The Invisible Opponent who's ready to kill your Wedge Game March 04 2015

Back in December I presented some information at a seminar in the UK on my research into high performance wedge play and was asked a question to which I didn’t have the answer. I didn’t shy away from the fact I didn’t know because the kind of person I am is summed up by a quote from one of my favourite films, The Pursuit of Happyness.

Um, I'm the type of person that if you ask me a question and I don't know the answer, I'm gonna tell you that I don't know. But I bet you what, I know how to find the answer and I will find the answer.”

I’m of the belief that we shouldn’t pretend to know it all nor believe it and be prepared to work harder to know more.

The person who asked the question turned out to be the same person who would be an integral part of answering it. Jason Macniven is the owner/operator of Golf Principles, a superb club fitting facility in Basingstoke who I know is as inquisitive and ready to figure things out as I am.

The question concerned the influence of wedge shafts on performance, not the outcomes alone but the actual influence on motion of the player and the associated outcomes and limitations resulting from that motion. To put it into some kind of context I do not teach a single style of wedge play but rather classify players into particular styles which fall onto a spectrum of sorts, from one extreme to another and everything inbetween. Isolating any components which may belong to a different style and adjusting them and nothing more makes what I do appear extremely simple to players which is crucial. 

But what if the equipment in their hands makes it more difficult for them to achieve a high level of functionality? I would describe it as trying to fight with an invisible opponent, one you don’t even realise it there until it’s been pointed out to you. It’s a fight you might be able to avoid being beaten in but you will never win it unless you get lucky. I don’t like relying on luck to change things so why would anyone else!

We conducted testing last week at Magnolia Park using the GEARS (3D) system which measures both club and body, this means we can look at how the behavior of the club and player correlate with each other. Essential if we were to find the answers we wanted. 

Day one had us excited, we saw an acceleration in student progress that neither of us anticipated. The process went something like this: First we would ask the player to hit some shots with their own wedge to gather some ball flight data, we would then use GEARS to identify their swing tendencies and any adjustments I considered necessary. Before explaining these changes and the need for them we would simply change the club type they were using to something that we considered to be more suited to the motion they should be making. Every player showed signs of changing in a positive manner before any technical input was added, we had removed the invisible opponent. Imagine how much easier it was to then explain the change and have them demonstrate it! 

In much the same way as certain putter styles suit certain players perceptions and motions, wedge set up is just as individual. While we would never set hard, fast rules with regards to matching shaft type, head weight, style etc to technique there are undoubtedly guidelines. Information that will make the life of the player and the coach much easier.

This is going to seem like somewhat of a tease but we need to decide how to best disseminate this information, we are in no doubt it will change the wedge game for many.

“But I bet you what, I know how to find the answer and I will find the answer.”

The question was asked in late December, by the end of February we have some answers. Not bad eh?