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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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Photos from the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open

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GolfWRX was on site this week ahead of the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course.

The year is winding down, but the wraparound 2022-2023 season is just getting underway, so players are poised to do a bit of tinkering ahead of January equipment launches. To that end, we got an in-hand look at Justin Rose’s new prototype “JR” irons. We also spotted new shafts from KBS and Mitsubishi as well as new grips from SuperStroke.

Check out all of our photos below.

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Morning 9: Tiger’s return | Scheffler on No. 1 spot | Houston Open photos

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.
For comments: [email protected].
November 10, 2022

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the Houston Open gets underway.

1. Tiger makes it official

Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…“The initial field list for the Hero was announced last month but three tournament sponsor exemptions remained to be filled. Woods took one of those spots, while Kevin Kisner and Tommy Fleetwood will round out the field.”

  • “Tournament officials said last week that Shane Lowry will fill in for Will Zalatoris, who is still recovering from a back injury. December could be a busy month for Woods, who is soon to turn 47.”
Full piece.

2. Theegala: LIV making PGA Tour more competitive

Max Schreiber for Golf Channel…”Good or bad, LIV Golf made its mark on the golf world this past year.”

  • “I think no matter what everyone feels about either tour, whatever opinions they have or thoughts they have, I think it affects everyone whether they want to admit it or not,” Sahith Theegala said Wednesday at a Houston Open pre-tournament presser.
  • “But did LIV make the PGA Tour better? Theegala thinks so.”
  • “It’s great for the players because it’s making the Tour more competitive and it’s better for the players now,” he said. “There’s more opportunity than ever.”
Full piece.

3. Scheffler on No. 1 spot

Golf Channel’s Max Schreiber…”The world’s second-ranked player needed a win or solo second at Mayakoba to reclaim world No. 1, which Rory McIlroy notched three weeks ago after winning the CJ Cup. Scheffler carded a final-round 62, but finished T-3.”

  • “With a win at the Houston Open, Scheffler can once again become world No. 1, but he’s not too concerned with where he sits in the OWGR.”
  • “It definitely matters to me,” he said Wednesday in Houston. “I don’t let a ranking define what I think of myself as a player. It was definitely fun being No. 1 in the world and it’s something I hope to get back to, but all my motivation’s always been internal. I’m a craze, crazy competitive person, so for me, I haven’t really needed much outward focus to kind of get motivated to come out and play. If anything, I need to tone myself down a little bit and just let things go and kind of just go out and play.”
Full piece.

4. More trouble ahead for Florida courses?

Jason Lusk for Golfweek…”Tropical Storm Nicole, forecast to become a hurricane before making landfall somewhere Wednesday night or early Thursday morning in South Florida, threatens to bring potentially damaging high winds and heavy rains to hundreds – possibly thousands – of golf courses along the eastern coast of the U.S.”

  • “The storm was over the Bahamas on Wednesday morning with sustained winds of 70 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 10 a.m. report. It was forecast to reach the U.S. somewhere just north of West Palm Beach near the golf hot spot of Jupiter, home to many golf professionals. The storm is then forecast to cross Florida toward a region just north of Tampa and into the Gulf of Mexico before curving to the northeast into Georgia.”
Full piece.

5. Secret to LPGA success?

Kent Paisley for Golf Digest…”With two events remaining on the 2022 LPGA season, the data for this year corresponds with numbers gathered over the last decade that show greens in regulation (and in conjunction putts per GIR) have had the highest correlation with winning on tour compared to putting or driving. Statistical research of winners during that time shows they have averaged 25th in greens in regulation for the season (and 23rd in putts per green in regulation), 47th in average putts and 55th in average driving distance.”

  • “Lee might be one of the most interesting individual examples of this: After all, she ranks 152nd in driving distance on the LPGA this season yet is one of a record-tying 11 first-time winners in 2022.”
  • “The dominance by players who top the tour’s greens in regulation stats is eye-popping. In eight of the last 10 seasons, the leader for the year in GIR percentage has won at least one tournament: Suzann Pettersen, 2013; Brooke Henderson, 2015; Anna Nordqvist, 2016; Lexi Thompson, 2017; Jin Young Ko, 2018 and 2019; Sei Young Kim, 2020; and Ally Ewing, 2022. All eight, not coincidentally are multiple-time tour winners. As for 2014 and 2021, the lone seasons the No. 1 player in GIR percentage did not win an event, the second-ranked player did (Anna Nordqvist in 2014; Jin Young Ko in 2021). Notably, 37.3 percent of tournaments on the LPGA since 2013 have been won by players who ranked in the top 10 in greens in regulation during that season.”
Full piece.

