Wedge Design & Fitting – A Key To Better Golf Performance

w/ Don Irving, Master Club Fitter, Artisan Golf

One of my favorite moments in golf is when I have hit a really solid drive right down the middle of the fairway. What a great feeling. But my absolute favourite moment is when I have chipped out of the greenside rough or the sand and left myself a tap in putt to save par or if the gods of golf are in a good mood, my chip finds the bottom of the cup. Since I only use the driver at best 14 times during a round of golf, there is a much greater chance that my wedges are going to give me more joy than my driver.

I think if you are a mid-handicap or higher handicap player then you need to get better with your wedge play to lower your score. Even if you could pick up an extra 10 or 20 yards with your driver, it is unlikely that this by itself would make much difference in your score. But good wedge play will definitely lower your score. Unless your greens in regulation numbers are really good you need wedges. If we want to reduce the number of putts that we incur then hitting wedges close to the hole is a great way to do this. 

In this article I want to discuss some of the parameters for fitting wedges and how some of the design characteristics of wedges dovetail with the fitting. One of the key parameters that I am looking closely at on the Trackman Launch Monitor is the angle of attack each golfer has when he is at impact. Angle of attack is the vertical movement of the clubhead through impact relative to the horizon. So, a negative number means the clubhead is travelling in a downward trajectory. The higher the number, the steeper the attack angle. Some golfers are very steep while others tend to be shallower. 

There are two key parameters in the makeup of a wedge. The first is the loft. Wedges today are available in lofts that range from 48 degrees to 60 degrees and beyond. The second is the bounce. The bounce on a wedge is the angle created between the leading edge and the lowest point of the sole or trailing edge when the wedge is in the playing position. Now let’s get back to the angle of attack.

To give you a perspective, on the PGA tour the average angle of attack with a pitching wedge is 5 degrees down. From a fitting perspective a golfer with a steep angle of attack would do better with a clubhead that has a higher bounce angle and perhaps a broader sole to help prevent the club from digging into the ground. Since bounce is the angle of the sole taken from the leading edge to the lowest point on the sole of the club, a low bounce club head, for example, would be about 3-4 degrees while a high bounce option would be around 12-14 degrees. Golfers with a shallow angle of attack do not generally need wedges with higher bounce angles other than perhaps if they are hitting out of very soft powder sand, where a higher bounce would keep the club from tunnelling into the soft sand. The combination of angle of attack and clubhead bounce angle are two very important factors when choosing wedges. For myself, I carry a 60-degree wedge with only 4 degrees of bounce and I carry a 56-degree wedge with 12 degrees of bunce so that I have options if I am facing a tight lie, deep rough or firm or fine sand. Whatever the conditions I know I have a wedge that will do what I need it to do.  

Another parameter to be dealt with in a wedge fitting is lie angle. In no other club is the lie angle more important. A lie angle that is too flat for the golfer can cause a push affect even on a well hit ball and conversely if the lie is too upright on your wedges then you run the risk of pulling a shot. After all, when we are closing in on the pin with a wedge we are hoping to throw a dart right at the flag and being five yards off line with a wedge with an improper lie angle is not only frustrating, but you end up giving strokes away unnecessarily.  I have heard many golfers say that the biggest problem with their wedges is that they pull them. Part of this problem may be a technique issue, but it could quite likely be that the lie angle on the wedge is just too upright. Proper lie angle on your wedges can save you a world of hurt. 

Now let’s have a look at the actual clubface of a wedge. But first I will offer a bit of background. In 2009 the USGA ruled that wedges with square grooves could no longer be used. The USGA stated that hitting a ball out of the rough was not as difficult as it was intended to be and decided to only allow V-grooves which would produce less spin on the ball. So, to offset this legislation the wedge manufacturers started milling the face of the wedge. This milling process feels like a raised finger print and when you run your finger over it you can feel a pronounced ridging. This type of milling allows the golfer to put more spin on the ball, which in turn gives more control of the wedge shot. Most golfers have difficulty putting spin on the ball, so a milled face is definitely something to be considered in a wedge fitting if you are looking for more spin.

I believe in carrying a full complement of wedges. In addition to the pitching wedge, I carry a gap wedge, a 56-degree wedge and a 60-degree wedge with varying bounce options.

To find out what is the right combination for you, it is important that you get fitted for your wedges and have them built to your specific needs and then practice with them so that you can really enjoy the short game in golf. It is important to know what you can expect from each of your wedges when you strike them correctly. You will be amazed at how you reduce the number of putts you need.