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The Wedge Guy: Do irons really need to go longer?

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At Edison Golf, we put high emphasis on getting the right lofts in our customers bags to deliver precision distance gapping where distance control matters most – in prime scoring range. Our proprietary WedgeFit® Scoring Range Analysis helps us get there, and one of the key questions we ask is the loft of your current 9-iron and pitching wedge.

Please understand I have been collecting this type of data from wedge-fitting profiles for over 20 years, and now have seen over 60,000 of these. What’s interesting is to watch the evolution of the answers to those two questions. Twenty years ago, for example, the 9-iron and PW lofts would typically be around 42-43 degrees and 46-47 degrees, respectively. By 2010, those lofts had migrated downward to 40-41 degrees for the 9-iron and 44-45 for the “P-club”. (I began to call it that, because it’s just not a true “wedge” at that low of a loft.)

But how far are the irons makers going to take that lunacy? I see WedgeFit profiles now with “P-clubs” as low as 42-43 degrees and 9-irons five degrees less than that – 37-38 degrees. The big companies are getting there by incorporating mid-iron technologies – i.e. fast faces, multi-material, ultra-low CG, etc. – into the clubs where precision distance control is imperative.

Fans, you just cannot get precision distance control with those technologies.

But the real problem is that golfers aren’t being told this is what’s happening, so they are still wanting to buy “gap wedges” of 50-52 degrees, and that is leaving a huge distance gap in prime scoring range for most golfers.

So, to get to the title of this post, “Do Irons Really Need To Go Longer?” let’s explore the truth for most golfers.

Your new set of irons features these technologies and the jacked-up lofts that go with them, so now your “P-club” flies 125-130 instead of the 115-120 it used to go (or whatever your personal numbers are). But your 50- to 52-degree gap wedge still goes 95-100, so you just lost a club in prime scoring range. How is that going to help your scores?

Please understand I’m not trying to talk anyone out of a new set of irons, but I strongly urge you to understand the lofts and lengths of those new irons and make sure the fitter or store lets you hit the 9-iron and “P-club” on the launch monitor, as well as the 7-iron demo. That way you can see what impact those irons are going to have on your prime scoring range gapping.

But here’s something that also needs to get your close attention. In many of the new big-brand line-ups, the companies also offer their “tour” or “pro” model . . . and they are usually at least two degrees weaker and ¼ to 3/8 inch shorter than the “game improvement” models you are considering.

But really, how much sense does that make? The tour player, who’s bigger and stronger than you, plays irons that are shorter and easier to control than the model they are selling you. Hmm.

It’s kind of like drivers actually. On Iron Byron, the 46” driver goes further than the 45, so that’s what the stores are full of. But tour bags are full of drivers shorter than that 46-inch “standard”. So, if the tour player only hits 55-60% of his fairways with a 45” driver, how many are you going to hit with a 46?

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.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Wedge Guy: Hard 8-iron or easy 7? (The SCor Method) – GolfWRX

  2. JR

    May 20, 2022 at 5:33 pm

    The set gap wedge is the new P wedge.

  3. ChipNRun

    May 20, 2022 at 1:29 pm

    As Terry noted:

    “I see WedgeFit profiles now with “P-clubs” as low as 42-43 degrees and 9-irons five degrees less than that – 37-38 degrees. The big companies are getting there by incorporating mid-iron technologies – i.e. fast faces, multi-material, ultra-low CG, etc. – into the clubs where precision distance control is imperative.”
    —————–

    Circa 2014, TM and other iron manufacturers designed Game Improvement and some PD models with a splitout in head design. The 3i-7i heads had launch-boosting inserts and slots, while the 8i on up had more traditional single-piece cavity back head. Case in point is SLDR, Rocketbladz and RSi models by TM.

    This draws on findings on loft effectiveness by various wedge specialists:clubs with lofts above 38-40* do NOT benefit from the “mid-iron technologies.” Due to higher loft, the technologies are not needed, and if anything can destabilize ball flight.

