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Wedge Guy: Do irons really need to go longer?



I’m going to admit right up front that today’s post is an update of one I wrote almost 10 years ago, but the subject is just as relevant to all golfers today, if not even more so, in my opinion. Back then, it was interesting to me that the two most “aggressive” marketers of irons that year began touting how long they are, because up until then, the “distance war” had been mostly limited to drivers.

Until then, we had been through almost 40 years of drivers being sold by touting that they are longer, and that kind of makes sense. Then this “longer, faster, meaner” claim worked its way into the fairway woods category, and even the hybrids. Even that makes a little sense.

But what advantage does it give you if your irons’ specifications are “jacked up” so that the new ones go further than the old ones?

While I will admit that golf club technologies have certainly advanced, the main pathway to making new irons longer – on a number-by-number basis – is to lower the center of mass, decrease the loft and maybe make the shaft longer. Essentially, what is today’s “8-iron” for example, has almost the same loft and length as an historic 6-iron. Of course, it goes further.

As a comparison, I was revisiting an old set of Reid Lockhart RL Blades that I designed in the mid-1990s. The pitching wedge had 48 degrees of loft and the 7-iron was 36 degrees in loft. In looking at specs for many of the modern iron sets, many 9-irons have almost that same loft.

So, for fun I got out the launch monitor and hit balls with both the RL Blade 7-iron and a modern 9-iron that was just 2 degrees weaker. What I found was that carry distance was really not all that different at my strength profile, about 140 yards. But the RL Blade launched considerably lower, delivered significantly more spin and was much easier to flight up and down to adapt to varying conditions, particularly wind.

What I also found was that the once-piece design of the RL Blades made “dialing in” those shorter distances much more reliable.

But back to what a jacked up set of irons does for your game . . . what happens if all your irons go further than your last set? Does that really help you hit more greens?

There was an old adage of golf club design called “the 24/38 rule”. What that meant is that only skilled players could proficiently handle an iron with 24 degrees of loft or less, and 38 inches in length or more. I’ll admit that modern iron designs have made the loft limitation a bit outdated, but the longer a club is, the more accurate you are likely to be, both in delivery of the clubhead to the ball and keeping the face angle and path tighter.

But here is what I find really interesting. In many of the major brands’ iron line-ups, they have their “tour” or “pro” model . . . which are typically up to two degrees weaker in loft and ¼ to 3/8 inch shorter in length than the ones they are trying to sell you. How much sense does that make? The tour player, who’s bigger and stronger than you, plays a club that is shorter and easier to control than the one they are selling you. Hmmmmm. Gotcha.

But let’s tie this back to drivers. On Iron Byron, the 46” driver always goes further than the 45, because Iron Byron doesn’t have any swing flaws. So, that’s what the stores are full of. But tour bags are full of drivers at 45”. 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?

Same goes with longer irons.

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



  1. Golfer

    Jan 20, 2023 at 9:27 am

    I’m curious about Wishon’s 24/38 rule.  Does that still apply given today’s more forgiving, hotter iron heads?  I’m curious as to the timing of when this rule came out and then also what he/we define as “average” golfer.  What handicap is that?  Anything above 10? 

    Curious as to thoughts here….

  2. Steve

    Oct 30, 2022 at 9:11 pm

    This is such a silly look at this issue. One of the biggest differences between better players and average players, the average players do NOT know how to deloft irons at impact. In fact, many amateur players are actually adding loft at impact. As a result, to get ball launch conditions into an ideal window without changing a swing, the iron lofts get stronger. And that really does HELP that player who can’t deloft at impact. And, it increases launch ball speed and efficiency. For the first time, that amateur is seeing a launch window closer to an ideal for each iron number. That’s not a bad thing. Yes, Maybe they should take hours and hours to rebuild and learn a new swing, but many just don’t have that much time and don’t care, it’s a leisure activity not a profession for most! If stronger lofts don’t work for you, great, select one of the more standard lofted iron choices. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t a true market for stronger lofted irons, because they work for many amateur players!

  3. Blaiser

    Oct 29, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    Distance (and ego) is a thing in golf. Has been, and will be forever.

