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The Wedge Guy: Greenside scoring – Favorite club or variety?

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Regardless of your handicap, the fastest way to improve your scores is to get better around the greens. Even low single-digit players average no more than 8-10 GIRs per round, so that means their up-and-down percentage is pretty darn good.
Regardless of your current short game skills, they can always be better.

There are two very distinct schools of thought when it comes to hitting the variety of up-and-down shots around the greens. Stan Utley, who I greatly respect, is an advocate of using your sand wedge all the time, and learning how to do a variety of things with it. He’s got lots of good company in the teaching community who share that viewpoint. The other side of the “argument,” as coached by Dave Pelz, is that you should know multiple shots with each of your wedges to bring the ultimate precision to your short game, and his approach has earned a loyal following as well.

There is no question that both methods can be practiced and refined to a higher level, but I believe recreational golfers should do everything they can to make this game easier. Realizing the typical recreational golfer has limited time or interest to devote to practicing his or her short game, I’m a proponent of using all your scoring tools and learning one or two basic pitch/chip techniques. Then you can rely on the simple swing or two that you know and trust and choose the club that will give you the results you are after with that one swing.

To my way of thinking, that makes this game so much easier. If you learn to execute the basic pitch and chip strokes, you can apply that to any club, and then you have a full arsenal of scoring shots:

  1. If you have short-sided the green, you can use your highest lofted wedge and a simple swing to get the ball up quickly and with more spin to limit its roll.
  2. When you have lots of green to work with, or the pin is on top of a second tier, the basic pitch or chip executed with a pitching wedge or even 9-iron will allow the ball to roll out and is much more reliable.
  3. For a mid-range pitch into the wind, dropping back to a gap or pitching wedge will limit height and spin and prevent an “up-shooter” that comes up way short.
  4. For a ball sitting up in the rough, the gap or pitching wedge will be less likely to get too far under the ball and come up short.
  5. For greens that are firmer, the sand and lob wedges will allow you to have more spin control.

The list of applications can go on and on, but I suggest it is much more reliable for the average golfer to learn 2-3 basic swing techniques in the short game and then choose the club that will produce the results they are after. In one or two sessions around the practice green, you can learn what each club will deliver with each of your swing methods.

And for those of you who are the “one club” advocates and/or have an advanced level of short game skills, have some fun and try executing those same shots with a different wedge. Use your 50-52 instead of your 56-58, or your 54-56 instead of your 58-60. I think you will find a whole new arsenal of shots – more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

And that will cut strokes off your score very quickly.

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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.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Bjorn

    Jan 29, 2022 at 11:12 pm

    I go all the way back to the Green Grass only Reid Lockhart days…

    It has to be said that’s not an accurate representation of what Dave Pelz has said at all.

    Still though always fun to talk shortgame and wedges with TK.

  2. ChipNRun

    Jan 27, 2022 at 11:44 pm

    Part of the short-game club choice, especially within 30 yards of pin, depends on the greens crew did or didn’t do early that morning.

    * If the greens have those “Friar Tuck” shaggy rings around them, it’s probably a SW or a GW shot to get it out of junk. A LW could pop the ball up if you get even slight high-face.
    * If the run-up is depth of first cut rough, a LW may do it.
    * If the area around the green is shaved, a 7i chip or a putt may do it.

  3. Jeff

    Jan 27, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    Pelz, I believe, has regurgitated Paul Runyan’s teaching of some 30 plus years ago!

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TG2: Max Homa talks about his club changes, JT’s new putter, Jason Day’s WITB

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This week we have a great interview with Max Homa on some recent club changes. Max seems to love gear and is one of the nicest guys in golf. Justin Thomas has a new putter in the bag and we go through Jason Day’s interesting WITB. A few other equipment news stories from the AT&T this week.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Reviewing Cobra’s Forged Tec irons and Callaway’s new Fairway golf bags!

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Cobra took one Forged Tec iron and split it into two options this year. The Forged Tec X is the larger iron that is pure speed and forgiveness. Almost a full club longer and with tight dispersion. The Forged Tec is for players looking for distance and feel in a smaller package.

Callaway designed the new Fairway 14 and Fairway + golf bags with push carts in mind. A totally redesigned top offers a secure mounting on even the roughest terrain.

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 AT&T Byron Nelson: Outright Betting Picks

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As anticipation mounts for the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, we make one final pit stop at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, to play the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson.

Last year was the first time the tournament was held at TPC Craig Ranch. The prior two editions of the AT&T Byron Nelson were played at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.

TPC Craig Ranch is a 7,468-yard par 72 and features bentgrass greens.  The event historically plays relatively easy, and that certainly didn’t change last year with the new course. K.H. Lee won the event by shooting -25.

The course structure may provide some additional intrigue with the par-3 17th set up like the stadium hole at TPC Scottsdale. The course also has both long and difficult par-4s mixed with driveable par-4s, which should create some exciting moments.

There are 156 golfers in the field this week, and it’s a very strong collection of players. Some notable golfers in the field include Dustin Johnson, Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, Will Zalatoris, Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler Xander Schauffele, and Hideki Matsuyama.

2022 AT&T Byron Nelson Best Bets

Jordan Spieth (+2200) (DraftKings):

When I took my first glance at the odds this week, I thought there may have been a mistake. Coming off of a win and a stretch where he’s played great golf, I fully anticipated Jordan Spieth’s betting odds this week to have a “1” in front of them.

