Friday, March 18, 2011

Bag Setup Thoughts...

When I got back into the game in 2009 after an eight year layoff, I started to look for some new clubs. The last time I had played the hybrid club was in its infancy stages. Before then, some golfers would carry a 5-wood or the popular for a time Callaway 7-wood.

Then Adams came out with their Tight Lies fairway wood and Orlimar under Jesse Ortiz came out with a similar fairway wood as well. Then Gap Wedges became more popular and golfers started using those.

Getting back into the game at the time, I had little idea what my set should look like.

Eventually I went with the following:

Driver– 10.5*
3-wood – 15*
3-hybrid 20*
4-iron thru PW
GW– 50*
SW – 54*
LW – 60*

The statistical research I’ve done recently has one giant theme, performance in the Danger Zone (175-225) dictates a PGA Tour golfer’s success most of the time.

One of the things I was seeing when I looked at ‘What’s In the Bag’ posts for PGA Tour players was that there were not many golfers who carried a Gap Wedge or had a SW-LW (60*)-Super Lob Wedge (64*) in their bag. All of this time that Dave Pelz was telling us to carry 4 or 5 wedges and the PGA Tour pros simply were not buying into it.


Because I think the PGA Tour players understood the same concept that has been done in my statistical research. Players lose or gain shots from their performance from the Danger Zone than they do anywhere else. And the closer you get to the green, the discrepancy in losing or gaining shots from that spot is smaller.

So why would you want to add more clubs in the range that makes the least amount of difference? Probably because people think like I did, I may use a long iron or a hybrid once a round. But I could theoretically use my GW, SW and LW each 3 times a round.

But here’s the problem with that theory. That one 3-iron shot is usually much more important than hitting my gap wedge three times.

Let’s say I take out my gap wedge and instead use my SW to hit those shots. And let’s just assume that I hit worse shots with the SW. The total discrepancy on those 3 shots may only be about 20 feet in total. Whereas if I didn’t have the proper club for me from 220 yards away, that may cause a 30+ feet discrepancy.

Here’s another kicker. I’m still likely to wind up on the green if I have to use a SW instead of a GW. And if I miss the green, the miss is likely to wind up okay. But from 220 yards out, I could likely miss the green badly. Possibly go in the water or go O.B.

So that helps explain why most pros on Tour do not carry more than 3 wedges (PW, SW and LW)

I decided to take this a bit further and look at the top players statistically from the Danger Zone over the past 5 years

Tiger Woods
Sergio Garcia
D.J. Trahan
Sean O'Hair
Davis Love III
Robert Garrigus
Alex Cejka
Robert Allenby
Ernie Els
Heath Slocum
Kenny Perry
Boo Weekley
Tim Clark
Jim Furyk
Chad Campbell
David Toms
Joe Durant
Zach Johnson
Vijay Singh

It’s a good group of players because we have some golfers who outright bomb the ball and some who are reliant on their precision and accuracy. We have upright swings, flat swings and even a Stack and Tilt player (Cejka).

Here’s some figures:

- All but 3 (Z. Johnson, Weekley and Clark) carry a 3-iron regularly in their bag.
- Only Furyk does not carry a 4-iron.
- Only Els and Tiger consistently carry a 2-iron.
- Every golfer either has a 2-hybrid or a 5-wood or a 2-iron

I also split the group into golfers with 113.1 mph or more clubhead speed (bombers) vs. the ones with 113.0 or less clubhead speed (normal).

There were 12 ‘normal’ clubhead speed golfers. 9 of the 12 carried a hybrid (75%). 3 of the 12 carried a hybrid and a 5-wood (25%).

There were 7 ‘bomber’ clubhead speed golfers. 3 of the 7 (43%) carried a hybrid. 4 of the 7 (57%) carried a 5-wood (or in Tiger’s case a 2-iron or 5-wood depending on the course). 0 of the 7 (0%) carried a hybrid and a 5-wood.


It’s obvious now to see the flaw in the theory behind carrying more than your ‘standard’ three wedges (PW, SW and LW) because the shots that wind up costing the most strokes are in the range where long irons, 5-woods and hybrids are used.

For the better player, the typical setup should probably look like this:

2-hybrid (we’ll say 18* of loft)
SW (we’ll say 54*)
LW (we’ll say 60*)

And if you’re a golfer who generates a lot of clubhead speed, you probably want to look at a 5-wood over a 2-hybrid as the higher speed golfers seem to prefer the 5-wood over the hybrid.



Anonymous said...

Exactly what I carry.

One exception is in place of the 3-iron, I use a 2-iron, iron-like hybrid.

Agree with 3 wedges.

My belief is if you can't hit those tweener wedge shots, there is a flaw in your swing, probably in the body/arm sync area.

Phil said...


So Pelz got in wrong?!

Rich H. said...

I think Pelz got it wrong. In his book 'The Short Game Bible' he claims that he found that the best players were the best from 100 yards in and he had the data to prove it. Perhaps golfers played much differently back then, but I doubt it. What I'm seeing from using the PGA Tour's ShotLink data, 50-100 yards has almost no correlation to success on Tour. Shots from 30 yards in have a small, but meaningful correlation...right up there with some driving stats. Putting has a small correlation as well, but only a little more than driving and 30 yards and in. But it's the Danger Zone (175-225 yards) where the PGA Tour pros make or break their season. In fact, lately I've paid attention to the Danger Zone in my own game and if you track it, you can really see the same thing...this is where you really lose or gain shots in a round.


Phil said...

I'd like to start doing this with my game too. How exactly do you track your game this way? Do you simply measure how far away you are from the pin after a 175-225 yard shot?

First though, I need to go through my bag again to find out how far I hit each club and do a gap analysis! I've just done a driver fitting and will be picking up an extra 30 yards when I get my new driver.

Rich H. said...

I track it two ways. 1) GIR hit from the Danger Zone. 2) Score, relative to par, from the Danger Zone.

Remember, you're not going to flag a lot of shots from the Danger Zone. The goal is more along the lines of what Tom Watson said...find the GIR. However, you can hit some good shots from the Danger Zone and miss the green and still have an easy up and down. So I think keeping the score is important as well.

You will see a HUGE difference in scores when you have a round where you do well from the Danger Zone and a round when you do poorly from the Danger Zone. Particularly when overall you hit the ball and putt the same, but your play from the Danger Zone is dramatically different.


Anonymous said...

I think you are missing an important point in this analysis. The average tour player hits no more than 12-13 greens in regulation. What matters is the quality of his misses, do they leave easy approaches or impossible approaches? Having the right wedge at the right time can matter up to 6 times, even more, considering par fives where the issue is not missing the green but being positioned to make birdie.

How often do you hit the green from 215-235 yards?