    I get how having jacked lofts can make a golfer happier, and I see nothing wrong with that. If it makes them enjoy the game more, then I’m all for it.

    But yes, it’s doing them a disservice if their gapping is messed up. But it looks like OEMs do a good job of providing gap wedges to combat this.

    All in all, it’s just a number on the button of the club and it really doesn’t matter “what is a 7 iron ‘supposed’ to be”

    My take is it would be easier to just have the loft stamped on the club. But that would probably be a bit too confusing for the new or casual golfer.

  4. Ned

    Oct 29, 2022 at 5:55 am

    Easy to say but wait to you get to be my age “79”. You will be looking to get all the distance you can get so you can play a reasonable round of golf. I don’t really care how much they jack the lofts if it gets that added distance. The new tech makes the launch angle almost the same as the older lofted clubs. The number in the bottom is meaningless it is all about gaping.

  5. Jay

    Oct 28, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    Have never understood the distance obsession with irons. The point of an iron is to hit a ball a particular distance, not to hit it as far as humanly possible.

  6. Fred

    Oct 28, 2022 at 10:55 am

    You mention lower COG’s. Clubs seem designed now to get in the air by the force applied to them rather than spin, which plays into the unfortunate tendency of most golfers to hit up on the ball.

    That is to say, many modern clubs seem designed to groove a bad swing.

  7. Rich Douglas

    Oct 27, 2022 at 4:24 pm

    I’ve played single-length irons for 6+ years. Wishon–first Sterling now EQ1-NX. I’m way more accurate throughout the set. You’d expect to be more accurate with the 4-7–they’re set at an 8-iron length. But the 9-SW are more accurate, too. That’s because I’m putting the exact same swing on every ball throughout the set, and every club in the set feels exactly the same. Same length, weight, swing weight, shaft, offset, lie angle, and MOI. The only difference you can see or feel is loft. (CG is a big player, too.)

    I carry an 8-iron 157 with 87mph swing speed. I don’t need it to go farther. If I do, I can reach for a 7-iron (ore more) that will feel exactly the same. What I really need is accuracy, and the single-length set certainly provides it.

  8. Jeff B

    Oct 27, 2022 at 8:35 am

    You are right this is still very relevant. The issue for most amateurs is the long iron lofts all getting crammed together and then having 5-6 degree gaps in their scoring irons and wedges. They often can’t hit a long iron consistent distances anyway. It would be much better for their game to have smaller gaps in the short irons and wedges.

    But that doesn’t “sell” apparently when you’re hitting 7-irons on the monitor and just want the longest one. You often see tour pros testing new clubs and saying the opposite, i.e. “This one goes too far, not enough spin, don’t like it.”

  9. Bob

    Oct 27, 2022 at 12:43 am

    No. Irons need to be spaced, non-redundant, predictable, reduce distance and direction volatility, perform on mishits, and fill all the gaps between woods and wedges. Take care of these and it’s amazing how much better they look.

  10. Paul Runyan

    Oct 26, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    Or my old set of Haigs with the PW loft of 50 degrees!

    I’m looking at a new set of irons for next year. Standard old lofts of 27 degrees for a 5 iron, 46 degrees on the PW. Works well on my 919Tours. And a Ping TiTec 7 wood from with an A flex shaft for height and distance I’ve had for 20 years or so. Tiny head too! What’s wrong with that!?

    Considering a new set from TXG with Mizuno MP 20’s or MMC’s.

    Some 6 irons are now 4 irons with a length of a 5 wood.

    Why don’t we just have a 6 iron contest and forget about playing golf?!

    Just take another club, I say.

  11. Rory

    Oct 26, 2022 at 10:06 pm

    You have a 3 wood and a lob wedge and typically 10 clubs to fill that gap. Does not really matter what they are called as long as the gapping is good


    Oct 26, 2022 at 8:15 pm

    With iron lofts getting stronger every year, I’m already planning for my new iron set in 2030. The eight irons I will carry w/b a 7 iron @ 24 deg, an 8 @ 27 deg, a 9 @ 31 deg, a PW @ 35 deg & 4 Gap wedges to make up the rest of my bag up to my sand wedge.

