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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Your wedge shafts DO make a difference

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Over the past few decades, golf shafts have come to represent an extremely broad and deep segment of the golf equipment marketplace. And the major manufacturers spend countless hours evaluating shafts – within an acceptable cost range, of course – for their product offerings in irons, drivers, fairways, and hybrids. As a result, the custom-fitting layer of golf club retailing is myopically focused on shaft selection — often at a premium price.

Special shaft technologies are even finally working their way into some of the newer putters — but not your wedges.

Take a stroll down the seemingly endless display of wedges in any big store, and you’ll see numerous brands, models, lofts, finishes and sole grinds — but nearly every one of them has been fitted with the same type of heavy, stiff steel shaft. I’ve always thought that was really shorting golfers where feel and performance need to be pinpoint perfect.

I have learned from countless observations of golfers of all skill levels that getting the right shaft in these super-important scoring clubs can reap huge rewards in performance. Just like in your driver, the material, weight, and flex of your wedge shafts have to be exactly right for you to optimize your scoring range skill set — whatever that might be.

Stop to realize that, when it comes to the shaft in your wedges, you’re asking a lot. They have to stabilize the heaviest clubheads in the bag at full swing speed, in order to give you full shot trajectory control so that your distances are consistent. But they also have to give you precise feel and control of those touch shots around the greens where clubhead speed is only a few miles per hour. That requires the shaft to have the ability to flex or move a bit in order to give you optimum motion feedback — the sensation back to your hands of exactly where the clubhead is and what it is doing.

I think it is very important that wedge shafts should be fitted to the individual golfer’s strength profile.

Every week on television, we see the tour professionals exhibit an unbelievable display of short game mastery, hitting greenside wedge shots with absolute control of trajectory, spin, and distance. And while most all of them play a steel shaft that is the same weight as that in their irons, most all also opt for a bit softer in flex than the shaft in their irons.
But you have to also realize that these guys are top-level athletes who are extremely strong in the forearms and hands, so they can do things with a wedge of that overall weight that very few recreational golfers can even dream about – simply because you do not have the arm and hand strength to allow that level of precise manipulation of the club.

To solve this dilemma, I strongly advocate the following: Select a shaft for your wedges that closely approximates the weight of your short iron shafts. If you play lightweight steel or graphite shafts in your irons, by all means, demand the same in your wedges. This, of course, means you need to retrofit the wedges you have, or buy from a company that will accommodate your needs.

Your wedge shafts, however, should be a bit softer overall than your iron flexes to give you the feel you need around the greens. One way to achieve that is to select the same type of shaft as your irons, but in a softer flex, then cut back some of the tip section if you can.

And finally: test everything! Trying new things is one of the fun aspects of playing golf, and wedges are no different. You can experiment with different shafts in your wedges at a pretty low cost, so do it! I think you’ll have fun, and you’re likely to stumble on a formula that really improves your scoring.

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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. Todd

    May 29, 2021 at 11:50 am

    I’m on the journey to experiment with a set of Callaway TCB’s with the Mitsubishi MMT 105tx in the irons and teh 50* gap wedge. For the SW & LW wedges I decided to give the MMT 95s a chance.

  2. B_of_H

    May 28, 2021 at 9:44 am

    I switched from x100 to kbs tour 130 on my irons a few years ago and spent tons of time and money trying to find the right wedge shafts. I didn’t like the kbs tours or $ tapers in wedges as they felt odd on partial shots to me. x100s and s400s were just too drastic a difference in feel compared to my irons. I finally ended up with $ taper HT in 125 S+ and couldn’t be happier. they feel soft but play stiff on fuller swings. very happy now.

  3. DB

    May 27, 2021 at 8:46 am

    Really like what Nippon did with their Modus wedge shafts – Having them available in 105, 115, and 125. Actually 111 grams, 122, and 133 but whatever. 3 different weight options. That’s the way to do it.

  4. Paul Runyan

    May 26, 2021 at 11:42 am

    Nice article!

    Finding the perfect match for a wedge is very difficult. We have thousands of driver shafts, iron shafts and now a few putter shafts but not a lot of choices for wedges. Hard to actually see any discernible advantage or difference spending $250 on a putter shaft!

