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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Maybe it’s time to rethink your short irons

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In today’s post, I’m going to put on my “respectful irreverence” hat and challenge the notion of “matched” sets of irons that have been promoted to us since Bobby Jones and Spalding created the concept in the early 1920s. My question is simple: Should iron sets really be “matched”?

I’m going out on a limb and say “NO.”

Here’s why.

When cavity-back, perimeter-weighted irons became popular in the 1970s, long and middle irons immediately became easier to hit. But manufacturers followed industry tradition and continued to make all the irons look alike–3 through PW. Because the short irons had the same cavity as the long and middle irons, the result was excessively high ball flight and reduced spin. That’s when the absurd notion of strengthening lofts began.

Over my many years in the equipment industry, I’ve seen Iron Byron prove time and again that perimeter weighting is increasingly less influential as the loft of an iron increases. In fact, while a low center of gravity and thin face is certainly helpful with a middle or long iron in your hands, most golfers seem to have the exact opposite problem as irons approach the high 30s and 40s in loft – they hit them too high and cannot control their distances.

Most golfers will be surprised by the shotmaking performance of blade short irons, even if you play to a double-digit handicap. The reason is that the more even distribution of mass across the back of the clubhead on a blade short iron of 40 degrees or more greatly equalizes the smash factor – or efficiency of impact – vertically up and down the face. And the simple fact is that most golfers miss their short irons vertically, while long-club misses tend to run heel to toe.

What’s really always baffled me is that the design of almost all wedges exacerbates this issue for golfers, because all the mass is so low in the clubhead. Iron Byron repeatedly proves that misses even a half-inch up the face can reduce smash factor by as much as 20-22 percent on any top-brand wedges. That’s why your high-face misses come up short.

But back to the short iron—here’s what might become an eye-opening experiment for you. Talk to your club fitter or pro about trying out a set of blade demos–just the short irons–for a round or two. Choose some that have a shaft that is reasonably matched to your current irons. Hit some shots side-by-side with your short irons and the blade short irons and see if you don’t notice a measurable trajectory improvement.

Yes, you’ll notice some feel difference when you miss out toward the toe, but my bet is that you will find much more consistent distance control and accuracy.

But remember, the numbers on the bottom of irons have become essentially meaningless. That blade 9-iron might have the same loft as your “tech” pitching wedge. So keep that in mind as you do this evaluation.

Let me know how your experiments play out.

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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.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. matt

    Feb 5, 2021 at 8:21 am

    good read, just found it. there’s another factor making these clubs even harder to control. Since the advent of the ProV1 the cover of a premium ball has been getting harder and harder. They manage to keep spin reasonable with other tech but launch wants to go higher and higher (driver distance is obviously the force here). The wedge makers are on to this, they’re all driving CG higher and higher because these balls want to launch so dang high. But if your pitching wedge/ 9 iron doesn’t have an adequately high CG you’re almost surely going to see some control issues with it IMO.

  2. Osnola Kinnard

    Sep 8, 2020 at 8:58 am

    What you espouse is what Edel Golf does with their SLS01 irons amd they also tske it a step further with different shaft profiles in the long, mid, short iron/wedges.

  3. Speedy

    Aug 11, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    Thought Dave Pelz was The Wedge Guy. Retired (80)?

  4. geohogan

    Aug 2, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    IMO increased offset in cavity backed irons creates inconsistency as much as perimeter weighting.

    Bend your cavity back irons to have much less offset; consistency and accuracy will increase.

    Note: bending less offset will increase effective loft. ie closer to loft of comparable muscle back irons.

  5. Bladehunter.

    Jul 25, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    And some of us have been telling you this forever. For all handicaps. Blades in the short irons. Hybrids up top. Done.

  6. Par

    Jul 25, 2020 at 6:53 am

    I am a mid handicapper, about 12 and in my late 60’s. I fiddle around with hitting various irons. Do see better accuracy and distance with forged or pro series cast iron. Yet over much better consistency and comfort with matched clubs and cast set.

