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Finding the right wedge shaft for your game

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In the minds of many golfers, wedges are the most important clubs in the bag. As a fitter, I am always surprised how this belief conflicts with the amount of consideration golfers typically put into selecting their wedges. When asked why certain wedges are in their bag, most reply with something along the lines of, “Well, I’ve always just used this loft and grind,” “I’m not really sure” or “My buddy, who’s a scratch golfer, told me I need it.” For most, wedges are in an unfortunate race with the putter to win the unceremonious award of the clubs that help golfers the least.

Most people know there are wedges with multiple loft and bounce options available, even if they’re not quite sure what’s best for them. Very few, however, have ever thought about the shafts in their wedges. In this article, I’ll be showing you the importance of finding the proper shaft for the wedges in your bag by illustrating how different shafts can impact performance.

The goal of this test is not to make some generic recommendation that “you should be playing XXX shaft,” but rather to highlight the variance that can exist across different shafts. I encourage you to do your own testing with a qualified fitter, but if one is unavailable in your area, these themes might help find a good wedge shaft for you.

Testing Process

To conduct these tests, I selected three testers with low single-digit handicaps and relatively consistent swings. Any findings will only be amplified for higher-handicap golfers due to increased swing variability, and any shaft-to-shaft variations might have been hidden by this inconsistency.

We used an Edel Wedge fitting system because of the interchangeable hosel system and extensive shaft options. Each tester selected a 56-degree head with the bounce that fit them best. They then used the same wedge head on each of the six shafts we tested. The order the shafts was randomized for each golfer during the testing process.

The shafts represented some common wedge shafts and crossed multiple weights, flexes and EI profiles. Testers hit five shots at a target 100 yards away with each shaft, and all shots were measured with FlightScope.

The Data

Data: To start, I’m posting a table that shows summary results for each shaft per golfer (below). A couple of things to remember when reading this:

  1. All distances are in yards.
  2. All distances are carry distances.
  3. On lateral distances: negative numbers represent left of target, positive numbers right of target.
  4. Standard deviation shows the variance in the range with smaller numbers being better.

Full Testing Results

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

A lot to digest, right?

To help gauge shaft performance for each golfer, I created an additional table showing the ranges in carry distance and lateral dispersion. These numbers were then multiplied to calculate the total area covered by the five shots with each shaft. This is the single best summary stat I can think of to grade wedge performance.

Simplified Testing Results

Player_specific_wedge_shaft_results

Now we can start to see some things. 

  • Based on the average size of the dispersion area, Wes is the best wedge player. Sorry Mike and Nick, but I’m pretty sure you already knew this…
  • Distance control is where variation really shows up, and this is where the best wedge players differentiate themselves. Of the 18 player/shaft combinations we tested, there were only two where the carry distance range was less than the lateral range.
  • Each player did have a specific shaft that stood out, one with a dispersion area much smaller than the other options. There just wasn’t any consistency in shaft performance across the golfers.

Best and Worst Shafts for Each Tester

Best_and_worst_wedge_shafts

Green indicates the best wedge shaft for each player. Red indicates the worst.

Launch Angle and Spin Rate Rankings

The same variation is found when looking at launch angle and spin rates, with the shafts that produced the highest and lowest launch and spin numbers varying for each golfer. These tables are simple stack rankings, based on performance.

Wedge_Shaft_Launch_Angle

Wedge_shaft_spin_rate

  • One interesting correlation was that for two of the three golfers, the same shaft provided the smallest dispersion area and lowest launch angle. While not a hard and fast rule, it’s something to keep in mind when trying out wedge shafts.
  • The shafts that worked better for the testers weren’t necessarily the ones you would have guessed. The KBS C-Taper Lite 105R worked the best for Nick, who has an upright and aggressive swing. Wes has a flat, smooth swing and the relatively stiff and heavy True Temper DG Spinner Wedge+ shaft worked the best for him.