    I play the Hogan Apex shafts in all my irons. I replace the factory irons with the Apex. I do not like the Apex shafts in the wedges. A little too soft for the heavier heads. Tried the Modus, Shimada and now going to look at soft stepping an X 100 6,7 or 8 iron soft stepped down into the wedges. Shimada is probably the most accurate shaft for a wedge I have ever used but only two choices, 110 and 123 grams.

    I don’t want to give up accuracy on a wedge but not wanting to over-swing to get it to work either.

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Opinion & Analysis

U.S. Open qualifying and learning from a “bad” round

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On May 10, I competed in a local qualifier for the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. The local qualifier was held at Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

You can watch every single shot in the video below.

Spoiler alert, I ended up having one of those disaster type of rounds with an 85 that was good for a missed cut and T-63rd out of 69th place finish. But rather than spending too much time crying over spilled milk, I decided to use it as an opportunity to not only learn something for myself as a pro but also to demonstrate for you some ways in which you might go about holistically analyzing rounds for your own future improvement.

Perspective & confidence

To start, remember to still pat yourself on the back and have some perspective.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, then to take rank with those poor spirits, who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” -Unknown

A friend sent me that after my round. Good friend.

Personally, I’ve shot tournament rounds in the 60s. So, an 85 for me at my level feels terrible. Feeling upset, angry, disappointed, frustrated, etc., can happen, but remember it’s important to be a good friend to yourself and do what you can to keep your confidence and attitude up and in a positive place.

If I step back from it all and look from a higher perspective, there are a few little things I can tell myself right off the bat to help me feel better about what happened.

  • In nearly every professional tournament, someone typically shoots in the 80s. Bad rounds happen to everyone. Even world-class players are not exempt.
  • I had a spell during COVID-19 where I didn’t pick up my clubs for about 6 months, and I hadn’t competed in a tournament for nine months. If tournament and general rust is a thing, this could have been a factor in my performance.
  • The conditions were very difficult. We had a 90-minute frost delay, it felt cold, the wind was gusting higher than in the forecast, and the course setup was challenging, with 6 pins cut only 4 paces from the edge of greens (which can lead to a lot of short-sided shots for those that are too aggressive). Normally, a 70 or better would get you through a local qualifier. In this case, no one in the entire field of pros and elite amateurs broke par. In fact, par 70 was the medalist. It was a tough day, and scores were high for everyone, not just me.
  • Unfortunately, most golfers will never break 90. Higher skilled players can do good to remember that. I’m reminded of seeing fellow pros on TV who hang their head on an approach shot but the ball still lands on the green and close to the flag, something that most people would be incredibly happy about.
  • Forgive and forget fast: It’s just a game and we are all lucky to be playing it!
  • “Fail” videos can be entertaining for others to watch!
  • Once you find ways to get a little personal perspective, it can be easier to look back at the round objectively and look for actionable items to take going forward to next time.

If you don’t have full round video like what I have above, you can still just think back about the round later that day or the next day or once you’ve calmed down and can assess what happened more clearly.

Anyway, here are a handful of things I’d tell myself in post-round analysis.

Pre-round

For the most part, I did a pretty good job with my pre-round work.

My bag had appropriate distance gapping between clubs, I had a good practice round (and holed out three times during the round), I slept okay the night before, I got to the course with plenty of time to spare to get ready and warm up, I was hydrated, I dressed warm enough for the cold, etc.

There’s not too much I’d change about what I did pre-round except for just getting in more practice/training.

For example, I had only hit balls for an hour a couple days a week indoors in March, and I chipped/putted a little plus played a few rounds in April. Despite not playing much, I was still shooting in the 70s and figured if I had a good day, I might still get through.

Still, more practice would likely have helped me shoot lower. That will be much easier once I decide on a good home golf base, now that my wife and I are getting settled in after our move from DC to Detroit last Halloween.

Off the tee

As you can see, I hit 11/14 (78.6 percent) fairways, which is much better than the PGA Tour average of 59.8 percent. On the three I missed, I was just off the fairway, and I was still in decent position with a clear shot to the green. So, my accuracy and target selection based on my personal shot dispersion patterns were fine.

You can’t tell from the video, but I will let you know that distance-wise I’ve been averaging about 106 or 107 mph with a driver on the course lately. That’s fast enough to compete professionally, albeit on the lower end of tour pro speed, but as someone who has competed and won events and qualifiers in professional long drive with peak speeds in the low 140s, I know there is a lot to gain by hitting longer again.

