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Opinion & Analysis

Wedge Guy: A significant driver discovery

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As most of you know, I’m quite the traditionalist when it comes to my equipment, even though I’ve been designing wedges for over 30 years, have over 100 putter designs to my credit and have “authored” several sets of irons.

To give you a look into my own bag, I’ve played only two iron designs over the past 27 year – the RL Blades I designed at Reid Lockhart, and the Ben Hogan Ft. Worth 15 irons I designed for the re-launch of the Ben Hogan brand in 2015 (those are still in my bag). Of course, my wedges have always changed to reflect my latest work in the category and now include lofts of 45, 49, 53, and 55 of the Edison Forged line.

I carry only one hybrid, a prototype that led to the Hogan VKTR product line, and an old favorite 4-wood.

Since early 2016, my driver has been a prototype we developed at Hogan, which is only 400cc in size, but was designed to accommodate working the ball in both directions. Though that club never made it to market, I have used it to become a very good driver of the ball – respectfully long and hitting lots of fairways.

I share all that because I began to wonder if I was leaving significant yardage “on the table” by not taking advantage of newer driver technology. So, I visited my local Edwin Watts Golf Shop, managed by a close friend, to get some insight into what he liked these days. Without “plugging” any brand, I chose to build a driver on a current model head with a story that appealed to me – lower spin and a fade bias. I opted for the 9-degree version, as I like to keep the ball down in our Texas coastal winds that are rarely below 15 mph, and often 20-25 or even higher.

My friends at KBS provided me with their new TD driver shaft at 60 grams.

After putting this new driver together at my preferred 45.25-inch length, I compared it to my Hogan before ever hitting it. Swingweight was a match, while the overall weight of the new one was about eight grams lighter. On the frequency machine, they were a close match, only five cycles different. So now, it was time to go to the course and see what I had.

After hitting some balls on the range to get the feel of it, I went out to the course to see “the numbers.” Using my MEVO+ launch monitor, and my regular game ball, the OnCore VERO 1x, I quickly saw that the new driver had definitely earned a place in my bag. Launch angle was about the same, but spin went down by over 400 rpms, and smash factor improved by almost four percent, which is huge. Between them, that translated to over 12 yards in additional carry on average, and over 15 yards on my less efficient impacts.

My best shots with both drivers gave a nod of almost 15 yards to the new technology. But more importantly, I found that I had “bought” that baby fade that I like as my regular shot pattern, and that I could aggressively hit a draw without it turning into a hook.

While enjoying this success, I read where Justin Rose said he could skip one generation of driver technology, but not two. Interesting.

So, my point here is that if you are playing a driver that is over three-to-four years old, you are likely leaving some yards “on the table.” There is no question that category continues to improve, as hard as it may be. The big boys are grinding every way they can to squeeze every yard out of that driver for all of us.

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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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. geohogan

    Sep 9, 2022 at 1:31 pm

    IMO carbon face takes drivers to another level.
    40% less weight in the face is huge. No surprise,
    that Rory is finding more fairways, IMO.

  2. Loweboy

    Aug 24, 2022 at 3:16 pm

    I discovered this a couple years back. While I like my Louisville Golf persimmon driver, and my Condor driver, they both are old technology and were not getting out there very far. In a scramble in 2010, one of the guys had a Cobra LD F driver, I tried it and the next day bought one. What I didn’t realize is it was severely draw-biased and I fought nasty hooks for years. I finally put the old driver(s) back in and found more fairways. In 2018 I bought a SLDR and installed a Project X shaft into an adapter, and thought I had it dialed in. It would blast out there when hit correctly, but nearly every drive was low and left. Some of that was my swing (not turning all of the way to clear the hips), but it was amazing to see how far it could go on good shots. I was already cleared for a driver purchase by my wife, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger. After a bad round with the SLDR, I set it next to my Condor and got out the measuring tape. SLDR was 45″, and the Condor was 43″. I ordered the 9* GS53 Max at 44″ and immediately was hitting penetrating bombs that got out there 300-315. Yes, I gained 50+ yards on my drives, and also gained accuracy. It changed the way I play golf. I can still hit the low duff hook, and the occasional slice that goes three streets over, but those pure drives are a thing of beauty and the guys marvel at how far I can hit it. I am not one to buy new clubs often, so it will be many generations of drivers before I get a new one, but if I can keep hitting this one new like I do, I won’t need a new one. I had no idea a new driver would make such a difference, but it did, and I am glad I bought it. Now, I have to dial in my wedge game, and that has plagued me for decades.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie Reviews: L.A.B. Mezz.1 Max Putter

