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”.
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.
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.
The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact
One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.
As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.
I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.
So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.
So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.
I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.
I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.
If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.
[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]
It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.
On Spec: Interview with Trevor Immelman, 2008 Masters champion
In this episode, host Ryan speaks with Trevor Immelman about his career, what it was like growing up around the game as a competitive amateur in South Africa, and what it’s like being a Masters champion.
Topics also include his experiences working with the design team at Nike Golf as well as his current “What’s in the Bag” which includes equipment from Titleist and the process he went through to get it dialed in.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
Golf Movie Madness: GolfWRXers vote “Caddyshack” the greatest golf movie ever
It’s official. “Caddyshack” is the undisputed best golf movie of all time according to GolfWRXers who voted in our Golf Movie Madness Bracket.
“Caddyshack” cruised to the final of our Golf Movie Madness Bracket, easily dismissing both “A Gentleman’s Game” and “Happy Gilmore” before facing off against “Tin Cup” in the championship match.
The saga of Danny Noonan and the goings-on at Bushwood Country Club was handed a stern test in the final in the form “Tin Cup”. But even Roy McAvoy’s dramatic U.S. Open bid couldn’t stop the juggernaut that is “Caddyshack” – with WRXers voting in favor of the 1980 classic by a margin of 62% to 38%.
GolfWRX members choice for greatest golf movie: Caddyshack
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