But how?

My drivers and ball are fine. I’ve tested those and more distance will not likely come from swapping those out.

However, I hadn’t been in the gym for 15 months prior to COVID-19 to do swing speed training. Granted there are some things one can do at home — peruse my articles here on GolfWRX for more about swing speed training, or visit Swing Man Golf — but quite frankly, I just wasn’t getting in the necessary training to swing fast enough for distance to be an advantage like it’s been for me previously.

That’s something anyone can change easily, though, including myself. It’s just a matter of some elbow grease and getting in some smart and consistent swing speed training — and you don’t have to put on 40 pounds to do it!

Technique-wise, I had been experimenting around with several things. Although I’ve shot well with minimal practice doing those things previously, going forward I do want to make some tweaks to get back closer to more of my old Mike Austin-style swing.

Without getting into too much detail, at a high level that would include:

  • Changing my grip back
  • Narrowing up my stance a bit
  • Keep my head from drifting around so much
  • Making a longer backswing
  • Leveraging more leg power through my skeletal joints
  • Using more of a rock-skipping “wind up and throw” type swing motion
  • Bringing back a bit more calm in to my game and what my wife described in my old swing as “fierce grace”

Approach shots

Despite hitting tons of fairways, I only hit 5/18 (27.8 percent) greens. That’s terrible by pro standards and nowhere near the 63.9 percent PGA Tour average. I’ve previously hit all 18 greens before.

So, what happened and how do I get those percentages back up?

Strategically, I think I did well. I chose smart targets based on my usual dispersions and only once did I deviate and not trust myself (watch the 15th hole in which 6-iron to the middle was the right play for a dangerous back flag but I greedily hit 5-iron and went long and got short-sided in the back bunker). Aside from that, unfortunately, I was just hitting it so much worse than my typical large sample dispersions that I kept getting short-sided anyway and was otherwise missing in the wrong spots far too much to score low.

As per above off the tee, more distance (and accuracy) from technique and swing speed training will also help my approaches. I’ve experimented playing as the bomb and gouger as well as the shorter accuracy type player. I can tell you from experience that it’s much easier to shoot lower scores when you’ve got power in your bag. Plus, it’s just fun to hit bombs.

Equipment-wise, I have a consistency advantage playing Sterling Irons single-length irons. However, I know from testing that for me I get tighter iron shot dispersions with Project X LZ shafts vs the Wishon Golf S2S Stepless shaft I currently have in my iron heads. I’ve been waiting to swap those out until we move forward with the second generation of Sterling Irons, though. Reach out to me if you are an interested investor.

Around the greens

Pros make 95 percent from three feet and that drops off sharply to 50 percent at around eight feet. So, it’s important to miss in smart spots to be able to hit shots around the greens close to save pars.

My bunker play was solid (watch holes 10, 12 and 15), save the one shot on the 5th hole that I hit a little too far behind the ball and left short. I was just in difficult locations that anyone would’ve had trouble getting up and down. Normally being short sided might come from too aggressive of approach shots, but that wasn’t the case today except that 5-iron approach on 15.

With chipping, I had some difficult lies (which are just part of the game) and was short sided quite a bit as mentioned.

Technically, I noticed I was sometimes “hitting” at my chips a bit. When you instead take a longer swing relying more on gravity and less on human effort, the distance control on feel shots is much more consistent day to day and week to week. That’s easy enough to work on.

I also wasn’t feeling the sharpest, which again could simply come down to just settling on a home course and getting in more practice.

Putting

Normally, I’m as good as anyone on lag putts.

But like my chips around the green, I saw I was “hitting” at some of the putts. As I said, that throws off distance control and consistency.

Getting some work in on being more pendular, per my usual, should take care of those things.

With my putter and ball, I’ve tested both of those and I’m fine in both cases.

Other

Aside from that, I did notice a couple other things I’d tell myself to change.

First, I’d say to drop about 15 pounds. Over my career, I’ve weighed anywhere from about 202 to 236. Currently, I’m sitting close to 230. I know from experience that, although I am healthy where I am, I still like it best when I’m around 210-215 and 13 percent body fat.

