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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, SCOR, or his leadership of the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2014. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to slightly raise the CG and improve wedge performance. He has just announced the formation of Edison Golf Company and the new Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf, which can be seen at www.EdisonWedges.com. 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.

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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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact

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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.

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“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%.

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