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The Wedge Guy: A defense of blades

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One of the longest-running and most active conversations in all of golf equipment is the subject of blades versus game improvement irons. Over the nearly 20 years I’ve been writing this blog as “The Wedge Guy,” I’ve addressed this in various ways and always stimulated a lively discussion with my readers.

I hope this angle on the conversation will do the same, so all of you please share your thoughts and observations.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have always played some kind of blade-style irons, with only a few detours along the way. But I always come back to my blades, so let me explain why.

I grew up in the 1950s and 60s when blades were all we had. As a teenager with a developing skill set, I became a devotee to those models from the old Ben Hogan Company, and played the “Bounce Sole” model, then several iterations of the Apex line after it was introduced. Those few sets served me well into my 30s, when I became involved in the golf equipment industry. Having Joe Powell Golf as a client, I switched to his pure muscle back model called the “PGI.” They were certainly sweet.

In the late 1980s, I was handling the marketing for Merit Golf, who offered a cavity back forging called the Fusion, which was inspired by the Ben Hogan Edge irons, but offered a more traditional face profile. So, I switched to them.
Playing to a low single digit handicap at the time, I really didn’t see my scores change, but I just wasn’t making as many birdies as I had before. Openly pondering why my golf felt different, a regular golf buddy noted, “You’re not knocking down pins as often as you used to,” and I realized he was right. I was hitting just as many greens as before, maybe one or two more, but I wasn’t getting those kick-in birdies nearly as often. So, I went to the closet and broke out the old Joe Powell PGI irons and had an epic day with three birdies inside five feet and a couple more in the 5-10 range.
Those blades stayed in the bag until I developed my first iron design, the “RL blades” by my first company, Reid Lockhart. By this time, I had seen enough robotic testing prove that the most penalizing mishit with a blade was a toe impact, which mirrored my own experience. So, I sculpted a pure muscle back blade, but added a bit of mass toward the toe to compensate for that deficiency of all such designs.

I played those irons for 20 years, until I created the “FT. WORTH 15” irons for the re-launch of the Ben Hogan brand in 2015. In that design, I further evolved my work to very slightly add a bit of modified perimeter weighting to a pure forged blade, taking inspiration from many of Mr. Hogan’s earlier personal designs in the Apex line of the “old” Ben Hogan Company. Those are still in my bag, going on eight years now.

So, why do I think I can make a solid defense for playing blade irons? Because of their pinpoint distance control, particularly in the short irons — those with lofts of 35 degrees or higher.

I’ll certainly acknowledge that some modern perimeter weighting is very helpful in the lower lofts . . .the mid- and long irons. In those clubs, somewhere on or near the green is totally acceptable, whether you are playing to break 90 or trying to win on the PGA Tour. [Did you know those guys are actually over par as a group outside 9-iron range?] That’s why you see an increasing number of them playing a conservative game-improvement design in those lofts. But also remember that we in the golf club design business deal with poor “hits” only . . . we have no control over the quality of your swing, so the vast majority of bad golf shots are far beyond our influence.

But what I’ve seen in repeated robotic testing and in my own play, when you get to the prime scoring clubs – short irons and wedges – having a solid thickness of mass directly behind the impact point on the face consistently delivers better distance control and spin. In my own designs of the SCOR wedges in 2010, and the Ben Hogan FT.WORTH 15 irons and TK15 wedges, I created a distribution of mass that actually placed a bit more face thickness behind the slight mishit than even in the center, and the distance consistency was remarkable.

I’ve carried that thinking to the Edison Forged wedges by positioning much more mass behind the high face and toe miss than any other wedges on the market. And in robotic testing, they deliver better transfer of energy on those mishits than any other wedge we tested.

So, back to that experience when I switched back to my Joe Powell blades from the Merit cavity back forging, I can sum it up this way.

If your pleasure from your golf is derived more from how good your worst shots turn out, then a game improvement iron is probably the way to go. But if your golf pleasure is more about how good your best shots are, I think there is a very strong case to be made for playing some kind of blade iron design, at least in your scoring clubs.

Alright, fans: sound off!

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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.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Wedge Guy: The critical transition factor – GolfWRX

  2. Drew

    Sep 30, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    So your playing vokey wedges, but game improvement irons of a different(non Titleist) brand. How would one incorporate blades into this setup. But some Titleist 8-PW blades or go with blades of the same manufacture as your game improvement irons? I think a part 2 may be needed for this article

  3. Pingback: The Wedge Guy: A Tale of Two Misses – GolfWRX

  4. Not Biden

    Sep 27, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    What is the authors playing background? How often does he shoot under par? I take no advice from somebody who’s not scratch or better.

    +3.1 myself.