  7. Tokyo Bob

    Jul 24, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    I happened onto this just by chance/trial and error, The end result was I carry two 9 irons and two 8 irons, with 8-PW being Miura blades and the other 6-9 being PRGR GI irons , which are essentially 4-7 lofts. Numbers on the bottom just are meaningful in a general sense or reference in a single set. I like the Hogan clubs just printing the loft, not the number on the club. Useful.

    People may hate on this. But it works for me. MiHLM, mid handicap lives matter, too.

    Liked the article and learned some things on the vertical miss on wedges, etc.

  8. Shallowface

    Jul 23, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    Terry, your comment about how toe hits might feel with a blade is interesting. For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that what people interpret as “forgiveness” is actually just a reduction in vibration due to how it is distributed when a cavity back iron is mis-hit. In my experience, the actual performance differences on mis-hits between blades and cavity backs is not nearly as signifcant as has been sold to the buying public. We just feel them more with a blade. Of course, that vibration reduction may well result in a more enjoyable experience for players, even if it means very little in actual results.

    • geohogan

      Aug 10, 2020 at 12:37 pm

      Most golfers have probably not experienced the sweet feel of pure contact on the sweet spot of a soft carbon muscle back iron.
      If a golfer never knows that sweet feel, he or she will never have the opportunity to learn to repeat that proper clubface to ball contact.

      ie It may be that the lack of reward(sweet feeling) in order to learn, conditioned response restricts learning?

  9. Mike

    Jul 23, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    I’ve learned to ignore the number on the bottom of the club and just build my set based on loft. What’s the point difference in carrying 6i to gap wedge as I do or carrying a 7i to the second gap wedge. It’s still the same number of irons I’m carrying. The markings on the clothes have gotten idiotic. Always remember the TM commercial with Nick Faldo 10 years ago where he said “Wow, I’m hitting this 7i as far as my old 6i”. Duh, Nick, the loft on that 7 iron you tested was definitely stronger than your old one and it was 1/2″ longer.

  10. Osnola Kinnard

    Jul 22, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    I was fitted for a set of Edel SLS01 irons 2 years ago and have not looked back. Not only is the weighting of their irons progressive for the long middle and short irons, the Paderson shafts really do help optimize ball flight, spin, and trajectory.

    Granted I am taller and the longer short irons feel way more comfortable to me, the Edels seem to take your advice to heart in the short irons and wedges.

  11. JD Masur

    Jul 22, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    For that matter, I have a gripe with grips being identical. For the LW, GW and SW, I use reverse taper grips, for the PW-6 iron, I use 2 layers of tennis racquet white hand wrapped grips, for 4-iron hybrid and “Ginty” no taper rubber grips, and for the metal 7, 3 and driver, a tacky white tour wrap.
    The reverse taper gives me versatile options for distance control, and the white tennis wraps/no taper grips make it easier to hold the clubs in my fingers. All white grips give a visual signal on when to change them.

  12. James

    Jul 22, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    My son is a scratch junior player and just got fitted into new irons. Iron fitting by a top fitter took almost 3 hours. Ended up in cavity backs 3-6 and blades 7-PW. Accuracy and distance control is far better. This is good advice Wedge Guy.

  13. Brandon

    Jul 22, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    Wait, haven’t we been told that we can’t even look at blades if we aren’t scratch?

    • Shallowface

      Jul 23, 2020 at 7:46 pm

      The lesson here is, don’t believe everything you are told. About anything.

  14. Douglas Spensley

    Jul 22, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    I agree. I recently got new cavity back irons, and love the 4 to 6, but can’t control distance and spin under 150 yards or so. I’ve put my old blades wedge and 9 back in the bag, still experimenting with 7 and 8.

  15. Acemandrake

    Jul 22, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    The turf interaction of a blade may shock some non-blade players.

    Is there such a thing as a wide-soled blade? Is there a need/demand for this?

  16. Stan The Man

    Jul 22, 2020 at 10:56 am

    Couldn’t agree more with this notion. In fact, I was fitted at a top club fitter a few years ago and to get the consistency, dispersion we needed, we ended up fitting me into a mixed set of Srixon blades to cavity back to game improvement irons throughout the set. Love them and most importantly, I trust them.

