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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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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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Steven J Hjortness

    Jun 23, 2021 at 9:35 pm

    Good stuff Terry

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Opinion & Analysis

What’s old is new again

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All of a sudden, today’s newest trend in golf is yesterday’s clubs.

Golfers are making a move towards old classics the way car enthusiasts would ogle a classic Porsche 911 before they would look twice at a new Tesla Model 3. On the spectrum of art to science, Tesla is peak science and focused on efficiency in every fathomable way. The other will absolutely get you from A to B, but you are more likely to have a smile on your face while you take the detour along the water while enjoying the journey to get there. It is the second type of club that is enjoying this latest resurgence, and I can’t get enough.

New businesses are springing up to refurbish old clubs such as @mulligansclubmakers and @twirledclubs with price tags approaching (and exceeding) the RRP at the time of release of many of the clubs in question. These old clubs are often found in pictures of major champions being used in the 1970s and 1980s, which serves to make them more valuable and interesting to enthusiasts. Other clubs are simply polished examples of the clubs many of us owned 25 years ago and now regret selling. The more polish on an old blade, the better, with classic designs from brands like Wilson Staff, Mizuno, or MacGregor seeing demand and prices increase every month. Seeing these old clubs reimagined with shiny BB&F co ferrules, updated shafts, and grips can get some golfers hot and bothered, and they will open their wallets accordingly.

Around 15 years ago, I bought an old set of blades from the brand Wood Brothers. For many years, I was unable to find out a single thing about those clubs, until @woodbrosgolf came out of hibernation this year onto Instagram and into a frothing market for handmade classic clubs from a forgotten past. I was able to get information that the blades had come out of the Endo forging house in Japan, and my decision to keep the clubs in the garage all these years was vindicated. Now I just need an irrationally expensive matching Wood Bros persimmon driver and fairway wood to complete the set…

Among other boutique brands, National Custom Works (@nationalcustom) has been making pure persimmon woods with the help of Tad Moore to match their incredible irons, wedges, and putters for some time, and now the market is catching up to the joy that can be experienced from striking a ball with the materials of the past. There is an illicit series of pictures of persimmon woods in all states of creation/undress from single blocks of wood through to the final polished and laminated artworks that are making their way into retro leather golf bags all over the world.

There are other accounts which triumph historic images and sets of clubs such as @oldsaltygolf. This account has reimagined the ‘What’s in the Bag’ of tour pros in magazines and made it cool to have a set of clubs from the same year that shows on your driver’s license. I hold them wholly to blame for an impulse buy of some BeCu Ping Eye 2 irons with matching Ping Zing woods… The joy to be found in their image feed from the 70s and 80s will get many golfers reminiscing and wishing they could go back and save those clubs, bags and accessories from their school days. If you want to see more moving pictures from the era, @classicgolfreplays is another account which shows this generation of clubs being used by the best of the best in their heyday. Even better than the clubs are the outfits, haircuts and all leather tour bags to match.

It seems that this new generation of golfer – partially borne out of COVID-19 — is in need of clubs that can’t be sourced fast enough from the major OEMs, so they have gone trawling for clubs that were cool in a different time, and they want them now. Those golfers who match the age of the clubs are also experiencing a golfing rebirth, as the technology gains from the OEMs become incremental, many are now finding enjoyment from the classic feel of clubs as much as they are searching for an extra couple of yards off the tee.

Either way, the result is the same, and people are dusting off the old blades and cavities from years past and hitting the fairways more than ever before. With the desire shifting towards fun over challenge, they are even creeping forward to the tees that their clubs were designed to be played from and finding even more enjoyment from the game. If only I hadn’t got rid of those old persimmons in high school…

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Top 4 reasons why most golfers don’t get better

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A couple of years ago, I attended a symposium put on by Golf Digest’s research department. They explored the typical responses as to why people quit or don’t play more – too much time, too expensive, etc. But the magazine’s research department uncovered the real fact – by a large margin, the number one reason people give up the game is that they don’t get better!

So, with all that’s published and all the teaching pros available to help us learn, why is that? I have my rationale, so put on your steel toe work boots, because I’m probably going to step on some toes here.

The Top 4 Reasons Golfers Don’t Improve

  1. Most golfers don’t really understand the golf swing. You watch golf and you practice and you play, but you don’t really understand the dynamics of what is really happening at 100 mph during the golf swing. There are dozens of good books on the subject – my favorite is Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.” But pick any good one and READ IT. LEARN IT. It will help you immensely if you understand what the swing is really all about. Use a full length mirror to pose in key positions in the swing to match the drawings and photos. All the practice in the world will not help if you are not building a sound fundamental golf swing.
  2. Learning golf doesn’t start in the middle. A sound golf swing is built like a house. First the foundation, then the framing, roof, exterior walls, interior, paint, and trim. You can’t do one before the other. In golf, it all starts with the grip. If you do not hold the club properly, you’ll never accomplish a sound golf swing. Then you learn good posture and setup. If you don’t start in a good position, the body can’t perform the swing motion properly. With a good grip and a sound setup posture, I believe anyone can learn a functional golf swing pretty easily. But if those two foundations are not sound, the walls and roof will never be reliable.
  3. Most bad shots are ordained before the swing ever begins. I am rarely surprised by a bad shot, or a good one, actually. The golf swing is not a very forgiving thing. If you are too close to the ball or too far, if it’s too far forward or backward, if you are aligned right or left of your intended line, your chances of success are diminished quickly and significantly. The ball is 1.68 inches in diameter, and the functional striking area on a golf club is about 1.5-inches wide. If you vary in your setup by even 3/4 inch, you have imposed a serious obstacle to success. If you do nothing else to improve your golf game, learn how to set up the same way every time.
  4. Learn to “swing” the club, not “hit” the ball. This sounds simple, but the golf swing is not a hitting action: it’s a swinging action. The baseball hitter is just that, because the ball is in a different place every time – high, low, inside, outside, curve. He has to rely on quick eye-hand coordination. In contrast, the golf swing is just that – a swing of the club. You have total control over where the ball is going to be so that you can be quite precise in the relationship between your body and the ball and the target line. You can swing when you want to at the pace you find comfortable. And you can take your time to make sure the ball will be precisely in the way of that swing.

Learning the golf swing doesn’t require a driving range at all. In fact, your backyard presents a much better learning environment because the ball is not in the way to give you false feedback. Your goal is only the swing itself.

Understand that you can make a great swing, and often do, but the shot doesn’t work out because it was in the wrong place, maybe by only 1/4 inch or so. Take time to learn and practice your swing, focusing on a good top-of-backswing position and a sound rotating release through impact. Learn the proper body turn and weight shift. Slow-motion is your friend. So is “posing” and repeating segments of the swing to really learn them. Learn the swing at home, refine your ball striking on the range and play golf on the course!

So, there you have my four reasons golfers don’t get better. We all have our own little “personalization” in our golf swing, but these sound fundamentals apply to everyone who’s ever tried to move a little white ball a quarter-mile into a four-inch hole. Working on these basics will make that task much easier!

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: VA Composites Raijin shaft and more cheap Amazon grips

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Very solid, other than one hole, last week in my league. Talking about the VA Composites Raijin shaft and how it is a smooth feeling, mid/high launching shaft. I also try another set of cheap grips off Amazon to see if they are better than last time.

 

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