By: Chris Billingsley
"58 degrees of loft, 10 degrees of bounce with an ‘M’ sole grind."
No, I’m not inputting data for NASA’s next launch of the space shuttle. Athough sometimes it may seem that sending a man into space is easier than choosing the right set of wedges to round out your bag.
Wedges come in so many varieties that it's easy to get bogged down. Considering that there are at least twenty major golf club brands, each with an assortment of lofts, bounces and sole grinds, it's no wonder we have trouble finding the right mix.
So where does that leave the average consumer?
Confused. Frustrated. And with the wrong clubs in their bag.
So what’s say we try and simplify this, shall we?
CHOOSE YOUR BRAND / AESTHETICS
Golfers are some of the most loyal people around. When we find a brand we love, we are very resistant to trying anything else. However our brand bias can cause us to miss out on some really great innovations. There is no shortage of excellent wedges on the market these days.
Your number one task is to find the ones that sit they way you like, feel the way you like and give you a sense of confidence when they're in your hands. After all, these are your scoring clubs, and how you handle these clubs will have a significant impact on your score at the end of the day.
So make sure you love how they look. Here are some the hot lister's of 2016..
Once you've chosen your brand, start with the basics.
Identify your yardage gaps.
In order to know the correct loft for your wedges, you first need to know the degree increments between your current set of irons. For example, by googling ‘Mizuno MP-15 specs’ and clicking on ‘images’, I was able to easily find the data for my irons.
As you can see, from my 6 iron down to the pitching wedge, the lofts are evenly spaced at 4 degrees. So, in theory, my wedges should follow the pattern and continue to be spaced four degrees apart.
Pitching Wedge – 46 degrees, 6 degrees of bounce
Gap Wedge – 50 degrees, 8 degrees of bounce
Sand Wedge - 54 Wedge, 13 degrees of bounce
Lob Wedge - 58 degree, 10 degrees of bounce
It is also important to know how far you hit each club. This will ensure your gaps translate to actual yards on the course. Of course, this can be tricky to do before you buy them.
Titleist wedge designer, Bob Vokey recommends seeing a club fitter. (Most golf retailers now have ‘wedge fitting software.)
“Think of most amateur golfers. They only hit 6 - 8 greens in a round, if they are having a good day. So on the majority of holes, you are going to be using a wedge. And wedges are required to hit so many different shots - bunker shots, fairway shots, lob shots, little pitches. Wedges need to be versatile and every player is different. It’s never one size fits all for wedges. That’s why we have so many options. You should definitely be fit by an authorized Titleist fitter. It’s the only way to truly know which wedge works for you.”
While we could just end this discussion on this advice, and say “Go get fit,” the truth is, most people don’t have the time, money (some places do charge to get ‘fit’) or desire to go through a fitting, and just want to buy off the rack.
So for all of you, we will carry on!
It is important to remember; wedges can be bent up or down – usually within two degrees of standard. If you get to the course and find that for some reason your gaps are not even, you can always have the lofts adjusted to evenly space out your yardages.
Okay, so now I've got the right lofts, but what about bounce? What is bounce anyway?
‘Bounce’ is how much lower the trailing (back) edge of the sole is in relation to the leading (front) edge. A wedge is designed this way to reduce the drag from the sand when hitting behind a ball in a bunker.
Try hitting bunker shots with a pitching wedge or 9 iron. The leading edge will dig into the sand and get stuck. Now try the same shot with a sand wedge. You should see the difference right away. The wide sole of the club and lower trailing (back) edge slides through the sand easily.
So how much bounce do I need….and I have three wedges? Should I have the same bounce for all?
The answer to this question depends a lot on how you swing the club. Do you take divots regularly with your irons? If so, you are most likely a ‘DIGGER’. If you tend to take little or no divots, you'd be classified as a ‘SLIDER.’
Not sure which you are?
You are most likely a digger if you tend to hit the ball fat and feel like you stick the club in the ground a lot. Chances are you need a higher bounce and a wider sole. A wedge with a higher bounce will also benefit you if you tend to play a wet course with a soft, spongy base. Higher bounce and wider sole widths will also allow you to get out of bunkers that have a fine fluffy texture to them.”
Diggers would benefit from using a wedge with a wider bottom and more bounce.
You are most likely a slider if you tend to hit skull shots with your wedge off the fairway. Chances are you need less bounce. More than likely, the trailing edge of the wedge is making contact with the ground and causing the leading edge to strike the ball at or above its equator. If you play a course with hardpan or a course that is dry with a firm base, less bounce and a narrow sole will benefit you. Less bounce and a narrow sole will also help you play from bunkers with coarse sand and a shallow base.
