Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Manage your lay ups



Having written a blog and responded to hundreds of questions about wedge play, one question I seem to get very often is something like this:

“On very short par 4s or when I lay up on par fives, and have a 30-50 yard pitch shot, I have a problem spinning the ball enough to make it stop”, or “I have a problem controlling my distance. What can I do?

My answer to these is always the same, and it’s kind of like the old joke where the guy goes to the doctor and says, “Hey Doc, it hurts when I do this”, to which the doctor replies, “Then stop doing it.”

The mid-range or “half wedge” is one of the hardest shots in all of golf to hit to your expectations. Each one is slightly different, which makes it very difficult to groove the precision you expect. I strongly suggest the alternative – playing to your full swing wedge distances when you are facing a short par four or hitting your second on a par five.

I recall back in 2007, when I wrote about Zach Johnson’s strategy coming into The Masters. He said afterward that he had determined beforehand that he would not try to hit any of the par fives in two. But did he hit his second shots as close to the green as he could? NO. He laid up precisely to his full lob or sand wedge distance so that he could hit full swing shots, achieving maximum distance control and optimum spin. That let him actually play the par fives better than any other golfer in the field and win the green jacket.

For each of us, we should have our “comfort zone” swing with each of our wedges, which produces pretty reliable yardage nearly every time. And with just a bit of practice and trial, it’s not all that hard to be able to “dial in” additional reduced yardages by gripping down on each wedge a precise amount. I actually wrote a book in the early 2000s called “The SCoR Method”, which explained in detail how to achieve this level of precision with your wedge play. Maybe I should put that book back in print, huh?

I’ve long been a proponent of carrying a full complement of scoring clubs to optimize your short-range performance. In my own game, for example, from anywhere between 70 and 117 yards, I know that I can make a comfortable full swing and hit most of my shots within only a few yards (only 10-15 feet or so) of my desired distance, by choosing the right wedge and gripping it precisely. And it only took me a couple of hours one day to build my wedge distance chart which includes, for example:

  • 110-113 yards? Grip down the 45* wedge on half inch and swing away.
  • 103 to 107 yards? Full swing 49*.
  • 78-81 yards? 53* wedge gripped down 1 inch.

You can build your short game precision the same way. First, develop your “comfort swing” yardages with your wedges. I suggest that is about an 80-85% power swing to produce consistent distance and trajectory. Then learn how many yards it takes off each wedge when you grip down ½” and 1”. That gives you three precise distances with each wedge. If you carry four, like I do, that means I can hit the ball – with reasonable confidence – twelve or more different distances with the same swing!

There are no real shortcuts to accurate wedge play, but this works. And it beats the heck out of the dreaded “half wedge”, which your goal should be to not give yourself any more of them than you have to.

I highly advise you to learn your comfortable full-swing distances with your wedges, dissect them even more with precise hand placement, and play to those yardages. You’ll see immediate results.


Your Reaction?
  • 125
  • LEGIT14
  • WOW1
  • LOL2
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP1
  • OB1
  • SHANK6

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 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.



  1. Dennis Beach

    Dec 24, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    Used to carry 4 wedges, down to 3. 46*(pw), 52*(A+S), 58*(S+L). I am not bad at using my imagination to figure out distances. With a little practice, I should have it “in the bag”!! I have been playing for quite awhile, and want to change up my short game. My 52 and 58 are CBX2’S, which after 2 rounds, are not going to be a problem. Feels so good when you strike the ball, almost predictable distance, and great stopping power on the green.

  2. ChpNRun

    Aug 5, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    I play 48*, 54* and 58*. Distance good on quarter (yes, it won’t spin back) and half (release 3-5 yard). Problem is the 3/4 wedge shot. I have trouble controlling the distance sometimes.

    During warm-up, I’ll try some 3/4… if they have wild distance gaps, no 3/4 that day.

    This also meshes with the old post WWII golf pros back in the late 1960s. Their advice to members during lessons I shagged balls for: “Stay out of the 40- to 100-yard range if you’re not a pro.”

    So, it was set up for a half wedge or lay back for a full wedge.

    One thing that hurts partial wedges: Some people use too much arm, as if it’s a pendulum chip and run shot. Even on partial wedges, you need to turn through the shot.

    Terry: the guys who wrote “Lowest Score Wins” will argue that laying up to a preferred 90-yard distance rather than pushing ahead to 53 yards decreases the chance you will hold the green.

  3. Acemandrake

    Aug 5, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    I like the half-wedge. It’s the ultimate feel shot.