  5. Try

    Sep 23, 2022 at 7:19 pm

    Nonsense. Give me the largest game improvement iron you can find and you play your blades and I’ll still beat you

    • Brian

      Sep 26, 2022 at 2:23 pm

      Suuuure you will. It’s your story, tell it however you want.

  6. MarkM

    Sep 23, 2022 at 1:46 pm

    I grew up with blades, as I started playing golf in the 70s. I have gone back and forth between blades and CBs but always seem to return to blades for the same reason you cited – the feeling of hitting that pure shot and knowing it will go the distance you want. Currently playing Honma T//W Rose Proto irons

  7. Dennis

    Sep 23, 2022 at 12:08 am

    Don‘t you need a certain swing speed to play blades?

    • Brian

      Sep 26, 2022 at 2:22 pm

      In the 3 – 6i you do. If you don’t have enough speed, your gaps will bunch up in the mid-long irons.

  8. Dan

    Sep 22, 2022 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks for An enjoyable read. I briefly had RL blades around 2003 and forgotI had them till I read this.

  9. WYBob

    Sep 22, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    I agree with you 100%. I am about the same age as you and started playing forged blades in the mid-’60s on tight lies and some tough courses in Texas. As you say, they were the only thing available at the time. A modern GI club just does not fit my eye and I hit them worse than most modern MB irons. My favorite irons are still the Ben Hogan FTX from the early 2000s which was a mixed MB (E-7) and CB (6-3)set designed as an integrated set. I still have them plus several sets of Hogan Apex and a set of Hogan Fort Worth irons that I pull out from time to time to test my ball striking (and honestly for nostalgia purposes). However, as a concession to age, I have built out a combo set of irons that take advantage of current technology in an effort to regain some of the distance lost due to age. The primary difference from the FTX is that my current MBs run 8-PW. Thanks for your insights and affirmation that my current thinking about iron set makeup has some merit. cheers…

  10. Nick

    Sep 22, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    This is my idea for my set of irons is to have players distance in the 4-7irons and get more blade like irons in 8-W

  11. Karsten Solheim

    Sep 22, 2022 at 1:24 pm

    I had it figured out in 1982 Terry. Certain folks didn’t like it when I took their market share.

  12. Stosh

    Sep 22, 2022 at 12:46 pm

    I completely agree with your argument. And during my years of trying and buying new clubs, I have found the a mixed set of clubs – blades in the short irons – gave me not only great consistency but the ability to hit a broader variety of shots with control. I encourage golfers, mid to low handicaps to try this set up.

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Morning 9: PIP winners I Player changes LIV tune I Augusta National changes

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]. On Twitter: @benalberstadt

November 23, 2022

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Eat, drink, be merry, and please, count a few blessings tomorrow! We’re grateful to put this little roundup together for you weekday mornings and truly appreciate your readership.

1. Your PIP winner is…

PGATour.com staff report…”Tiger Woods was No. 1 in the 2022 PGA TOUR Player Impact Program (PIP) for the second straight year, the 82-time TOUR winner earning the top impact bonus of $15 million.”

  • “Rory McIlroy, who won the FedExCup for an unprecedented third time, returned to world No. 1, and over the weekend captured the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai, finished second ($12 million).”
  • “…Jordan Spieth ($9 million), Justin Thomas ($7.5 million), Jon Rahm ($6 million), Scottie Scheffler ($5.5 million), Xander Schauffele ($5 million), Matt Fitzpatrick ($5 million), Will Zalatoris ($5 million) and Tony Finau ($5 million) rounded out the top 10.”
Full piece.

2. What do the stats say

Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…”statistically speaking, the case can be made that 2022 was McIlroy at his peak—and we’re not counting his performances behind the podium as the lead defender for the two tours in their ongoing battle with LIV Golf.”

  • “According to DataGolf, McIlroy’s true strokes gained for 2022 was 2.61, with Scheffler a distant second at 2.23. (Even more remarkably, McIlroy’s number does not factor in his win at the CJ Cup in October.) For context, that number is better than McIlroy’s 2014—a season in which he won two majors and a WGC—which was 2.51. It was also a whopping stroke better than his output from last year (1.56). McIlroy also led the PGA Tour in strokes gained with a 2.12 mark; Matt Fitzpatrick was second at 1.79.”
Full piece.

3. Gary Player changes his tune on LIV — again

Via the Golf Channel digital team…”Speaking two days ago to reporter Mahlatse Mphahlele, Player shared some quick thoughts on the ongoing rift between LIV and the PGA Tour, calling for respect and happiness while asserting that he takes no issue with players who have joined Greg Norman’s startup league.”

