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The Wedge Guy: A discussion of bounce

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Based on my 25+ years as a wedge designer and marketer, I can easily say that ‘bounce’ is the most mis-understood aspect of wedges and wedge-fitting. I’ve learned that a great number of golfers are totally confused about this very important design feature of wedges. So here goes.

A primer: What is bounce?

Very simply, “bounce” is the design feature of the sole of a wedge (or actually, any golf club) that helps it perform properly when it makes contact with the turf. A “worm’s eye view” of any wedge shows that the sole of the club has a downward angle from the leading edge back to the trailing edge. That angle, in relation to the horizontal line of the turf is what is defined as the “bounce angle”.

low bounce

high bounce

In general, the higher that angle (measured in degrees from the horizontal plane of the turf), the more the club will tend to be “rejected” by the turf upon impact. Conversely, the lower the angle the less “rejection force” will be experienced. But also realize that the width of the sole and the bounce angle combine to produce a certain playability. A wide sole with a low bounce angle might perform very similar to (but also very differently than) a narrow sole with a higher bounce angle. Bounce is just not a simple subject.

How do I pick the right bounce?

To further compound the confusion you might have, the wedge marketplace offers hundreds of choices of loft/bounce combinations, and the industry has settled on this basic advice to help you navigate through this maze.

  • For soft turf or fluffier lies, you want a higher bounce angle.
  • For firm turf or tighter, you want a lower bounce angle.
  • If you have a steep angle of attack, you want a high bounce.
  • If you have a shallower angle of attack, you want a lower bounce.

Here is where I’ll call on my analysis of over 40,000 wedge-fitting “interviews” through the online fitting tools I have designed to share a couple of interesting facts that challenge that entire line of reasoning

  • Over 80 percent of golfers of all skill levels say that the turf they play on is varying in its firmness (I can’t imagine the golf course the other 20% play that they think has the same turf quality throughout), and
  • Over 75 percent of golfers of all skill levels say they vary their swing path; either on purpose to hit various shots…or unintentionally because they are not tour pros! (Again, I am suspect that 25 percent of golfers take the same divot all the time.)

Here is where my “respectful irreverence” to the industry’s reasoning about bounce fitting comes out, and I offer a few more examples of why I challenge the entire concept

  • What if I have a tight lie on soft turf?
  • What if I have a fluffy lie on firm turf? (And just where are these courses that have the same kind of turf conditions everywhere on them?)
  • What if I have a shallower angle of attack, but the lie is on soft turf?
  • Conversely, what if I have a steep angle of attack but the shot is on firm turf?
  • Wait, I’m a good player and vary my angle of approach based on the shot I’m facing; what kind of bounce should I play?

And the biggest one: I’m not a tour pro, but a mid- to high-handicapper. The courses I play have every kind of lie, turf firmness and sand texture imaginable (and some that aren’t). My angle of approach is not consistent (duh, I’m a mid- to high handicapper). How the heck do I sort through this?

Bear with me, because I’m going to offer you some advice after I cover this last piece of the puzzle.

Custom grinds

This seems to be a growing trend offered by some wedge brands, always at a premium price over their standard offerings. But who really needs a “custom grind” and how would you know what you need?

Understand that tour players typically spend lots of time with their equipment sponsors to have their wedges custom ground because they spend hundreds of hours and hit thousands of shots perfecting their skills. They have the most highly refined set of skills and sense of touch . . . you can’t even imagine. As a result, they can do things with a wedge that your best local club players don’t even dream of. Even more importantly, if they get to a tournament where course conditions change, all they have to do is go to the equipment trailer and get some more grinding, or even new wedges that are right for that particular course that particular week. Oh, and they are F-R-E-E.

Tour players have their wedges made so that the sole gets “out of the way” of their skills. Amateurs need wedges that have a sole that gets in the way, to help compensate for the fact that they didn’t hit 2-300 wedge shots since their last round of golf.

So, what do you do?

In my opinion, you simply cannot select a wedge out of a retail display and expect to be satisfied. You cannot test wedges on a hitting mat in a store and learn anything about how they are going to perform for you on the courses you play. I’ll apply that same advice to selecting wedges based on a driving range session.

I firmly believe the only way to figure out what wedge sole configuration works best for you is through trial-and-error…on YOUR golf course(s), with the shots YOU face on a round-by-round basis. You simply must take demo wedges onto the course and hit the shots you know you will have, from the lies you will be required to navigate and the sand you will play from.

