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The Wedge Guy: Building a repeating setup (Part 3)

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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.
  6. 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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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.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. EDH1989

    Sep 16, 2021 at 10:57 am

    I think an easier way to say this is to address the ball with a relatively loose grip on the club. Let your arms hang naturally, and let the club position itself in your hands. Once you’re set, firm up your grip and go from there. This gives you a little wiggle room to be further or closer to the ball, with the club inevitably being the length you need, regardless.

  2. Notgeo

    Aug 13, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    Waiting for golf/swing God Geohogan’s input on this… this is an incomplete article until every golfer has consulted with whoever that clown is…

  3. ChipNRun

    Aug 13, 2021 at 7:30 am

    Major threat to good set-up can be other golfers.

    My former regular group had a lot of retired school administrators and HS coaches. Several of them grumbled I “took to long” in my set-up. When it’s my time to hit, it takes me maybe 12 seconds to line up the shot, address the ball, and hit.

    I can test turf with practice swing while waiting my turn.

    I grew tired of this impromptu stage play of “Grumpy Old Men” and switched groups.

    (My scores have improved since switch)

    • GAGolfer

      Aug 30, 2021 at 10:28 am

      Playing with guys who like to compete to see who can hit it the fastest (yet still score the highest) is no fun. 12 seconds is not a problem – at all. I’ll admit I get antsy when I see people taking 20 seconds or so to hit a shot/putt even though it’s within the accepted time limit but 12 seconds? We have a guy we call the human rain delay who I’d love to see hitting it that quickly.

  4. John

    Aug 12, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    The concept is a great idea, everyone needs a consistent, repeatable setup, but the details get somewhat lost in translation. I agree that photos or a video would clear things up considerably.

  5. Jon

    Aug 11, 2021 at 6:53 pm

    Can someone for once say top/bottom as opposed to this right right right obsession. I teach both left and right handed golfers and never refer to sides in written materials. Lead and trailing not left and right. Poor form!!!

  6. Paul Runyan

    Aug 11, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    Yes, a video would be nice!

    Great article as always Terry!!

  7. Gary

    Aug 11, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    How about a video

  8. Darryl

    Aug 11, 2021 at 2:06 pm

    With so many instruction points some pictures would really help.

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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