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L.A.B. Golf pushes the limits of putters and putting to try and help as many golfers as they can make more putts. Lie Angle Balanced putters are different because the face of the putter is always pointed towards your target. We all know L.A.B.’s famous Directed Force 2.1 putter. However, a lot of golfers didn’t like the looks and size of it. So L.A.B. developed the Mezz.1 putter that has a more traditional mallet look that so many golfers use, but with Lie Angle Balanced technology engineered into it. This year, the Mezz.1 Max putter was introduced to make a great putter even better. The Mezz.1 Max is 20-percent larger than the original Mezz.1 and offers more forgiveness and stability.

I have played the Mezz.1 this year and think it is a great putter, so to be honest, I wasn’t that excited to try the Mezz.1 Max at first. That changed pretty quickly once my putter showed up. To start, getting fit for a putter is one of the last things we golfers think about. L.A.B. has a very unique and effective remote fitting process if you cannot get to a fitter in person. You email a short video to them using your current putter and they use their internal genius to get your specs processed. The remote fitting video took me about seven minutes from start to submission.

Once you have your putter specs, you can then order a stock or custom Mezz.1 Max. I went down the custom path of various head colors, alignment aids, shafts, grips, and even a headcover to build my putter. My original Mezz.1 is black, and I wanted to go with some color to change things up and, for whatever reason, the cappuccino color kept grabbing my attention. The cappuccino color online looks more gold, and I was pleasantly surprised that in person the color is more brown and muted than I expected. The color goes well with the matte white Accra shaft and Press II 1.5-degree smooth grip.

Headcovers are now becoming big accessories, and the brown headcover I chose is kind of retro-looking while feeling high quality. Overall, I love the look and my Mezz.1 Max stands out without being too flashy and distracting.

As soon as I got the putter out of the box, I rolled a few putts on the carpet here at the office, not expecting much difference. From the first couple of putts, I could immediately tell something was a little different with this putter. The weight and balance through the stroke is more stable and you get an even better feeling of the putter wanting to keep the face pointed at the target. The other interesting find is that I didn’t even notice the 20-percent larger size that the Mezz.1 Max has over its older sibling. Maybe if I had them both side-by-side I would notice the size difference more, but the Mezz.1 Max on its own looks normal to my eye.

The first putts I hit on the carpet were great feeling and the Mezz.1 Max felt like it wanted to stay on its path regardless of how your hands tried to manipulate it. The same feeling was present on the putting green, and it was far stronger to me than the standard Mezz.1 felt. When you put the Mezz.1 Max on a target, the putter just wants to hit the ball at that target. The other interesting note is that, to me, the new Max has a softer and more solid feel compared to the smaller head. The sound at impact was more muted and had a lower pitch to it, even on mishits. Just like the original, the grooved face puts immediate forward roll on the ball and reduces almost all skipping.

L.A.B. says this Mezz.1 Max is 20-percent more stable, and I don’t think that is just some marketing talk. I have been in this putting funk where I have been making contact on the toe of the putter regularly. This miss has caused me to miss more than a few putts this year, and I hit a few with the new putter as well. Those toe misses still went straight and I wasn’t losing much speed. Those putts left the toe of the putter and either came up just short or just missed my intended line by a small amount. Those misses are a great improvement over the traditional blade that has been my gamer all summer. The biggest problem I had with the original Mezz.1 is that it took me awhile to get used to longer lag putts. This wasn’t the case with the Max, as I felt much more comfortable from long range and was able to get putts closer and reduce the 3-putt chances by a good amount.

Overall, if you’re searching for a new flatstick, the new L.A.B. Golf Mezz.1 Max putter is something to check out. You have a putter that can truly help you make more putts thanks to the Lie Angle Balanced technology, additional forgiveness, and stability.

For more information on my Mezz.1 Max putter review, listen to the Club Junkie podcast, which is available below and on any podcasting service.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A Tale of Two Misses

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It seems like I somewhat “touched a nerve” with last week’s post ‘A Defense of Blades’, based on the scoring you all gave my take on that controversial topic.