If you cannot demo the exact wedges you are considering, then you might think about moving on until you can. My bet is that your golf professional will have demo wedges you can take out on the course to see how they work for you. And he or she can also help you learn some wedge techniques and skills that will broaden your short-range options to quickly impact your scoring.

I hope that helps, and I look forward to sharing more equipment industry insight and opinions with you next week.

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, or SCOR, but you would certainly know his most recent accomplishment: the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2015. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have possibly stimulated other companies to also try to raise the CG and improve wedge performance.

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    May 1, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    Terry,

    Some of the Golf Evolution pros suggest short-game wedge play of “engaging the bounce.” This means for chips and pitches the golfer skims a high bounce wedge along the ground to contact, rather than engaging the leading edge (hitting down) on the shot. This supposedly encourages more consistent contact.

    Edel wedges (some sole grinds with 20+ degrees bounce) are popular with this group.

    Any thoughts on this technique which encourages higher wedge bounce for everyone?

  2. A. Commoner

    Apr 25, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    By last count, there were a half dozen characters labeled “THE wedge expert” (or some sort descriptor)…..Will the real ace of clubs please stand? and pretenders bow out!

  3. Donn Rutkoff

    Apr 23, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Anybody tell or feel if any difference in feel in the new Mizuno wedges with boron, beginning with the T7 and now S18? I love my pre-boron S5. Wonder whether to buy another S5 or move up to S18 when the S5 grooves are too worn?

  4. Steve Wozeniak PGA

    Apr 20, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Still got my Eidolon 60 degree, guess you can tell I can’t play much!!!!!

    About to order my new Black Hogan 60 degree to replace!!!!! Going to LOVE having that Hogan name on it, Thanks Terry.

    Steve Wozeniak PGA

  5. David Bloom

    Apr 18, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    A great explanation. If you have time in the future would you comment of wedge shafts? Just purchased a new set of Titleist wedges(50 and54) with light weight steel shafts. My irons have UST senior shafts in them and these new Titleist wedges feel so very heavy. Should I have the same shafts in my wedges as my regular irons, or is there another way to determine which shafts would work? Thanks

  6. Jamho3

    Apr 6, 2019 at 5:35 am

    Jeez was it 1998 or 1997 I think I heard something similar..

    Four Scottish Gents played the 1st round of golf in the America’s

    Former Hogan exec

    No big box

    Green grass only

    Sound familiar to anyone not named TK? Here’s a pic of the old boys Reid is in the middle.

    h ttp://www.fathersofgolf.com/uploads/3/1/0/6/31065683/2731918.jpg?428

  7. Jamho3

    Apr 6, 2019 at 5:23 am

    Terry you’re still the man! Stop pre-selling & get out and start manufacturing! Seriously.

  8. David Bloom

    Apr 5, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    Hard Sand. Very little sand Our traps are poor…Any ideas for a sand wedge

  9. kevin moran

    Apr 5, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    The article makes sense and I think the writer was trying to stress the difficulties in following the manufacturers oft-repeated fitting suggestions. I will say however as to the demo part of the article, that too many of these things are aimed at country club types where the pro may offer these services. I’m a daily fee and public course guy. We don’t have the option to try and then buy.

    • Simms

      Apr 15, 2019 at 7:30 pm

      Amen brother, it would be great if someone would start a site for the public golfer and give tips and ideas that are not for the low handicapper or Pro. But then no one is going to fund anything that is aimed at the non Country Club types..no money in it.

    • Alfredo Smith

      Apr 22, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      Not completely wrong about finding new demo equipment, you need the access to a local shop or GC that supports demos. Another option would be to purchase older wedges to test out which bounce options work for you.

  10. Terry Koehler

    Apr 4, 2019 at 8:00 am

    To all,
    Thank you for both the kudos and the challenges to my article on bounce. As I said, this is the most complex aspect of wedges and you all make very good points. In this article I was trying to cover bounce from the most basic angle, so I could not get into as much detail as the subject demands and should get. Based on your input, this next Tuesday I will take a bit deeper dive into the subject, specifically those comments about manipulating the face angle to affect the bounce, carrying a variety of loft/bounce combinations and ways to get around that “on course trial” issue.
    I appreciate all of you taking the time to comment, as that helps me become a better resource for you as we go forward together.

