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The Wedge Guy: Avoiding 3-putts

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Since you all seemed to enjoy my foray into putting last week, I thought I would follow up on that subject.

I think we would all agree there is hardly anything more frustrating in this game than to hit a good drive and approach, then 3-jack to put bogey on the card. I always think, “Two shots to cover 400 yards, and then three to finish the last 30-50 feet. What a waste!” Even the pros three-putt occasionally, but most of us amateurs do it way too often. So, let’s examine some things that cause three-putts and figure out how to eliminate most of them, at least with greater frequency.

There are three main causes of three-putts, and for most golfers, one of the three is the major nemesis. Which one is yours?

Missing short second putts. To avoid three-putts, you have to be efficient in converting the second putt of 2-5 feet. Even tour pros don’t make all of them, but if you are missing short putts too often, it is demoralizing. So, if missing short putts is your weakness, here are some things to try:

  • Lighten your grip. We tend to squeeze the putter too tightly when faced with a short putt. Particularly lighten the pressure in your thumbs and forefingers, as that is where tension sets in first. Feel the putter in the last three fingers – or even the fingertips – of each hand.
  • Slow down. Make your practice strokes very s-l-o-w-l-y. This sets up a good tempo – it’s a stroke, not a hit! I see golfers make these quick back and forth practice strokes – what kind of tempo is that setting up?
    Stare down the hole. Your eyes are the key to putting, so pick a small target at the back of the hole (for a straight putt) or on either side (if a little break is to be allowed) and focus intently on that spot.

Bad distance control. Probably the main cause of 3-jacks is poor distance control on the approach putt. This is a feel thing, so let’s start with the first two tips I outlined above – a light grip and slower tempo. Those are imperative fundamentals to good putting – of any distance. Then, take some time to really analyze the putt’s probable speed. Is it uphill or downhill? It helps to walk to the hole and back to get a good feel for the distance. Finally, make your practice strokes while visualizing the path of the ball tracking toward the hole. Make them while looking at the hole, not at the ball. You are not rehearsing technique, but the speed the putter has to be traveling at impact to roll the ball the correct distance.

Misreading the break. When you are playing a course that has large sweeping breaks, it is not hard to miss the hole 6-10 feet on either side on a long approach putt. One of my favorite techniques is to analyze the putt from the hole backward. Start with the last ten feet and determine what direction the ball will need to approach the hole from. Then back up another ten to “see” where the ball will need to be in order to get to that spot. Then back up another ten to see how that segment of the putt will break. Once you see the putt in pieces, you can visualize the entire putt and choose your starting line and speed.

Let me know if these tips help you get some three-putts off your card.

 

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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.

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GolfWRX Radio: Masters preview with Ryan Barath and Brian Knudson

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The Masters tournament is a special time every year and this April is no different. Barath and Knudson talk about their picks for players who could win as well as some players who they think aren’t ready to win. The discussion also includes some personal experiences with the Masters both at home and at the tournament.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Wedge Wednesday! New Edel SMS and Cobra Snakebite

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Wedge Wednesday is here! We have some new wedges from Edel and Cobra that were just released. Edel’s SMS wedge with Swing Match Weighting System is made to be adjusted for each player’s swing. Cobra’s Snakebite wedge has wider and shallower full-face grooves for more spin out of any lie.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Up and down – The Spieth rollercoaster notches a rare short game win

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Jordan Spieth is back! After a long hiatus from the winner’s circle, Spieth was able to break through at the Oaks Course at TPC of San Antonio to capture his 12th career PGA TOUR victory at the Valero Texas Open. It wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing ever is with Spieth. The Golden Child always seems to find a way to add dramatics whether its shots from the driving range to steal the British Open from Matt Kuchar or holing a bunker shot to force (John Deere) or win (Travelers) a playoff. That sense of drama and fun that has surrounded the always-vocal Spieth has been missing in recent years as his weekend struggles had him plummeting down the World Rankings.

Earlier this year, he started showing signs of life with a handful of 54 hole leads, only to be undone with mediocre Sunday performances. Through eight holes on Saturday, sitting at +1 for the day, it looked like this would also be just another missed opportunity. But then Spieth did what Spieth does. He made birdies in bunches and showed off that terrific short game.

Spieth has never been traditional in the way he wins. Though he is probably best known for his putting stroke, in his best years, he was also quite dominant with his irons. This week was no exception. We can use V1 Game’s Strokes Gained Stacked view to see how Spieth performed in Driving, Approach, Short Game, and Putting over the four rounds.

The first thing that jumps out, looking at Spieth’s performance, is his short game. Speith gained well over 4 strokes over the average PGA Tour player for the week. This is not common for PGA TOUR winners. The main reason is that gaining strokes in the Short Game requires opportunities from inside 75 yards. In order to have opportunities, that typically means that you have to miss greens. Most PGA TOUR winners do not many miss greens on their way to a trophy, however Jordan Spieth missed many at the Valero Texas Open. In fact, he finished the week tied for 66th in greens in regulation (GIR) hitting only 58 percent. This is certainly more of an outlier in terms of GIR for tour winners, but when you have a short game as good as Spieth’s, you can get away with it.

The second observation is that Spieth was almost perfectly average with Driving. He came out positive in strokes gained for the week, but finished 38th in the field for Strokes Gained Driving. Strokes Gained Driving accounts for both distance and accuracy and while Jordan is certainly not one of the longest hitters on tour, lately his struggle has been with accuracy. He is hitting around 50 percent of his fairways and while the rough was not overly penal this week, several times Spieth was putting himself into recovery or difficult situations.

Known for his putting, Spieth demonstrated exactly why this weekend. For starters, he had no three putts. While a lot of the field struggled to get the ball in the hole, Jordan minimized mistakes. In fact, Jordan gained strokes on the field putting from every distance bucket <25 ft. He gained almost more than one stroke per round on the field from four -15 ft each day. Those strokes add up at the end of the week and Spieth’s putter certainly gives him an advantage.

Spieth is peaking just in time for The Masters at a golf course where he has traditionally played very well. But what should he be working on heading to Augusta? We can use V1 Game’s Virtual Coach to breakdown his game and give us some insights on how he should be practicing this week.

V1 Game’s Virtual Coach tells Jordan that first he should work on Driving as it is currently the weakest part of his game (relative to other Tour professionals). The quick insight shows that he is missing to the right more than 30 percent of the time and is losing, on average, around a third of a stroke per round from putting his tee shots into recovery situations.

Next, V1 Game’s Virtual Coach highlights Approach as his next-biggest area of focus. With the Virtual Coach, we can go as deep as we want to go to get specific targets for practice. Clicking on “WORK ON NEXT” takes us to the Approach Histogram which shows us that Jordan is gaining strokes for most yardage buckets, but struggling from 151-175 yards. This is where he should spend some time practicing, but we can go even deeper than that. Clicking on the insight takes us to a breakdown of his performance from that distance, shows that he only hit the green 25 percent of the time and tended to miss long. These key insights could help Spieth fine-tune a problem area heading into one of the most important weeks of the year.

As a Spieth fan, I was delighted to see him breakthrough and win again on the PGA TOUR. Golf is better when Jordan Spieth is adding his theatrics to the mix. His combination of approach and putting mixed with unbelievable short game is a thrill to watch. It is rare to see a PGA TOUR winner do so much damage with the short game. This proves there is more than one way to win on tour and more than one way to get it done on the golf course.

If you want to play like Jordan Spieth and start practicing the areas that will impact your game the most, V1 Game can help simplify the results of your performance and get you focusing on the right areas to improve the fastest. Download the app for free and get started on your path to better golf.

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