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Opinion & Analysis

The need for speed

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In golf culture, as we all know, certain dreaded words must avoided. However, contrary to popular belief, the worst is not “shank”—it is either “bunter” or “short knocker.” How do I know? Years of abuse at the hands of friends who love to bomb it by me and then taunt me. This reached a tipping point in early December with my buddy Fredrick Lindblom of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. Right after we teed off he asked, “You catch that?”

“Ripped it,” I said, as we both got into the cart and started driving to our balls.

“Yeah. Looked like you sent it at least 201,” he said with a chuckle. “By the way, did you hear about all the new construction around here? I hear it includes a new Super Walmart!”

“A new Super Walmart around here! Cool. Where’s it going?” I asked.

“Right between my ball and yours,” he could barely get the words out before exploding into laughter.

That evening, as I sat at home reflecting, I decided it was time to make a change. It wasn’t just Freddy, it was a lot of people. I needed to be able to hit it further: I set a new goal for myself: fly the ball 250 by September 1, 2019.

What follows is the story of my journey.

It’s not just swinging harder

Going into this process, because of my background in golf, I knew my best shot would be to learn to move more efficiently to create more optimal launch conditions. My first step was to call the people at K-Motion. K-Motion makes a technology in golf called K-Coach—they use wireless sensors to provide data to software that produces an evaluation report that explains how a player uses their body to hit the ball. How good? 51 of the coaches on the top 100 list, 21 major league teams, and Freddy all use it.

Data collection with K-Coach and a Flightscope took less than ten minutes. One sensor went on my back with a vest (hence the name), one around my waist with a belt, one on my arm with a Velcro strap and one on my golf glove with a clip. I took five swings with my six iron and that was it. Out popped the report and graphs.

“You’re obviously aware of your FlightScope numbers,” my friend Joe DiChiara, Director of education at K-Motion, who coaches elite junior and your players, reminded me. “You swing your 6-iron about 79 mph with a path way right”

I nodded.

“Here is what your body is doing” said Joe, as he turned the computer screen show me some data in the evaluation. “You start with your arms and hands first and that limits your ability to transfer the energy your body is creating to the golf ball through what we call the kinematic chain.“

“And what should I be doing?” I asked.

“In an efficient swing, and not all great golfers are efficient, in the transition sequence, from the top of the swing, you want the lower body to fire first, then the upper body, then the lead arm, and then the hand, like when you crack a whip.”

“Makes sense,” I told him.

“And the other thing I would suggest, you need to focus on your side bend at the top of your swing. As you can see,” he said pointing to another page of the report, “you have flat shoulders at the top, and that’s making it hard for you to deliver the club at impact.”

“What does the rest of the report say?” I asked

“That’s all you need to know right now” Joe told me.

“So, here is the million-dollar question, how do I get better on this?” I asked. “Hit a ton of balls?”

“Actually, we are going to do no range work. We are going to design you a biofeedback training program for your K-Coach and you have super speed weighted clubs, and I want you to use the program I give you for those too.”

Joe spent another two minutes creating my programs, emailed them to me and I was ready to go. As I shook Joe’s hand and left, I was excited but also worried, no range? Is this going to work? I mean, it’s where people practice?

I caught my flight home and as soon as I got home, I downloaded the biofeedback training program from Joe, put on my K-Coach and got to work. Immediately I could feel how different the patterns were. My posture was way different, and I really had to struggle to follow the avatar that guided me through my new movement patterns, engaging my muscles in new ways.

I stuck with the program, upping my work to three times a day for the first 10 days. Slowly, I improved, the work got easier, and I got better at getting into position. I called Joe and told him it was getting easy at day 15, so he tightened the tolerances on my biofeedback activities. It got harder again.

About 20 days into the program, I felt confident in my new movement patterns and ready to test my work. I headed out to my home course TPC Pebble Creek.

I got up on the first tee. I did a step through drill, then addressed the ball and whack! So far left, it was crazy. No Bueno. Lack of separation on the downswing with some forward bend, I thought.
No problem, needed to side bend more at impact and not be so forward. Rehearsing the change, I hit another and this time, crushed it. I was pumped to see where it was, so I quickly put my driver away and darted down the fairway to find it about 20 yards past where I have ever hit it on a course that I have probably played a million times. That was the story of the day, everything way longer than ever before.