  • “I have no objection to people going and playing the LIV tour,” Player said. “I think it is wonderful to give people an opportunity to make some money when they can’t play anymore. Most of them are going out there with a new lease of life, and that is fantastic. But what I don’t like is the war that is happening between LIV and the PGA [Tour]. Golf is too good. Golf gave us our dream to start the tour and play. And so, we must have – the word is respect across the board. We’ve all got to have respect for each other and go on with our own lives. But if you have [membership on] the LIV tour, don’t expect to play and have the facilities of the regular [PGA] Tour. Because they are two different tours.”
  • “I just hope everything works out well and everybody is happy.”
Full piece.

4. Changes to ANGC’s 13th

5. A Tiger Sunday Red Masters shirt at auction

E. Michael Johnson for Golf Digest…“In recent years there has been a spike in interest in Tiger Woods auctioned memorabilia. Most of the items have been golf clubs used by the 15-time major champion. A new lot up for bid by Golden Age Auctions presents a different opportunity, allowing bidders to vie for a vintage Sunday red Nike shirt worn by Woods in the final round of the 2010 Masters.”

  • “The auction, which begins on Tuesday, ends on Saturday, Dec. 10 with a starting bid of $5,000, though the final price is expected to far exceed that (Editor’s Note: Golf Digest has a business relationship with Golden Age Auctions).”
Full piece.

6. Vice Captain Colsaerts

“European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald’s team of assistants is beginning to take shape, with Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts named as his third Vice Captain alongside Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari.”

  • “Colsaerts has a memorable history with the Ryder Cup, having been part of the 2012 European team that beat the USA at Medinah. He played a pivotal role in that victory on the Friday when he partnered with Lee Westwood to beat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in the fourball session – a performance that included eight birdies from Colsaerts.”
  • “After being handed the role, Colsaerts drew on memories from that tournament to explain how he would approach next year’s event. He said: “My first reaction when Luke asked me was sheer joy. Every time I hear the words ‘Ryder Cup’, it takes me back to the edition I played in, how proud I was to wear the European colours and be part of such an unbelievable event. Of course, Luke was in that team too, and when we spoke he mentioned how much he has always loved what the Ryder Cup means to me.”
Full piece.

7. Anna Davis picks a college

Cameron Jourdan for Golfweek…“Anna Davis has decided where she wants to play college golf.”

  • “The 16-year-old who won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April announced Monday she has committed to the Auburn women’s golf program via her Instagram account. Davis posted a photo with Tigers’ coach Melissa Luellen and assistant Kim Hall.”
  • “Last week, Davis’ twin brother, Billy, committed to play for the Auburn men….However, whether Davis ever makes it to Auburn remains to be seen. She could turn professional before ever teeing it up for the Tigers. The early signing period for her class is next November.”
Full piece.

8. Tiger and Rory to be hit by Musk’s Twitter purge

Jamie Hall for Bunkered.co.uk…”Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be the most-affected golfers by Elon Musk’s promised Twitter purge.”

  • “Musk, the new owner of the social media giant, has promised to crack down on fake and spam accounts since forking out $44billion to buy the site earlier this year.”
  • “According to an audit of false accounts carried out by gambling.com using SparkToro software, Woods has the highest number of fake followers, with a massive 2.6million of the accounts following him deemed to be false.”
  • “McIlroy is also followed by a high number of spam accounts on 1.1million, around 100,000 ahead of Ian Poulter.”
Full piece.

9. Wedge Stamping Caviar

Pop open a tin of the finest beluga, GolfWRXers… In all seriousness, it’s less jelly-like substance, more richness of intrigue than salt-cured roe at Wedge Stamping Caviar as we present to you some of the finest instances of hammer-and-stamp work on the PGA Tour.

  • In this initial serving, we’re mining photos from October and November at PGA Tour stops, including the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the Cadence Bank Houston Open, and the RSM Classic.
  • So grab your mother-of-pearl spoon and dig in — with restraint, please.
Full Piece.
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Wedge Stamping Caviar: Have More Fun Edition

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Pop open a tin of the finest beluga, GolfWRXers… In all seriousness, it’s less jelly-like substance, more richness of intrigue than salt-cured roe at Wedge Stamping Caviar as we present to you some of the finest instances of hammer-and-stamp work on the PGA Tour.

In this initial serving, we’re mining photos from October and November at PGA Tour stops, including the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the Cadence Bank Houston Open, and the RSM Classic.

So grab your mother-of-pearl spoon and dig in — with restraint, please.

The traditional K.I.S.S. stamping on a BV proto: first and last initial, demonstrated here by Andrew Landry. Bonus points for the bounce angle (8) stamp.

When your last name is something imposing/interesting, you’re definitely stamping it on your wedge as Cole Hammer has done here in a “University of Texas” colorway.

Simple, perfect stamping for Xuewen Luo. 

Patrick Cantlay is still rolling with a SM7. Ultimate K.I.S.S. to stick with a previous generation wedge with stamped initials. Bent loft (47 degrees) is a classy touch. 

