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The Wedge Guy: What we can learn from tour stats

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Today’s post was inspired by a conversation one of the Edison Golf customer service team had with a follower/challenger on Facebook. The skeptical golfer claimed that he could “hit it to 12 feet from 85 yards anytime he wanted.” His claim drove our rep to the PGA Tour website just to compare this golfer’s claim to PGA Tour reality.

His relating of this conversation and my subsequent research into tour stats inspired me to share how actual PGA Tour players’ performance might be used to help you understand your own game and how to get better, no matter whether you are a low single-digit player or still working to break 80, 90, or even 100.

The “entry point” for the research was to see how this golfer’s claims of “hitting it to 12 feet” from 85 yards would stack up to tour-level performance. Turns out this guy would be the best on tour by far if he can really do that.

INSIGHT #1: Through the entire 2021 season, only ONE tour professional averaged less than 12’ from 75-100 yards, and the tour average is almost 18 feet from that range. Now we all know that they hit it to three feet or less reasonably often, so that must mean that it is just as “normal” for tour players to hit a 75- to 100-yard wedge shot to 20-25 feet or further. In fact, just this past weekend, I saw a number of wedge shots of that distance end up 40-50 feet from the hole. It happens, even to these guys.

This revelation inspired me to dive a bit deeper into PGA Tour stats to understand the difference between hitting approach shots from the fairway and from the rough. I’ve done this deep dive periodically through my twenty years of writing this blog as “The Wedge Guy,” and the data revealed is amazing — and very enlightening.

The PGA Tour “strokes gained” analysis over the years has implied that hitting it far is much more important than hitting it straight. I won’t argue that this approach to statistics must show that, or it wouldn’t be published.

But I’ve long been an advocate for recreational golfers to find a way to get their drives in the fairway, even if it means sacrificing a few yards. There are few courses that play as easy from the rough as the fairway, and PGA Tour statistics seem to support that hypothesis, even for these guys, who have extraordinary skills and strength to gouge shots from the rough. The rest of us just do not have either.
But what is the difference — for them — between hitting approach shots from the rough and the fairway? Here is a look at the entire 2021 season stats for proximity to the hole from both, from various distances:

These figures illustrate that, on average across all approach shot distances from 5-6 iron (200-225) or less, hitting their approach from the rough will increase the length of the resulting putt or chip by about 60 percent or more. The only takeaway you can make from this is that it is extremely important to these guys to be able to hit approaches from the fairway rather than the rough, regardless of what the “strokes gained” numbers seem to imply.

Even more glaring is that the average approach from 150-175 yards in 2021 ended up closer to the hole than one from the rough from only 75-100 yards from the rough! This means that tour professionals are more accurate from the fairway with a 7- or 8-iron than they are from the rough with a sand wedge.
If the rough is that penalizing for them, maybe you should re-think what it does to your scoring.

I’m just sayin’…

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Over his 40-year career in the golf industry, he has created over 100 putter designs, sets of irons and drivers, and in 2014, he put together the team that reintroduced the Ben Hogan brand to the golf equipment industry. Since the early 2000s, Terry has been a prolific writer, sharing his knowledge as “The Wedge Guy”.   But his most compelling work is in the wedge category. Since he first patented his “Koehler Sole” in the early 1990s, he has been challenging “conventional wisdom” reflected in ‘tour design’ wedges. The performance of his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to move slightly more mass toward the top of the blade in their wedges, but none approach the dramatic design of his 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 – check it out at www.EdisonWedges.com.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Jan 15, 2022 at 7:12 pm

    ——————————–
    An curious quote from Terry:

    “But I’ve long been an advocate for recreational golfers to find a way to get their drives in the fairway, even if it means SACRIFICING a few yards.”
    ——————————–

    I’ve found that if my drive lands in the fairway, it rolls out another 20 yards or so. If it drifts into the first cut, the ball stops and doesn’t advance. So, a shot that lands in the fairway means I’m hitting an approach shot with a 7i rather than a 5i.

    Overall, the article seems to be going three directions at once. Not sure what the ultimate takeaway is…

  2. Connor

    Jan 15, 2022 at 2:31 am

    Sounds like Lou Stagners work
    I’m just sayin

  3. aedeoiad

    Jan 15, 2022 at 1:35 am

    “claimed that he could “hit it to 12 feet from 85 yards anytime he wanted.”

    Do you really think someone would do that? Just go on the internet and tell lies?

  4. jwwjr

    Jan 14, 2022 at 8:56 pm

    This article needs an editor’s review – badly. The too narrow column widths in the embedded table caused the column headers to wrap incorrectly. It’s pretty confusing, as pointed out by other reader comments. Then there is this sentence, “Even more glaring is that the average approach from 150-175 yards in 2021 ended up closer to the hole than one from the rough from only 75-100 yards from the rough!” If you are going to sell ads on these pages, stuff like this should be cleaned up before publishing.

  5. Bob Jones

    Jan 14, 2022 at 4:24 pm

    Does the Al Approaches column include approaches from the rough, which that column heading implies, or just the ones from the fairway?

  6. Bob Jones

    Jan 14, 2022 at 4:22 pm

    I confused. Does the All Approaches column include the ones from the rough, which the column heading implies, or only ones from the fairway? If it is all approaches, the ones from the fairway would be even loser, and I would like to see those distances because that would be the comparison you re trying to make.

  7. Jordan

    Jan 13, 2022 at 7:44 pm

    The formatting on that yardage table is almost as consistent as my swing.

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