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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-plus 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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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. Pingback: The Wedge Guy: Part 3 – Building a repeating setup – GolfWRX

  2. geohogan

    Aug 8, 2021 at 11:45 am

    https://forums.iseekgolf.com/topic/31955-ask-gerry-hogan/page-3

    Gerry Hogan puts “check lists” for golf in their proper place#33
    and answers the question: ” What is it we are really trying to accomplish” #37

  3. Pingback: The Wedge Guy: More on a sound setup – GolfWRX

  4. Dennis

    Jul 31, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    I‘m thinking quite a while now that Setup, Balance, Timing and Focus are responsible for 95% of my game. By the way: The longer the club the harder it is to get the right setup and balance. And without proper setup and balance: Good luck with your timing!

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: Part 3 – Building a repeating setup

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I hope I’ve had you thinking more about your own setup and routine for getting into it for each shot. Today I’m wrapping up this subject about getting consistency that can translate to more consistent impact and results.

As I discussed in the first article in this series, the higher handicap you play to, the more likely you are to be inconsistent in putting yourself in the proper ball position each and every time. I shared with you the results from my friend’s testing with 6-irons, but now we add to the equation that we play this crazy game with an assortment of implements, ranging from a 45-inch driver to a 35-inch sand or lob wedge. Sheesh, who figured out this maddening game? (Makes me think of Robin Williams’ bit on the origin of the game. If you haven’t heard that, Google or “YouTube Robin Williams on golf” and spend five minutes listening to the long version – it will have you rolling!)

But to wrap up, what any golfer can do to improve your golf immediately, is to learn how to set yourself up to the ball each and every time in the exact position that will let your learned swing “do its thing.” If the ball is a little closer or further away from your body — a little further back or forward in your stance  — for each shot, you’ll just never achieve any kind of consistency.

Very simply, your best golf can only happen if you build a solid and repeating setup piece by piece.

The basic idea is to put yourself in an athletic position to allow your body to function at its best – knees flexed; feet about shoulder-width apart; upper torso bent over from the hips, not the waist; slight tilt to the shoulders and left arm hanging naturally. And that position of your left hand is the key to setup consistency. I’ll get right back to it.

To build a proper setup, we need to find a point of reference, and that is going to be our golf club. Let’s do this with a 6-iron to start, as that is right in the middle of the iron set. Here are the steps to building a proper setup that you can repeat:

  1. Set the clubhead behind the with the grip just lying in the cradled fingers of your right hand. Make sure the leading edge is square to the target line, and the sole is almost flat on the ground, with the toe just up a little. The shaft should not be leaning toward or away from the target.
  2. With the grip still just lying in your right fingers, square yourself to the club while re-checking your target line visually. Begin to “adjust” yourself into position with regard to the club itself, still holding it only with the right fingers. When you are set square to the target line, the butt of the club should be pointing right about at your belt buckle.
  3. As you adjust into your golf swing stance and posture, you can allow your free-hanging left arm and hand to guide you into position. The club – still resting unmoved behind the ball – should put the upper half of the grip 4-6 inches directly behind and about even with your free-hanging left hand. If you are too far from the ball, you’ll have to move your hand considerably away from your body to get it on the club. If you are too close, the grip will be more toward your body than where your hand is hanging. [This is where everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies. For me, the correct position is one that puts the butt of the grip where I have to move my hand only an inch or so further away from my body to take my hold on the club. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next article on the subject.]
  4. When you have your left hand in comfortable position, close the gap to bring your hand and the grip together, meeting about in the middle of that space so that your hand can comfortably take its hold on the upper half of the grip. It should be hanging naturally just about even with the inside of your left thigh, and the shaft will take on a slight backward angle toward the ball.
  5. As you place your right hand in its position on the grip, you will have “crafted” a proper set up position.
    Now, feel this position for a few seconds. Let your body soak this in for a moment. Get comfortable with it. If you feel a little too close to the ball, you can back away an inch or so to feel better. But you do not want to be more crowded than this at address!

