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The Wedge Guy: Your driver – Is it your first scoring club?

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I made another visit to “Oz” yesterday, as I took time out from my business trip to Dallas to look inside a PGA Tour Superstore. As I wandered around, looking at what must have been a million dollars or more in inventory, I determined not much has changed in this business since I first started writing this blog over four years and 500 articles ago. So this morning’s blog is a revisit of a topic I wrote about way back then, which still holds true today. It was about thinking of your driver as your first scoring club.

I take great issue with the industry’s extreme, and almost complete focus on distance – not just with the driver, but with the irons as well. Without picking on anyone, some new irons have “P-clubs” 43 degrees of loft (which was an 8-iron when I was younger). Does that really help your game? Is a 6-iron easier to hit if you put an “8” on the bottom? No.

But where this quest for distance is abused the most is on drivers. We see the average driver in the store at 46-47” in length now, when the old standard was 43”, then 44” up to about 6-8 years ago. And average golfers are buying them like hotcakes. But do you realize that very few tour players are using a driver over 45” in length? Why? Because they know they cannot be reasonably accurate with longer drivers! So, if the tour players know they can’t control a driver that is 46-47” long, what the heck makes amateurs thing they can?

A few years ago, GolfSmith did an extensive live golfer test at their huge facility in Austin, Texas, where they had hundreds of golfers hit drivers of all sizes, shapes and lengths. They found that almost every golfer achieved his best average driving distance with drivers that were 43-1/2” long! Now, that was when 45” was the new “standard”, but the point remains clear to me:

Your driver is probably too long for you to hit efficiently!

The fact is, no matter what the technology, a ball hit squarely and solidly will be longer than one hit around the perimeter of the face. And you’ll hit more solid shots if your driver was shorter. You can prove this to yourself. In your next round of golf, grip down on your driver a full inch—or even two—every time you hit it. I’ll bet you’ll find that you hit more solid long drives than you have in some time. And your accuracy will be much improved.

Regardless of your skill level, there isn’t a golf course anywhere that doesn’t play easier from the fairway than it does from the rough, bunkers, OB, water, etc.

In my own case, I did this with three different drivers, and found that with each one, my best performance came when I was gripping the driver to effectively make it 44-1/4” long. I’ve been a scratch or low-handicap player my whole life and historically am a very good driver of the ball. As I began to take advantage of the new technology I found my driving accuracy failing, and I didn’t like it. So, I just began to grip down on these long drivers and my accuracy came right back, without a loss of distance!

Oh, and there’s another significant side benefit to this alteration to your driver. When you shorten it, you can use lead tape to bring the swingweight back up to where it should be. By positioning those few grams of lead tape strategically on the clubhead, you can bias your driver for a draw (weight in the toe) or fade (weight in the heel). You can also place the lead tape in the back of the head for a higher ball flight if you need it, or right on top of the crown behind the face for a lower ball flight.

It’s fun to tinker, and I trust you will find this driver tuning to be interesting and beneficial. And about that title of this article? If you don’t think the driver is your first scoring club, review your last round and count the penalty shots from the tee, and those holes where you took yourself out of play with your tee shot.

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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.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Mike

    Mar 13, 2021 at 9:53 am

    My new driver is a hair under 45″ but the problem is if I shorten it to 44″, don’t I then need to shorten my 3W & 5W? I definitely think anything over 45″ is way too long for most golfers but many folks can’t understand that. But it’s been WELL over 20 years since an 8 iron (excluding the top player’s clubs) has been 43 degrees. In the Ping G5’s that I had (circa 2004) the NINE iron was 42 degrees. So let’s check ourselves w/ all this loft talk.

  2. Lorne E

    Mar 10, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    Excellent article and I could not agree more. A shorter driver is a more accurate driver. The pursuit of distance has become nuts in my opinion.

    As far as irons go these days, it seems to be even worse. A PW is not 43 degrees loft, it is an 8 iron. Today’s sets require you to buy extra wedges that should have been included in the expensive set you just bought.

    Instead of focusing on hitting the ball further, try keeping it in play. Playing the proper tees would help as well.

  3. johnny mike

    Mar 10, 2021 at 11:16 am

    man I hate this phone! didnt even spell.my name properly!

  4. johnnh mike

    Mar 10, 2021 at 11:14 am

    I think you meant to say: weight in heel for a draw bias and in the tor for a fade bias.
    The shorter shafts are definitely worth a try; I play mine around 44.5, but it is going to eb so player dependent. Ian Frasier at TXG has been talking about fitting some of his clients into slightly longer shafts, and Matt has been playing with them in their Autoflex expirements. It is going to be so player dependent

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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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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between good amateurs and those who are not-so-good—and between the top professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—lies in the consistency of their pre-shot routine. I read an interesting account on this subject after the final round of the 1990 Masters when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Greg Norman. I know that was 30 years ago, but the lesson is just as relevant today.