    Soft, arm dominant swing with a quiet (not stiff) lower body.

    Practice & confidence help 🙂

  4. Radim Pavlicek

    Aug 5, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    The idea of laing up makes only sense when you hit the green from the position. If you aren’t able to hit the green consistently from lay-up position you should advance the ball as close to the hole as possible. That’s just physics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Opinion & Analysis

The death of the 3-iron and what it means for your bag setup



The 3-iron is almost extinct. It sounds like an odd statement, but it’s very true. Don’t believe me? Go try and buy one in a set. They are not easily found.

As we evaluate this topic, I’ll refrain from specs from “players” clubs as these are not the irons normally purchased. Yeah, it might skew the data, but even the players capable of playing the long irons are opting out of the 3 iron. And let’s be honest, should any of us be playing a blade 3-iron?

Mizuno only offers 4-PW in the JPX line now. Titleist only offers a 3-iron in T100s, while the rest are void of 3-irons. TaylorMade provides 4-PW in the P790, P790Ti, and P770. Callaway has done the same, only offering a 3-iron in the “players line” of clubs, while the rest is again void of the-iron. Cobra golf has also followed suit.

So are 3-irons just too hard to hit? Is that why no one is buying them, thus causing the OEMs to stop making them? The only ones left to buy are the “players” 3 irons, and those aren’t even reasonable unless you’re a professional.

What if I told you we were being deceived? What if I told you the 3-iron is still very much alive in all the iron sets available but under the guise of a different number?

Let’s hop into the “wayback machine” and take a quick look at the history of iron lofts.

The year is 1970, and the vast majority of irons available are blades. You know, the razor-sharp leading edges that are ready to break your wrist with a deep divot.

The image above is an actual snippet from a catalog from the ’70s. At this point, the 1-iron was virtually extinct, and in 1975, Lee Trevino was immortalized by his joke about how God couldn’t hit a 1-iron, which typically fell in the 18-degree range at the time. 2-irons were standard issue in the set, and the lowest loft you might find is 20 degrees.

Then the ’80s came, and things started to progress. As you might expect, lofts started to decrease. It wasn’t because of flight windows, or launch numbers, because they didn’t have that kind of technology readily available to measure those attributes. It was simply a quest for distance.

Then in the ’90s, you’d pretty much see all iron sets with 21-degree 3-irons, down to 48-degree PW’s, and 21 degrees being the norm for the lowest lofted 3-iron. 2-irons at this time were typically 18 degrees and available by request only.

Then came the 2000’s, an era we all should be familiar with. This is where things started to get interesting. Not only because lofts continued to be strengthened, but because the hybrid became a new option to replace the long irons. Adams Golf made a killing as it perfected this golf club, creating the Idea line that was in the bags of most of the senior tour players and many of the PGA Tour players. These were a fan favorite at retail too. The hybrid was an easy long iron to hit and quickly started to replace 3-irons in golf bags across the country and even on tour.

By this time the pitching wedge lofts started to get pushed to 46 degrees, which was a big jump, to be honest. In the 1970s, MacGregor was making pitching wedges with 49 degrees of loft. So, for the 90’s to be around 48 degrees, it wasn’t too much of a shock. But in the 2000s, we now saw PW’s drop to 46 degrees; a half club stronger. This is where the downfall began, in my opinion.

The first decade of the 21st century needed the gap wedge, also known as the approach wedge or utility wedge or just plain old “wedge.” Now, keep in mind, this club wasn’t anything new. The gap wedge existed ever since the beginning because at 50-52 degrees it was simply a pitching wedge from the ’70s. But it became a necessary element for the bag since the lofts of every iron were starting to move farther and farther away from the sand wedge.

Now in 2020, the average loft of the PW is 43.5 degrees, and the average 4-iron loft is 20.6 degrees. Turns out, the 4-iron from 2020 is .3 degrees stronger than the average 2-iron (20.9 degrees) from 1970. We have come full circle! Instead of maintaining those classic numbers, of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW, the new sets are labeled 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, P, G.

I wonder how many golfers out there carry a 4-iron thinking it’s a club they can hit? Probably too many! Obviously, the 3-iron is dead at this point, since it would actually carry the loft of the elusive 1-iron Trevino claimed was unhittable!