    Why doesn’t the usga require that ‘lofts #’s’ & not just useless club #’s are stamped on every iron? Then comparisons can be meaningful.

  13. Martien

    Oct 26, 2022 at 4:14 pm

    The road leads to single length irons .

  14. Steve

    Oct 26, 2022 at 11:53 am

    Terry, what is your take on the newer iron design with respect to handling the in between distances on iron shots? I find that a choked down 9 iron or wedge goes almost the exact same distance as a regular shot. How does the current iron design affect the ability to adjust the distance you can hit an iron?

  15. Bobby G

    Oct 26, 2022 at 11:24 am

    It’s fun to hit the ball a mile. But scoring is best when you know your distances inside 150. If you have four clubs that you take a full swing and know it will go 150, 135, 120 or 105, that’s more valuable for amateurs than hitting your shortest wedge 150. If your irons are longer then you have to make up for the short yards with less than full swings. Takes a lot of practice to develop that touch.

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19th Hole

5 examples of how Lexi Thompson has been treated harsher than any of her peers



Following Lexi Thompson’s Solheim Cup post-round presser on Friday evening, the 28-year-old has been the topic of much discussion.

Golf pundits and fans alike have been weighing in with their takes after this exchange with a reporter surrounding an untimely shank on Friday afternoon went viral:

After the incident, LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said that Lexi has “been picked on and drug through negative comments. She is tired of it”

So has the criticism of Lexi Thompson been justified, or is this yet another example of her being unfairly treated?

Well, here are five times, in my opinion, that Lexi has been scrutinized far differently over the years than her peers.

2022 KPMG PGA Championship

At the 2022 KPMG PGA Championship, Lexi Thompson held a two-stroke lead with three holes to play. She couldn’t close the deal and lost the tournament.

Afterwards, she was fined $2k (as were the rest of the group) for slow play.

Lexi declined to speak to the media and got hammered on social media for doing so…

Almost every golfer at some point has skipped a media session following disappointment on the course, and nobody has really batted an eyelid.

Tiger skipped back-to-back post-round media briefings at the 2019 WGC Mexico after being frustrated with his putting. Remember the backlash over that? Nah, me neither.

Donald Trump


Every (or nearly every) big-name golfer under the sun has played golf with Donald Trump. Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy etc. Nobody really cared.

For whatever reason, when Lexi Thompson did, it was a story, and she took herself off social media soon after the photo was posted.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

2021 U.S. Women’s Open

In the final round of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, Lexi Thompson had a 6-foot eagle on her opening hole. She missed and made birdie to lead by five.

She then lost the tournament.

Following the round, Brandel Chamblee said on ‘Live From’:

“She’s got 6 feet away. Now professional golfers don’t miss the center of the face by a pinhead. Look where she hits this putt on the very 1st hole. Look where this putt comes off the face. She would have missed the center of the putter there by a half an inch. I have never — I have never — seen a professional golfer miss the center of the putter by a wider margin than that. That was at the 1st hole. “

Honest? Absolutely. Correct? Brandel usually is. Has any other LPGA golfer been handed the full-on Chamblee treatment? Not to my knowledge.

2023 Solheim Cup

Lexi Thompson spoke the words, “I don’t need to comment on that” when a reporter asked her about a failed shot, and the golf community collectively lost their minds.

Lost on many people is the fact that she literally answered the question instantly after.

Jessica Korda described the reporting of the awkward exchange with the media member as yet another example of the golf media shredding Lexi, but in reality, it was really just golf media covering the furore created by golf fans reacting to the viral clip.

Lexi then won her next two matches, collecting 3 points from 4 for the U.S. team. But nobody seems to care about that.


‘yOu ShoUlD PrAcTIce puTTinG’

There’s very few golfers that have been plagued with such inane posts on their Instagram page as Lexi Thompson has.

I’ve tracked golfer’s social media accounts over the past few years (job requirement, sort of?). I can categorically say that Lexi gets some of the angriest and most aggressive responses to her posts of any golfer. Male or female. (She also gets some very nice ones too).

Despite countless posts of Thompson relentlessly practising her putting, the number of comments from dummies accusing her of neglecting that area of her game is both bizarre and alarming. Notice how the comments have been disabled on the post below? Probably not a coincidence.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

Go on any other golfer’s social account, and it will be hard to find the same dynamic.

