be so that you can be quite precise in the relationship between your body and the ball and the target line. You can swing when you want to at the pace you find comfortable. And you can take your time to make sure the ball will be precisely in the way of that swing.

Learning the golf swing doesn’t require a driving range at all. In fact, your backyard presents a much better learning environment because the ball is not in the way to give you false feedback. Your goal is only the swing itself.

Understand that you can make a great swing, and often do, but the shot doesn’t work out because it was in the wrong place, maybe by only 1/4 inch or so. Take time to learn and practice your swing, focusing on a good top-of-backswing position and a sound rotating release through impact. Learn the proper body turn and weight shift. Slow-motion is your friend. So is “posing” and repeating segments of the swing to really learn them. Learn the swing at home, refine your ball striking on the range and play golf on the course!

So, there you have my four reasons golfers don’t get better. We all have our own little “personalization” in our golf swing, but these sound fundamentals apply to everyone who’s ever tried to move a little white ball a quarter-mile into a four-inch hole. Working on these basics will make that task much easier!

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