    As for irons in general, many golfers bump into Tom Wishon’s 24/38 RULE: the average golfer can’t consistently hit a numbered iron with loft less than 24* or length greater than 38″.

    (Does anyone know if 24/38 has been tweaked due to tech “wonderments” of the last decade?)

  4. Rich

    May 20, 2022 at 1:18 pm

    Irons: Predictability, precision, and repetition.

    The number on the bottom is just a name, like Richard.

  5. Gerry Sampson

    May 20, 2022 at 7:54 am

    The writer made his point very well. I would love to hear club fitters give opinions on the longer irons, and more useful yet breaking down that info based on broad categories of swing speed/driver distance off the tee. After all the entire range of clubs in the bag need to live together harmoniously…I find that navigating through the range of hybrid offerings is particularly difficult.

  6. Matts

    May 20, 2022 at 3:27 am

    Yes, and hybrids are recommended over the longer irons for the average golfer. So one lands up with 5 irons (6 iron through PW) and four specialist wedges in the bag.

    • ChipNRun

      May 20, 2022 at 1:38 pm

      Given the push to ever “hotter faces” in the Players Distance category, does this mean the Game Improvement irons tend to be shorter in distance, but MORE ACCURATE? (deliver tighter yardsticks)

  7. James

    May 19, 2022 at 8:44 am

    This is a conspiracy of “Big Wedge” to sell you more $200 wedges that wear out every season.

    Seriously, the irony of this article is that the exact opposite of what you describe is what’s happening. If you just rename the strong-lofted sets’ gap wedge to PW and carry that shift through the set, these game improvement clubs are actually 1/2″ short. Manufacturers have massaged golfers’ egos by rebranding a 1/2″ short, 28-30 degree 6-iron as a 7-iron.

  8. Club champ

    May 18, 2022 at 9:46 pm

    But if my p club is 42 degrees I can get 4 really cool specialty wedges that really make my bag pop. I’m all about aesthetics and have recently just put 3 drivers of various lengths from 3 different companies none the less. I have 6wedges now and filled the rest with hybrids. I don’t even need a putter bc I can just use a hybrid.

  9. Steve

    May 18, 2022 at 5:00 pm

    It would be nice if Golf WRX can help share length/lie specs of some players to shed more insight into this topic. I think it would better illustrate that a fitting is not just about clubhead and shaft.

  10. Bob

    May 18, 2022 at 3:59 pm

    If one is an ego monkey lacking in the manhood and incapable of critical thinking, yes.

  11. Bruce Helbig

    May 18, 2022 at 1:25 pm

    All that matters is that one knows how far each club flies in the air and does it stop within 2 bounces. Longer has always been the selling point to consumers but better players have always known repeatable distances are the key to good scoring. Now, if I could only hit the driver 30 more yards! Or be 30 year’s younger! Cheers, Bruce

    • pi

      May 18, 2022 at 3:37 pm

      Yep, and buy a 48o wedge to bridge the gap you may have to the next wedge in your bag

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Talking technical turkey with the head of Takomo Golf Clubs

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Enjoying our discussion on irons, wedges, and fairway woods.

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A visit with Dr. Bob Rotella

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As I was thinking about some “gremlins” that have snuck into my own game the past few weeks, I recalled a visit I had with Dr. Bob Rotella some 10 years ago. That morning was one of the standout days of my 30-year golf industry career, getting to spend several hours with one of golf’s pre-eminent sports psychologists.

So, that brought me to my “Wedge Guy” archives to recall what I shared with my readers way back then, just to refresh my own memories and takeaways from that very interesting and enlightening session.

Dr. Rotella, as you probably know, has worked with dozens of tour professionals, and has authored numerous books on the subject of performance psychology, most notably “Golf Is Not A Game of Perfect.” If you haven’t read any of his works, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, we spent two hours talking about the performance challenges all of us golfers face, which led into a deep dive into the technologies I had built into the SCOR4161 precision scoring clubs (the forerunners of my work on Ben Hogan wedges and now the Edison Forged line). What I want to share with you today are some of the real “pearls of wisdom” that I gleaned from that very enjoyable visit:

Scoring is all about short range performance.