Spieth’s win at the RBC Heritage was impressive, but I was more impressed with the way he got it done. In the past, we’ve seen Jordan contend by gaining strokes putting and making improbable birdies throughout the week. That wasn’t the case at Harbour Town. The 28-year-old gained 13.3 strokes from tee to green which led the field by a whopping 3.0 stroke margin. He’s gained strokes on approach in his past six measured events and has gained strokes off the tee in five of his past six measured events. Shockingly, Spieth has had a difficult time putting this season. If he can regain form with the putter he will be incredibly difficult to beat.

Throughout the past few seasons, the former Texas Longhorn has been incredible in the state of Texas. Three of his past four starts in the state have resulted in a top-ten finish, including a win at last year’s Valero Texas Open.

I typically don’t like betting on golfers to win in back-to-back starts, but if there is anyone who can do it, it’s Spieth. He’s won in consecutive starts twice already in his career and tends to get scorching hot once he starts rounding into form.

Will Zalatoris (+2200)(Bet365):

Will Zalatoris is overdue for his first PGA Tour victory and there’s plenty of reason to believe that TPC Craig Ranch is the perfect spot for him to finally get over the hump.

In Zal’s past five starts, he’s gaining an average of 4.3 strokes on approach and 6.9 strokes for tee to green. His ball striking has been nothing short of exquisite and returning to a course that he is incredibly familiar with should do nothing to deter that this week. In his press conference prior to the event last year, Zalatoris said in regard to the course:

“So I played TPC Craig Ranch a bunch going back, I think, to when I was actually 12 years old. I played in the Ewing Junior Tour regular season championship, played in a foursome with Scottie Scheffler, and I’ve got a lot of great memories here. So I guess I’ve been competing here basically half my life, so really looking forward to, obviously, competing in front of some friends and family this week.”

Last year at the Byron Nelson, Zalatoris led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach by gaining 9.5 strokes on the field. His Achilles heel (putting) was his undoing that week, as it typically is. He lost a paltry 4.3 strokes putting and was the only top-20 finisher to lose strokes putting. If he can manage to putt to field average this week, look out!

Marc Leishman (+6500)(DraftKings):

In the past, I’ve written about golfers who offer some tremendous value on the betting board due to what I call a “missed cut discount”. Marc Leishman fits that description perfectly this week. Although he missed the cut at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, I didn’t see any major cause for concern. Despite missing the cut, Leishman gained 3.1 strokes on approach in two rounds. He bladed a bunker shot into the water which is most definitely an anomaly but cost him three strokes and ultimately, the cut. 

Leishman now heads to a course that should be a much better fit for him than TPC Potomac was. When the 38-year-old gets into trouble, it usually is due to an errant driver. Missing the fairway at TPC Potomac was incredibly penal, and that won’t be the case at TPC Craig Ranch. It also will be much harder to miss the fairways considering they are one of the widest on Tour. 

Throughout his career, the Aussie has played some of his best golf in the state of Texas. He was the runner up at this event (AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest) back in 2018, and finished 21st at this course last season. Additionally, back in 2008, Leishman won a Nationwide Tour event (WNB Golf Classic) by 11 strokes which took place in Midland, Texas. Something about Texas golf undoubtedly resonates with him. 

Leishman is a golfer I love going to on outright bets because of the win equity he offers. He has six PGA Tour wins, so I am confident he will be able to convert a good performance into a win if given the opportunity. I expect the winning score to eclipse -20 this week, and three of Leishman’s six Tour victories have come at -20 or better. 

Matthew Wolff (+11000)(Bet365):

After a nightmare start to his 2022 campaign, Matthew Wolff finally showed some signs of life last week at TPC Potomac. The 23-year-old gained 4.0 strokes from tee to green and finished in 25th, which was his best finish since November. He finished 11th that week at the Houston Open, so returning to Texas may bring some positive vibes to go along with the confidence he gained last week. 

I’ve always viewed Wolff as a player who was capable of having extreme “spike weeks” where he can find himself in contention. It’s unclear whether Wolff is truly trending back towards the lofty expectations he once had or if it was an outlier. At triple digit odds, it’s worth the price to find out. 

Dylan Frittelli (+12500) (Bet365):

I was high on Frittelli the last time the PGA Tour made a stop in Texas, and he had a great week, finishing in 8th place at the Valero Texas Open. 

The former Texas Longhorn seems to find his groove in the state of Texas and also finished 19th at last year’s Houston Open. A low-scoring tournament should be a good fit for him as he is typically a prolific birdie maker. 

The 31-year-old finished 46th last week at the Wells Fargo Championship but he played better statistically than his result shows. He gained 5.1 strokes from tee to green but really struggled with the putter, losing 4.0 strokes to the field. Returning to Texas should be a positive change for his prospects with the flat stick as he gained 3.9 strokes putting in his showing at the Valero Texas Open.

Brandon Wu (+20000)(DraftKings):

Brandon Wu is a young player that I think is going to break on the PGA Tour scene in a big way in the coming years. The 25-year-old won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2020 beating an impressive mix of current Tour players. He’s come on strong lately with finishes of 3rd, 33rd, 28th, and 2nd before a missed cut last week at Wells Fargo. The missed cut doesn’t bother me much considering I didn’t love the course fit for him. 

Wu cashed a top ten bet for us in Mexico and I think similar to Vidanta Vallarta, TPC Craig Ranch is a course that has a much more favorable setup for the Stanford product. Since he’s started playing on Tour, the tournaments he’s played best at are all course setups that are on the easier side. He showed us that he is more than capable of keeping up in a “birdie fest” in his Sunday round in Mexico where he fired a scorching hot 63 to grab a share of second place. 

This is a talent play on Brandon Wu. A win will come for him at some point in the next few seasons so starting to invest in him consistently at triple digit odds should pay off.

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