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The Wedge Guy: Learning from the (LPGA) pros

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I’ve written recently about how you can learn from watching the pro game on TV on weekends, but that the lessons are mostly about the importance of the short game. It’s just a fact that these best male players in the world are simply magical around and on the greens, and they have to be to shoot those scores. Tour stats prove that they really do not take these golf courses apart from tee to green if given a tough track.

But apart from that, I believe it’s pretty difficult for the typical recreational golfer – especially those in their 50s or older – to learn much about the golf swing from these finely-tuned athletes who go at it as hard as they do.

As a complete contrast to the men’s professional game, I hope many of you tuned in to watch the amazing play of the LPGA stars at this past weekend’s Women’s PGA Championship. Particularly impressive was the play of both Lizette Salas and Nelly Korda as they distanced themselves from the field the last two days. They went pretty much head-to-head and shot-to-shot until Miss Korda eagled two par 5s to pull away on Sunday with spectacular shotmaking.

What was most impressive to me — and a great contrast to the show the guys on PGA Tour present each week — was the absolute precision of these ladies’ shotmaking with every club through the bag. Overall, their misses tend to be much smaller than the men’s, and their best shots are every bit as good. If you watched, you witnessed drive after drive in the fairway, approach after approach on the green, and many shots – not only with wedges – that just covered the hole. These ladies are really THAT good, trust me.

I’ve always believed that most of us guys can learn a lot more from watching the ladies than the men. They swing with precision and grace, perfect timing and sequencing, in order to get the most out of their physical size and strength, which is a fraction of the typical PGA professional. Lizette Salas, for example was averaging about 230-235 off the tee, usually leaving her 20-30 yards or more behind Korda, but she continually put her hybrid and mid-iron approaches on the green. And she obviously hit a bunch of them close, as she finished 16 under par on a challenging Atlanta Athletic Club course that has also hosted the men on the PGA Tour.

I’m sure Lizette Salas’ distances through her bag are much closer to most of ours than even the shortest hitters on the PGA Tour. And that just proves that precision shotmaking can still allow you to score any golf course. Of course, these ladies also show us time and again that their short games and putting are not inferior to the men at all.

One of the other things that struck me about watching the ladies play the game is how often the cameras catch so many of them smiling – even after shots or holes when the outcome is not to their liking. In other words, they appear to be having fun. And isn’t that what golf is supposed to be about?

An interesting side story to this LPGA major was the fact that PGA Tour player Bubba Watson had reached out to Nelly Korda to encourage her to keep golf in perspective, even offering to be her mental coach. Bubba’s struggles with the mental side of golf are well-documented, and it was super-generous and kind for him to offer to help. Even when you play the game for a living, Bubba extolled, golf still IS NOT LIFE. It’s not nearly as important as faith and family, Bubba coached. And what happens on the course does not determine WHO you are, or your REAL WORTH as a person.

That’s a lesson we can all take to heart.

Yes, I think we all can learn from watching golf on TV, but please don’t discount the quality of talent and skill on the LPGA Tour — these ladies put on a helluva show.

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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.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Robert Hebert

    Sep 19, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks to your columns I play five wedges: 44, 48, 52, 56 and 60 degrees. I quit the driving range, and hit thousands of pitches and chips in my back yard each week. I play a nine-hole course, par 30 at 1600 yards. Last year my lowest score was 42, this year I have a 32.

  2. ChipNRun

    Jul 3, 2021 at 9:13 am

    Terry wrote he was impressed with:

    “…the absolute precision of these ladies’ shotmaking with every club through the bag. Overall, their misses tend to be much smaller than the men’s, and their best shots are every bit as good.”
    ————-

    Reminds me of back in 2014 when I volunteered at the Curtis Cup at St. Louis Country Club. This is the women’s amateur version of the Ryder Cup, with the USA team competing against Britain-Ireland.

    At a general briefing of volunteers, I asked the home pro about on-course trouble spots: Did any of the holes have landing areas where lost balls might be a problem. He said if this was a men’s tournament, he had four problem areas. But since it was a women’s tournament, he told us not to worry.

    “When the men miss a tee shot, it flies to never-never land. When women miss a shot, it’s in the first cut of rough.”

