An Explosion of Choice
In the last few years, the number of options that golfers have in wedges has exploded. In addition to the flashy stuff like cool finishes and custom stamping, there are more sole grinds and bounce options than ever before.
While choice always seems like a good thing, we were curious to know how much these different soles affected performance and whether or not golfers were choosing the right option.
Myth #1 – Golfers with steep angles of attack always need more bounce
Myth #2 – Bounce affects strike quality
Myth #3 – Bounce affects launch angle and spin
Myth #4 – Bounce affects accuracy
Myth #5 – Golfers need the same bounce for all types of shots
Myth #6 – Golfers know how much bounce they need
How We Tested
For this test, we assembled five players with handicaps ranging from scratch to 18. Each player hit three types of shots – full swings, half swings, and chips – with three different wedges – high, medium, and low bounce. Each wedge was the same brand, model, and loft, and the shaft and grip were the same. Every player hit seven shots with each combination, and every shot was recorded by Trackman.
All testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.
Some of the most common wedge fitting advice is, “If you have a steep angle of attack, you should get more bounce.” While this is not necessarily bad advice, it is far from foolproof because there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration. For example, a player could be steep and also let the club head pass their hands before impact. In this case, they may not need much bounce. The opposite could also be true – a shallow player with lots of lag may need more bounce to prevent digging.
All of that leads to this: our data did not show a correlation between angle of attack and better performance with more bounce.
When looking at angle of attack, we did see one very interesting thing. Our best player changed his angle of attack to accommodate the different wedges. This is consistent with what we have seen over many tests: high end players can adapt to make any equipment work.
By looking at how much smash factor, carry distances, and distance dispersion varied from one wedge to another, we determined that bounce does affect strike quality. This is a case of common sense matching up with the data. The purpose of bounce is to manage turf interaction so that the golfer can put the ball on the center of the club face. We saw that having the right amount of bounce for a given swing helped our testers do just that.
It takes only a glance at the data to see that launch angles and spin rates changed with the amount of bounce. What is interesting is that there was not a clear correlation between bounce and higher or lower launch or spin.
Additionally, the change in bounce resulted in large launch and spin changes for some players, small changes for others. We can infer that bounce affected each golfer differently. For some, less bounce meant contact higher on the face. For others, it might lead to lower face contact.
Since bounce affects strike quality, launch, and spin, it is logical that we would see it impact accuracy also. Because we tested short shots with a high-lofted wedge, most players did not see huge differences in accuracy. However, because every yard is more critical in the short game, these differences are still important.
This is unequivocally busted – no player found one wedge to be the best for every type of shot. In fact, some players ran the full gamut – low bounce on one shot, mid bounce on another, high bounce on the third.
Our findings give credence to the idea that golfers need to think about how they use each wedge before making a purchase. If you have a wedge that’s for full swings, get it fit to your full swing. Then, ignore the amount of bounce on that wedge and focus on fitting the next wedge for the way you use it.
To find out if golfers can “self fit” bounce, we did two things. First, we asked them about the wedge set up they currently play. Second, after each type of shot, we asked them which amount of bounce performed the best.
Our expectations were that the better players in our test group would have the right wedges in their bag and would be able to accurately identify which wedges worked the best during the testing. We were proven wrong.
Overall, our test group was playing too little bounce in their personal wedges. Three testers play very low bounce set-ups but showed a performance improvement with mid or high bounce wedges. The tester who was playing high bounce needed less.
More surprising was that in only two of fifteen trials did our testers identify which wedge performed the best. In fact, four times out of fifteen they selected the wedge that performed the worst!
All of this is further evidence for our belief that golfers should not attempt to self-fit.
If you want to get up and down more often, having the right wedge – with the right amount of bounce – makes a big difference. And as we have seen time and again, there is no simple answer to what golfers need. One golfer may benefit from more bounce, another benefits from less. Digging even further, a golfer may need difference bounce in each wedge because of the different shots they hit.
If you want to upgrade your short game with the right wedges, make sure you work with a qualified club fitter.