Throw in the scandalous rules decision at the 2017 ANA Inspiration that cost her a second major title and spawned the “Lexi rule,” and it’s hard not to think Lexi has had a bit of a raw deal at times.

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The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips



While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.

  1. Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
  2. Don’t just “do”…observe.  There are two elements of learning something new.  The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
  3. Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
  4. Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
  5. Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.

My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.

So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?

More from the Wedge Guy



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19th Hole

Vincenzi: Fortinet Championship First Round Leader picks



The PGA Tour begins its fall season with a trip to Wine Country as the world of golf patiently awaits the 2023 Ryder Cup which is just a few weeks away. Silverado is a course where plenty of players with varying skill sets can compete, but strong West Coast history tends to be a major factor.

In the past four editions of the Fortinet Championship, there have been six first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the six, three have started their rounds in the morning wave, and three started in the afternoon. The leading scores have all been between 63 and 65.

As of now, the winds look to be very docile, with speeds of 4-7 MPH throughout the day. I don’t see either the AM or PM wave as having a major advantage.

2023 Fortinet Championship First-Round Leader Picks

Zac Blair +9000 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 1.22 p.m PT

A big theme for me this week is targeting players who have had success at both Silverado and the West Coast in general. Blair finished 22nd here last year, and also finished 4th back in 2019. That year, he shot 66 in rounds two and three, showing his ability to go low on this track.

In 2022, Blair gained 3.8 strokes putting and in 2019, he gained 8.6. The 33-year-old seemingly has these greens figured out.

C.T. Pan +9000 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 8.23 a.m PT

At the end of the 2023 season, C.T. Pan showed flashes of what made him a good player prior to his injury struggles early in the year. He finished 4th at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, and 3rd at the RBC Canadian Open in June. He also finished 6th at Silverado back in 2021, gaining 4.5 strokes on approach and 6.6 strokes putting.

A few weeks off may have given Pan a chance to reset and focus on the upcoming fall swing, where I believe he’ll play some good golf.

Joel Dahmen +110000 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 7:28 a.m PT

After becoming a well-known name in golf due to his affable presence in Netflix’ “Full Swing” documentary, Dahmen had what can only be considered a disappointment of a 2023 season. I believe he’s a better player than he showed last year and is a good candidate for a bounce back fall and 2024.

Dahmen finished in a tie for 10th at the Barracuda Championship in late July, and the course is similar in agronomy and location to what he’ll see this week in Napa. He has some strong history on the West Coast including top-ten finishes at Riviera (5th, 2020), Pebble Beach (6th, 2022), Sherwood (8th, 2020), TPC Summerlin (9th, 2019) and Torrey Pines (9th, 2019).

James Hahn +125000 (Caesars)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:55 p.m PT

James Hahn absolutely loves golf on the West Coast. He’s won at Riviera and has also shown some course form with a 9th place finish at Silverado back in 2020. That week, Hahn gained 4.7 strokes putting, demonstrating his comfort level on these POA putting surfaces.

He finished T6 at the Barracuda back in July, and there’s no doubt that a return to California will be welcome for the 41-year-old.

Peter Malnati +125000 (BetRivers)

First-Round Tee Time: 12.27 p.m PT 

Peter Malnati excels at putting on the West Coast. He ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on POA and has shown in the past he’s capable of going extremely low on any given round due to his ability to catch a hot putter.

His course history isn’t spectacular, but he’s played well enough at Silverado. In his past seven trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-35 four times.

Harry Higgs +150000 (BetRivers)

First-Round Tee Time: 1.55 p.m PT

In what is seemingly becoming a theme in this week’s First-Round Leader column, Harry Higgs is a player that really fell out of form in 2023, but a reset and a trip to a course he’s had success at in the past may spark a resurgence.

Higgs finished 2nd at Silverado in 2020 and wasn’t in particularly great form then either. Success hasn’t come in abundance for the 31-year-old, but three of his top-10 finishes on Tour have come in this area of the country.

Higgs shot an impressive 62 here in round two in 2020, which would certainly be enough to capture the first-round lead this year.

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