When it’s U.S. Open week, you know you’re in for a display of short game prowess from the best players in the world. Whether firing at flags or scrambling to save par, it’s these scoring shots that can mean a world of difference on the scorecard.
And if you’re looking for some insight on the short game along with wedge design and development, you can do no better than going straight to the source - Bob Vokey.
So we sat down with “The Voke” to ask him a few questions and get his take on the U.S. Open and what to expect with all things short game.
Let’s hear what he had to say…
1) What is the atmosphere like this week, particularly among players?
Every major championship has great atmosphere. The energy of the U.S. Open is awesome. It just feels a bit different than the others. Some of that energy comes from the qualifiers. I love working with players like Jordan Spieth and Webb Simpson, but working with qualifiers is unique and incredibly fun at a U.S. Open. It is enjoyable to work with a young amateur and then follow their career through the years.
2) What do you look forward to most about being on site at a major?
I always enjoy Monday morning. Aaron Dill (Vokey Design Wedges Tour Rep) and I grab a cup of coffee and walk the course together. We review the course conditions, talk to players and build a plan – it’s a lot of fun. Before this week I’d only seen Chambers Bay on TV, watching Peter [Uihlein] win the U.S. Amateur. I've learned through the years that TV doesn't always capture a golf course well. This place (Chambers Bay) is stunning. What a unique layout. I definitely didn’t realize from TV how drastic the elevation changes were. That Monday morning walk was more like a morning workout.
3) What did you learn from that walk? What are conditions like?
Firm fescue fairways and greens, and deep bunkers with soft sand. It's certainly a unique U.S. Open venue. Reminds me of being at an Open Championship. It will be an exciting tournament and I think a player with great short game creativity has a good chance to win this week.
4) What types of adjustments have players been asking for?
Players all have different ways of preparing for a major. With the firm and fast conditions, we've had some guys ask for fresh grooves so they have maximum spin. Other guys have become comfortable executing shots with their current "gamers" and want to keep the same set. The most activity we've seen is adding a pre-worn leading edge like we do often in Scotland to keep the wedges from digging.
5) What grinds are most popular for these types of conditions?
Generally speaking, firm fairways and soft bunkers give us a couple options. A high bounce wedge with a narrow sole is one option. A wide sole with lower bounce, like a low-bounce K Grind, is another. Both perform great from the tight turf and bunkers. It just depends on the player, their swing type and where they feel they need help.
Tour players already have wedges well fit for their swing. When we arrive at a course with unique conditions like Chambers Bay we are typically making minor tweaks to enhance their key shots. But for most golfers, I recommend they play the grinds that best fit their swing. Swing type is the most important factor in wedge fitting.
6) In general, how do you help players determine the best wedge composition for their games and the different types of shots they face?
Balancing wedge composition is unique to a player's strengths and weaknesses. Properly fit wedges enable a player to hit their 'go-to' shot, while also enhancing their weakest shot. With properly fit grinds, a player can create versatility in their short game. For example, they may use their 56° on full shots and bunker shots, while using their 60° wedge for touchy-feely shots around the green where they are manipulating the face. In this instance, the player may have more success with an 'S' grind in the 56° and an 'M grind in the 60°. It's important to know which wedges a player uses for each shot, and then fit accordingly.
7) What's one piece of advice that you would give an amateur looking to improve their short game?
Find a trusted golf professional and get fit for wedges. There is no substitute for hitting all of our grinds. They make a big difference and can quickly improve your short game. When I fit players at the Titleist Performance Institute, the most rewarding part of the day is the "ah ha" moment when a player hits the right grind. It becomes very clear that we've found a new scoring tool for that player.
8) Do you have a favorite U.S. Open memory?
There are so many great stories from the U.S. Open. It is always rewarding to see players have success with our wedges. The first memory that comes to mind is Webb Simpson getting up-and-down on 18 at Olympic to win his first major. Hopefully I'll have another one to remember this week.
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