Two Big Takeaways

  1. Lighter and More Flexible is Probably Better. When selecting new or re-shafting your existing wedges, your best bet is to find a fitter with the proper experience and equipment to guide you through the options. If that’s not possible, a general trend shown here is that a shaft that’s lighter and a bit more flexible than what you’re using in your irons is a good bet.
  2. Enough about the Spin. Worrying about what wedge shaft creates the most spin should not be your top concern. Even though there was shaft-to-shaft variation in the spin produced, they all had enough to quickly stop the ball on the green. As good as these Edel wedges are, this is a consistent finding regardless of the brand we’re fitting. Finding the proper wedge head (loft, grind, bounce) and a shaft that helps your distance control should be your main focus when getting new wedges, not if one option gives you an extra hundred or two RPMs.

In our next article, we’ll talk more about selecting bounce and give you some tips on how to fit yourself if you can’t find a fitter with a proper wedge fitting system.

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Chris Wycoff is the owner of SwingFit, a custom club fitting and building studio in Hilton Head Island, SC. Prior to joining the golf world, Chris was a management consultant for over 7 years and brings a great deal of the data driven processes from that world into golf. SwingFit has spent the last 2 years with a Gears motion tracking system capturing thousands of swings and partnering with data scientists to research how clubs and human golf swings really interact. SwingFit was included on Golf Digest's list of 100 Best Clubfitters in America for 2015/16, 17/18 & 19/20 as well as Golf.com's list of 25 Elite Club Fitters in 2019 .

50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Steve Lack

    Aug 28, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Softer tips must be why some golfers tip trim their wedge shafts to 8 iron specs?

  2. Ezra

    Aug 21, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Absolute BS from a fitter trying to sell his services.

    • Steve S

      Aug 31, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Agreed. Most of the articles I see on fitting are BS. Especially on drivers. Anyone schooled in physics and dynamics laughs at most of the articles. The reality is you want a shaft and grip that is as light and stiff as possible because any weight that is not in the club head does nothing to contribute to the force and momentum of the swing. By doing that then it’s a simple determination on loft of the club face and speed to determine maximum distance for you. This assumes that you have a reasonably decent swing arc and impact position. If not, you should work on that before worrying about “getting fit”.

      • John

        May 27, 2020 at 3:46 pm

        The dumbest comment ive ever read on any golf related subject, ever..
        Clearly, You are an utterly clueless mental midget

    • Steve S

      Aug 31, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Agreed. Most fitting advice is BS. All these guys try to make this complicated. Without a decent repeatable swing arc all “fitting” does is TRY to compensate for your mistakes which never works in the long run….

  3. tlmck

    Aug 19, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Same shafts as my irons and low bounce since the 1980’s has always worked well for me.

  4. Benny

    Aug 19, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Great article even though I wasn’t able to understand all the data. I feel I am a better wedge player than most and know through trial and error what works well. S400 shafts my buddy had which he added weights too, were way to delayed so my shots went right while whippy wedge shafts or too light pull and hook. But how does the “bounce” play into this data? For instance I have always hit higher bounce heads much longer than low bounce. Regardless of the shaft. Should this be a factor when getting wedges fit and wouldn’t the bounce also cause different dispersion and accuracey?

  5. baudi

    Aug 18, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Nice test and great article.
    To me it simply proves that a good player should find his right wedge shaft.
    Although I wouldn’t go as far stating lighter is better. (A softer shaft than in irons is definitely better. Tom Wishon did a great test on this one)
    Point here is that a wedge being a utility club is used on partial shots most of the time. That implies a slower rhythm. A slightly heavier but softer shaft will create a lively feel in the swing.

  6. Christian

    Aug 17, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    I have tried lighter shafts in wedges and initially they work well, especially during testing. After a while I start to get more misshits, a jerky/handsy action and even skulled shots. Back to S400s now, the most stable option for me. I game 130+ gram X in irons

    • Scott

      Aug 24, 2016 at 9:34 am

      I had the exact same results after moving to lighter shafts. Worked great until it didn’t. I get more feel with the heavier shaft.