After the round, I pulled out the Flightscope and tested my 6-iron speed, 87 mph, ten miles per hour faster. Wow. I called Joe.

“Fantastic stuff, time for new clubs,” he told me.

Studio 360 club fitting

Now that I had better movement patterns, I enlisted the help of my friend Lyndon Wilson at Golf Studio 360 based at Orange County National in Orlando, Florida. Lyndon is a world-class fitter who has done work for many of the best players including Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell to name a few. I was excited to get his opinion on if equipment might be able to help me get more distance.

After watching a couple shots with my irons, Lyndon in his English accent said, “are you ready for something that will change your life?”

I nodded. He turned away and I could tell he was screwing some components together. He turned around and immediately, my smile turned upside down; Lyndon has put in a graphite shaft. I immediately protested, “Lyndon, I may not hit it far, but I love the stability of my steel shafts. I don’t want a couple yards at the cost of accuracy.”

Lyndon smiled and said, “Read it, what shafts are those?”

“KBS C-Taper Lites” I responded.

“Yes, and these are the new KBS graphite. Designed by your buddy Kim (Braly – the owner of KBS). They have the same profile as the steel but have a range of weights from 50 grams to 80 grams. We are going to try you in the 70 grams with the same TaylorMade head you currently play). I want you to hit 10 with yours and then 10 with these. Let’s see what happens?”

The last sentence should have been a hint; a Wiley veteran like Lyndon never guesses, he knew that the KBS graphite would make a huge difference and of course, he was right. The results were not even close; I had now gotten even more distance, flying my 6-iron close to 190 yards: Boom!

Lyndon was clearly happy, but we were not done yet, it was time for the moment of truth; how far would the driver fly? “Mate, now that you have better side bend, sequencing and speed, your driver launch conditions are going to be mad different. I think if we can get +2 AoA (angle of attack) we have a real chance of going 250+” said Lyndon. “Give me 1 second, think I got the perfect fit”.

Again, he turned his back, fiddled with some things and then reached out to hand me a new weapon to try.

I immediately went to check it out; a TaylorMade M5 with an Accra TZ6. The club looked sexy AF. I was pumped. Teed one up and smackkkkkkk. I turned quickly and saw a cheeky little smile on my buddy’s face: “257 carry, 274 total, mate!” said Lyndon.

“Wow, that’s a missile launcher” I said.

“Yes, those TaylorMade heads are really good, but this new Accra Shaft mate…whoooo. It’s so unique because it’s low torque but has an active tip. This means we can give you a really low spin head and it won’t just noise dive,” he said as he showed me the numbers on FlightScope. “Look at these numbers; you hit up two, 103 mph and spin of 2,200. Couldn’t be any better.”

“I also love the feel,” I said, as I smashed a couple more. “Also, really like how everything looks.”

“You know those Accra’s also come in custom finish. I got something in mind that you are going to love. Trust me, you’re going to have a killer set when I’m done building these things!” explained Lyndon as he shook hands and ended the fitting.

My new best friend Chuck

Recently my buddy Katie, invited me out to play golf with her, her dad and his friend Chuck. Don’t let the sweet name fool you, Katie is a stud; former college lacrosse player, who’s super athletic and had just qualified for her first USGA championship (US AM). She was also down in our series 2-1 and very eager to tie it up. 4 hours later, it was not even close, after Katie laid a complete beatdown on me, she did something extremely admirable; she invited me in for a beer and nachos. As I numbed the loss with a delicious pint of Guinness, Chuck looked at me and said “you hit is so good day, way better than Katie! You kill it brother! What’s your secret?” I smiled, the circle was complete, and the loss quickly faded from my mind.

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Brendan Ryan, an entrepreneur and scientist, is a passionate golfer who loves his local muni. Armed with a keen interest in the game, a large network of friends in the industry, Brendan works to find and produce unique content for GolfWRX.

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1 Comment

  1. Ron Donald

    Oct 30, 2019 at 12:08 am

    Beautiful story! Did you make Katie breakfast in the morning?