Dr. Rotella first enlightened me to the fact that tour players hit “10 and a half to 12 and a half” approach shots a round with an 8-iron or less (now even more than that!). For the modern tour players, that accounts for almost all the par fours and threes, because the par fives are two-shot holes. He went on to express his advice that you just try to not hurt yourself when you have a seven-iron or longer into the green, and you fire at flags with the short irons and wedges. In his words, “if you don’t feel like you can knock flags down with those scoring clubs this week, you might as well stay home.” I think we can all apply that wisdom by spending the vast majority of our range time working to improve our work with those high-lofted scoring clubs.

The tight fairways scare the pros, too

Over the past few decades, the mower heights on fairways have been moved closer and closer, so that the pros play tighter and tighter lies all the time. Back then I had just read where the fairway height at Merion, for example, was at one inch when David Graham won the U.S. Open there in 1981 but was increased from one quarter to on half inch for the 2013 U.S. Open. That’s a huge difference. Because the ball is sitting tighter, shots are hit lower on the clubface, which robotic testing reveals, produces lower and hotter flight with more spin. And it makes short range pitch and chip shots scary even for the pros. That’s because they play low bounce wedges to deal with the bunkers on tour. (Which I’m getting to in just a moment.) Watch TV and you’ll see tour pros putting from off the green more often than you used to, and now we know why. There’s a tip in there for all of us.

Those tour bunkers.

Did you know the PGA Tour had a standard for bunker sand. They like them firm and moist, so the players can hit those miraculous bunker shots with lots of spin, and they very rarely get a “down” or plugged lie. As I’ve written before, the PGA Tour appreciates that their “customer” is the television viewer – over 50% of which don’t even play golf – and they like to see these things. But I have a problem with the best players in the world enjoying bunkers that are not nearly as tough as the ones we all play every week. For most all of us, any bunker shot that gets out and leaves a putt of even 20 to 30 feet is not bad.

There’s a lot more I took away, but not enough room here. I strongly suggest that you add a few of Dr. Rotella’s books to your golf reading list.

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Travelers Championship: Outright Betting Tips

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The PGA Tour’s third major championship did not disappoint as Matt Fitzpatrick capped off an excellent Sunday with a U.S. Open victory. The season rolls along to Cromwell, Conn., where the 2022 Travelers Championship will be played at TPC River Highlands. Last year, we saw one of the most captivating thrillers in history when Harris English defeated Kramer Hickok in an eight-hole playoff.

TPC River Highlands is a 6,841-yard par 70 and has been a Tour stop for 39 years. Home of the only 58 in Tour history, it is possible to go extremely low at this Pete Dye design. However, TPC River Highlands does feature a difficult closing stretch with holes 16-18 all historically averaging scores over par.

The Travelers Championship will play host to 156 golfers this week. Some notable players in the field include number one player in the world Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka.

2022 Travelers Championship Best Bets

Patrick Cantlay (+1600)

Patrick Cantlay is everything I want in a golfer at TPC River Highlands. He has a solid overall game and can get hot enough to win tournaments with his putter. In the past, we’ve seen golfers get it done at The Travelers by doing a little bit of everything. In his past four starts at the course, Cantlay hasn’t finished worse than 15th.

Perhaps the most glaring identifier of a potential Cantlay victory is his success on Pete Dye designs. The 30-year-old ranks first in Strokes Gained: Total on Pete Dye designs. His team win earlier in the year at the Zurich Classic was also a Pete Dye design in TPC Louisiana.

If you exclude the major championships, which Cantlay has struggled in for the most part through this point in his career, he has been knocking at the door for a win. He finished second at the RBC Heritage (also a Pete Dye design) and third at the Memorial Tournament prior to his 14th at the U.S. Open.

Cantlay famously shot a 60 as an amateur at TPC River Highlands in 2011. He’s a birdie-maker who should enter the week under the radar and motivated to win another PGA Tour event.