Getting back to that is as simple as a sustained caloric cut while keeping up my protein for a little over a month, but that’s easier said than done to commit to doing. I don’t know of anyone that likes doing fat weight cuts!

Lastly, my outfits could use a little work. I forgot to clean up my shoes and I thought they looked a little dirty on camera. I’ve also done focus group color testing and know that dressing entirely in dusty soft autumn colors (cardinal red, burnt orange, olive green, teal blue, turquoise, etc.) work best for me, and black doesn’t really do me any favors. Time to get rid of those old cold weather golf clothes!

Of course, I can perform well without changing either of those things (fat weight or outfits). However, there’s also something to be said about performing better when you are feeling confident and good about oneself.

Okay, hope that gives you a quick sample of helpful things to consider using for analyzing your own performances!

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: An ode to fathers

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I write this as I watch the final round of the U.S. Open and think of all the fathers on this day dedicated to them. Though I have certainly seen my share of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, probably the only real regret of my life is never having had children. Unlike most of you, this day passes as just another Sunday for me, for the most part.

But every Father’s Day, I do reflect on the wonderful relationship I had with my own father, who left this world way too soon when I was only 27, and he was just shy of his 63rd birthday. My pain is that I never got a chance to say goodbye, to have one last visit and tap his wisdom and guidance. But I think often about the lessons he dealt with humor, compassion, and his own way of telling stories.

When I rebelled against going to the Methodist church with my mother and brother, my Dad took over my spiritual upbringing and took me on Sunday morning rides through the country where he would share his love of and respect for all of God’s creations and his own “country wisdom” on how our lives are affected and guided by our faith every day.

As I grew up from a young boy, he shared his love of the outdoors – hunting and fishing – and of course, golf. He was mostly a self-taught scratch player, by the way, but I’ll get back to that.

His mantra for what happens after any hunting or fishing trip was simple. Care for your gear first, your game second, and yourself last. To this day, the first thing after any session in the bird field or day on the water is to thoroughly clean my guns, fishing gear, and/or boat. Though we never had hunting dogs, I have added caring for my Labrador retrievers into that “gear” mix, though they are much more important than any hardware.

I can still recall many wonderful moments at my father’s side while he re-built and cleaned fishing reels and shotguns, and reloaded rifle ammunition. He always took the time to explain the “why” as well as the “what” and “how.” We evolved that process to him watching me do those things, while he offered his “pearls of wisdom.”

And my Dad instilled in me his love for golf. I know it would have made him proud that I have been able to spend my entire life working in the equipment industry and writing this blog. Many years after his memorial service, I ran into an old high school golf team-mate and we were talking about how much I missed my Dad (we all did, as he was kind of the de facto coach of our golf team), and how I wished he could have known how I’ve made golf my livelihood as well as played the game at a level he would admire.

It still brings tears to my eyes when I can so clearly see Andy simply replying, “He knows.”

As I have gone through a life intertwined with this wonderful game, I recall so many of his lessons. It’s still important to me to be able to hit the golf shots I know and to keep my ballstriking as sharp as possible. I thought I would share some of those little “pearls” with you this week.

“That’s three of them and one of those” — He always said that after saving a rather ugly par with a great putt. Dad was an excellent putter and had this old Spalding mallet putter that earned the nickname “Mandrake,” after a well-known magician of the 1930s and 40s.

“It isn’t how, it’s how many” — Dad was all about scoring and a super competitor. While I was trying to beat the game into submission with ballstriking prowess, he constantly encouraged me to spend equal time on the short game and putting. “The hole, son, the hole.” That was how he put it. It’s all about getting the ball in the hole by any means you can.

And my favorite: “There’s nothing wrong with your game another five thousand practice balls won’t fix” — He actually played an exhibition match with Ben Hogan in the late 1930s and shared his unbridled appreciation for Mr. Hogan with me. I think that is where that encouragement came from.

There were so many other things my father gave me, but those are the ones I wanted to share with you all today.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad — and to all you fathers out there.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Club changes at the Invitational

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Played in a club invitational and had to make a few club changes during last week’s Invitational that I played in. The driver was really good until it wasn’t, then had to bring in a reliever to finish the tournament. Each morning I was the guy on the range with multiple drivers as you would expect!

 

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