Now, it’s time to discuss how we got to this point. You’ll hear a lot of companies talk about “flight windows” or “launch angles” and how it was changed by engineering, lowering CG’s, and increasing speed through thin faces. Some will talk about how the ball has changed, and it just launches higher, and it requires the lofts to be strengthened, or it will just go too high!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is all a bunch of baloney, and here is why: They started making gap wedges as part of the set. If the launch was too high or the window was too different, why make a matching gap wedge with the same technology and have the loft of a pitching wedge from the 1990s? Wouldn’t that launch or window then be too high for that club too? And yet you still need to buy another gap wedge to fit the 52-degree range. If the average golfer bought a 2020 game improvement set today, they would find the set make up to be 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW (43.5 degrees), Gap #1 (48.6 degrees), Gap #2 (52 degrees). That means if you happen to carry a 56 and a 60 degree, you now have the same amount of label wedges (5) as you do irons (5)!

Five wedges in the bag! Does anyone think this is weird?

Furthermore, when was a higher launching iron shot a bad thing? Wouldn’t average golfers benefit from a steeper angle of descent so the golf ball stops quicker on the green?

I conducted a study where I tested a Titleist 716 MB 8-iron with 39 degrees of loft to a TaylorMade P790 9-iron with 40 degrees of loft. All the data was captured on the Foresight GC2 launch monitor. It wasn’t a perfect test since they didn’t have the same shaft or loft, but my findings were surprising none the less. They went the same distance, almost down to the decimal. The Titleist went 165.2 yards, and the TaylorMade went 165.1 yards. Launch was only .6 degrees different while peak height was less than four feet different. So, unless you are Tiger Woods, you are not noticing a difference out on the golf course.

Some of you might think, “so, the label on the bottom of the club changed, it’s all going the same distance. So, what’s the big deal?” To me, it’s the confusion it creates more than anything. By decreasing the lofts, you’re just making the numbered iron go farther, and you are creating even bigger problems by having large gaps with the sand wedge when all amateurs need those clubs. It’s also putting clubs into the hands of golfers when they have no business hitting, like the 4-iron with 20 degrees of loft. Titleist has already made a T400 5-iron with 20 degrees of loft, and that’s just silly.

There also is the argument that golfers love distance, and when they start playing and can hit a 7-iron relatively far, it helps grow the game. Growing the game isn’t a bad thing, but if they are new to the game, they shouldn’t have any preconceived notions of how far to hit a 7-iron, and that means loft at that point becomes irrelevant.

I will not refute that a 40-degree lofted game improvement iron will be slightly longer than an identical lofted players club, but I think you’d be surprised to see the actual difference is a maximum of about three yards longer. The technology works, but by no means is it so substantial that we need to change the label on the bottom of the golf club.

The bottom line is that loft is king, regardless of the technology involved, and I have seen, but one equipment company make a change backwards! This is TaylorMade with their P770 irons. In comparison the P790, they increased the loft by one degree in the short irons and up to two degrees in the long irons, to add height and spin to the irons to improve performance. Imagine that, more spin and height are an advantage! And that was backed by their testing and their data.

Now to even further nail down my point, it is worth noting that TaylorMade Golf offers the highest lofted Pitching Wedge in the industry at 49 degree, which are in the Tiger lofts of the P7TW irons. That same iron set has a 22.5-degree 3-iron. At 22.5 degrees, it is typically the lowest-lofted iron in the golf bag of the best iron player on the PGA Tour in 2019. Of course, he has the skill to play an iron with lower loft, but the point that history reveals to us is that the effective loft of playability for an iron is about 22 degrees and higher. Anything lower lofted than that is typically replaced with a hybrid. This is not just a trend for the amateur golfer either, and it is even happening on tour with the best players in the world.

We will probably never see the lofts rolled back, but the least we can do is update Lee Trevino’s quote, “if you ever find yourself in a thunderstorm, lift up your 4-iron, because not even God can hit a 4-iron.”

Your Reaction?
  • 250
  • LEGIT28
  • WOW12
  • LOL7
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP3
  • OB2
  • SHANK11

Continue Reading


The Gear Dive: Going scorched earth on Tiger documentary



On this episode of TGD, Johnny goes in hard on the HBO documentary Tiger.


Your Reaction?
  • 3
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW1
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP3
  • OB2
  • SHANK15

Continue Reading

Club Junkie

Club Junkie: My favorite G425 driver? Reviewing Ping’s NEW G425 lineup!



Ping’s new G425 line of clubs was just released this week and I have had them out on the range! Comparing the G425 LST driver to the Max and what one worked best for me. The rest of the lineup is just really easy to hit and very forgiving. Ping has crafted a great lineup of clubs that are easy to hit and will make the game more enjoyable for those who play them!


Your Reaction?
  • 16
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK9

Continue Reading