Sungjae Im (+3300)

Sungjae Im is another golfer who’s played some great golf on Pete Dye tracks. He ranks fourth in his past 24 rounds in Strokes Gained: Total on Pete Dye designs.

Prior to the U.S. Open, the South Korean was playing his best golf of the 2022 season. He finished 21st, 15th, and 10th consecutively and gained an average of 8.7 strokes from tee to green per event in those three starts. He missed the cut on the number (+4), which doesn’t concern me in regard to his overall current form.

Throughout his career, Im has played a lot of his best golf on short par-70 courses. In his past 50 rounds, he ranks fourth in Strokes Gained: Total on courses that fit that description. On this shorter track, Im should give himself plenty of birdie looks considering he is playing from the fairway quite often. Throughout his career, he gains an average of 2.8 strokes on the field in Fairways Gained.

To win the Travelers, it will be important to get hot with the putter. Each of the past three winners of the event have gained at least 4.0 strokes putting on the field. Over the past three seasons, Im has gained more than 4.0 strokes putting in eighteen measured events. If he gets the flatstick working at TPC River Highlands, he has the all-around game to finish the job on Sunday.

Marc Leishman (+5500)

TPC River Highlands is one of the handful of stops on Tour where course history seems to be incredibly important. Among the players in the field this week, few have better course history than Marc Leishman. Since winning the event in 2012, the Australian has two additional top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish in last year’s edition.

It hasn’t been the most consistent of seasons for the 38-year-old, but he flashed some form last week at The Country Club in the U.S. Open. He finished in a tie for 14th place and gained 4.4 strokes on approach, which was the most he’s gained in an event since September of 2021.

When Leishman gets in trouble on the course, it tends to be due to his propensity to get a bit inaccurate with the driver. TPC River Highlands provides some opportunities to get away with errant drives, and, because it’s the shortest course on Tour, it allows for golfers to club down with an iron off the tee.

It’s possible that the strong performance last week was an outlier, but Leishman is a golfer who offers true win equity at a strong price.

Seamus Power (+5000)

Seamus Power had an excellent showing at the U.S. Open, finishing in 12th place. In the past, we’ve seen golfers parlay a strong performance at the U.S. Open into a Travelers Championship victory. Power fits the mold in the fact that he exceeded expectations last week and now heads to a course that should be much more manageable for his skill set.

The strokes gained statistics don’t tell the whole story in terms of how well the Irishman has played at Pete Dye tracks. In the WGC-Dell Match Play earlier this year, Power advanced all the way to the quarterfinals when he finally lost 3&2 to the eventual champion and best player in the world Scottie Scheffler. The event was held at Austin Country Club, which is a Pete Dye design that requires creative shot making similar to TPC River Highlands.

Another Pete Dye course that doesn’t show up in the strokes gained metrics is TPC Louisiana, which hosts the Zurich Classic. Although it is a team event, Power finished in a tie for fifth at the event in 2019 while playing with Curtis Luck.

Power has three top-17 finishes in his past four starts, and TPC River Highlands should be a better fit for him than any course he’s played in that stretch.

Brendon Todd (+10000):

Brendon Todd has historically been one of the best putters on the PGA Tour, and he’s started to show it once again in his past few starts. The three-time Tour winner has gained an average of 5.5 strokes putting on the field in his past two starts. In those events, Todd finished in third place (Charles Schwab Challenge) and 13th (RBC Canadian Open).

Todd has also been hitting his irons very well, which is a great sign for his chances to contend this week. He’s gained strokes on approach in five of his past six starts and had his best iron week of the season in his most recent start in Canada (+3.8 SG).  He’s also excellent around the greens which will be helpful at TPC River Highlands because its greens are a good deal smaller than Tour average.

Todd was close to victory here in 2020, when he was the 54-hole leader. Unfortunately, he made a mess on the par-4 12th hole and eventually lost to Dustin Johnson. That experience should prove to be useful if he gets in the hunt once again this week.

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