I do appreciate it when you take the time to score your reaction to my work, as it keeps me tuned in to what you really want me to pontificate about. Before I get into today’s topic, I request that any of you who have a subject you’d like me to address please drop me an email at [email protected], OK?

So, in somewhat of a follow-up to last week, let’s talk today about misses. Those too frequent shots that move your scores in the wrong direction.

Early in my life, I was always part of “the group” of low-handicap players who had various kinds of “money games”, but that put me in touch only with other low-handicap players who were highly competitive. Just as I was getting fully engaged in the golf equipment industry in the early 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of a group at my club called “The Grinders”. We had standing tee times every day…so if you could get away, you played. There were about 35-40 of us who might show up, with as many as 6-7 groups going off on Fridays and Saturdays.

These guys sported handicaps from scratch to 20, and we threw up balls to see how we were paired, so for twenty years, I had up close and personal observation of a variety of “lab rats.”

This let me observe and study how many different ways there were to approach the game and how many different kinds of mishits could happen in a round of golf. As a golf industry marketer and club designer, I couldn’t have planned it any better.

So back to a continuation of the topic of last week, the type of irons you choose to play should reflect the kinds of misses you are hoping to help. And the cold, hard truth is this:

We as golf club designers, engineers and fitters, can only do so much to help the outcome of any given shot.

Generally, mishits will fall into two categories – the “swing miss” and the “impact miss”.

Let’s start with the former, as it is a vast category of possibilities.

The “swing miss” occurs when the swing you made never had a chance of producing the golf shot you had hoped to see. The clubhead was not on a good path through impact, and/or the clubface was not at all square to the target line. This can produce any number of outcomes that are wildly wrong, such as a cold skull of the ball, laying the sod over it, hard block to the right (for a right-hand player), smother hook…I think you get the point.

The smaller swing misses might be a draw that turns over a bit too much because you rotated through impact a bit aggressively or a planned draw that doesn’t turn over at all because you didn’t. Or it could be the shot that flies a bit too high because you released the club a bit early…or much too low because you had your hands excessively ahead of the clubhead through impact.

The swing miss could be simply that you made a pretty darn good swing, but your alignment was not good, or the ball position was a bit too far forward in your swing…or too far back. Basically, the possible variations of a “swing miss” are practically endless and affect tour pros and recreational golfers alike.

The cruel fact is that most recreational golfers do not have solid enough swing mechanics or playing disciplines to deliver the clubhead to the ball in a consistent manner. It starts with a fundamentally sound hold on the club. From there, the only solution is to make a commitment to learn more about the golf swing and your golf swing and embark on a journey to become a more consistent striker of the golf ball. I would suggest that this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the game and encourage anyone who loves golf to go down this path.

But today’s post is about “mishits”, so let’s move on the other and much smaller category of misses…the “impact miss”. As a 40-year golf club designer, this is the world in which I function and, unfortunately, to which I am limited.

The “impact miss” is when most of the elements of the swing pretty much fall into place, so that the club is delivered pretty accurately to the ball…on the right path…face square to the target line at impact…but you miss the sweet spot of the club by just a bit.

Finding ways of getting better results out of those mishits is the singular goal of the entire golf club industry.

Big drivers of today are so much more forgiving of a 1/8 to ½ inch miss than even drivers of a decade ago, it’s crazy. Center strikes are better, of course, with our fast faces and Star Wars technology, but the biggest value of these big drivers is that your mishits fly much more like a perfect hit than ever before. In my own launch monitor testing of my current model driver to an old Reid Lockhart persimmon driver of the mid-1990s, I see that dead center hits are 20-25 yards different, but mishits can be as far as 75-80 yards apart, the advantage obviously going to the modern driver.

The difference is not nearly as striking with game improvement irons versus a pure forged one-piece blade. If the lofts and other specs are the same, the distance a pure strike travels is only a few yards more with the game improvement design, but a slight mishit can see that differential increase to 12-15 yards. But, as I noted in last week’s article, this difference tends to reduce as the lofts increase. Blades and GI irons are much less different in the 8- and 9-irons than in the lower lofts.

This has gotten a bit longer than usual, so how about I wrap up this topic next week with “A Tale of Two Misses – Part 2”? I promise to share some robotic testing insights that might surprise you.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: World Long Drive! Go Mu!

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In this week’s podcast we discuss Wisdom In Golf Premium, new ways to help and fun talk about rules and etiquette.

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