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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: How important is the fairway?

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I know you all expect me to always write about wedges and wedge play, but my lifetime in golf and 40 years in the industry has caused me to think deeply and investigate all areas of playing better golf. So, today I want to share some thinking about your tee shots that might be a bit different.

My premise is simple and verifiable–golfers of all skill levels are much better with their approach shots from the fairway than from the rough.

I know, “chicks dig the long ball”, but paychecks dig the straight ball. Let’s go to the PGA Tour stats to see just how much.

For this illustration, I picked Seamus Power, who is currently 50th in greens in regulation at 69.25 percent—one of the better iron players obviously. But he’s actually better than most from the rough, ranking 13th in proximity to the hole on those shots. But even so, let’s dig deeper to see just how important it is for him to hit the fairway.

Mr. Power’s average distance from the hole on all shots from 125-150 yards is 21.1 feet…but from the rough that average is twice as far–40.4 feet. To put that in perspective, he averages less than that–under 39 feet–on his approaches from 200-225. Let’s assume Mr. Power could hit every fairway if he would only back off on his drives by 25 yards. What would that mean to him?

Well, his fairways hit success is 59 percent, so that would mean he would have 20-25 birdie putts a tournament that are 15- 20-feet shorter than what he’s getting now. If you look at his putting and scrambling stats, that could translate to 4-5 more birdies per tournament and maybe 3 to 4 fewer bogeys–up to two strokes per round.

So, he’s made $209,000 this season, ranking him 181st. His scoring average of 71.264 ranks him 129th. That’s only four strokes per tournament behind Colin Morikawa, who’s made over $3 million this year.

So, back to what this could all mean to you.

We can talk about those few extra yards all we want, but statistics bear out that fairways hit is one of the more important stats, and that applies even more to recreational golfers. No matter where the course, a drive in the fairway lets you play the hole with an advantage. That goes for your second shot on par-5s as well. If you could hit more of your approach shots from the fairway, your scores will go down for sure.

There are a number of ways to prove this to yourself, but my favorite is to play a practice round and hit every approach shot from the fairway. If you hit a drive in the rough, walk it straight out to the fairway and even back 10-15 yards, and hit your approach shot from there. My own informal research is that it makes a huge impact for golfers of all skill levels.

So, now that you’ve learned that, how do you hit more fairways? That takes some time on the range and/or with your professional, but mostly it takes a huge mental adjustment. We all are coached and coerced into thinking that the purpose of the tee shot is to move the ball as far as humanly possible. We are pounded with millions of dollars of advertising and TV talk about the “long ball.” But statistics prove that a ball in the short grass makes any hole play easier.

To me, there are three keys to hitting straighter drives, and most of them will actually improve your average distance as well:

  • Grip the club lightly. If you have a light grip on the club, it prevents you from trying to muscle it too much.
  • Swing at 85-90%. Just back off a bit on your entire swing pace, from start to finish. Feel like you are hitting the driver like you would a controlled 7-iron shot into a green.
  • Aim small, miss small. That’s a favorite line of mine from Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot”, and it applies to golf. Pick out a specific tree, corner of a house, edge of a bunker, etc. and aim your tee shot precisely. Take time to get set up with a dead aim on where you want the ball to go. Too often, we just aim “at the fairway”, and that’s not good enough.

I hope this helps you hit more fairways as you get the most out of the last half of the 2020 golf season!

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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.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Bob Jones

    Aug 1, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    There was a time long ago when the driver was called the play club, because it is what you used to put the ball in play.

  2. Peter

    Aug 1, 2020 at 6:23 am

    Maybe the guy hitting more fairways will also hit more greens? Or the guy on his day of hitting more fairways will also hit more greens…?

  3. Osnola Kinnard

    Jul 30, 2020 at 10:45 am

    TK,

    I would add something that I have found to be true. I got ‘fitted’ on a Trackman that showed near perfect launch and spin rates and dispersion. I was dead on at the 14* launch and 2000-2400 RPM spin range. I think my driver was set up at 9*.

    I got to the course and hit the ball all over the place. I hit a couple of really big bombs…I mean BIG drives…but I lost balls, hit them OB, hit them behind trees, and missed fairways.

    I went to the driving range and pretty much did the same thing, hitting it all over the place. I started adding back loft .5* at a time and finally settled at 10* and my dispersion really tightened up as did my consistency. I was astounded at how much difference one additional degree meant.

    My point being, the ‘best’ numbers don’t always translate to the ‘best result’.

  4. drkviol801

    Jul 30, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Hey wedge guy, what are tomorrow’s lottery numbers? You seem so smart and knowledgeable.

  5. Shawn

    Jul 30, 2020 at 7:21 am

    Thank you for the tip I find my self not making contact with the ball is my undoing However look back at a set up when pros set up thire is a slight lean in the upper club ware grip the club and always faces the target

  6. Gunny

    Jul 29, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    This is 90% true.

    The courses that I and most of us on this site play do not have rough that resembles the PGA tour setups. Many times if I miss the fairway by a few yards it’s no difference because the rough isn’t too thick most days. During our club championship, member guest, etc the rough can get gnarly, but most days the rough isn’t too big of a deal.

    Being out of play or having an obstructed shot is a different deal. And that is where the advice in this article ring very true.

    • Jimmy

      Jul 29, 2020 at 9:18 pm

      I’ve done a lot of work on this with my own stat tracking (on my game). It’s more nuanced than this article & consistent with your comments. LANDING the ball in the fairway, regardless of whether it stays there, is the most important thing for my score. The reason is that you lose 10-30 yards of distance by landing it in the rough (depending on slope & how deep the rough is). And I’m way better with a 9-iron from the rough than a 6-iron from the fairway so backing off isn’t helpful.

      The reason these tour numbers don’t work for amateurs is that tour rough is a much worse penalty, and tour players are way better with a mid/long iron from the fairway than amateurs are.

      • karsten's ghost

        Jul 30, 2020 at 1:25 am

        Absolutely nailed it, Jimmy. Driver with rollout is the key. Guys trying to hit it super-high and plugging their drives are missing out on whatever perceived advantage there was about height.

        Hit the fairway on the fly, and everything’s gonna work out ok.

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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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