  7. Chris Wycoff

    Aug 17, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Thanks for all the great comments and feedback – happy to answer any questions anyone might have!

    • jason c geraci

      Aug 25, 2016 at 9:07 am

      Why didn’t you test shafts that are specifically designed for wedges?

  8. Chris Wycoff

    Aug 17, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    It’s not a specific wedge shaft, but we used in testing due to it’s flex profile. It it fits you, it’s a great shaft option.

  9. Brian T

    Aug 17, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Why not include the s200 as it is comes in pretty much every wedge out there? At least a baseline of sorts, or give us an idea of where it stacks up against the others.

    • Chris Wycoff

      Aug 17, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Brian –

      That’s a good point, we used the S400 as it’s very close to the S200, only 3 grams heavier.

  10. Matt

    Aug 17, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    I’m all messed up X100 in irons KBS Tour X in wedges.

  11. NS Pro

    Aug 17, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Why were no Modus3 wedge shafts included in this fitting?

    • Chris Wycoff

      Aug 17, 2016 at 10:07 pm

      There was no reason it was intentionally excluded, we just had to pick a reasonable number of shafts with varying weights, flexes and profiles to show the variations. Love the Modus shafts, they very well may be the best shafts for you.

  12. jf

    Aug 17, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    “Any findings will only be amplified for higher-handicap golfers due to increased swing variability, and any shaft-to-shaft variations might have been hidden by this inconsistency.”

    So shaft fitting for wedges is of little benefit to most hackers?

    • Chris Wycoff

      Aug 17, 2016 at 10:09 pm

      Hi JF – thanks for reading, it actually means that wedge fittings are even more important for “most hackers’. Better players are better equipped to deal with a shaft that isn’t fit for their swing. Hackers need all the help they can get!

  13. Larry

    Aug 17, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    I’m using reg flex KBS Tour 90 shafts in my irons. So the recommendation for my wedges is to soft step the same shafts to get lighter & more flexible. Correct?

    • Chris Wycoff

      Aug 17, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Larry – the real recommendation is to find a fitter that allows you to test multiple options and find the best possible shaft. If that’s not possible, it’s very likely soft stepping your same shafts would produce better results than a stock wedge shaft.

  14. DB

    Aug 17, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    What do you mean by this? You don’t like a lot of wedge or putter designs? Or they have the least tech?

    “For most, wedges are in an unfortunate race with the putter to win the unceremonious award of the clubs that help golfers the least.”

    • explainer

      Aug 17, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      He means essentially “amateur/high-cap golfers just pick their wedges and putter willy nilly at a detriment to their score”

    • Chris Wycoff

      Aug 17, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      DB – unfortunately explainer is correct. Few golfers are fit for wedges and putters even though they are used for over half the shots in a round. The wedges and putter in most bags are working against the golfer, instead of for them.

  15. T-Bone

    Aug 17, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Chris, How does a shaft create more spin than another?

    • Chris Wycoff

      Aug 17, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      T-Bone –

      Thanks for reading. Different shafts have different flex profiles that produce varying flight characteristics. For many, a soft tip section will produce a higher flight with higher spin.

      • T-Bone

        Aug 18, 2016 at 12:16 am

        OK, thanks. How many more RPM’s of spin could an average swing speed player expect when switching to a soft tip shaft?

        • Chris Wycoff

          Aug 18, 2016 at 9:29 am

          It’s really impossible to say. There are so many variables in the swing and how they interact with the shaft is what matters. It’s best to really find somewhere to try some options and find out for yourself.

  16. Tyler Brown

    Aug 17, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Why were wedge specific shafts like KBS 610 and Hi Rev not tested?