Sliders would benefit from a wedge with less bounce and a narrower sole.
*Credit to Jason Coffin PGA Professional – The Oaks Course in Covington GA
One last point to consider before we ‘bounce’ to the next topic. With three wedges in your bag, should they all have the same bounce?
Consider this advice from short game guru, Dave Pelz,
“Even if you own a perfect wedge swing, it’s the bounce that ultimately determines how each club will react with the turf, sand, water—or whatever else your ball may be sitting in—through impact. The bounce on your wedges is just as important as the attack angle of your swing. The two combine to help you maintain speed through the ball or—gulp—dig into the ground and slow down.
For example, let’s say the ball is lying on hard, wet sand. If you try to hit this shot with a high-bounce sand wedge, you’re going to have a difficult time getting the ball out of the bunker. But if you know that your lob wedge has less bounce and that less bounce performs better from this type of lie, you’re in a much better position to save par. The opposite applies when you have to play a shot from soft sand. In this situation, more bounce will help the club glide instead of dig.”
The moral of the story is that having different lofts and bounces in your set of wedges will give you more versatility around the green. This will make it easier to hit a variety of shots with essentially the same swing.
Okay, but wait. What about Sole grind? What is it, and do I need some?
Think about your short game and the shots you struggle with. Do you have only one shot... a low runner? Can you hit a high chip that settles quickly? If not, maybe a sole grind is for you.
For an explaination, let’s go back to the expert, Mr. Vokey.
“The grind is the relief and contour that is ground into the sole of the wedge. A grind can provide shotmaking opportunities around the greens. For example, our M grind soles allow you to open the face of the wedge without the leading edge coming off the ground. We have all kinds of sole grinds, which we designate with a letter.”
“The S grind which came from my work with Steve Stricker, has been extremely popular on the 60.07 and 58.09 models. It just fits a lot of players. My favorite is probably the M grind, because that was the one that started it all.”
A five step process to getting the right clubs in your hands.
1. Know the course you play most often – What are the conditions? A hard and fast course will probably require you to use wedges with a narrower base and less bounce. A soft spongy course would necessitate using wedges with a wider sole and more bounce.
2. Digger? – more bounce, wider bottom.
Slider? – less bounce, narrower sole.
3. Sole Grinds? Do you struggle with hitting the high chip? Maybe a wider sole grind can help.
4. Know your gaps and follow the pattern. If your irons increase by 4 degrees, so should your wedges.
5. Test them out - Make sure your yardage gaps are even. Have them bent if necessary.
A CASE STUDY
A friend of mine desperately needs new wedges, but is unsure of what he should buy. Let’s put our newfound knowledge to the test and see if we can recommend wedges for him.
He is a very good player, carrying a handicap of approx. 3. His home course is soft and well-manicured, but the bunkers are not quite as lush. He is a DIGGER, and struggles with his chipping. His most common mistake is the ‘chili dip’ or fat chip. This mistake sometimes leads to skulls because he isn't confident with turf contact. However, he is able to hit flop shots very well and reverts to these when he is nervous, or lacking confidence in the shot.
Currently he plays PING i25 irons.
So, what do we do first?
Find the specs and look at the degree increments.
Interestingly, the PING i25 irons don't have equal degree spacing, and increase from 3 degrees (6 to 7), to 4 degrees (8-9 ) and then the 9 iron is 41 and the PW 46 (5 degree diff.)
So the player has some options here. He could do as PING suggests and go 50.13 (the .13 being the degree of bounce), 54.14 (the sand wedge should have the most bounce of your wedges) and 58.13.
And by all accounts, they’d be a good fit for him. Rarely is there hard pan or dry patches on his home course, so adding more bounce to his wedges will serve him well around the greens.
Although, I might recommend a few adjustments based on what we’ve learned and what I know about his game. He likes a flop shot, so a sole grind on his 58 degree wedge could help him easily hit his go-to shot. And since he's looking to buy Titleist Vokey’s, I’d suggest;
GAP – 50 degree, 12 degrees of bounce - F grind.
SAND – 54 degree, 14 degrees of bounce – F grind.
LOB – 58 degree with 11 degrees of bounce – K grind.
Do you agree?
I hope this helps you choose the right wedges for your game and shoot lower scores. If you enjoyed the article please share and like us on facebook and follow us on twitter @thirteenunder
To better golf,
P.S How’d you do buying your new wedges? Let us know! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!