6. Who congratulated Double P?

Alex Myers for Golf Digest…”Perez told Harmon he received a nice message from Jon Rahm, who has been one of the more vocal opponents of LIV. But maybe that’s not too surprising considering Rahm and Perez both have Arizona State ties, and Rahm has been on a real nice-guy kick of late after helping out Max Homa and his wife with food after the birth of their first child. But then there’s this.”

  • “I got a text from Justin Thomas,” Perez says. “Monday morning. He said, ‘Hey man, I’m so happy for you, congrats.’ That’s pretty cool.”
Full piece.

7. Kirk Cousins bought a golf course

Cassandra Lybrink for the Holland Sentinel…”In response to questions from locals, the new owners of Saugatuck’s Clearbrook Golf Course have written a letter to the community.”

  • “Our family recently purchased the Clearbrook Golf Course from our friends and longtime owners, Jim and Candy Jeltema,” the new owners — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and his wife Julie — wrote. “They have managed the course for many years, making Clearbrook a place of connection and fun for our entire community.”
  • “The sale didn’t include the Grill Room Restaurant, which remains under the ownership of Jim and Candy.”
  • “West Michigan is a special community, and we have enjoyed living in Saugatuck/Douglas since we built our home here in 2018,” Kirk and Julie wrote. “As Jim reflected on his future, he wanted to keep the golf course in the community. As we discussed the history of the golf club with Jim, we agreed it is a community treasure and should remain a golf course for the next generation.”
Full piece.

8. Equal prize money

Mike Hall for Golf Monthly…”The Ladies European Tour’s Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF will see an eye-catching five-fold increase in prize purse from $1m to $5m for next year’s tournament.”

  • “The boost means the tournament will have parity with the money on offer in the men’s PIF Saudi International, with $750,000 awarded to the winner.”
  • “The news is part of a renewed agreement between the LET and Saudi Golf, and CEO of the LET, Alexandra Armas, outlined the huge significance of the increase as the profile of the women’s game grows.”
  • “She said: “The increased purse for the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF is a landmark moment for our Tour, and for women’s sport globally. It will allow the tournament to grow in every way, from its purpose and impact on social change to the delivery of exceptional experiences for fans and for players at the event and in the community.”
Full piece.

9. Houston Open photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from Houston here.
Full piece.
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Morning 9: Korda out for rest of season | Houston Open photos

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.
For comments: [email protected].
November 9, 2022

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, as the PGA Tour heads to Houston.

1. Tiger wins the PIP again?

Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Tiger Woods has won the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program for the second consecutive year, according to Rory McIlroy in an interview with the Associated Press.”

  • “Although Woods played just nine rounds in 2022, including his return at the Masters and The Open at St. Andrews, he remains the game’s top draw as defined by the Tour’s PIP, which measures a player’s popularity based on media mentions and broadcast exposure.”
  • “Hey, I gave him a pretty good run,” said McIlroy, who told the AP he finished second on the PIP list.”
Full piece.

2. Korda out with back injury for rest of year

Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“Jessica Korda will not be competing in the final two events of the LPGA season. Korda announced on Instagram that a back injury put an end to her 2022.”

  • “I’m beyond bummed,” Korda wrote. “I haven’t had the most luck when it comes to injuries in my career, nonetheless I’m going to keep on keeping on. Excited to be back next year for my 13th season on tour healthier and stronger.”
  • “Korda will miss this week’s Pelican LPGA Championship in Belleair, Florida, where her sister Nelly is the defending champion. She’ll also miss the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, which boasts a $2 million winner’s check, the largest in tour history.”
Full piece.

3. Ferguson on Tour’s plan for replenishing the pipeline

The AP’s Doug Ferguson…”The PGA Tour board is expected to give final approval Monday to a plan in which the top college senior will get a PGA Tour card after the NCAAs in June. He could play as many as eight events, and if he doesn’t make the postseason, as many as seven more in the fall.”

  • “This will be the first time a college player has a direct path to the PGA Tour, much like college stars going straight to the NFL or NBA.”
  • “That’s just for seniors. The tour also is planning an “accelerated” university program for top underclassmen who earn enough points through performance (college, tour, elite amateur events), awards and the world amateur ranking.”
  • “The idea is to create a path to the tour but keep the bar high enough to avoid getting someone who gets hot. Over the last decade or so, the tour figures players like Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Sam Burns — all among the top 12 in the world — would have been eligible.”
  • “The balancing act is providing the right amount of cards to college stars for a tour where it’s already tough to get into tournaments. A year ago, the tour had 201 members who played at least 15 times. The typical field in the summer is 156 players. And it’s about to get tighter in 2024.”
Full piece.

