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How to use the bounce of your wedge correctly

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One of the many reasons tour players are so very good around the greens is that the golf clubs they use are so perfectly suited to them — particularly their wedges, and even more specifically the bounce of their wedges. Not only do they carry a variety of wedges for a variety of courses, but they are also quite skilled in using the unique advantages that lofted wedges have.

Bounce is a term that has skyrocketed recently in the golf vernacular. With the advent of the new lofted wedges and the myriad designs now available, many golfers are now learning the value of “bounce.” So let’s get a working definition of bounce. Bounce is the angle from the leading edge to the trailing edge on the sole of a wedge. A picture I try to paint for my students is this — when you address the golf ball with your wedge in its properly lofted position, how high is the leading edge sitting off the ground? The higher it is, the more bounce a wedge has. That’s an easy way to understand bounce, which keeps the leading edge from digging into the turf.

When used properly, your wedges are the most forgiving clubs in your bag. The bounce will slide along the turf, allowing golfers to hit shots even if the turf is contacted slightly before the ball. From Phil Mickelson to Uncle Phil, we all need bounce… and we need to know how to use it.

Here are my six general bounce guidelines:

  • If your attack angle is steep, you need more bounce.
  • If your attack angle is shallow, you need less bounce.
  • If the course has tight lies, use less bounce.
  • If the golf course has heavier lies, more bounce.
  • If the sand is fluffy, more bounce.
  • If the sand is firmly packed, less bounce.

There are other factors, of course: the heel grind, the toe grind, etc., but the guidelines above should be helpful.

Touring professionals are constantly grinding wedges to adapt to the playing conditions of the week. Most of us don’t have that luxury, but we can collect a variety of wedges and bounces over time and use them as needed. An example might be a day when you know rain the night before will leave the sand firmly packed down, or you’re going to play a links-style course that has tight lies. You might consider leaving the high bounce wedge in the garage that day.

Once you find a wedge with the right loft and bounce combination, you’ll need to understand how to use it properly. The secret to understanding good short wedge shots is realizing they are played very differently than full shots. It starts at setup and continues through the swing. When you’re hitting short wedge shots, you need to expose the bounce and swing the golf club so that the trailing edge can be in play. When you do it right, you’ll get grass stains or sand residue on the very back of your wedge sole. That’s a hint that you’re doing things correctly.

Here are some suggestions to help you expose the bounce on the golf club. Note that these are generalized hints that are not for everyone, but they will help the vast majority of golfers hit better short wedge shots.

  •  First, weaken your grip by moving both hands slightly to the left (lefties, do the opposite). This will assist you in getting and keeping the club face open.
  • Open the club face at address.
  • Set your body open to the target.
  • Move your ball position forward in your stance.
  • In taking the club away, you should get a distinct feeling of rolling the face open (supinating the right hand and forearm).
  • The downswing must allow for the rear side (right for righties) to stay UP. The biggest mistake I see is a body slide, a right side tilt, and the right shoulder going in too low.
  • The body turn through the ball must be complete with the front facing the target and the golf club exiting LEFT on the follow through.
  • The club face cannot turn over! It must be “held open” through the shot with little to no supination of the left arm.

The most embarrassing shot in the game is a chunked wedge or a shot left in the bunker.  Trying any or all of the above tips should help you minimize those errors. Remember, BOUNCE the golf club into the golf ball. Your scores will thank you.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. cgasucks

    Oct 29, 2017 at 11:05 am

    I see people with $800 Wedges with special custom grinds with is great but won’t do any good for them if they flip the club through impact.

  2. Dennis Clark

    Oct 19, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Steeper, if you’re -4 with a six iron you might be -6 with a wedge, hence the need for more bounce. -6 with the leading edge exposed will lay sod over the golf ball very often. The greenside bunker as well where we need to be steeper than ever. LOTS of bounce in fluffy sane. Hope it helps.

  3. TeeBone

    Oct 19, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    You say that short swings are very different than full swings. How should the Angle of Attack compare between the two with a TrackMan?

