Do you know how to use your sand Wedge?…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Equipment Advice

The Sherpa has commented long and fierce about the mental game…and quite frankly his foursome is ready for some posts about technique. I thought I would focus today on one of the least understood clubs in the bag. Strangely enough, it is one of the most used…

The sand wedge has an interesting history.

In 1935 Gene Sarazen was credited with developing…and winning with what has been recounted as the first sand wedge. Three years previous to Sarazen’s insight, all kinds of wedges were being developed to help out of rough and sand.

Most of the new designs failed the R&A and therefore died in development.

Sarazen’s design conformed because, unlike other outlawed “spoon” (or concave wedges), his wedge had a flat face.

He also was the first to add weight with extra lead to help drive it through sand.

Thanks Gene…the Sherpa hopes the traps in heaven are filled with dry sand that is silty and light.

Back here on earth you need to understand the characteristics of modern day sand wedges.

“Sherpa”, I can hear you ask, “What do I need to know about this wondereful tool?

Two things really.

  1. It is most likely the heaviest club in your bag. With a swing weight (the relative heaviness of the head) akin to a sledge hammer, it is designed to allow you to drive it through obstructive surfaces like sand, deep grass, etc.
  2. It has a fat sole.  Bounce, as it is commonly referred to is the relative roundness of the bottom of your sandwedge.  The bigger the bounce, the more the club will skip (bounce) and not dig into sand or other surfaces.

How do you capitalize on the properties?

First understand that they exist and imagine how you would use them.

First let’s think about club weight..

The universal truth about your  sand wedge is that, because of its weight, you do not have to swing it hard to be effective.  Its mass allows you to transfer significant energy to the ball without getting “medieval”.  The trick to using this force is to keep the club stable (as with all other clubs) by dragging the head with your hands instead of trying to push the club. 

Think about how stable  you can make a shopping cart when you drag it behind you by one finger, but it requires both hands to “steer” when you push it from behind the cart.

Your sand wedge operates exactly the same way…when considering stability.

Remember all of the leverage is in dragging…not steering.

Now let’s think about bounce..

General rule #1 about bounce…the looser the ground the more you want it.

General rule #2 about bounce…you make more of it when you open the clubface at address.

Now apply these rules to a shot you face…

Example 1:

You are in a sand trap and the sand is very loose.  The choice seems clear that you should use sand wedge and will need some bounce (since the sand is nice and loose).  To get bounce two things need to happen: 1: you set up aimed left so that you can 2: open up the clubface at address (and not land right of the target). 

No sweat…done it a million times..but what if the sand is firm?

Example 2: 

If the sand if firm, now the surface is not loose and if you open the clubface at address (to create bounce off of a tight surface) you will skip it off the hard sand and probably skull your beloved pill. Better to make the face square to the target so that it will dig and not bounce…

Starting to see it? 

Bottom line:  All lies are not created equal and the harder the surface of the lie, the more square you want the clubface at address.  Conversely, if a lie is extremely loose like rough or loose sand..aim left and open the clubface wide open.  If we practice these basic principles we follow in the footsteps of a golf tradition that would make Mr. Sarazen proud…and you less frustrated.

Play on…

The Sherpa

The Indian bought a new Arrow (i.e. The Sherpa bought a new golf Club)…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Equipment Advice

Yes dear other long range patterns..lunar eclipse..Olympic games…presidential elections…the Sherpa makes a momentous decision.

He buys a new driver.

While the Sherpa is happily married to his putter, all other clubs in the bag get much wear and tear.  My last driver, a Taylor Made R7, lasted seven years.  Point in fact, it still is functional and is on its second shaft, but the head size is like a pea compared with the “block o’ cheese” head sizes that they offer now.

Taking my own advice, I went and had myself fitted for the proper driver set up.  In my case the characteristics that optimized my ball flight were:

1: A neutral bias weighting system – meaning that the club would not intentionally try to close or leave the face open.  Nowadays, you can get drivers that are designed for either swing tendency to help straighten your ball flight out.  Pretty cool, but not what I needed.  The Sherpa wants total freedom to work the ball either way, given the situation.

2: Stiff shaft – meaning that with a swing speed of 95 to100 miles an hour, the shaft will not flex too much.  It feels kind of “boardy”, but keeps the clubhead out in front of me when I hit it.   This key variable keeps the Sherpa from having to pretzel himself to close the clubface at impact

3:Good MOI – meaning that the club will not twist too much if I don’t hit it perfectly on the sweetspot.  This forgiveness keeps distance more consistent even if you don’t catch it pure.  Sherpa…he like MOI.

4:  9 degree loft – meaning that I get optimal launch angle (13 to 15 degrees) with low loft (9 degree), enabling a lower penetrating flight that spins at the right rate and rolls out like a marble on a slab.

5: It has got to look and sound cool – meaning that I am not going to plunk down hard earned cash for something that is artless for the sake of function. I am “the Sherpa” after all.

I found it….drum roll please.

And the winner is the Callaway FT9.