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work? Part 1

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Of all the clubs in our bags, wedges are almost always the simplest in construction and, therefore, the easiest to analyze what might make one work differently from another if you know what to look for.

Wedges are a lot less mysterious than drivers, of course, as the major brands are working with a lot of “pixie dust” inside these modern marvels. That’s carrying over more to irons now, with so many new models featuring internal multi-material technologies, and almost all of them having a “badge” or insert in the back to allow more complex graphics while hiding the actual distribution of mass.

But when it comes to wedges, most on the market today are still single pieces of molded steel, either cast or forged into that shape. So, if you look closely at where the mass is distributed, it’s pretty clear how that wedge is going to perform.

To start, because of their wider soles, the majority of the mass of almost any wedge is along the bottom third of the clubhead. So, the best wedge shots are always those hit between the 2nd and 5th grooves so that more mass is directly behind that impact. Elite tour professionals practice incessantly to learn to do that consistently, wearing out a spot about the size of a penny right there. If impact moves higher than that, the face is dramatically thinner, so smash factor is compromised significantly, which reduces the overall distance the ball will fly.

Every one of us, tour players included, knows that maddening shot that we feel a bit high on the face and it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not your fault.

If your wedges show a wear pattern the size of a silver dollar, and centered above the 3rd or 4th groove, you are not getting anywhere near the same performance from shot to shot. Robot testing proves impact even two to three grooves higher in the face can cause distance loss of up to 35 to 55 feet with modern ‘tour design’ wedges.

In addition, as impact moves above the center of mass, the golf club principle of gear effect causes the ball to fly higher with less spin. Think of modern drivers for a minute. The “holy grail” of driving is high launch and low spin, and the driver engineers are pulling out all stops to get the mass as low in the clubhead as possible to optimize this combination.

Where is all the mass in your wedges? Low. So, disregarding the higher lofts, wedges “want” to launch the ball high with low spin – exactly the opposite of what good wedge play requires penetrating ball flight with high spin.

While almost all major brand wedges have begun putting a tiny bit more thickness in the top portion of the clubhead, conventional and modern ‘tour design’ wedges perform pretty much like they always have. Elite players learn to hit those crisp, spinny penetrating wedge shots by spending lots of practice time learning to consistently make contact low in the face.

So, what about grooves and face texture?

Grooves on any club can only do so much, and no one has any material advantage here. The USGA tightly defines what we manufacturers can do with grooves and face texture, and modern manufacturing techniques allow all of us to push those limits ever closer. And we all do. End of story.

Then there’s the topic of bounce and grinds, the most complex and confusing part of the wedge formula. Many top brands offer a complex array of sole configurations, all of them admittedly specialized to a particular kind of lie or turf conditions, and/or a particular divot pattern.

But if you don’t play the same turf all the time, and make the same size divot on every swing, how would you ever figure this out?

The only way is to take any wedge you are considering and play it a few rounds, hitting all the shots you face and observing the results. There’s simply no other way.

So, hopefully this will inspire a lively conversation in our comments section, and I’ll chime in to answer any questions you might have.

And next week, I’ll dive into the rest of the wedge formula. Yes, shafts, grips and specifications are essential, too.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Amazing Session with Performance Coach Savannah Meyer-Clement

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In this week’s episode, we spent some time with performance coach Savannah Meyer-Clement who provides many useful insights that you’ll be able to implement on the golf course.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Heritage betting preview: Patrick Cantlay ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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Just a two-hour drive from Augusta National, the PGA TOUR heads to Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise and Harbour Town is one of the most beautiful and scenic courses on the PGA TOUR.

Harbour Town Golf Links is a par-71 that measures 7,121 yards and features Bermuda grass greens. A Pete Dye design, the course is heavily tree lined and features small greens and many dog legs, protecting it from “bomb-and-gauge” type golfers.

The field is loaded this week with 69 golfers with no cut. Last year was quite possibly the best field in RBC Heritage history and the event this week is yet another designated event, meaning there is a $20 million prize pool.

Most of the big names on the PGA Tour will be in attendance this week with the exceptions of Hideki Matsuyama and Viktor Hovland. Additionally, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland and Kevin Kisner have been granted sponsors exemptions. 