  11. Terco

    Apr 4, 2019 at 7:52 am

    I play on thigh turf but soft soil. To make it worse I have an steep downswing. The fat shot happens all the time with low bounce. Tried all kinds of 60’s . My teacher allways said that the 60 is a dangerous club. Probably a 58/8 is the best club for the amateurs.

  12. Leftshot

    Apr 3, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    Wish I could give two reactions. Because I thought his analysis was honest and insightful and his advice on what to do terrible. As noted by others, it isn’t practical or possible to put his trial and error suggestion into practice. Plus as the author himself stated we don’t have the finely tuned senses the pros have to detect the best fit anyway.

  13. W

    Apr 3, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    Terry bring back the SCOR wedges still the best…

  14. Steve Cartwright

    Apr 3, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    That’s what not to do now let’s hear how to do it. Just hitting shots during a round is not sufficient. You need a practice routine off grass with the same make of ball hitting a number of different shots. If you can’t measure the results reliably you cannot compare the results.
    I liked the article but it’s not complete
    By the way I have just changed my wedges after a process sonos to the above.

  15. Jack Nash

    Apr 3, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    I would think the grain would effect how or what wedge you would use?

  16. Dave r

    Apr 3, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    I don’t know where this gentleman plays but my pro would be like are you nuts demo wedge. Here’s one for $150.00 it will work now run along can’t you see I’m busy . Never heard of a demo wedge or a place that has them for that fact . Oh I have some the ones I bought that didn’t do the job want some ? Thanks for the article but no thanks.

  17. Tee Lassar

    Apr 3, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    It’s not just about the bounce–there’s the issue of GRIND. If you look at, for example Vokey wedges there are T, C, P, L, R grinds which in combination with different lofts and bounce give a massive number of choices. Only trial and error on the range will help pick out the right ones. I suggest getting your gapping right, then select the wedges that work for the majority of lies and turf conditions you are likely to encounter, then take a short game course from Pelz et al and learn how to use your wedges properly

  18. Brian Terry

    Apr 3, 2019 at 11:43 am

    WOW! The guy simply tells the truth and everybody piles on cause they didn’t hear what they expected. What he’s saying is the wedges YOU NEED will vary from course to course and sometimes from hole to hole. What does this mean???? You need to learn how to hit the right shots when you don’t have the ideal wedge. Sure, get the wedges that suit your typical swing and course, but practice in those areas that aren’t typical so you have experience to overcome NON-typical situations.

    BT

  19. Jack Wullkotte

    Apr 3, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Sorry, but this article is nothing but a bunch of double talk. Time and again, I have seen the touring pros skull shots, shank them, chili dip them and even whiff them. They very seldom show these shots on “the shot of the day.” How do you determine the amount of bounce you need to prevent skulling the ball? Duh.

  20. Mark

    Apr 3, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Mr. Koehler, after reading your opening statement, and I quote “Based on my 25+ years as a wedge designer and marketer”, I thought here is an article which will add to my knowledge of wedges and bounce angles. Sadly, it did not. At all.

  21. Alex

    Apr 2, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    Or maybe vary bounce per wedge…fluffy sand but also like to slide under it on chips go 56/14 and a 60/04 or 06 or 54/14 58/04 or something. Bounce doesn’t seem to be a full shot issue, but a partial shot or bunker issue. Maybe you are a 52 58 guy that uses your 58 for everything bunkers and chipping then go 8 bounce with a versatile grind that allows you some bounce in sand but not so much or versatile enough to slide under it. You really just gotta step up and hit the shot and rule of thumb bounce helps in the bunker unless the bunkers are rock hard then chip it out anyway and low bounce helps a lot on hitting the nipper with tons of spin. Personally think the worst is having a shot that calls for a ton of spin where you are short sided or need to really clip it and you stare down and find out you are holding a shovel and you know you are most likely gonna skull it cause the leading edge is 1/4 of the way up the ball.

    • Alex Fong

      Apr 4, 2019 at 3:00 am

      Bravo! Best answer of the bunch. This is what I do as well. One sand and one lob wedge will never be perfect for every situation, but if they are different in bounce and sole width, they can handle a wider variety of lies than if they are very similar. And in addition to their aspects on paper, the bounce of each wedge can varied by opening and closing the face. This expert could have taught us something by saying this and explaining how to handle his mixed-demand lies with the players differing angles of attacks. He could have also explained the difference uses/effects of wide vs. narrow sole as they are mixed with high bounce vs. low bounce. He gave us problems but gave us no guidance to think through the situation so each player could and pick the best tool for the job for them. Just suggested that we do what we’re already doing, experiment.

