The Home Stretch
You’ve got your golf ball, driver, putter, and irons. Your bag is over half full, so you’re in the home stretch. Now it’s time to fill in the scoring clubs, the wedges. Statistics tell us that a large percentage of shots are lost inside 100 yards, so well-fit wedges are key to shooting lower scores.
How Do You Use Your Wedges?
Just like you thought about the purpose of your new irons before the fitting, you need to do some thinking before you buy your new wedges. Here are some questions you should consider:
Are your wedges used primarily for full swings or is a full-swing wedge a rarity for you? What distances do you need these wedges to cover?
What’s your normal miss – fat or thin? Do you tend to de-loft the club a lot?
What kind of turf and sand conditions do you play on?
Do you like to hit a wide variety of wedge shots or do you hit one or two stock shots only?
How many wedges do you want to add to your bag?
Knowing the answers to these questions will make your search much easier.
Distance Gaps & Lofts
The easy part of choosing wedges is gapping the full swing distances. I emphasize that you are gapping the distances NOT the lofts.
Let’s say that your iron set stopped at the PW, which you hit 125 yards. Next, you probably want to have a wedge that travels 110 or 115 yards. It does not matter what loft the wedge is, just make sure that it consistently goes the distance that you want.
I have found that when transitioning from irons to wedges, I need a wedge that is only 2 or 3 degrees weaker than my PW instead of the suggested 4 or 5. You may need more than 5 degrees. You only need to look at the bags of PGA Tour winners to see that this is very personal and should not be done haphazardly.
Bounce & Grind
Before I get into recommendations and fitting ideas, let me give you an idea of what bounce and sole grinds are supposed to do. First, contrary to what some believe, bounce is not a bad thing. Bounce is your friend. Every club in your bag has bounce. Bounce does not make the club jump off the ground, but it does keep it from digging into the turf. I’ve heard bounce likened to insurance – often you don’t need it, but when you do need it, you’re really glad it’s there. However, there can be too much of a good thing – that’s where sole grinds come in. Sole grinds remove material from certain parts of the sole to make it more versatile, to fit certain swing types, or to help you execute certain types of shots. With all that said, let’s get into some specifics.
Once you know the lofts that you are going to play, you can move on to determining the correct bounce. This is where the information about turf conditions, sand conditions, your swing, and shot selection come into play. Generally speaking, you will want more bounce and/or a wider sole if you play in softer conditions, de-loft the club a lot, tend to miss fat, or hit down a lot. If you tend to miss thin, play in firm conditions, or have a shallow swing with minimal shaft lean, you will probably tend towards less bounce and/or a thinner sole. These are not hard and fast rules, but they do work for most players. The other thing to consider is that you may want to have some variety in your wedge set. If you play on soft courses that have very little sand in the bunkers, you may want less bounce on your sand wedge and more bounce on your other wedges.
Once you know approximately how much bounce you need, you can decide if you need or want a sole grind. Increasingly, manufacturers are offering more different grinds at retail and even more choices through custom programs. The most common grind is a “C grind” which removes material from the heel, toe, and trailing edge of the sole. This is done so that the golfer can open the face of the wedge while keeping the leading edge low to the ground, making the wedge more versatile. There are also highly specific grinds that help with particular shots. Again, think about how you want to use the wedge, what shots you want to hit, and find the grind that allows you to do those things.
Getting maximum spin should not be a primary concern in selecting a wedge. While there is some variance in how much spin different wedges create, the differences are not huge. Most of the difference between how much spin different players create can be attributed to their swings (full explanation HERE) and the ball they use. If you’re a player who can spin back a wedge, you will be able to do that with any new wedge. If you can’t, no wedge will give you that ability.
What you should be concerned with is the consistency of the spin. Just as you wouldn’t want a driver that sometimes went 280 yards and other times went 220, you don’t want a wedge with spin numbers that vary wildly. If you really want to test your wedges, bring a spray bottle of water to the fitting to see how well the wedge maintains its spin in wet conditions.
Finally, you should give some thought to the shafts that are going into your wedges. Stock isn’t good enough for your driver or your irons, and it isn’t good enough for your wedges either.
There are three schools of thought on wedge shafts:
Play the same shafts you have in your irons for consistent feel.
Play a softer shaft because you don’t swing a wedge as hard as a 6 iron.
Play a stiffer, heavier shaft because it the wedge head is heavier and it will enhance your feel on partial shots.
None of these is wrong – you can find examples of each on the PGA Tour – but I prefer to play the same shaft in my irons and wedges. I find that this leads to consistent performance on full swings which is a high priority for my wedge game.
As always, the best answer for your game can only be found through trying each one and finding out what performs the best.
In summary, when selecting your wedges, you need to first figure out what you need your wedges to do. Once you know the distances you need to cover and the types of shots you want to play, selecting a wedge becomes fairly easy. Finally, make sure that you find a wedge that inspires confidence at address and delivers the feedback you need to improve your short game.
As always, please post your questions below, I’ll be happy to answer them.
Building Your Best Bag
Part 6: The Wedges
Part 7: The Long Game
Part 8: Specialty Clubs
Part 9: Maintenance