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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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Opinion & Analysis

Autumn golf is the best golf

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For many, golf euphoria occurs the second weekend of April when the flowers start to bloom, courses begin to open, and the biggest tournament of the year is on television. But I believe the absolute best season for golf is the fall.

Let me explain.

SPRING

Spring is the season of hope and rebirth, and for most golfers, it’s the first opportunity to break out new clubs or take the game you’ve been working on all winter to the course for the first time in many months. Depending on where you are in North America or around the world, golf courses are just opening up and the ground is drying out from a winter filled with snow and ice.

Yes, spring is fantastic, you can shrug off the occasional mud ball since it’s probably your first round in four months and you’re willing to cut “the super” some slack for the slow greens, because you’re just happy to be out on terra firma chasing around a little white ball. Your game is rusty. Courses aren’t quite there yet, but it’s golf outside, and you couldn’t be happier.

SUMMER

The dog days. This time of year is when golf courses are the most busy thanks to the beautiful weather. But high temperatures and humidity can be a real deal-breaker, especially for walkers—throw in the weekly possibility for afternoon “out of the blue” thunderstorms, and now you’re sweating and drenched.

Unless you are a diehard and prefer the dew-sweeping pre-7 a.m. tee time when the sun breaks on the horizon, rounds tend to get longer in the summer as courses get busier. And you’ll often find more corporate outings and casual fairweather golfers out for an afternoon of fun—not a bad thing for the game, but not great for pace of play. Summer makes for fantastic course conditions, and with the sun not setting until after 9 p.m. for almost two months, the after-dinner 9 holes are a treat and you take them while you can.

FALL

As much I love nine holes after dinner with eight clubs in a Sunday bag and a few adult beverages in June, nothing compares to the perfect fall day for golf.

The sun’s orbit, paired with Mother Nature, allows you to stay in your warm bed just that little extra, since you can’t play golf when it’s still dark at 6:30 a.m. The warm, but not too warm, temperatures allow you to pull out your favorite classic cotton golf shirts without fear of the uncomfortable sweaty pits. We can’t forget that it’s also the season for every golfer’s favorite piece of apparel: the quarter zip  (#1/4zipSZN).

Courses in the fall are often in the best shape (or at least they should be), since player traffic and corporate tournaments are done for the season. As long as warm afternoons are still the norm, firm and fast conditions can be expected.

Last but not least, the colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—frame the green fairways and dark sand to make them pop in the landscape. Fall is the final chance to get in those last few rounds and create happy thoughts and mental images before the clubs go away for the inevitably cold, dark days of winter.

Fall is meant for golf! So take pictures, smell the smells, and make great swings, because golf season is quickly coming to a close, and now is the time to savor each moment on the course.

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On Spec: Interview with gear junkie & club designer Weston Maughan

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Ryan hosts gear junkie and club designer Weston Maughan on the show, to talk about club building, designing, and what it was like to be on Wilson Golf’s Driver vs. Driver. We also get into testing clubs, tools, and what it’s like to play at altitude.

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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Opinion & Analysis

Breaking down The Challenge: Japan Skins—pros and cons for each player

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For the first time in over a decade, the PGA Tour will have a skins game event on its calendar, with Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, and Rory McIlroy participating in “The Challenge: Japan Skins.” With the abundance of star power in their foursome, here’s a quick look at why each of them may or may not walk away with the most skins at the end of their round.

Tiger Woods

PROS: The skins game system and exhibition match atmosphere will be a new experience for his competitors, but Woods has played in these types of events before. The excitement and pageantry from the event will be a familiar setting for him, and he may have an intimidation factor in his favor. The reigning Masters champion still can catch fire during a round, as well. For the 2018-19 PGA Tour season, his five-hole streak of scoring birdie or better during a single round was the longest such stretch among his fellow skins game participants. If he creates a similar streak on Monday, it may result in a profitable day on the course.

CONS: Tiger hasn’t played a competitive round in over two months, with his last start coming at the BMW Championship in mid-August. The competitive juices may take a while to get going, and coupled with his recent knee surgery, the rust on his game may be on full display.

Jason Day

PROS: With the skins game format rewarding aggressive play, Day will look to capitalize with his par-breaking ability. During the 2018-19 season, he made birdie or better on 22.9% of the holes he played. Additionally, he seems to like this time of the year; over the past couple of seasons, the Aussie has played very well in the month of October on the PGA Tour. In 2017 and 2018, his worst finish on the Asian swing of the schedule was T-11. He continued his good play in Asia with a T31 finish at The CJ Cup in South Korea this week.

CONS: While he a solid season on tour, it wasn’t to the same standard Day normally displays. He missed five cuts, the most times he missed weekend play since 2010. Prior to The CJ Cup, he missed the cut in two of his past four PGA Tour starts.

Hideki Matsuyama

PROS: Playing in his native Japan, Matsuyama looks to continue his great success in his home country. While he has enjoyed international success, he’s even better at home, with eight of his 14 professional wins coming in Japan. Additionally, Matsuyama can fill the scorecard with red numbers with the best of them. The Japanese star was third-best on the PGA Tour in total birdies during the 2018-19 campaign. His birdie barrages helped him finish tied-fifth for most sub-par rounds for the most recent season. Spurred on by his countrymen, the golfer representing the host nation will look to put on a show, and he has the firepower to do so.

CONS: The support of the crowd in Japan may be a double-edged sword, and the pressure to perform well may throw Matsuyama off his game. If the skins come to a putting contest, he will have the biggest challenge of all the competitors. His strokes-gained-putting statistic was the worst of all four competitors for the previous PGA Tour campaign.

Rory McIlroy

PROS: The reigning PGA Player of the Year may be the favorite on Monday. He played well throughout the season, with wins scattered throughout the calendar. His most recent play was hot, as he finished the campaign with a win at the Tour Championship. Among the leaders in nearly all the scoring categories, his competitors will have to be on top of their game to win skins from the Northern Irishman. McIlroy was the best on Tour in scoring average, helped by his making birdie or better on nearly 26% of all holes he played. His scoring average was even lower during later tee times, and with the finish to be set under floodlights, the bulk of the competition will occur during McIlroy’s favorite time of day.

CONS: Like Woods, this event will be McIlroy’s first since August. Not having played in nearly two months, coupled with this event being his first foray in an exhibition skins match, may be a disadvantage.

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