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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.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. David W Largen

    Sep 5, 2021 at 1:34 pm

    Fastest way to lower scores:
    1. Course and Game Management
    Don’t always have to hit driver.
    Have a go to shot to find a fairway
    Know how far you hit each club. Be realistic.
    Play to center of green.
    In trouble get ball back in play. Chip out.
    Par 5 second shot. 250 yards to green.
    150 yard puts you 100 yards in. Much easier shot than whacking a 3 wood in the woods or ob
    STAY DISCIPLINED PLAY SMART SHOTS.
    Know your miss and shot pattern and play accordingly.

  2. Jason Corro

    Aug 10, 2021 at 1:46 am

    My opinion is yes people don’t know enough about the golf swing, but you don’t need to know everything. Have a good understanding and then keep everything simple. The big problem people don’t get better is too much information. Now with social media, there are many people out there with a fix for everything, or a secret for whatever you want. As soon as I meet a golfer that says they get tips from YouTube or any other platform, I already know they have no idea what they are doing and their mind is a cluttered mess of incongruent ideas. Stop getting advice from 100’s of different sources on YouTube, get in shape, spend 75% of your time on short game. I guarantee you will improve.

  3. Steve Dodds

    Aug 5, 2021 at 9:45 am

    I think the reason most people don’t get better at golf is the same reason most people don’t get better at other sports.

    Good golf requires a level of athleticism and hand/eye co-ordination that most people simply do not have. It is easy to tell who has the potential to have a decent swing. Just watch them throw a ball.

    Those who can throw a ball properly can usually swing a club (or a bat, or a racquet) properly.

    Attempting to teach those without basic athleticism an athletic swing (which the vast majority of teachers try and do) is futile. None of the points in the article are applicable to golfers without basic natural ability.

    Golf’s great equaliser is that it is a game of two parts. Hitting the ball, and then putting the ball in the hole.

    You do have to be athletic to hit driver and irons well. You don’t to putt (or to a lesser extent chip) well.

    And if you can do that, and scoring is the most important thing for you, you can enjoy golf without actually being good at it.

    I’ve been playing seriously for over 30 years. But I would never have kept playing if I didn’t have the basic athleticism to hit the ball properly. I was very chuffed the other day when, at age 60, a new playing partner said my swing reminded him of Ernie Els.

    Despite hating putting I’ve taught myself to be a bit better at it. And with age my misses tend to less penal than when I was younger because I don’t hit it as far. So my handicap is lower than it was when I was younger. But I don’t have a better swing.

    Mind you, I have friends with awful swings who don’t know or care. They could have dozens of lessons and apply themselves like monks but they will never be able to change what their body is capable of. So no 300 yard drives. No high and soft wedges. But even though they can’t swing like a pro, every now and again they get the same result as a pro.

    And that’s why they keep playing awful golf.

    So most golfer’s don’t get better because they can’t get better. Although most can score better.

  4. Donald Drumph

    Aug 3, 2021 at 10:02 am

    Just cheat, like me

  5. Gordy

    Aug 2, 2021 at 11:51 am

    #1 reason why most golfers do not improve. Golf is hard and they give up. They do not play/practice enough either.

    Drop EGO golf and you will get better. #1 on the PGA Tour for proximity to the hole is 32 ft 8 inch. Average birdies per round for PGA Tour Player is 3.65. Be happy with a shot to the green, being on the green, and walking off with a par.

    • geohogan

      Aug 11, 2021 at 8:16 am

      Golf swing is not so much difficult, but demands movment that is not natural, not genetically preprogrammed.

      What is preprogammed is: Tonicity of muscle. (2) The muscle in a steady partially contracted state caused by the successive flow of nerve impulses, as in muscle tonus.

      In so many ways the golf swing demands muscles work contrary to “Tonus”
      Understanding which genetically preprogrammed muscle contractions need to be overridden.
      Thanks to Gerry Hogan for doing the research.
      author “The Hogan Manual of Human Performance: GOLF, 1991.

  6. geohogan

    Aug 2, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Golf magazines and the non stop, “TIPS” perpetuates the myth that the golf swing is learned
    by tips, when in fact it is a complex movement happening at too quick a speed to be controlled by conscious thought.
    Rather all complex human movement are subconsciously conceived and orchestrated, triggered by a single intent.
    A single intent for the golf swing? YES. Very few have uncovered that intent.
    Until the proper intent is known, golfers will be doomed to follow tips , conscious movement over riding the subconscious and lead to the YIPS, perpetuated by golf instruction magazines.

  7. Dennis

    Aug 2, 2021 at 8:47 am

    I don’t know. I see a lot of golfers with low scores and an ugly golf swing. Maybe face control and hitting sweet spot is more important than most Teaching Pros will ever admit.

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

  9. Mark Eting-Grifter

    Jul 26, 2021 at 1:12 pm

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

    • jgpl001

      Aug 5, 2021 at 5:58 am

      Does that not fix it?
      OEM’s are always telling me it will

  10. 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.

  11. GN

    Jul 23, 2021 at 11:39 am

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

    • GaGolfer

      Aug 20, 2021 at 5:41 pm

      LOL. I see what you did there. Absolutely correct. I look at some of these weekend golfers and wonder what the heck they’re doing out here. It can’t be fun hitting it that badly.

  12. 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.

    • Rascal

      Jul 31, 2021 at 10:04 pm

      100% correct.

    • Tyler Durden

      Aug 9, 2021 at 9:59 pm

      Ben hogan, seve among many many others practiced in front of a mirror and they were pretty good golfers

  13. 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

    • GaGolfer

      Aug 21, 2021 at 1:26 pm

      ‘Drive for show and putt for dough’ doesn’t work for the average hacker. You aren’t putting for any dough if you’re getting to the green in 6. I have an excellent short game (around the greens it’s nearly scratch) but have too many rounds where I don’t know which side of the fairway I should aim at; and some where it doesn’t seem to matter where I aim because I’m going to be losing 3-4 balls or chipping out too many times.

      I agree with you 100% that you have to put the work in, but it has to be the right work, with the right coaching. I’ve taken tons of lessons over the years (an ungodly amount, really) and at least half of the instruction wasn’t good. Not that they were wrong, but they weren’t right for what I needed to accomplish. Practicing wrong, I was historically a 10-12, and got as bad as a 17. Practicing right, with the right coaching, got me to a 7 within a year. My goal this coming year is to get to a 5, and we’ll adjust accordingly (if there’s a God, downward) once we get there – after a lot of work and patience.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

    • geohogan

      Aug 1, 2021 at 11:22 am

      Golf magazines and the non stop, “TIPS” perpetuates the myth that the golf swing is learned
      by tips, when in fact it is a complex movement happening at too quick a speed to be controlled by conscious thought.
      Rather all complex human movement are subconsciously conceived and orchestrated, triggered by a single intent.
      A single intent for the golf swing? YES. Very few have uncovered that intent.
      Until the proper intent is known, golfers will be doomed to follow tips , conscious movement over riding the subconscious and lead to the YIPS, perpetuated by golf instruction magazines.

      • Notgeo

        Aug 19, 2021 at 12:03 am

        Geo, hate to break it to you but you know absolutely nothing about golf…

  16. 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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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: 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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