    • Chris Wycoff

      Aug 17, 2016 at 10:32 pm

      Hi Tyler –

      If I were trying to make general recommendations on specific shafts, I definitely would have included them. The intent of this article was to simply illustrate how much variance there is between different shafts for different golfers. In an actual fitting, I do typically include those for testing.

  17. GMR

    Aug 17, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    How often do these guys hit 100yd 56* wedge shots on the course? Personally I find that to be a relatively challenging scoring shot because the length of swing necessary and amount of spin generated (can get ball caught up in wind, spon back 15 feet on green, etc) and would normally opt to hit a 1/2 52* shot instead, which comes in lower and still stops dead. Would be curious to see these numbers again for testers hitting controlled half shots (e.g. 56* to 85-90) as I suspect the variation in swings and shaft performance may not be so substantial…

    • Chris Wycoff

      Aug 17, 2016 at 10:17 pm

      GMR –

      Great question, these guys tend to hit that shot pretty frequently. We’ve found in fittings that the trend of using a lighter, softer shaft is actually amplified on half swing. The hypothesis is that these lighter, softer shafts still flex on easier swings and provide feel and feedback that is consistent with a full iron shot. For most, using an overly stiff shaft for these touch shots reduces feedback and consistency. Of course, there is not rule that applies for every golfer so it’s best to test for yourself if possible.

  18. Uncle Buck

    Aug 17, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Bravo!

  19. Craig

    Aug 17, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    Great article, been looking for a good wedge shaft and this hits the bullseye. Thanks Chris.

  20. Ryan

    Aug 17, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Is there a reason you tested the shafts with a full to 3/4 wedge shot?
    Does the consistency with a specific shaft in your results continue with chips and pitches?

  21. desmond

    Aug 17, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Typically, wedge shafts are slightly heavier but more flexible than your iron shafts… hmmm.

    • desmond

      Aug 17, 2016 at 11:34 am

      But maybe it says that faster speed players with heavy irons shafts do not need heavy wedge shafts. And that makes sense in terms of one is not typically going full bore with a high lofted wedge.

      I can’t see a guy with 80g graphite shafts go to 75g graphite or steel in wedges. I see that guy (me) going from 85g graphite in R flex to 105g steel in R for greater precision, still keeping the shaft flex the same as irons. A golfer with stiff flex may want to go down slightly in flex.

      • Chris Wycoff

        Aug 17, 2016 at 10:18 pm

        Desmond – you may really want to try a lighter shaft in your wedges if possible. You might be pleasantly surprised.

        • desmond

          Aug 18, 2016 at 4:21 am

          Chris – I was fit for a KBS Hi Rev by an Edel fitter at 115g. My new Edel is fit with 110g Nippon Pro Modus Wedge 105. I think you’ll be surprised that if you get too light, you lose control, not to mention the balance of the club is affected. I am a strong wedge player. The lighter graphite iron shafts are for distance and less shock to body.

          • Chris Wycoff

            Aug 18, 2016 at 9:25 am

            Getting fit is the best answer – that’s why I was pretty careful to indicate these were trends, not solutions. Every player is different and what works for some definitely will not work for others. I’m glad you found the shafts that work the best for you!

  22. AllBOdoesisgolf

    Aug 17, 2016 at 11:06 am

    great article but I wouldn’t say their swings are consistent… maybe, after seeing the results, that’s why you used the qualifier of “relatively”. When you have 6mph difference from top to bottom is speed there are going to be different results.
    then again, we are not robots… it just surprised me that guys with low single digit handicaps can have such a large discrepancy of swing speeds.

  23. Leon

    Aug 17, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Or another thumb of rule: use one less flex shafts (the same model) of your irons for your wedges. For example, if you have DG S300 for the irons, consider to put the DG S200 or soft step the S300 once or twice for the wedges. In this way, the clubs will have the same feel and swing characteristics, and there will no transition gap between the irons and wedges.

    • Lee

      Aug 17, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      Agreed, I know one of Europe’s top fitter and this is exactly what he and many others are doing.