Excellent #perspective on Kevin Roy’s 54-degree Vokey.

Anytime a custom grind wears off the loft number, it’s caviar. Lovely patina on Woodland’s Wilson, too. 

Another favorite motif: Tiny initials pattern (as demonstrated by Palmer Jackson). 

The Webb Simpson traditional. Maybe the longest-serving stamping on Tour. 

Not a stamping on Akshay Bhatia’s Jaws Raw, but we’ll serve it up anyway for reasons immediately discernible to the seasoned palate. 

 

 

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WOTW: Lydia Ko’s Rolex Yacht-Master 40 in Rose Gold

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Lydia Ko won twice this weekend with her victory at the CME Group Tour Championship that also earned her the 2022 Rolex Player of The Year award. The CME win was her 19th LPGA Tour victory and her third this year. While collecting all of her trophies, Ko was wearing a Rolex Yacht-Master 40 in rose gold.

WOTW Specs
Name: Rolex Yacht-Master 40
Reference: 126655-0002
Limited: No
Date: 2019 – Present
Case: Everose Gold
Bezel: Black Cerachrom Ceramic
Dial: Intense Black
Size: 40mm
Movement: Rolex 3235, 31 Jewels
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Glass: Saphire Crystal Cyclops Lens
Waterproof: 100 Meters
Bracelet: Black Oysterflex Rubber Strap
Price: $28,050 (~$32,000)

The Rolex Yacht-Master was introduced in 1992, and it was the first new model in the Rolex line since the Daytona was launched in 1964. The unconfirmed story of the Yacht-Master was that it was originally intended to be an updated Submariner. Rolex couldn’t make such a large change to the most iconic watch that had ever been produced, so the Yacht-Master was born. Yacht-Masters have always embodied luxury and included a precious metal in the watch. The first Yacht-Masters in 1992 were made from solid yellow gold and a few dial options. The Yacht-Master saw a lot of success, but it really took off in 2012 when the Rolesium, platinum and steel, model with the silver dial was released. Since then the Yacht-Master has been one of the most underrated watches in the Rolex lineup.

Lydia has been wearing this Yacht-Master 40 in Everose gold for a little while now as we saw it on her wrist back in April of 2021. The case is 40mm wide and is made from Rolex’s own 18k Everose gold. Rolex created their own rose gold alloy to ensure that the precious metal could meet their strict quality and durability requirements. Rolex stopped outsourcing and created their own foundry in the early 2000s to make its own gold, rose gold, and platinum for its watches.

The caseback on Ko’s watch is matching Everose gold and screws into the case giving the watch a 100 meter water resistance rating. On the side of the case is a screw down crown that is made from Everose gold and features a Triplock seal waterproof system. On tope of the case is the Yacht-Master’s legendary chunky bidirectional bezel. The bezel itself is made from Everose gold and contains a matte black Cerachrom ceramic insert. The ceramic insert is extremely scratch resistant and won’t fade from long term exposure to saltwater and UV rays.

The raised numerals on the bezel are polished for a contrasting look that is easier to read. A sapphire crystal covers the Intense Black dial and there is a magnifying Cyclops lens covering the date at 3 o’clock. Large Everose gold hour markers surround the dial and are filled with Rolex’s Chromalight luminescent material that glows with more of a blue light. The hour, minute, and second hands are all made from polished Everose gold and filled with the same Chromalight material.

The heart and brain of the Yacht-Master 40 is Rolex’s Calibre 3235 movement that is found in a few other Rolex models. The 3235 is a self-winding movement that uses the blue Parachrom hairspring that keeps accurate time regardless of the temperature and is very shock resistant. Rolex’s designed the Parachrom hairspring in house so they can control the quality and the acceptable tolerance is 0.1 microns, or about 1/1000 of a human hair. The 3235 has up to 70 hours of power reserve and is COSC certified to ensure its accuracy in all conditions.

A black Oysterflex strap holds the watch on the wrist and is far more than just a strip of rubber. Rolex encases flexible titanium and nickel “blades” in a high-performance elastomer. This metal spine adds durability while maintaining the soft comfort you expect from a rubber strap. The underside of the Oysterflex strap has a cushioning system molded into it that can also add stability on the wrist. An Everose gold Oysterlock safety clasp brings the strap together and contains Rolex’s Glidelock extension system to fine tune the fit without the use of any tools.

The Yacht-Master 40 in Everose has become a very popular model and is now hard to find at any Rolex dealer. Many didn’t think that a rose gold watch on a rubber strap would ever be something in high demand but that theory has been proven incorrect. If you can get one of these Yacht-Masters at the $28,050 retail price, then consider yourself lucky. Most will pay around $32,000 on the secondary market to get one on their wrist.

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