  17. juststeve

    Jul 22, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Seems that most of the OEMs are already producing sets with long irons designed to be easier to hit, whether by moving the center of gravity, by use of progressive off-set, etc., whether the design is cavity back or blade. A number have designed their clubs to be compatible as parts of split sets. Good ideas all but sort of yesterdy.

  18. drkviol801

    Jul 22, 2020 at 10:13 am

    Care to explain why a significant number of PGA tour players play with a pw that matches irons? Easily 35-40% do.

    • Roy

      Jul 22, 2020 at 11:39 am

      Doesnt that mean 60-65% don’t??? Remember, not everyone switched from persimmon to metal at the same time as well.

      But to answer your question, I would say they are far less prone to “vertical misses” as a 5 handicap is

    • MakoShark

      Jul 24, 2020 at 10:07 am

      That means 65-70% do not.

    • Terry Koehler

      Jul 24, 2020 at 10:51 am

      That’s a pretty easy question, drkviol801. That’s because most tour players are not playing a severe game improvement iron, and their 9-iron and PW are actually more accurate and more forgiving than ‘tour design’ wedges. That is another whole topic I might have to dive into in a future article.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fix your golfing back pain, Step 2: Early stage rehab

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others. 

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

This article is No. 2 in a 4 part series.

Step 1 – The Importance of Assessment

Step 2 – Early Stage Rehab

Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns

Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury

Introduction

Now that we have identified the source of the back issue through assessment, it’s time to start working on the underlying causes, in order to reduce pain and decrease the likelihood of re-injury further down the track. 

In our experience, mechanical back pain in golfers caused by physical issues is most often caused by one or more of the the following 4 issues, with many amateur players displaying the entire collection!

– Lack of Mobility at the Hips and Mid / Upper Back

– Poor Posture

– Misalignment and Muscle Imbalances

– Weak Core Muscles

Because pain is likely still a factor at this stage, we need to proceed with caution and focus on rehab work that is low intensity and has a low risk of causing a pain flare up.

With that in mind, in ‘Step 2: Early Stage Rehab’ we are going to address Mobility, Posture and Misalignment / Muscle Imbalances. These 3 areas can be improved upon, and should have a positive impact on pain reduction, even if back discomfort is still restricting larger, more global movements.

Step 2.1 – Improving Mobility in Hips and Mid / Upper back

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine (lower back) falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected.

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation forces in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercise Circuit – Hip Mobility

1) Self Massage Glutes – 45 secs each side

2) Cross Leg Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

3) Prone Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

4) 90 90 Hip Mobility – 5 reps each side

Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

1) Self Massage Mid / Upper back – 60 seconds

2) Upper Back Extension – 30 seconds

3) All Fours Rotation – 5 reps each side

Step 2.2 – Improving Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

The 3 major spinal curves: 1 – Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this has had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures.

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

The muscles responsible for holding your posture are located deep in the body and close to the spine. Strengthening them can be tricky, as we don’t really have a lot of conscious control over their activation. Hence posture being such a difficult thing to remember! The combination of the 4 exercises featured below help provide the stimulus to those deep muscles that, if trained often enough, will automatically hold your posture in a good position.

Suggested Exercises – Strengthening posture muscles

1) Wall Posture Check – 30 secs

2) Posture Cue – 60 secs

3) Posture Cue Knee Lifts – 10 reps each side

4) Arm Press – 15 reps

Step 2.3 – Fixing Alignment Issues and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right, back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and / or below.

For example, if we have short / tight / overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knees to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain, then this would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance.

In the next article; Step 3: Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns, we will show you the progression of exercises and key technique principles to build up the strength and movement patterns to return to regular exercise and golf.

If you would like to see how Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

If you would like to access training programs designed for elite and recreational players, then check out the following resources and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Articles
Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Online Training
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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: March (belatedly)

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Editor’s note: All latency on the publishing here is the fault of the Editor-in-Chief.

As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine.

Here you’ll find the third installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here. For February, click here.

Absolutely. Meet me up north (and, to himself, what have I got to lose?)

