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The Wedge Guy: 5 tips to make 2020 your best golf year ever

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We are fortunate in South Texas that we really haven’t had much winter yet. As I write this, they are forecasting 80 degrees for this afternoon. But I understand the rest of the country isn’t faring so well. (And I know ours is coming, sooner or later.) As I’ve made friends around the country, who live in areas where they have a genuine off-season, it has made me aware that not all are so fortunate as to be able to work on their games year-round.

So today’s article is for those of you who might not be seeing grass for a while.

Because you have a short season, I can imagine it is important for you to want to get the most out of it. But it’s not realistic to think those golf muscles, your skills and your golf mind won’t atrophy over the winter layoff. But you don’t have to settle completely that your first few weeks will be awful. Here are five solid tips for making 2020 your best year of golf scores ever. Here goes:

1. Putt short putts better. If you will just work on your putting, your scores will come down dramatically. The first area to focus on is getting deadly on putts under five feet. That you can practice in your living room or basement every day if you are so motivated. All you need is one of these cool putting mats, or nothing more complex than a six foot piece of smooth commercial carpet. Learn how to groove your stroke so that your short putts become automatic. The left side
leads, keep a soft grip on the putter and your weight favoring your left side (all for righty’s of course). And tempo, tempo, tempo. Slow back, slow through.

2. Strengthen your left side. If you are a right handed person, your left side is likely not strong enough to maintain a leadership role in the swing, because you don’t use it as much. On the simple side, keep a 5- or 10-lb dumbbell near your desk or sofa and do curls and other exercises several times a day. Even better is to swing a weighted club with only your left hand 15-25 times a day. A strong left side will do more for your golf swing than just about anything else you can do.

3. Improve your short game. Sorry, but that means practice, guys. Again, you can learn and groove a good chipping/pitching stroke in your garage off a piece of carpet. Refer back to my articles on technique; read books by Utley and Watson—learn, learn, learn . . . . then practice, practice, practice. Get better at getting up and down and strokes will fly off your scores.

4. Sharpen your mind. There are some really good books about the mental side of the game and this is a good time of year to spend some time with them. I’m a fan of Dr. David Cook and his book, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days in Utopia.” Besides that very fine story, he has written several books about this aspect of the game. But there are many more that are fine as well. Remember that a round of golf covers much more time thinking than it does actually hitting shots. The better y you get at the former, the better you are likely to be at the latter.

5. Visit TopGolf or other simulators. There is never a substitute for actually making swings and hitting balls, so treat yourself to some time at TopGolf or other simulators. If none are close, and you have a basement, set up a net and hit balls regularly. If none of that is available, at least get a short weighted practice club and take regular swings.

Bonus Tip. Have fun! We don’t do this for a living, so don’t let bad shots or bad rounds mess up a day in the sun with friends.

And when you get back out on the course, have realistic expectations—after all, you’ve been out of the game for months possible. When you do get out there, however, remember the old adage: One bad round—forget it. Two bad rounds—practice. Three bad rounds—get a lesson.

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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: Aaron Dill is back!!!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny has a dear friend and master wedge human Aaron Dill to chat about Cantlay, The Masters, and his new TSi3.

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TG2: Testing the NEW Cobra King Tour irons and the Ben Hogan GS53 MAX driver

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Cobra’s new King Tour irons with MIM technology are built for better players looking to hit precision shots. The feel is very soft and responsive while the smaller profile lets you easily hit any shot in the book. Ben Hogan has released their most forgiving driver, the GS53 MAX and it is easy to hit. Designed with a ton of tech, this driver is long and helps reduce that slice!

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Equipment tidbits for you to think about

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One of the most fun things about being a golfer is that we all want to get better–hit drives longer and straighter, iron shots that find greens more often, pitches and chips that get closer, and putts that go in more often. And we all seem to take great pleasure in finding that next “missing link” in our bags that will help us achieve one of those goals.

Today I want to share some thoughts about how little things can often mean a lot when it comes to tweaking your equipment. On the surface, a golf club seems to be a pretty simple thing—a piece of metal, at the end of a tubular piece of metal or graphite, with a rubber-like handle at the end. But when that golf club is put into motion at 100 mph or so, a lot of dynamics begin to happen.

As we ponder the dynamics of the complex action of swinging a golf club and the broad set of mechanics that come into play on every shot, I thought I’d share some random observations I’ve made over the years about equipment cause and effect:

Increasing your driving distance: The industry has taken us on this dramatic quest for distance and power, and the average driver sold today is over 45” long. That’s two inches longer than the standard of 25 years ago. And while the humongous driver heads brag about “forgiveness”, the fact is that your longest drives (and straightest) will always come from dead center hits. It’s still a fact that a sweet spot miss of just ½” will cost you 7-9% distance loss, and a miss of 3/4” will increase that to 12-15%. I suggest you try gripping down on your driver an inch or more the next time you play and see if you don’t hit the ball closer to the sweet spot and see it consistently going longer and straighter. It’s been proven over and over again.

Examining iron specs: The “standard” way a set of irons was engineered for decades was that the irons vary in length by ½”, and in loft by 4 degrees. But the past few years – driven by the relentless quest for distance – we have seen the loft gaps increased to 5° at the short end of the set and as small as 2.5° at the long end. The harsh reality of this geometry is that almost every golfer will have much smaller distance gaps at the long end of the set than at the short end, where distance precision is critical. I have tweaked my irons for years so that I have smaller length and lie differences at the short end than the long, and that allows my distance gaps to be more consistent. Most golfers could benefit from examining their TRUE carry distances from club to club and then tweaking lofts and lengths to fix their gapping.

Fit your putter. It amazes me to watch how many golfers–even some of the pros on TV–and see the toe of the putter up in the air at address. Simple fact is that this makes the face point left because of the loft. I’ve become a true believer in putter fitting. A good fit will ensure that your putter really is aimed at the target, and that the lie angle allows the ball to come off the putter straight. Yes, the style of putter is a matter of personal preference, but a putter that is accurately fit to you makes this maddening part of the game much less so.

Watch your grips. We spend hundreds of dollars on a driver or set of irons, and we get disposable “handles”. It’s a fact that grips wear out. They get dirty. And they need replacing regularly. Take a close look at yours. Worn, dirty grips cause you to grip the club tighter to have control. And bad shots are much more frequent because of that.

Experiment. The toys are a big part of the fun of golf, so don’t be afraid to experiment. I’ve long suggested all golfers should try the blade style short irons of one of your better player friends or pros, but experiment with other clubs, too. Hit your buddies’ hybrids, fairways, irons, drivers. Try different golf balls. [But I just can’t buy that tees can make a difference, sorry.] It’s fun.

So, there you have some random thoughts of the hundreds that swirl around in my head. Let me know your other questions about equipment, and I’ll try to address them in future columns.

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