4. The hole-in-one whisperer

Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…”Not one, not two, but three holes-in-one were made in three consecutive days from Friday, Nov. 4 to Sunday, Nov. 6 at the club, and one man was there to witness all three. Dan Kelly aced the par-3 12th with a pitching wedge from 125 yards out on Sunday, and was also a player in both groups the previous two days, when Mike Abel aced the 165-yard par-3 3rd hole on Friday and Ken King aced the 12th on Saturday.”

Full piece.

5. Cabrera: Prison has done me good

Our Matt Vincenzi…”On Monday, former professional golfer Angel Cabrera was convicted again of assaulting an ex-partner.”

  • “This is the second time that Cabrera has been convicted of assault on a former partner. The first came in 2021 when the two-time major winner was sentenced to serve two years in prison for the assault of Cecilia Torres and the stealing of her cell phone.”
  • “Cabrera’s second charge came after another former partner, Micaela Escudero, stepped forward to bring allegations against Cabrera.”
  • “The 52-year-old has been sentenced to another two years and four months to run concurrently with his first sentence.”
  • “According to local press, when speaking during the trial, Cabrera said: Many say prison is bad, but it’s not the case, prison has done me good.”
Full piece.

6. Meet Taylor Montgomery

PGATour.com’s Sean Martin on the man who will be playing beside PGA TOUR Player of the Year Scottie Scheffler and four-time TOUR winner Sam Burns in a Featured Group at this week’s Cadence Bank Houston Open…”Getting off to a strong start is especially important for Korn Ferry Tour graduates. Not only does it decrease the stress about keeping their card and qualifying for the FedExCup Playoffs, but it also helps them get more starts as the season progresses. Montgomery couldn’t have hoped for a much better beginning to his rookie season. His worst finish in five starts this season? A tie for 15th. He started with a third-place finish at the Fortinet Championship thanks to a final-round 64. He also collected top-10s at the Sanderson Farms Championship (T9) and World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba (T10). His final-round scoring average of 65.6 is the best on TOUR among players who’ve played at least four Sundays (the next best is Harris English at 67.0) and includes his strong finish at Fortinet and a final-round 62 at THE CJ CUP in South Carolina, where he finished T13. Two years ago, Montgomery was a shuttle driver for celebrity guests at THE CJ CUP when it was held at Las Vegas’ Shadow Creek, where his father Monte is the general manager.”

  • “…Long drives and strong putting are a recipe that has worked for Montgomery across tours. He led the Korn Ferry Tour in scoring average last season (68.4), was third in putting average and second in putts per round. His nine top-10 finishes were second only to Justin Suh. Montgomery finished the Korn Ferry Tour season by going T2-T3-T4-T9, giving him nine consecutive top-15 finishes across tours. He’s currently 65th in the Official World Golf Ranking after starting the year at No. 361.”
Full piece.

7. Foltz dreading LIV’s move to TV

Our Jason Daniels…”Former professional player, now LIV Golf commentator Jerry Foltz, has given his views on a tv deal for the rebel tour, as well as on factors that might change the format of the 14 planned 2023 events.

  • Speaking on the Fore The People podcast, the former Golf Channel analyst discussed the possibility of having a permanent deal for the Greg-Norman-led tour.
  • “LIV Golf will be on a TV partner in the United States before we have our next event. I am plenty comfortable saying that.”
  • “I hate the fact that we will be because our product will then not be, I hope we sell it as a wholly owned property, and they broadcast it the way it is, but right now we do five hours of commercial-free golf and that is a big draw for the people who enjoy watching.”
  • “We don’t move away for anything. We certainly don’t see a guy tap in and watch him walk off the green for 30 seconds and show a scorecard hole after hole.We do it completely different. It’s hard to re-train old minds like myself and Feherty to do it differently, but we’ve kind of caught on a little bit to it and hopefully do some more.”
Full piece.

8. Moliwood to captain at Hero Cup

Andrew Wright for Golf Monthly…”Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari have been named as playing captains for next year’s Hero Cup.”

  • “The team match play competition will see Great Britain and Ireland take on Continental Europe at Abu Dhabi Golf Club from January 13-15, 2023, with Fleetwood and Molinari each selecting nine players for their teams.”
  • “Selection will take into account performances on the DP World Tour Rankings while the contest itself will consist of one session of foursomes, one session of fourballs and one session of singles matches. All 20 players will take part in each session with members of the winning team earning $125,000 and those on the losing team each receiving $75,000.”
Full piece.

9. Houston Open photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from Houston here.
Full piece.
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