No sense in putting the cart before the horse, as the old pro used to say, as cirE “Flip” Hedgebow used to ignore. As March came to a close, as cirE locked the pro shop for the last time until November, he took a leap of faith. How big of a leap? Let’s get through March, and find out.

Speaking of carts and horses, March for Flip always came in like a lamb, and went out like a lion. That ran contrary to the folklore but, all things considered, there was always a 50% chance of things running contrary.

No, the best reason for topsy and turvy in March, for Flip, was explained by his birthday. Being born in the middle of the month might suggest balance to some; for him, it was a constant reminder of the chaos that led up to his earthly arrival, tempered only by the madness that ensued. If that’s balance, you can have it.

In Flip’s world, March was about the arrival of the most seasoned of snowbirds, the ones with more than five years of retirement under their growing-shrinking belts. Some were expanding, as they had given up on fitness; the rest were shrinking, as the truest effects of age caught them up. In each case, this pod arrived with military precision, knowing where and when nearly every penny would be spent. No frivolity remained in their schedules, no ambiguity survived from younger, budgeting days. No longer minnows, they recognized that uncertainty stalked them, and that all of their remaining wits needed to center on a small and precise target. The smaller, the more precise, the better…for the women.

Like all men, the old guys appreciated the consistency and precision their wives brought to their worlds.

Like all men, the old guys detested the ever-encroaching, loss of control over their own destinies.

They would enter the pro shop, grab the latest hat like a modern-day Judge Smails, and set it at a rakish angle, atop their sleek domes. Flip learned quite early on that the only way to ensure the sale was cash. When the wives invariably came to complain and demand a refund, Flip could “only” offer a pro shop credit, guaranteeing that something would be purchased. If they bought it on account or on a card, the sale was irretrievably lost.

Flip expected these purchases from his March gam: the cheapest golf balls, when their supply of northern culls ran out; the attire from last fall, or even the previous summer, ready to be shipped back to the manufacturer when March 20th arrived; and some odd or end that the pro had overlooked, lost to some sort of missionary of time. The only thing stronger than the will of the spouse, was the desire of the old guy to make some sort of purchase, to re-establish some semblance of power and control, for at least a moment.

How did you get your name, and why is the last letter, and not the first, capitalized?

(silence. he rarely heard the first question, as everyone knew him as “Flip;” he never heard the second one, as no one paid attention anymore.)

Two stories are a lot to tell. Let’s save both answers, even if it’s just a little while.

(silence. she wasn’t satisfied)

If the red hair caused his eyes to move from the mundane nature of packing and sealing boxes, everything else physical compelled him to put down the tape gun, sense that his throat was dry, know that he would not clear it without a squeak, turn away for a bottle of water, take a swig for lubrication, and, finally, turn back with his finest Axel Foley smile, and greet her with: How long have you been retired?

It was an incalculable risk. There was a 90% chance that she would react with an I’m not that old sort of affront, turn on her heels, and march out the door. There was a 5% chance that she would get the joke, and would stick around for another exchange, before smiling awkwardly and departing. There remained a 5% chance of something else. On this 21st day of March, that final 5% wafted in.

Wafted in, in the guise of a lesson he thought that he had planned. Planned for one of the wives, a late-sixties model whose swing was frozen in time: the unlikely combination of a forward lurch of the torso, a reverse pivot of the feet, and right in the middle, an impossible heave of the hips in one of four unpredictable directions. If anyone were to discover a fifth cardinal point, it would be Agnes Porter. Until this moment, Flip Hedgebow gave thanks that the world was blessed with just one of her; more than one might have tilted the globe off its axis. Now, he offered up a different type of gratitude, thanks to the visage of her granddaughter, who bore no resemblance to the matriarch, beyond the title of Agnes Porter.

They write that a story may be deemed worthy for its inerrant language, or for its compelling events. The story of Agnes Porter the way-younger and Flip Hedgebow benefitted from both, along with an overdose of peripeteia.

 

Artwork by JaeB

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!

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Masters hangover week is here! I have had the new Srixon ZX fairway out on the course and it is underrated as you would imagine. Reshafted the SIM2 Max 3w and it has been super consistent and comfortable. Talking about the top 3 drivers I have been hitting this year.

 

 

 

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