Past Winners at Harbour Town

  • 2023: Matt Fitzpatrick (-17)
  • 2022: Jordan Spieth (-13)
  • 2021: Stewart Cink (-19)
  • 2020: Webb Simpson (-22)
  • 2019: CT Pan (-12)
  • 2018: Sotoshi Kodaira (-12)
  • 2017: Wesley Bryan (-13)
  • 2016: Branden Grace (-9)
  • 2015: Jim Furyk (-18)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats For Harbour Town

Let’s take a look at key metrics for Harbour Town Golf Links to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach is exceedingly important this week. The greens at Harbour Town are about half the size of PGA TOUR average and feature the second-smallest greens on the tour. Typical of a Pete Dye design, golfers will pay the price for missed greens.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.27)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.27)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.16)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+0.95)
  5. Cameron Young (+0.93)

Good Drive %

The fairways at Harbour Town are tree lined and feature many dog legs. Bombers tend to struggle at the course because it forces layups and doesn’t allow long drivers to overpower it. Accuracy is far more important than power.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Brice Garnett (88.8%)
  2. Shane Lowry (+87.2%)
  3. Akshay Bhatia (+86.0%)
  4. Si Woo Kim (+85.8%)
  5. Sepp Straka (+85.1%)

Strokes Gained: Total at Pete Dye Designs

Pete Dye specialists tend to play very well at Harbour Town. Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson are all Pete Dye specialists who have had great success here. It is likely we see some more specialists near the top of the leaderboard this week.

SG: TOT Pete Dye per round over past 36 rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.27)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.24)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+2.11)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.89)
  5. Sungjae Im (+1.58)

4. Strokes Gained: Short Game (Bermuda)

Strokes Gained: Short Game factors in both around the green and putting. With many green-side bunkers and tricky green complexes, both statistics will be important. Past winners — such as Jim Furyk, Wes Bryan and Webb Simpson — highlight how crucial the short game skill set is around Harbour Town.

SG: SG Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+1.11)
  2. Taylor Moore (+1.02)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+0.98)
  4. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.86)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.83)

5. Greens in Regulation %

The recipe for success at Harbour Town Golf Links is hitting fairways and greens. Missing either will prove to be consequential — golfers must be in total control of the ball to win.

Greens in Regulation % over past 24 rounds:

  1. Brice Garnett (+75.0%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+69.9%)
  3. Corey Conners (+69.0%)
  4. Shane Lowry (+68.3%)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+67.6%)

6. Course History

Harbour Town is a course where players who have strong past results at the course always tend to pop up. 

Course History over past 24 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.34)
  2. Cam Davis (+2.05)
  3. J.T. Poston (+1.69)
  4. Justin Rose (+1.68)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.59)

The RBC Heritage Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (24%), Good Drives (20%), SG: SG (14%), SG: Pete Dye (14%), GIR (14%), and Course History (14%)

  1. Shane Lowry
  2. Russell Henley
  3. Scottie Scheffler
  4. Xander Schauffele
  5. Corey Conners 
  6. Wyndham Clark
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  8. Matt Fitzpatrick
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Ludvig Aberg 

2024 RBC Heritage Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2000 (FanDuel)

With the exception of Scottie Scheffler, the PGA Tour has yet to have any of their star players show peak form during the 2024 season. Last week, Patrick Cantlay, who I believe is a top-5 players on the PGA Tour, took one step closer to regaining the form that’s helped him win eight events on Tour since 2017.

Cantlay limped into the Masters in poor form, but figured it out at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for 20th and ranking 17th for the week in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. The former FedEx Cup champion will now head to one of his favorite golf courses in Harbour Town, where he’s had immaculate results over the years. In his six trips to the course, he’s only finished worse than 7th one time. The other finishes include three third places (2017, 2019, 2023) and one runner-up finish (2022). In his past 36 rounds at Harbour Town, Cantlay ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Total per round at the course by a wide margin (+2.36).

Cantlay is winless since the 2022 BMW Championship, which is far too long for a player of his caliber. With signs pointing to the 32-year-old returning to form, a “signature event” at Harbour Town is just what he needs to get back on the winning track.

