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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Demystifying the ‘half wedge’ shot

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One of the more difficult aspects of golf, in my opinion, is learning the “touch” shots; those less-than-full swings that you need to score. It seems the vast majority of golfers are challenged by these, more than they are by the full swings, in fact. In my research and many sessions with recreational golfers, that shot comes up more often than any as one that people want to learn.

There are two basic camps of instruction on this shot. In one camp you have the people who advocate using the same club all the time and just learn to feel the distance. In the other are the advocates of using three different lengths of swings for all your wedges and then learning the distances of each different swing for each club.

I think either of those are OK…for golfers who are willing to put in lots of hours of practice. But I have always been focused on the typical recreational golfer who is just not (or cannot) going to invest that time. So I’m going to offer a slightly different approach to those “in-between” wedge shots–not quite a full swing, but more than a short pitch.

But it is true that this part of the game takes as much practice, or more, to develop as the full swing shots. In order to have touch and feel, you have to have a “database” of shots you’ve successfully executed to draw from. The more good ones you have in that database, the more likely you are to be able to pull one out of your arsenal with confidence. But that all starts with having a technique you can rely on, so let’s build that.

I’m a believer that the closer you get to the green, the slower you work. I compare the short game to the house painter. Painting walls allows full and powerful strokes with a large brush or roller, but as you get to the trim work, you work slower and more deliberately. Wedge play is a lot like that. I believe you can be more precise with a longer, slower swing, than a short “jabby” one. I’m also a proponent of controlling your swing power and clubhead speed with the rotation speed of your body core. To hit the ball further/harder, you rotate through faster. To hit the soft touch shots, you rotate through a little slower.

The key to that is to keep the hands “quiet”, so that you are not flipping the clubhead, and let the upper body, arms and hands work in perfect unison. If your hand speed (and therefore the clubhead speed) are always coordinated with the pace of your body core rotation, you’ll quickly learn how to manage the pace of that rotation to produce various distances.

One analogy that I like is to think of your less-than-full wedge swings like driving in various speed limit zones. The longer shots are “country road”, somewhat slower than a full “highway speed” swing pace. Beneath that is “city driving”, where the pace of body core rotation is even slower. And the shortest “half wedge” shots put you in “school zone”, which is defined by slower and more attentive.

I suggest you spend time with your gap and sand wedges, and practice this core-driven approach. Learn how the ball will fly the same shortened swing and various speeds of your core rotation. Once you get a good feel for that process, you can further vary the ball flight by gripping down on the club to different points on the grips–the shorter the club, the lower and shorter the ball will fly.

This is a very broad topic for such a short forum, but I hope that this different approach to those ‘half wedge shots’ will help those of you who are still searching for “the secret.”

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Over his 40-year career in the golf industry, he has created over 100 putter designs, sets of irons and drivers, and in 2014, he put together the team that reintroduced the Ben Hogan brand to the golf equipment industry. Since the early 2000s, Terry has been a prolific writer, sharing his knowledge as “The Wedge Guy”.   But his most compelling work is in the wedge category. Since he first patented his “Koehler Sole” in the early 1990s, he has been challenging “conventional wisdom” reflected in ‘tour design’ wedges. The performance of his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to move slightly more mass toward the top of the blade in their wedges, but none approach the dramatic design of his 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 – check it out at www.EdisonWedges.com.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Acemandrake

    Mar 17, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    I like to think of a less than full swing as an “arm swing”.

    Keep the lower body quiet, use hand/eye coordination to gauge the feel for distance and adjust swing length accordingly.

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Equipment

Davis Love III was still using a persimmon driver in 1997?!

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The revolution of metal drivers was happening quickly in the early-to-mid 1990’s, but Davis Love III was set on sticking with his Cleveland Classic Oil Hardened RC85 persimmon driver. He wasn’t oblivious to the emerging technology, though. He knew exactly what he was doing, and why.

“The Cleveland has been in my bag since 1985,” Love III wrote in his 1997 book, “Every Shot I Take.” “It was given to me by a good friend, Bob Spence. I experiment with metal drivers often; I find – for me, and not necessarily for you – they go marginally longer than my wooden driver, but they don’t give me any shape. I find it more difficult to create shape to my drives off the metal face, which is important to me. …I also love the sound my ball makes as it comes off the persimmon insert of my driver.

