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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Practicing putting

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I thought today I would depart from the typical short game focus and turn my attention to putting. Many of you might not know that I began my golf career working with the marketing for Ray Cook and Otey Crisman putter companies. I became immersed in putter form and function and actually began designing my own putters in the mid-80s. I was blessed to spend a lot of time working with tour players during that period and learned a lot about the craft of making more putts.

I’ve always been a “range rat” – I just love hitting balls and learning more and more about my swing. As a result, I’ve always been a pretty solid ball-striker. My driving and iron play have been my strengths my entire golf life. It probably goes back to the advice my father gave me when I was very young. “There’s nothing wrong with your game that another 5,000 practice balls won’t fix,” he would repeatedly tell me. And I took that to heart and pounded balls by the hundreds daily it seems.

But I’ve never applied that same philosophy to my putting. Duh. I’ve had a lifelong struggle with the yips, and have had plenty of advice on how to beat them, mostly unsolicited. But some years ago, two things I have learned in my life seemed to come together to give me a new perspective.

First, I had the opportunity to listen to a full day presentation by Dr. Rick Jensen, renowned sports psychologist. Part of his topic was on the subject of “you’re not good enough to choke.” What he meant was that most are too quick to apply the “choke” label, when what really happened is that the golfer didn’t have his or her skills polished to an adequate level. It was a very interesting angle on the subject. I highly recommend his books.

The other piece of the puzzle came in a small book that I received as a gift. In “How To Make Every Putt,” Dr. Joseph Parent advocates practicing your putting like you do everything else. Work on your fundamentals, where a hole is not even in the picture. Approach learning how to make solid, sound putting strokes like you do making solid, sound full swings.

So, putting these two together, I took my 100-ball bucket to the practice green Tuesday afternoon and hit about 500 putts. Various distances, no target…just making good solid strokes, evaluating and correcting, until I felt my routine and technique were gelling to something I could count on. It was as much fun as going to the range, to be honest. A concentrated practice session that was totally focused on the process, not the outcome.

The next day, before a tournament practice round, I took that same drill to the practice green. I put down six balls and putted them different distances, but never to one of the holes on the green. Just practicing my technique and routine, rhythm, and tempo. Then I finished my putting warm-up by making about 15-20 putts of not more than 2 feet. I wanted fresh feedback of the ball going into the hole.

The result was one of my better putting rounds in recent history.

If you are struggling with your putting, try taking the hole out of the equation and just working on your fundamentals of posture and stroke, until you are hitting one solid putt after another. You might find it very successful.

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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.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Acemandrake

    May 18, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    “Speed is everything.”

    This one thought clarified & simplified putting for me.

    It helps make putting more of an athletic process. Like shooting a free throw in basketball: Your only thought is “How much force do I need to get the ball to the basket?”

    No mechanical thoughts.

  2. Herb Rubenstein

    May 13, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Terry reminds me of Bill Melhorn, one of the great ball strikers of all time, but never was one of the best putters on the Tour in the 1920’s. Bill Melhorn would visualize his 3 irons going into the hole, but reflected later in his professional golf life that he rarely envisioned his putts, especially his long putts, going into the hole or even stopping next to the hole. He often putted quite long or short of the hole. As Dawn Mercer, Director of Instruction at Innisbrook taught me, the hole is your goal, not your target, except on a straight putt. And how many straight putts do you get in a round on the toughest courses? Thanks, Terry. I have often dumped a bucket of balls out on the putting green and put the bucket somewhere on the green 20, 40, or 60 feet away, and used the bucket as my target, my starting line. When the ball would break away from the bucket, I would not care. I would only care that I started the ball on the line to the center of that bucket and my distance was good, even with the bucket or a little bit past it. Try that drill and people will come up to you and watch!

  3. ChipNRun

    May 12, 2020 at 11:03 pm

    Interesting side angle by The Wedge Guy.

    My instructor a few years back had a superb chipping and short wedge game. His short-game clinics were eye-opening.

    He had been “low putt man” his junior year in his college golf conference. His secret: his short game. He said it was easy to be “low putt” man when a lot of your up-and-down putts are 3-footers.

    He was NOT low-putt man, however, his senior year: his Greens-In-Regulation went + 1.5 per round, leaving him fewer short putts.

  4. BigArch

    May 12, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    Good stuff. Love the concept. I’ve always been a good putter, great lag putter actually. I can get streaky and make a lot of putts but when I don’t, I rarely struggle with 3 putts as I tend to always leave it pretty close to the hole. My best putting practice over the years has just been standing in the middle of the putting green and hitting putts to the fringe. Concentrating on making good strokes and getting a good roll on the ball and working on speed. I rarely practice holing putts. So I can relate to the ideas in this piece… this type of practice has worked for me over the years.

  5. bladehunter

    May 12, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Refreshing article. First off. Kudos for printing words instead of a fluffy video. 2nd , it’s easy to tell the words are coming from a person who has experience outside of the internet. I’ll look for more of your content to read.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Breakthrough mental tools to play the golf of your dreams

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Incredibly important talk! A must listen to the words of Dr. Karl Morris, ham-and-egging with the golf imperfections trio. Like listening to top athletes around a campfire. This talk will helps all ages and skills in any sport.

 

 

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On Spec

On Spec: Homa Wins! And how to avoid “paralysis by analysis”!

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This week’s episode covers a wide array of topics from the world of golf including Max Homa’s win on the PGA Tour, golf course architecture, and how to avoid “paralysis by analysis” when it comes to your golf game.

This week’s show also covers the important topic of mental health, with the catalyst for the conversation being a recent interview published by PGA Tour with Bubba Watson and his struggles.

 

 

 

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