  3. Don

    Jul 1, 2021 at 12:41 am

    I share your perspective Terry. I am 57 and a scratch golfer. My ball speed with driver is in the mid 140’s. As result the LPGA players game most resembles mine. I have noticed most of the women play iron shafts under a 100 grams and most play R flexes in their woods and hybrids. I’m considering going from 115 gram iron shafts to around 100 grams to pick up some ball speed, height, and spin with my irons. Recently a couple fitters didn’t even consider that for me. What is your opinion and it would be helpful for a lot golfers to see more WITB for LPGA players. I was even considering your wedges with the lighter shafts.

    • Terry Koehler

      Jul 3, 2021 at 8:25 am

      I think you are right on track, Don. I have been playing lighter graphite in my irons and wedges for over 20 years, since my late 40s. And I would never go back to steel at all. In my opinion, carbon fiber technology is so much better in so many ways. And yes, it would be great to see more “what’s in the bag” for the LPGA players.
      Thanks for reading and writing in.

      And we would love for you to try the Edison Forged wedges.

      Terry

  4. Douglas Keyston

    Jun 30, 2021 at 11:51 am

    Excellent article, and I agree completely. As a 65 year old, fit golfer with a 10 index, I’ve used LPGA players and older golfers, eg, Davis Love III to model my swing. Plus, LPGA players have awesome club (and shaft) combos which inform. All very constructive for my game.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Reviewing KBS PGI iron shafts and an updated what’s in the bag!

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The PGI graphite iron shaft is new from KBS and it is a great playable option for any player. The PGI comes in multiple weights and launches mid/high for soft landing shots into the green. Easy to square up and hit straight, even in the heavier weights. Finally, it is time for an updated WITB since a few things have changed over the summer.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Lessons from the round of a lifetime

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To all of us “senior golfers,” the notion of shooting our age is one that carries great appeal. It answers the burning question:

“Can I keep my skills sharp enough to withstand the hands of time?”

Earlier this year, I had made the proclamation to my golf buddies that my goal was to shoot my age before I turned 70 next March. That meant I needed to work on my game a little more, given that I had let my handicap slip up to 5 at the time. Over the past few months, I’ve brought that down to 2.5. My ball-striking has been solid, but have struggled with the greens at my new club since moving to a great little coastal town of Rockport, Texas. And I lose my mental focus too many times in each round.

So, I hope you don’t mind me sharing with you this week that Sunday was the most glorious round of golf I’ve played since my 20s. Not only did I shoot my age, but I shattered that goal with a six-birdie, no-bogey 65 – a round of golf that was remarkably “easy” as I experienced it and as I look back on it.

And of course, being the analytical type that I am, I have spent time reflecting on just what happened to allow me to shoot the lowest score I’ve carded in over 40 years. I believe I have come to understand what caused the “magic” and want to share that with you this week. Maybe these tips can help some of you to a career round soon.

  1. One of my favorite movie lines comes from Mel Gibson in The Patriot, when he tells his young sons “aim small, miss small.” Because I had a guest who hadn’t played this course before, I was giving him very specific target lines off the tee. Instead of “the left side of the fairway,” I was pointing out “those two trees that make a ‘y,’” “that child’s playset in the back yard straight away.” And that made me focus on smaller targets, too. Sometimes, we can forget those things we know. Aim small, miss small.
  2. A new flatstick. Well, new to me anyway. I had not been putting very well, so I went to the bullpen and drew out one of my personal favorite putter designs. It’s a little Bullseye-inspired brass blade with some technology weighting; I designed it in the early 1990s for Ben Hogan, who marketed it as the Sure-In 1. The point is, sometimes a fresh look gives your putting new life.
  3. Stay in the moment. With every shot, I found myself more focused because of the guidance I was giving my friend, and that allowed me to stay more focused on each shot’s execution. I don’t recall any shot where my mind wandered.
  4. “See it. Feel it. Trust it.” Another line from a great golf book and movie, Golf’s Sacred Journey – Seven Days in Utopia. Robert Duvall’s Johnny character extolls our hero to do just that with every shot. And that’s what I was doing. Seeing the shot, feeling that I’ve hit it many times before, and trusting that I could do it again.

Thank you all for indulging me in telling my story of shooting my age. I’m sure this isn’t my “new normal,” but it was certainly lightning in a bottle for an afternoon. And as we all should from every good shot or good hole, or good round, I’m going to carry that feeling with me the best I can for as long as I can.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: A new way to line up your driver for center ball contact

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Fine-tune your driver and tighten up your impact and your dispersion with these awesome references.

 

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