  4. Eldrick T

    Oct 19, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Can you teach me how. I don’t want to look like a loser again when I get back out on Tour and have to play in real tournaments blading the ball across the green

  5. Andrew

    Oct 18, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    It’s about time for the leaked SM7 pics. If I recall, the SM6 pics were leaked in October. Can we revisit this bounce discussion then?

  6. Dennis clark

    Oct 18, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Use very low bounce, move the ball back slightly and DO NOT expect the ball to go high. A high lob off a tight lie is PGA Tour stuff.

  7. Acemandrake

    Oct 18, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Do you make any adjustments when playing from a tight lie?

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Instruction

WATCH: How to hit your driver more consistently

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In this video, I share two great drills that will help you improve your driving today.

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3 keys for getting out of bunkers with soft sand

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One of the most infuriating things in golf is to land in a bunker that has too much sand, or sand with the consistency of a truckload of talcum power. Now, I am not picking on the Superintendents; they do have to add new sand from time-to-time, so no hate mail please! It’s my fault for hitting it in the bunker in the first place, and bunkers are supposed to be hazards; I know that.

The one thing we will assume for this article is that even though we are in soft sand, we will have a good lie, not a plugged or semi-plugged one. We are in a bunker that just has a bunch of sand, or it’s soft and fluffy sand. Everyone asks me what the secret is to handling these types of conditions and I’m here to help you get better.

1) Get a wedge with the correct bounce

Let’s consider that you play the same golf course every weekend, or that you mostly play on courses that have the same type of playing conditions mostly. When you have this luxury, you should have wedges that fit the conditions you tend to play. So, if you have a low bounce wedge with a sharp flange and you’re playing from bunkers with lots of sand, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Why alter your swing if the wedge you have can help you? Use a high bounce wedge (9-12 degrees of bounce) for soft sand, and a low bounce wedge (6-8 degrees) for firm sand.

2) Control your Angle of Attack 

As with most things in golf, there are always things that you must pay attention to in order for you to have the odds in your favor. Simple things such as paying attention to the lie you have can help you save shots in the rough. In bunkers, you cannot test the surface, however, you can use your feet to feel the density of the sand. Pay attention to what you feel in the balls of your feet. If you feel a ton of sand below you, then you know you will have to alter your angle of attack if you want any chance to get out of the bunker successfully.

So what do I mean by this?

The setting of your wrists has a very dynamic effect on how much the wedge digs in or skids through the sand (assuming you have an open face). When there is a surplus of sand, you will find that a steeper attack caused by the maximum cocking of your wrists makes it much easier for the wedge to work too vertical and dig too deep. When you dig too deep, you will lose control of the ball as there is too much sand between the blade and the ball — it will not spin as much and won’t have the distance control you normally have.

The secret to playing from softer sand is a longer and wider bunker swing with much less wrist-set than you would use on your stock bunker shot. This action stops the club from digging too deep and makes it easier for you to keep moving through the ball and achieving the distance you need.

3) Keep your pivot moving

It’s nearly impossible to keep the rotation of your shoulders going when you take too much sand at impact, and the ball comes up short in that situation every time. When you take less sand, you will have a much easier time keeping your pivot moving. This is the final key to good soft-sand bunker play.

You have made your longer and more shallow backswing and are returning to the ball not quite as steeply as you normally do which is good… now the only thing left to do is keep your rear shoulder rotating through impact and beyond. This action helps you to make a fuller finish, and one that does not lose too much speed when the club impacts the sand. If you dig too deep, you cannot keep the rear shoulder moving and your shots will consistently come up short.

So if you are in a bunker with new sand, or an abundance of sand, remember to change your bounce, adjust your angle of attack, and keep your pivot moving to have a fighting chance.

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Instruction

WATCH: How to stop “flipping” through impact

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Are you flipping through impact? In this video, I share a great drill that will help you put better pressure on the golf ball at impact. By delivering the sweet spot correctly, you’ll create a better flight and get more distance from your shots immediately.

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