Tommy Fleetwood +3000 (FanDuel)

I truly believe Tommy Fleetwood will figure out a way to win on American soil in 2024. It’s certainly been a bugaboo for him throughout his career, but he is simply too talented to go another season without winning a PGA Tour event.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, Fleetwood made a Sunday charge and ended up finishing T3 in the event, which was his best ever finish at The Masters. For the week, the Englishman ranked 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is a perfect layout for Fleetwood, and he’s had relative success at this Pete Dye design in the past.  In his four trips to the course, he’s finished inside of the top 25 three times, with his best finish, T10, coming in 2022. The course is pretty short and can’t be overpowered, which gives an advantage to more accurate players such as Fleetwood. Tommy ranks 8th in the field in Good Drive % and should be able to plot his way along this golf course.

The win is coming for Tommy lad. I believe there’s a chance this treasure of a golf course may be the perfect one for him to finally break through on Tour.

Cameron Young +3300 (FanDuel)

Cameron Young had a solid Masters Tournament last week, which is exactly what I’m looking for in players who I anticipate playing well this week at the RBC Heritage. He finished in a tie for 9th, but never felt the pressure of contending in the event. For the week, Young ranked 6th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 6th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Despite being one of the longest players off the tee on the PGA Tour, Young has actually played some really good golf on shorter tracks. He finished T3 at Harbour Town in 2023 and ranks 20th in the field in Good Drive% and 16th in Greens in Regulation in his past 24 rounds. He also has strong finishes at other shorter courses that can take driver out of a players hand such as Copperhead and PGA National.

Young is simply one of the best players on the PGA Tour in 2024, and I strongly believe has what it takes to win a PGA Tour event in the very near future.

Corey Conners +5500 (FanDuel)

Corey Conners has had a disappointing year thus far on the PGA Tour, but absolutely loves Harbour Town.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, the Canadian finished T30 but ranked 20th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. In his past 24 rounds, Conners ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd in Greens in Regulation % and 24th in Good Drive %.

In Conners’ last four trips to Harbour Town, his worst finish was T31, last season. He finished T4 in 2021, T12 in 2022 and ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course over his past 36 rounds.

Conners hasn’t been contending, but his recent finishes have been encouraging as he has finished in the top-25 in each of his past three starts prior to The Masters, including an impressive T13 at The PLAYERS. His recent improvement in ball striking as well as his suitability for Harbour Town makes Conners a high upside bet this week.

Shane Lowry (+7500) (FanDuel)

When these odds were posted after Lowry was announced in the field, I have to admit I was pretty stunned. Despite not offering much win equity on the PGA Tour over the last handful of years, Shane Lowry is still a top caliber player who has the ability to rise to the top of a signature event.

Lowry struggled to score at The Masters last week, but he actually hit the ball really well. The Irishman ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Approach on the week and 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. As usual, it was the putter that let him down, as he ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is most definitely one of Lowry’s favorite courses on the PGA Tour. In his six starts there, he’s finished in the top 10 three times, including third twice. Lowry is sensational at Pete Dye designs and ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Total in his past 36 rounds on Dye tracks. 

Lowry is perfect for Harbour Town. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd in Good Drive% and 5th in Green in Regulation %. If he figures it out on the greens, Shane could have his first win in America since 2015.

Lucas Glover +12000 (FanDuel)

This is one of my weekly “bet the number” plays as I strongly believe the odds are just too long for a player of Glover’s caliber. The odds have been too long on Glover for a few weeks now, but this is the first event that I can get behind the veteran being able to actually contend at. 

Glover is quietly playing good golf and returning to the form he had after the understandable regression after his two massive victories at the end of 2023. He finished T20 at The Masters, which was his best ever finish at Augusta National. For the week, Lucas ranked 18th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Over his past 24 rounds, Glover ranks 9th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th in Good Drive %. Harbour Town is a short course that the 44-year-old will be able to keep up with the top players on Tour off the tee. He’s played the course more than 20 times, with mixed results. His best finishes at Harbour Town include a T7 in 2008, but recently has a finish of T21 in 2020.

Glover has proven he can contend with the stars of the Tour on any given week, and this number is flat out disrespectful.

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