  22. Larry

    Apr 2, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    I had to check the date on this article because it reads like an April fools joke. So, to sum-up the only way to know what wedge works the best is to try it on the course. That’s brilliant!

    • Rick

      Apr 3, 2019 at 2:08 am

      I was thinking the same…lol. Also the courses I usually play dont have a pro,they have “the guy at the desk”. This article is worthless.

    • A. Commoner

      Apr 16, 2019 at 2:24 pm

      This article will be followed by “The Sun Rises in the East and Other Useful Information.”

  23. Richard

    Apr 2, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    I have a steep angle of attack. This is why, even as a single-digit handicap, I played Ping G series clubs instead of the I series.

    When I switched to single-length clubs more than 2 years ago, I went to Wishon Sterlings. Loved them–and still game them without ever looking back at the Pings I left behind. But I really struggled with the gap wedge. I kept sweeping the club under the ball and popping it up. Then I looked over the specs and found that the bounce angle in the Sterling GW was 4 degrees shallower than in the Ping. No wonder! In fact, this was true throughout the set.

    I still play with the same angle of attack, but I have the ball slightly further back in my stance. (Easy to do since it is the same with every iron!) I’m trapping it more, which actually increased both distance and spin, which I like. I don’t know if I could even return to a higher-bounce set, especially in the wedges.

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On Spec: Interview with GOLFTEC VP of Instruction Nick Clearwater

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In this episode of On Spec brought to you by Golf Pride Grips, Ryan talks with GOLFTEC’s Vice President of Instruction Nick Clearwater about his history with golf, teaching, and how he and his team at GolfTec help golfers play better.

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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From the GolfWRX Vault: The day I met Ben Hogan

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In addition to continuing to look forward to new content that will serve and engage our readership, we also want to showcase standout pieces that remain relevant from years past. In particular, articles with a club building or instruction focus continue to deliver value and convey useful information well after their publish dates.

We want to make sure that once an article falls off the front page as new content is covered it isn’t relegated to the back pages of our website.

We hope that you’ll appreciate and find value in this effort.

Industry veteran (and one heckuva writer) Tom Stites, who served as the Director of Product Development at Nike’s Oven, tells the story of how he landed a job as an engineer at the Ben Hogan Company and what his first meeting with Mr. Hogan was like.

Get a taste for Stites’ excellent piece from 2015 below.

Getting near my boy was the real reason I wanted to get to Texas, but the golf was a sweet attraction, too. With a perfect touch and timing, the Good Lord prompted the Hogan Company to advertise for a new product development engineer. On just the right day, I was changing flights at DFW and bought a copy of the Fort Worth paper. In the want ads I saw something like, ”Ben Hogan will pay you cash money to engineer and work on golf clubs.” So I applied.

My product development experience at Kohler got me the interview, but the Good Lord got me the job. It was truly a real miracle, because in 1986 I knew zero about club design and manufacturing. I was quickly made the boss of the model shop, and was to manage the master club maker Gene Sheeley and his incredible team of long-time club artisans.

Me as their boss? That was a joke.

I knew a few things about physics at that time, but these guys were the real deal in club design. I knew immediately that I was in over my head, so I went to Gene and professed my ignorance. I pleaded with him to teach me how to do the job right. At that, I guess he considered me harmless and over the next number of years he became my Yoda. His voice was even a bit like Yoda.

Read the full piece here.

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Why do Tour players prefer fades over draws from the tee box?

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There is a growing trend on the PGA Tour and other professional golf tours where some of the game’s best players favor a fade from the tee box. Amateur golfers often struggle with golf shots that slice away from their target. These shots can lead them out of play and have them eagerly chasing a more neutral or drawing shot shapes. Additionally, a large fraction of low handicap and professional golfers play a golf shot that draws repeatedly onto their target. These thoughts can leave you wondering why anyone would choose to play a fade rather than a draw with their driver.

The debate over whether players should fade or draw their golf shots has been intensely lobbied on either side. While this is highly player specific, each particular shot shape comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. In order to discuss why elite golfers are choosing to play a fade and why you might as well, we must first explore how each shot shape is created and the unintended effects within each delivery combination. This article explores the ideas that lead some of the most outstanding players in the world to choose a fade as their go-to shot shape for their driver.