Obviously, we’ve covered a lot of ground these past couple of weeks, but I can practically guarantee all of you that if you will increase your focus on your setup posture, it will immediately yield measurable results in your consistency of shotmaking and ball-striking.

Unless you shoot scores that are already too low …

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: More than often it’s not your swing

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Tremendous insights and added mental strategies on staying fresh when the mid-season blues kick in.

 

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Opinion & Analysis

Wyndham Championship DraftKings picks

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Welcome to a new installment of DraftKings picks from staff writer and host of the Pick the Pup Golf Show, Andy Lack.

The PGA Tour travels to Greensboro, North Carolina, this week for the Wyndham Championship, the final event of the regular season. After the completion of the Wyndham, only the top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings will qualify for next week’s Northern Trust, the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. This should add an extra element of drama this week, as the likes of Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, and Rickie Fowler all sit right on the bubble.

The host course is Sedgefield Country Club, a par 70 measuring just 7,127 yards on the scorecard with Bermuda-grass greens and Bermuda-grass rough. The Donald Ross design has consistently yielded low scoring, as last year, 30 players finished at 10-under par or better. Players that thrive in easy scoring conditions and excel with their wedges will certainly have a leg up.

You can check out my betting tips and selections here. Let’s dig into the DraftKings slate!

$10,000 range 

Will Zalatoris, $10,300 (Projected ownership: 11.4%)

My hunch was that coming off a ninth-place finish in Memphis where he gained strokes in all four major categories, Will Zalatoris would be a very popular selection. Apparently not, as Zalatoris currently carries the lowest ownership in the $10,000 range. Most will gravitate to Webb Simpson here, which I totally understand, but at half the ownership, I don’t find it inconceivable that the Wake Forest grad could outperform Simpson. Zalatoris has objectively been hitting the ball far better than Simpson, and he’s finally starting to regain some confidence with the flatstick as well.

$9,000 range 

Adam Scott, $9,200 (Projected ownership: 3.2%)

So everyone is just out on Adam Scott now? Readers of the betting tips article are aware of my love for Russell Henley this week, but he is coming in at 19.2 percent projected ownership, while Scott is sitting here at 3.2 percent. Do I believe that Russell Henley will outperform Adam Scott this week? In a vacuum, yes, but is Henley six times more likely to outperform Adam Scott? That’s where I have to draw the line. The leverage is too great to pass up with Scott, who has still made 10 of 11 cuts this season and needs to play well this week to extend his season.

$8,000 range 

Gary Woodland, $8,700 (Projected ownership: 7.8%)

In this range, I have bet Kevin Streelman outright at 60-1, but if you are looking for a worthy pivot from a 15 percent Streelman, I present you Gary Woodland at half the ownership. The former U.S. Open champion is fresh off an 11th-place finish at the Barracuda Championship where he fired a Sunday 65. While Woodland has only played this tournament once, back in 2012, he rates out quite well for me in a number of the key metrics, such as opportunities gained, birdies or better gained, and par 4 scoring (400-450 yards).

$7,000 range 

Zach Johnson, $7,500 (Projected ownership: 8.1%)

While I try and write up different players in the betting and DraftKings articles, Zach Johnson happens to be both my favorite bet and DraftKings play in this range. 8 percent on Johnson this week feels like stealing, but fantasy managers continue to gravitate towards Hank Lebioda at three times of the ownership instead. Johnson is coming off two consecutive weeks where he gained 4.5 strokes on approach, and he has a fifth and a seventh already to his name at Sedgefield.

$6,000 range

Jason Dufner, $6,700 (Projected ownership: 4%)

There aren’t many players I feel strongly about in the $6,000 range this week, but Jason Dufner will be in a number of my lineups. The 2013 PGA Championship winner at the Donald Ross-designed Oak Hill is coming off three consecutive top-30 finishes. He’s gained off the tee in four consecutive starts, he’s gained on approach in four consecutive starts, and the putting might be starting to come around as well. Dufner is playable option this week given his ball-striking chops.

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