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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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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.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Wedge Guy: Consistent setup is key to success – GolfWRX

  2. Mark Eting-Grifter

    Jul 26, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    5. Buying new equipment every year hoping that will fix it.

  3. Kauaiboy

    Jul 23, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    I’d recommend Top Speed Golf with Pro Clay Ballard to learn all the fundamentals. I’ve been playing for over 50 years and his system got me from a 10 to a 4 index.

  4. GN

    Jul 23, 2021 at 11:39 am

    The main reason golfers don’t improve is too much L.O.F.T.

  5. Greg McNeill

    Jul 23, 2021 at 10:27 am

    I think one of the worst things to do when trying to develop a sound, repeating swing is “Use a full length mirror to pose in key positions in the swing to match the drawings and photos.” A golf swing is NOT a series of static positions that you consciously attempt to emulate. The “key positions” are the “effects” of a proper swing, not the cause. For example, the tour player’s head remains well behind the ball (or even moves away from the target) at impact, not because the player is forcibly seeking to keep his head back. Rather, it is a consequence of the offsetting forces of the downswing. As the force of the swing moves to impact, there is a counterforce which keeps the head and upper body back naturally, just like a baseball player’s. Simply trying to keep your head back to match some picture of the swing will will ruin your swing.

  6. Ben Hogan

    Jul 22, 2021 at 10:02 pm

    Unless you have the time and patience like me the average golfer needs to get off the range. I dont know how many times people need to say this to get better practice grom 100 and in!! What wins PGA tournaments….. This is why if you give the average golfer a tour quality caddy they will shoot significantly better than they ever have. He doesnt change your swing but knows what to do when it comes to wedges and reading putts.

    Also remember I use to hit HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of putts a day!! The grind is real if you want to get better

  7. Dan

    Jul 22, 2021 at 8:28 pm

    You focused on just the swing. Exactly where people go wrong.

    The REAL reason people don’t improve is that they practice the swing, and short game is an afterthought or non thought. Just like your article.

  8. aziz shafi

    Jul 22, 2021 at 2:39 pm

    Very nicely written and well reasoned. I wish I had been able to read something like this twenty years ago…I would be a different golfer today.

  9. percy freeman

    Jul 22, 2021 at 1:39 pm

    “Learn the swing at home, refine your ball striking on the range and play golf on the course!”

    Terry, this says it all.

    Thanks

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Consistent setup is key to success

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In follow up to last week’s post, Top 4 reasons golfers don’t improve, I want to dive into what I believe to be the most common problem affecting mid- to high-handicap players. This is a big topic that will help nearly every golfer, regardless of your skill level, so it’s going to take two articles to cover it.

Here’s part 1.

We all tend to play golf in a constant cycle of swing-and-correction, swing-and-correction, but my observation is that most of the time our bad swings are caused by improper, or inconsistent setup.

I’m a firm believer that once you have played golf for a while, you have probably developed the ability to have a reasonably repeating and effective swing path and method. Even though it might not be textbook, it’s yours and has your fingerprints all over it. And the fact that you occasionally strike really good shots proves that your swing has the capability of producing results that are gratifying.

I certainly don’t suggest you shouldn’t work to improve your swing technique – the better the mechanics, the better and more consistent the results you are going to get. But my point is that your swing has produced good shots before, and it can do so more often if you just “fix” one thing – your starting position.

The single issue that troubles golfers of all skill levels, from tour player to 100-shooter, is the ability to be consistent. And I’m a firm believer that many – if not most – bad shots are the result of a bad starting position. Think of it this way: no matter how good your swing might be, if you start each shot with the ball in a different position in relation to your body core’s rotation axis, you simply cannot get the clubhead back on the ball consistently.

The ball is 1.68” in diameter, and the effective striking surface of an iron or fairway wood is only an inch or so across. That puts pretty tight demands on your ability to get the club behind your head and back on the ball with consistency.

Let’s compare golf to a baseball hitter. He’s standing in the box and the pitch can be anywhere in the strike zone. He’s got to have good technique, but is heavily reliant on his eye/hand coordination to get the bat on the ball. Darn difficult task, which is why the very best hitters only average .350 or so, shank off lots of fouls and completely whiff the ball at least 20% of the time! If you translated that to golf, no one would ever break 150!

The single thing that makes this game remotely playable . . . is that we get to start with the ball in the exact spot where we want it – every time.

I have a friend in the custom club business that did some research measuring the setup consistency of hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. What he found is simple, but revealing. His methodology was to have golfers address and hit a series of 6-iron shots, stepping away and taking a fresh setup for each one. He found that good players with low single digit handicaps showed the ability to put themselves in almost the exact same position in relation to the ball every time. Measuring from the back of their heels to the ball showed an average deviation from shot to shot of less than 1/4 inch.

But he saw that the higher the handicap, the more shot-to-shot error in setup consistency the golfer exhibited – 20+ handicap golfers exhibited an average shot-to-shot deviation in distance from the ball of up to two inches or even more!!! That’s the entire width of the clubhead! It’s a wonder they ever hit it at all.

This variance is a major reason why we can get “in the groove” on the practice range, but have difficulty taking it to the course.

So, think about that for a few days, and next week, I will share how you can quickly build a solid and repeating setup, so that you can give yourself the best chances of hitting good shots more often.

If there is any true “secret” to improving your ball-striking, shotmaking and scoring . . . this is certainly it.

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