    • Chris Wycoff

      Aug 17, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      While it’s best to try multiple shafts and get fully fit, if that’s not possible, your rule of thumb is likely much better than a stock “Wedge” shaft.

  24. kyle

    Aug 17, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Agreed, terrific article. Thanks

  25. J

    Aug 17, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Seriously great article, well done!

    • DaveMac

      Aug 17, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      A big thumbs up from me, nice to see a data driven equipment performance article for a change. Really interesting conclusions.

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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Opinion & Analysis

By definition, there will be no 2020 U.S. Open. Here’s why the USGA should reconsider

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In 1942, the USGA decided to cancel the U.S. Open because it was scheduled so soon after U.S. entry into WWII.  They did this out of respect for the nation and those called to war. There was a Championship however called The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, which was contested at Chicago’s  Ridgemoor Country Club. It was a great distraction from the horror of war and raised money for the great cause.

All the top players of the era (except Sam Snead) played, and the organizers (USGA, Chicago Golf Association, and the PGA of America) did hold qualifying at some 70 sites around the country. So effectively, it was the 1942 U.S. Open—but the USGA never recognized it as such. They labeled it a “wartime effort to raise money” for the cause.  Their objection to it being the official U.S. Open was never clear, although the sub-standard Ridgemoor course (a veritable birdie fest) was certainly part of it.

The USGA co-sponsored the event but did not host it at one of their premier venues, where they typically set the golf course up unusually difficult to test the best players. Anyway, Ben Hogan won the event and many thought this should have counted as his fifth U.S. Open win. The USGA disagreed. That debate may never be settled in golfer’s minds.

Ahead to the 1964 U.S. Open…Ken Venturi, the eventual winner, qualified to play in the tournament. His game at the time was a shell of what it was just a few years earlier, but Kenny caught lighting in a bottle, got through both stages of qualifying, and realized his lifelong dream of winning the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Ahead to the 1969 U.S. Open…Orville Moody, a former army sergeant had been playing the PGA Tour for two years with moderate success-at best. But the golfing gods shone brightly upon “sarge” through both stages of qualifying, and the tournament, as he too realized the dream of a lifetime in Houston.

Ahead to 2009 U.S. Open…Lucas Glover was the 71st ranked player in the world and had never made the cut in his three previous U.S. Opens. But he did get through the final stage of qualifying and went on to win the title at Bethpage in New York.

Ahead to 2020…The USGA has decided to postpone the event this year to September because of the Covid-19 virus. This was for the fear of the global pandemic. But this year there is a fundamental difference—the USGA has announced there will be no qualifying for the event. It will be an exempt-only event. By doing so, the event loses it status as an “open event,” by definition.

This is more than a slight difference in semantics.

The U.S. Open, our national championship, is the crown jewel of all USGA events for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is just that: open. Granted, the likelihood of a club professional or a highly-ranked amateur winning the event—or even making the cut—is slim, but that misses the point: they have been stripped of their chance to do so, and have thereby lost a perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to realize something they have worked for their whole lives. Although I respect the decision from a  health perspective, golf is being played now across the country, (The Match and Driving Relief—apparently safely)

So, what to do? I believe it would be possible to have one-day 36-hole qualifiers (complete with social distancing regulations) all over the country to open the field. Perhaps, the current health crisis limits the opportunity to hold the qualifiers at the normally premier qualifying sites around the country but, as always, everyone is playing the same course and is at least given the chance to play in tournament.

In light of the recent “opening” of the country, I am asking that the USGA reconsider the decision.

 

featured image modified from USGA image

 

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TG2: Reviewing Tour Edge Exotics Pro woods, forged irons, and LA Golf shafts

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Reviewing the new Tour Edge Exotics Pro wood lineup, forged irons, and wedge. Maybe more than one makes it into the bag? Fujikura’s MCI iron shafts are some of the smoothest I have ever hit and LA Golf wood shafts get some time on the course.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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