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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A putting experiment

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One of the most fun and challenging things about this great game we all play is that there are myriad things to explore and try, keeping those that work for you and discarding those that don’t. While I realize many golfers just go out and play without giving it much thought, my bet is that most all of you who follow GolfWRX, and particularly weekly columns like mine, are always looking for ways to improve. I’m no different. In fact, I probably illustrate the extreme of experimentation because I’ve spent a lifetime in the game and over 40 years in the golf equipment industry.

In follow-up to last week’s post about the “Two putting triangles,” I thought I would share a recent experiment I’ve been conducting on my own putting. If this just gives any of you an idea that can shave a stroke or two, then I’ve earned my keep, so to speak.

I had been struggling on the greens a bit, not getting nearly as much out of my rounds as I thought I should. And one of the main culprits was that I was just not converting enough of my makeable putts. While my lag putting has been very good, leaving me very short second putts most of the time, where I thought I was sub-standard for an experienced low handicap player was in my success rate in making those “money putts” from 8-15 feet, and I felt like I missed more than my fair share of putts from three to eight feet in length.

To be honest, I tend to get a little “yippy” on those short putts sometimes, but it seemed that mostly my failure to make those putts drilled down to the face angle at impact. I might pull one and push the next one, so I decided to try something new a few rounds ago.

You all know I’m quite the follower and analyst of PGA Tour statistics as a benchmark for performance, so I started there to establish my goals. Here’s what I found.

The PGA Tour average from 4 to 8 feet is just under 69 percent. Given that these guys are the best in the world, have perfect greens every week and experienced caddies to give them a second set of eyes (which have also studied the greens extensively), I figured if I could attain a 50 percent sink rate from that range, I would be “golden”.
Moving out to the range of 10-15 feet, the PGA Tour average drops significantly, to just under 30 percent — only three out of every 10 tries from this range do the tour players make their putts. So, I figured given my recreational status, grainy greens and some very puzzling breaks on my golf course, my personal goal from 10 to 15 feet should be somewhere between one to two putts out of every 10.

In an effort to achieve this improved performance on those shorter putts, I began to experiment on my putting track at home with a “left hand low” grip on the putter. I’ve always gravitated to blade style putters, and usually have one of my own design in the bag. Many years ago, I became convinced that a face-balanced design improve my odds of keeping the face square through impact. But a couple of months before this experiment began, I received a putter from an industry friend that exhibited what is called “lie angle balanced,” the premise being that the face angle is essentially “built in” to the path of the putting stroke.
Anyway, I began to practice making putts of 7-9 feet on my putting track at home and explored its effect with a number of different putters that lean against the wall in my office — all while working to determine the right “left hand low” grip for me. What I found was that it was really easy to get in a groove on the putting track, so it was time to take this to the course.

I quickly found that my putting from these crucial distances visibly improved immediately with the left-hand-low grip. I reduced the action to a simple back and through, and both my “yippi-ness” and face control were dramatically impacted.

So, then I began to keep some stats of my own and here’s what happened over the course of the next 10-12 rounds.

My make percentage on putts under eight feet has improved to almost 60 percent, not that far below the PGA Tour average. Wow. And on putts of 8 to 15 feet, my make percentage leaped to 22 percent, even closer to the tour average. As you can imagine, my golf buddies noticed the change and my scoring dropped by as much as 3-4 shots per round.

Where I’m keeping it different is that I putt the longer putts with my comfortable conventional grip, as it engages the fingertips of my master right hand for optimized touch and feel. So, when success is more about speed than line, I go conventional. But inside 15 feet or so, I employ the left-hand-low grip as those putts are more about line than speed.

While I have always been quite the traditionalist in my approach to this game, I like making putts and shooting lower scores as much as any of you. If you are not converting shorter putts as often as you think you should, you might give this two-grip approach a try.

 

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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.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Garrett

    Aug 6, 2022 at 11:01 am

    I have said this is in the forums ad nauseum, but every putter that is not a fitted LAB putter is physically fighting you, and I recommend you not play it. I have literally shaved 5+ strokes a round on the greens since I switched to a LAB broomstick 2 years ago. Putting is now the most enjoyable part of the game and my confidence is through the roof. I can not stress enough how good these things are.

  2. Jax

    Aug 4, 2022 at 3:38 am

    The true missed point is lie angle. Faced balanced lie angle is very nice (if you can stand the looks of the LAB putters), but actually just getting a putter bent to the right lie angle is SUPER IMPORTANT and almost always overlooked.

  3. SV677

    Aug 3, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    Congratulations, you have come to the same conclusion as Lydia Ko. While watching the women this weekend the announcers mentioned she was doing the same. I tried it. It didn’t work for me, but it was worth trying. I may stay with it for a while to see if there is any improvement.

  4. Steve Hjortness

    Aug 3, 2022 at 11:15 am

    Terry, your story is one I can relate to, but I have yet to find a solution. In your discussion, you stated you made two changes: a left hand low grip and a LAB putter. That kind of makes it tough to determine which change led to the improvement. Do you believe one or the other was the main contributor to your success or the combination of both?