I got onto Callaway after playing a used FT5 and loved how it performed, looked and sounded.

While I was getting fitted I started thinking about you guys and realized if I was thoughtful, I could ask the fitter a few key questions to see if I could harvest some new insights.

Wow did that turn out well…

I asked simply, “Mr. Fitter, since you see hundreds of pilgrims like me on our quest for a better game, and since you are not a coach, what do you have to fix most often so you can sell your wonderful products?”

Without hesitation, he said “easy, it’s usually one of three things. First I check left hand grip, 95% of the time it’s too weak (see only one knuckle or less).  Second, I check their hand position at address.  Usually folks have their hands behind the clubhead at addess (causing open shoulders and a wicked banana slice).  If they are ok with these two things, but still slicing badly, I’ll notice that their swing sequence from the top is out of whack”.  After a stunned moment of silence, I asked “what do you mean”? 

He grabbed a club and showed me that many players with slicing or duck hooking problems make a good backswing, but when they start to turn, they do so while still on their back foot instead of bumping forward then releasing their arms on the downswing.

It was like lightning.  This guy, had been forced to correct probably 100 swings this year so that he could effectively sell clubs.  In doing so, he had boiled the process down to about 250 words.  He was like some kind of Haiku golf poet.  So I put him to the test.  I got on the monitor and kept hitting fades.  He said, “I like your left hand grip…nice and strong.  Do you want to play that fade?   If you don’t then move your hands forward to keep them even with the clubface at address”. 

Wow…I hit a beautiful little draw that gave me awesome yardage and terrific roll out. 

Bottom line: Never stop learning…the game has valuable secrets that are told by all who come under its spell.  Secondly, learn how to technically use every club in your bag.  Really commit to understand how the club was engineered and you will get much better performance out of it.

In celebration of my wonderful new purchase, I looked for a terrific lesson for you on driver tips that I think is a beauty.


Play on…

The Sherpa


How to dress for Golf Part 2…Cold Weather

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Equipment Advice

The Sherpa is tough but doesn’t like to be too cold.  Playing golf well (while in cold weather) requires some basic gear to keep you comfortable and mentally focused.  

In cold weather you are really trying to simultaneously stay dry, warm, comfortable and unencumbered.   The essential checklist, from head to toe is as follows:

  1. HatWarm Head=Cool Mind. Think wrap-around fleece.  Remember your head is the place you lose lots of your body heat, so wrap your noggin.  Good choices are “lined” caps or my favorite..the fleece or wool scull cap.  The baseball cap, in this instance is a poor choice because it does little to insulate your head and is liable to blow off your head if the cold weather is paired with wind. ($5)                          
  2. Shirt: Multiple Layers = Multiple Options. Think layers. While the Sherpa is on record as a serious moisture wicking fan, it will be just as important to wear layers of shirts (Long Sleeve under a Short Sleeve).   Layering allows you to modulate warmth by shedding shirts as temperature varies throughout your round. Price is relatively cheap for this solution.  A normal long sleeve mock turtle shirt is $20-$30 and a high tech moisture wicking short sleeve is about $20-$30. 
  3. Outerwear:  Proper Fit = Minimal Interference and Maximum Warmth. Think form fitting, fleece and add a wind shirt if windy.  For fleece, the mistake you want to avoid is buying a top that is too tight in the shoulders and loose around the waist.  Tight in the shoulders restricts good movement and loose at the waist lets cold air in and crowds your hands when swinging and putting.  The same rule applies for windshirts.  Both garments are gettable for $30.  
  4. Pants: Good Pants and Happy Legs = Good Base and Balance. Think wool, heavy khaki.  The Sherpa (notoriously frugal) is a big fan of re-using worn out work slacks for just this occasion.  For no money you can  just wear tailored slacks  that no longer are nice enough to wear to the office.  Same for khaki.  If neither of these options work for you, lined rain pants also work great.  The Sherpa found a great pair for $30.                             
  5. Undergarments: Warm Undies=I am Sure you know this one. If the weather is cold but not frigid…30s to 40s(fahrenhiet) then normal moisture wicking material is fine.  If you play in frigid weather then long underwear (flannel or cotton) are a great choice to add an extra layer of warmth. Price $10-$15.
  6. Socks:Warm Feet = Little Distraction. No brainer.  Wool sports socks or heavy moisture wicking cotton.  Price $10-$15.                              
  7. Shoes: Dry Feet = Priceless Comfort. Think waterproof.  As discussed in Part 1 of this series, comfort is key and you should be very picky.  If your current pair is ventilated  (as most tennis shoe type golf shoes are) you need to think about getting a pair that are waterproof and a bit heavier.  I have a terrific pair of Footjoy shoes that I have had for over 3 years and they keep my feet very dry when I play in cold and wet conditions.  $50-$100.
  8. Gloves: Specialty Gloves=Your Call (follow your instincts). Think about your tolerance.  Gloves are a personal choice because of the varying opinions regarding hand warmth vs feel.  The Sherpa only wears heavy golf gloves when the mercury falls below 40 (fahrenheit).  I have a pair made by USG called Thermaflex. ( $30).  I also have a pair of Footjoy (RainGrip) rain gloves I wear when there is no lightning around and the rain is falling ($30). 


