w/ Don Irving, Artisan Golf
In this article, I would like to share my thoughts on a piece of equipment which is often misunderstood by many golfers and that is the wedge. Deciding on which wedges you want, or need can be frustrating and confusing. After all, you have to decide on how many wedges you should be carrying, what lofts, what lie angle, how much bounce should each wedge have, what kind of grind should the sole have, how wide a sole is necessary, what shaft is best suited, and so on. Trying to navigate the world of wedges can be a difficult task. So, I will try to establish some guidelines you can follow to make your best choice for your wedges set up.
First, I would like to say that your wedges are your most important clubs in your bag. Good wedge play will lower your scores. The average golfer will never come close to the drives that we see on television, but average golfers, with practice and the right equipment can become above average chippers. Hitting 300+ yard drives requires technique and strength. Becoming a good wedge player requires mainly technique. To me, strokes are gained or lost inside 110-120 yards. When you are inside this range, it is all about hitting the ball as close to the pin as possible and setting yourself up for a one putt. For most golfers, once you get inside the 120-yard range you are in wedge territory. Being able to dial in specific yardages sets you up for lowering the number of putts needed.
I will use myself as an example. I hit my Pitching Wedge (45°) 110 yards, my Gap Wedge (50°) 95 yards, my Sand Wedge (55°) 85 yards and my Lob Wedge (60°) 70 yards. So, throughout a round of golf I am always trying to achieve these approach yardages. I will often be able to do this on shorter par 4’s and for me almost all par 5’s where I cannot reach the green in two. I am a firm advocate of a four-wedge set up so that you have four specific distance options inside 110-120 yards. It is just so much easier to have a distance where you can use a full swing instead of trying to finesse a swing to achieve a certain yardage. There are, of course, exceptions. Some golfers with a lower swing speed may only need to carry a PW and a SW.
Let’s now look at some of the characteristics of wedge design. First of all, what loft is best? In a four-wedge system, you would need to know the loft of your PW. Most PW’s are around 44° or 45°. (Although, we are starting to see some manufacturers going with 37°-38° lofts on PW’s.) My rule of thumb is to keep 4°- 5° gaps between wedges. These are starting points and sometimes they are just what is needed, and, in some cases, minor tweaking is necessary.
And what about bounce? How much bounce is needed? In determining the proper bounce, we have to examine two factors. First, what is the golfer’s angle of attack, i.e., how steep does he/she come into the ball at impact. A steep angle of attack may require the clubhead to have a higher bounce angle to help prevent the club from digging into the turf. A shallow angle of attack would require less bounce. The second factor is the playing conditions. Courses that have light, soft or deep sand would be best played with a wedge with a higher bounce. Also, if turf conditions are generally soft, then higher bounce wedges are more suitable. Depending on the courses you play, you may want to have a sand wedge in a higher bounce and a lob wedge with a low bounce to cover any situation.
Sole grind is another factor that needs to be understood. There are many different sole grinds available in wedges and one of my favourites is called a C-Grind. With this grind the bounce on both the heel and the toe of the clubhead are ground down to provide relief for various situations. For example, if you need to open your club face, then the lack of material on the heel allows the face to open without raising the leading edge, thereby making it easier to get under the ball for a lofted shot. The lack of bounce on the toe is also effective in allowing the toe to move through the sand or turf more easily. For the average golfer a C-grind wedge is the most versatile grind and will be suitable for most golfers.
Most wedges come with a shaft that has been designed for wedge play. Generally, these shafts are higher spinning and higher launching. When choosing a wedge, you should also decide what shaft is the best feeling shaft for you. You may choose a traditionally heavier shaft, or you may find a lighter shaft to be more to your liking. Also, you have a choice of steel or graphite in either weight class. The advantage of graphite is its vibration dampening characteristics, which for many is a key factor.
We all know that the lies of your irons need to be correct in order to have consistency of ball flight. Nowhere is this more important than in your wedges. If you were to hit your 5 iron 10 yards off line, you would probably be happy with the shot. But if you pulled a PW 10 yards offline due to an incorrect lie angle, I am pretty sure you would not be pleased with the result. Wedges are your scoring clubs; the lie angles have to be right on the money.
Most wedges of today have faces that promote spin. They not only have milled grooves that are designed to promote spin, but they also mill the entire face of the club with various specific patterns that promote maximum spin. These milled faces feel like a raised finger print and really grip the ball creating friction between the club face and the ball, which produces these high spin rates.
Like any tool that we try to use, if we have not learned how to us it, we will not get maximum benefit from it. Chipping into the cup or dropping a wedge shot two feet from the pin is one of the great feelings in golf. Get fitted for your wedges, understand how and when to use them and you will enjoy better golf.