  5. Greg

    Aug 3, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Combined with your last article on the counterrotation that must be applied to square the putter face and your mention of the “lie angle balanced” putter in this one. Is this a bigger part of the equation than is being alluded to? Does this lie angle balancing reduce the amount of counterrotation that needs to be applied to square the face thereby making that squaring more repeatable?

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Equipment

Davis Love III was still using a persimmon driver in 1997?!

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The revolution of metal drivers was happening quickly in the early-to-mid 1990’s, but Davis Love III was set on sticking with his Cleveland Classic Oil Hardened RC85 persimmon driver. He wasn’t oblivious to the emerging technology, though. He knew exactly what he was doing, and why.

“The Cleveland has been in my bag since 1985,” Love III wrote in his 1997 book, “Every Shot I Take.” “It was given to me by a good friend, Bob Spence. I experiment with metal drivers often; I find – for me, and not necessarily for you – they go marginally longer than my wooden driver, but they don’t give me any shape. I find it more difficult to create shape to my drives off the metal face, which is important to me. …I also love the sound my ball makes as it comes off the persimmon insert of my driver.

“I’m no technophobe,” he added. “My fairway ‘woods’ have metal heads … but when it comes to my old wooden driver, I guess the only thing I can really say is that I enjoy golf more with it, and I think I play better with it…golf is somehow more pleasing to me when played with a driver made of wood.”

Although his book came out in 1997, Love III switched out his persimmon driver for a Titleist 975D titanium driver in the same year.

It was the end of an era.

During Love III’s 12-year-run with the persimmon driver, though, he piled on four wins in the year of 1992, including the Kmart Greater Greensboro Open — now known as the Wyndham Championship.

Love III, who’s captaining the 2022 Presidents Cup United States team next month at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., is playing in the 2022 Wyndham Championship in nearby Greensboro. In celebration, we took a look back in the archives to see what clubs Love III used for his win in 1992 for an article on PGATOUR.com. We discovered he was using a Cleveland Classic persimmon driver, in addition to a nostalgic equipment setup.

In our latest Two Guys Talking Golf podcast episode, equipment aficionado and co-host Brian Knudson, and myself (GolfWRX tour reporter Andrew Tursky), discuss Love III’s late switch to a metal-made driver, and why he may have stuck with a wooden persimmon driver for so long.

Check out the full podcast below in the SoundCloud embed, or listen on Apple Music here. For more information on Love III’s 1992 setup versus his 2022 WITB, click here.

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

Why the 2022 AIG Women’s Open is a momentous week for the women’s game

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The 47th Women’s British Open, currently sponsored by AIG, is unquestionably historic.

Not only is the purse a record $7.3 million, but this week’s venue has a darker, less inclusive past than it would like to be remembered for.

Despite holding 16 Open Championships, the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and a Curtis Cup, in 2016, the membership controversially voted against permitting women to join the club.

Having then courted controversy and after receiving a ban from hosting The Open, they predictably reversed the decision, and three years later allowed their first ever female members.

It’s been a long time coming but, from now on, things are definitely on the up.

Tournament director Zoe Ridgway told Women & Golf that, “Along with our partners at AIG, we have a real ambition to grow the AIG Women’s Open. We are creating a world-class championship for the world’s best players and, as such, we need to provide them with the best golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland to compete on.”

She continued, “Muirfield is certainly one of these and it will be a historic moment when the women tee off on the famed layout for the first time. That is a moment which we hope becomes iconic for golf and encourages more women and girls into the sport.”

2009 winner, Catriona Matthew, hit the historic first tee shot yesterday, the two-time winning Solheim Cup captain symbolically teeing off alongside another home player, 22-year-old Louise Duncan.

From one stalwart and veteran of the tour to the fresh face of Scottish golf, Duncan won the 2021 Women’s Amateur Championship before becoming low amateur at the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie, 12 months ago.

Duncan turned pro recently, missing her first cut at the Women’s Scottish Open last week, but bouncing back in today’s first round, a 4-under 67 leaving her in third place, just two off the lead.

There is something particularly special about links golf, and certainly when it hosts a major, but this week seems to have additional sparkle about it.

Yes, there are the practicalities. For example, this year will mark the first time the players have their own all-in-one facility, available previously to the male competitors.

Ridgway explained, “It will have dining, a gym, physio rooms, locker rooms, showers, and everything that they need to prepare for a major championship.”

This week is momentous in so many ways. It will be tough, windy and cold – links courses are – and there will be a very deserving winner by the end of the 72 holes, but the event is summed up by Visit Scotland CEO Malcolm Roughead:

“It sends the signal that the women’s game is being taken seriously.”

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: My BIG guys golf trip WITB and building a custom TaylorMade Spider GT putter

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This weekend is my big guys golf trip. We have a great group of 16 guys who play a mini Ryder Cup style tournament for a trophy and major bragging rights. Trying to put together the two full sets I will bring with me. I love custom golf clubs and the My Spider GT program from TaylorMade is awesome! I built a custom Spider GT that matches my custom Stealth Plus+ driver!

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