Before examining what makes each shot unique, golfers should be familiar with some common club fitting and golf swing terminology. Club path, clubface angle, impact location, spin-axis or axis tilt, and spin loft are all detailed below.

The curvature of a golf ball through the air is dependent on the backspin and sidespin of each shot. These spin rates are directly linked with each players golf swing and delivery characteristics. During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation. The relationship between the golf club face and the path of that club will determine much of how the golf ball will travel. A golf clubface that is closed to a club path will result in golf shots that either draw or hook. A clubface more open to the club’s path with create a shot that fades or slices. It is important that face angle measurements are taken in reference to the club path as terms like “out-to-in” or “in-to-out” can results in either of these two curvatures depending on face angle and impact location measurements.

Impact location should not be overlooked during this exchange and is a vital component of creating predictable golf shots that find the fairway and reach their maximum distances. As strikes move across the clubface of a driver gear effect begins to influence how the golf ball travels. In its simplest form, gear effect will help turn the golf ball back to the center of the golf club head. Impact locations in the heel will curve towards the middle and lead to golf shots with a more pronounced fading shape. Toe strikes lead to the opposite reaction and produce more draw or hook spin. Striking a golf ball from the upper half of the driver clubface produce higher launches and less spin, while strikes from the bottom create lower launches with higher backspin rates.

Spin-axis tilt or simply axis tilt is a result of the amalgamation of face angle, club path and strike locations. A golf shot will curve in the direction that its axis tilts during flight. Golfers familiar with launch monitors like Trackman and GCQuad, can reference axis tilt and spin-axis tilt measures for this measurement. Shots that curve to the left will have a leftward tilted axis, and shots to the right a rightward axis tilt. Golf shots tilting to the left and to the right are given names depending on which hand is dominant for that golfer. A draw or hook is a golf shot that curves in the air away from the golfers dominate hand. Right-handed players will see a golf ball hit with a draw spin from right to left in the air. Left-handed golfers see their draw shots spin from left to right. Fades and slices have the opposite shapes.

Spin loft is another critical component of creating and maintaining the flight of a golf ball. In concert with the spin-axis tilt of the golf ball, the spin loft influences the amount of backspin a golf ball possesses and will determine much of how stable that golf ball’s flight becomes. Golf shots hit with more backspin curve less violently than golf shots hit with too little spin especially in the wind. Spin loft is exemplified as golfers find themselves much more accurate with their wedges than their driver. More spin equals more stability, and this leads us to why professional players opt for their fade.

Modern drivers can be built to maximize the performance of each golfer on their best swings, but what about their misses? Golfers often lose confidence standing over their golf shots if they see the ball overdrawing or hooking too often. Overdraws and hooks create golf ball flight conditions that are unpredictable and lead to directional and distance detriments that can cause dropped shots and penalties. Because of this, elite right-handed players do not often like to see the golf ball going left from the tee box. By reducing their chances of hitting hooking tee shots, golfers often feel more freedom to swing the golf club freely and make smooth, powerful motions. This is never more evident than when watching Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson hit their drivers. While both players hit the golf ball both ways, their go-to shot from the tee is a left-to-right curving fade.

But wait, doesn’t a draw go further than a fade? While it is not inevitable that a draw will fly further or roll out more than a fade, the clubface and club path conditions needed at impact to produce each shape often lead to differences in spin rates and launch angles that affect distance. Less dynamic loft created by a closed clubface can lead to lower launch, less spin, and more distance. The drawback of these conditions is the reduced spin loft and decreased stability. So how much distance is worth losing to find more fairways? As we continue to see some of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour win tournaments and major championships distance is the premium.

Luckily, modern drivers and club fitting techniques have given players a perfect blend of distance and accuracy. By manipulating the center of gravity of each driver, golfers can create longer shots from their best strikes without giving up protection from their mishits. Pushing the weights more near the clubface of drivers has given players the ability to present more loft at impact without increasing backspin. The ability to swing freely and know that if you miss your intended strike pattern your shot will lose distance but not end up in the most dangerous hazards have given players better, more repeatable results.

While it can be advantageous for casual golfers and weekend players to chase as many yards as possible, players that routinely hit the golf ball beyond 300 yards can afford their misses to fall back if they will remain in play and give them a chance to find the green in two shots. More stability when things do not go as planned thanks to increased spin lofts and less violent curvature has allowed elite level golfers to perform consistently even under the most demanding situations and it is why we continue to see a growing number of players favor a fade from their tee shots.

 

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