This particular analyst timed the pre-shot routines of both players during the first three rounds and found that on the final day that Norman got quicker and quicker through his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

Anytime you watch professional golf—or the better players at your club—you’ll see precision and consistency in the way they approach all of their shots. There is a lesson there for all of us—so, here are my ideas of how the pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land, and roll. It is certainly realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches, and putts, as they are all very different challenges. As you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

On any shot, I believe the best starting point is from behind the ball, seeing in your “mind’s eye” the film clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight path it will take, and on greenside shots, just how it will roll out. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and take as many practice swings as it takes to “feel” the swing that will produce that visualized shot path for you.

Your actual pre-shot routine can start when you see that shot clearly and begin your approach the ball to set up. From that “trigger point,” you should work hard to do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. When you are out there “banging balls,” don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot.

So, guys and ladies, there’s my $.02 on the pre shot routine. What do you have to add?

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Hideki Matsuyama from Low Am to low man at the Masters

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They say the Masters does not start until the back nine on Sunday, but by that time, this year’s iteration was all but wrapped up. Hideki Matsuyama stepped onto the 10th tee with a five-stroke lead and the volatile back nine in front of him. The Augusta pines would be void of roars, though, as Matsuyama’s pursuers near the top of the leaderboard struggled to mount a significant charge. The closest challenger was a late-charging Xander Schauffele, who made four straight birdies to get to within two of the lead heading to the 16th tee. His hopes were then quickly dashed when he dunked his tee shot in the water and eventually made a triple-bogey. Augusta National Golf Club played difficult this spring. Contrary to the record-setting November version, the greens were more brown and firm than typical and required precision. Luckily for Matsuyama, precision has made him one of the elite golfers in the world. He earned this green jacket. He just happened to earn it on Saturday where his 65 was three strokes better than the next-best round. Using V1 Game to analyze his Strokes Gained performance shows Matsuyama gained 6.7 strokes on the average PGA Tour field on Saturday and 4.2 of those were from his iron game.

Matsuyama has always been a premier ball striker and, if anything, poor putting has held him back from winning more. Augusta National is no place for a balky putter and Matsuyama has made some significant strides in that category. While he did not gain strokes on the field in putting this week, he managed to get to average and, with his elite ballstriking, that was enough. Augusta National’s lightning-quick, undulated greens reward a properly-struck shot and punish even the slightest mishit. Matsuyama made 96 feet of putts Saturday (the PGA TOUR average is around 70 feet), including birdie putts of five, 19, 10, four and 10 feet. He also made a six-foot eagle putt on 15. You don’t have to be an elite putter when you have opportunities that close. Good for Matsuyama, because while he filled it up on Saturday, for the week, his putting was sub-standard.

V1 Game breaks down putting performance by distance from the hole, where we can see that Matsuyama lost strokes to the field in all but four distance buckets. He gave significant strokes back to the field from 4-6 feet, 11-15 ft, and 31-50 feet. Matsuyama had four 3-putts on the week, including one on Saturday and one Sunday. That’s progressing in the right direction, but still with room for improvement for the 29-year-old Matsuyama.

If you are going to win the Masters, it always starts with the par 5s and Matsuyama took advantage, playing them in 11-under for the week. He played the par 3s in +1 and the par 4s in even par for the week. Clearly, the par 5s were vital to him being able to get to the required -10 to win the tournament by just a single stroke. Augusta National has arguably the finest set of par fives in golf, each of them scorable and each of them dangerous. With V1 Game’s Hole History, Hideki played the 13th the best at -4 and the 8th the next-best at -3. Hideki made three eagles on the par 5s and averaged 4.3 strokes on the par 5s. That even includes the near-disaster on 15 on Sunday. Matsuyama was consistently in play off the tee and able to challenge the greens with his approach shots throughout the week.

All of the above added up to a healthy lead and afforded Matsuyama some cushion coming down the stretch, cushion that he needed as he got closer to earning his first green jacket. The golf tournament could have turned out significantly differently if young Will Zalatoris could have found a way to play better around Amen Corner, but instead Matsuyama was able to stumble a bit down the stretch and still maintain a two-stroke cushion until the final putt was holed. The Strokes Gained Heatmap from V1 Game for his final round scorecard shows exactly which part of his game became unsteady. Matsuyama overshot the 15th green into the lake and made bogey (Approach). Then three-putted the 16th green and missed a short putt on 18 (putting), knowing bogey was enough to win the golf tournament.

Still, a well-earned victory for Matsuyama. He struck the ball better than anyone else this week and did enough to claim the victory. Augusta National showed its teeth with firmer, faster greens and challenged the field to be precise. Matsuyama has made a career out of being precise. The same strength that brought Hideki Low Amateur honors more than 10 years ago brought him the green jacket as low man in the 2021 Masters.

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