“I’m no technophobe,” he added. “My fairway ‘woods’ have metal heads … but when it comes to my old wooden driver, I guess the only thing I can really say is that I enjoy golf more with it, and I think I play better with it…golf is somehow more pleasing to me when played with a driver made of wood.”

Although his book came out in 1997, Love III switched out his persimmon driver for a Titleist 975D titanium driver in the same year.

It was the end of an era.

During Love III’s 12-year-run with the persimmon driver, though, he piled on four wins in the year of 1992, including the Kmart Greater Greensboro Open — now known as the Wyndham Championship.

Love III, who’s captaining the 2022 Presidents Cup United States team next month at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., is playing in the 2022 Wyndham Championship in nearby Greensboro. In celebration, we took a look back in the archives to see what clubs Love III used for his win in 1992 for an article on PGATOUR.com. We discovered he was using a Cleveland Classic persimmon driver, in addition to a nostalgic equipment setup.

In our latest Two Guys Talking Golf podcast episode, equipment aficionado and co-host Brian Knudson, and myself (GolfWRX tour reporter Andrew Tursky), discuss Love III’s late switch to a metal-made driver, and why he may have stuck with a wooden persimmon driver for so long.

Check out the full podcast below in the SoundCloud embed, or listen on Apple Music here. For more information on Love III’s 1992 setup versus his 2022 WITB, click here.

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

Why the 2022 AIG Women’s Open is a momentous week for the women’s game

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The 47th Women’s British Open, currently sponsored by AIG, is unquestionably historic.

Not only is the purse a record $7.3 million, but this week’s venue has a darker, less inclusive past than it would like to be remembered for.

Despite holding 16 Open Championships, the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and a Curtis Cup, in 2016, the membership controversially voted against permitting women to join the club.

Having then courted controversy and after receiving a ban from hosting The Open, they predictably reversed the decision, and three years later allowed their first ever female members.

It’s been a long time coming but, from now on, things are definitely on the up.

Tournament director Zoe Ridgway told Women & Golf that, “Along with our partners at AIG, we have a real ambition to grow the AIG Women’s Open. We are creating a world-class championship for the world’s best players and, as such, we need to provide them with the best golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland to compete on.”

She continued, “Muirfield is certainly one of these and it will be a historic moment when the women tee off on the famed layout for the first time. That is a moment which we hope becomes iconic for golf and encourages more women and girls into the sport.”

2009 winner, Catriona Matthew, hit the historic first tee shot yesterday, the two-time winning Solheim Cup captain symbolically teeing off alongside another home player, 22-year-old Louise Duncan.

From one stalwart and veteran of the tour to the fresh face of Scottish golf, Duncan won the 2021 Women’s Amateur Championship before becoming low amateur at the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie, 12 months ago.

Duncan turned pro recently, missing her first cut at the Women’s Scottish Open last week, but bouncing back in today’s first round, a 4-under 67 leaving her in third place, just two off the lead.

There is something particularly special about links golf, and certainly when it hosts a major, but this week seems to have additional sparkle about it.

Yes, there are the practicalities. For example, this year will mark the first time the players have their own all-in-one facility, available previously to the male competitors.

Ridgway explained, “It will have dining, a gym, physio rooms, locker rooms, showers, and everything that they need to prepare for a major championship.”

This week is momentous in so many ways. It will be tough, windy and cold – links courses are – and there will be a very deserving winner by the end of the 72 holes, but the event is summed up by Visit Scotland CEO Malcolm Roughead:

“It sends the signal that the women’s game is being taken seriously.”

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: My BIG guys golf trip WITB and building a custom TaylorMade Spider GT putter

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This weekend is my big guys golf trip. We have a great group of 16 guys who play a mini Ryder Cup style tournament for a trophy and major bragging rights. Trying to put together the two full sets I will bring with me. I love custom golf clubs and the My Spider GT program from TaylorMade is awesome! I built a custom Spider GT that matches my custom Stealth Plus+ driver!

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