Bottom line:  Make wise spending choices and for a lot less than you think, you can be both warm and effective even on very cold days.

If you have any tips, or know of some great “cold day” golf products that are easy on the wallet..share your comments.

Play on..and keep warm..

The Sherpa

How to dress for Golf Part 1…Warm Weather

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Equipment Advice

Golf has it’s own challenges without being uncomfortable in warm weather.

How then does the Sherpa want you to prepare for your next round of warm weather golf?

Follow these tips and you will be noticeably more comfortable…

Before you start buying, keep in mind that you are a relatively new golfer so be “Sherpa like” (frugal).  Keep away from the expensive stuff unless it is on 90% discount.  Lot’s of high quality, low cost options exist for the “must have” list I am about to share.  Please keep your wallet in our pants/purse and read on…

From head to toe…starting with:

1: The hat:  In this arena the Sherpa suggests only one ratio to maximize.. brim diameter.  Allow as much brim around your precious skull and facial skin as your fashion sense can muster.  Sunshine, while warm and refreshing is also to be respected.  The the less you get on your head and face, the better.  Price range is minimal ($10 to $30).

2: The glasses: There are two things to consider when looking at sunglasses (not counting comfort and durability).  First make sure they block 100%  of UV light.  This is the stuff that wreaks havoc on your eyes so you want to minimize exposure. Next, make sure that they sit slightly away from your cheeks on the lower end of the lens.  If not, you will get poor ventilation, causing them to  fog up constantly.  A good, durable pair can be had below $50.

3:Sun block:  You didn’t know sun block was part of “dressing”?  Think again!  We all know why.  I will elaborate only on the stuff you put on your face.  For folks with sensitive skin, several formulations are available that are PABA free and combine moisturizer with 30 SPF.  My favorite is “Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer”  it is SPF 30 and never aggravates my skin.  This stuff is actually a little expensive ($15 per bottle) but well worth it.

4:Golf shirt/blouse:   You need to think moisture wicking and SPF.  Yes I said SPF.  Golf shirt technology is now at the point where you can get a shirt that will keep you dry and cool while acting as SPF protection (as high as 30 SPF in some models).  I particularly love  moisture wicking technology because it can be used as an emergency air conditioner.  Next time you are in very hot weather, merely soak your high tech shirt in water and the moisture wicking technology will cause rapid evaporation (cooling  your skin as a byproduct).  The Sherpa has done this many times and it always works well.  Amazingly, this technology is very affordable now.  I spent less than $30 dollars on my last shirt.

5: Shorts/Slacks:  The Sherpa would suggest strongly that you consider shorts, but if you insist on slacks, then use the tips for buying a golf shirt (above) as your guide.  Bottom line.  Moisture wicking and light colors are coolest and especially good if you are considering slacks.  Shorts are relatively cheap (about $30) for moisture wicking.  Slacks are still very expensive.  The reasons escape the Sherpa, but moisture wicking golf slacks are still in the $50 to $100+ range.

6: Underthings: Mrs. Sherpa and the Shepettes read this blog so I will only comment by saying…moisture wicking.  Enough said. UnderArmor is good stuff.  Just buy what you need for your weekly round and you won’t go broke.

7: Socks:  This choice is more important than you might think.  I have a pair of Nike “dri-fit” socks that I wash overnight if I play twice in a row, because they are so absolutely comfortable.  Why?  They keep my feet dry.  No kidding..dry feet on a hot day is irreplaceable comfort once you have experienced it.  I actually get tired more quickly if I don’t have my moisture wicking socks on.  They are kind of expensive but my $10 pair has cradled the Sherpa’s toes on about 30 rounds and they show no sign of wear whatsoever.  Good value.

8: Finally…The Shoes:  Comfort is what you are aiming for here, above all else.  Buy them when you are not rushed.  Take at least 4 pair from the rack and see how they fit your feet.  You will be able to tell which ones fit best by taking your time and carefully comparing.  Really be picky about comfort and you will make a good decision. A good pair is about as expensive as a good running shoe.  Spend $80 to $100 on this shoe and you will not need another pair for at least a couple of years.  To make them last longer, follow my buddy Jimmy’s post round shoe routine.   A: Brush all debris from the spikes and soles.  B: Brush all loose dirt and dust from the uppers.  C: Apply a quick layer of polish and buff.  Jimmy can do his shoes in about 2 minutes and he has a pair he has been using for 4 years now (and they look brand new).

Bottom line:  Don’t go broke getting dressed for golf.  Make wise choices and for a lot less than you think, you can be comfortable on a hot day of golf.

If you have any tips, or know of some great “hot day” golf products that are easy on the wallet..share your comments.

Play on..and keep cool..

The Sherpa