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Gear Junkie 101: An introduction to wedge bounce and grinds

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Since I designed my first line of wedges in the late 1980s, I can confidently say that I have interacted with close to a hundred thousand golfers–whether through countless phone calls, to the thousands of golfers I’ve engaged personally, to the online wedge-fitting platforms I have created, to the near-decade of writing my blog as “The Wedge Guy.”

Through all those engagements with golfers of all skill levels, the most frequent topic of conversation, confusion, and exasperation has to be the subject of bounce and grinds on wedges. And it’s no wonder, with the mind-boggling array of bounce/grind/loft combinations offered by the major and minor brands who engage in the wedge category.

I was honored that GolfWRX turned to me to write the first article in their sure-to-be-a-hit series called “Gear Junkie 101.” My goal with this examination of bounce and grinds is to help you develop a complete, and maybe slightly different understanding, of just how the sole of your wedges works and how to tackle the difficult process of finding what specific sole design will work best for you on a day in and day out basis.

What is bounce?

So, let’s start with a basic definition of “bounce.” Very simply, bounce is the downward angle of the sole of a wedge (or any golf club actually) from the leading edge to the trailing edge, measured in degrees from the pure horizontal plane (i.e. the turf). Typically, the bounce angle as it applies to wedges ranges from mid-single digits (5-8 degrees) to the mid-teens (12-15 degrees). It should make sense that the higher the degree of bounce, the more the sole of the club will tend to be “rejected” by the turf.

That’s pretty straightforward, but the subject is anything but that simple.

The “effective bounce” of a wedge is a function of both that measured bounce angle and the width of the sole. For example, a narrow sole with 12 degrees of bounce might perform almost the same as a wider sole with 8 degrees of bounce. In today’s marketplace, there are narrow sole wedges with bounce angles as high as 30-40 degrees, while the early lob wedges had very wide soles and claimed bounce angles of almost zero (they really were not that, of course). Since you are always making some degree of a descending blow to the golf ball, a negative bounce wedge would be more of a shovel than a wedge. Oh, and if part of the sole has a “negative bounce,” where the sole’s surface slants back upwards from the plane of the turf, then that part of the sole is going to have a very minimal effect on turf interaction.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, this image from golfguideforbeginners.com is certainly helpful.

What are wedge grinds?

Now we can add to this expanding high/low bounce equation the myriad of various “grinds” available to golfers by the numerous companies engaged in the manufacture and marketing of wedges. From the custom world, the options are practically endless, and it appears most of them stem from detailed work with specific tour professionals (more on that later). Some like a sharper leading edge, while others want it more rounded. Some like a pretty straight leading edge, while others prefer some curvature from heel to toe. The options are practically endless when you are standing next to the guy on the wheel actually doing the grinding.

They also talk about “toe relief”, “heel relief” and a nearly whole alphabet of specific grinds – ‘C’, ‘K’, etc. But all these are proprietary references by the manufacturers, and there are no set of “standards” as to what each grind really is. That makes it tough on golfers to figure out what will serve you best. The market leader alone offers at least six different “stock” grinds, and other brands have their own countless variations as well. So how do you make sense of all that and choose the sole design that will serve you best?

I will share that, in my experience, only the very best golfers can really tell the difference between grinds and sole designs that differ only slightly from one another. Because tour players spend thousands of hours honing their wedge skills, they can feel things that are barely measurable. And, of course, the major brands bend over backwards to accommodate their staff professionals. These guys and ladies can fully appreciate the subtle nuances of one wedge to another that might look identical to an untrained eye. A one- or two-degree difference in bounce, or a sole width that is only 50 thousandths of an inch wider or narrower can make a difference to these elite players. But then, they get to test and try wedges provided to them for free, so they can experiment all they want, can’t they?

Leading edge, trailing edge, and heel grinds on Tiger Woods’ 56-degree TaylorMade MG2 wedge.

It has been my observation that even the very best recreational golfers typically do not approach this acute level of skill, but I have seen some that can detect differences that would escape notice of even active recreational golfers of more “average” skills.

I’ll get a bit skeptical here in saying that I have long challenged the notion that bounce can be accurately “fitted” through a simple examination of your swing path and/or the turf. My difficulty with that premise stems from those extensive golfer engagements wherein the vast majority of golfers–regardless of handicap–revealed to me that both turf conditions and their swing path are constantly changing. Hmmmm. Then how could you possibly “fit” either variable? That would be like trying to buy a pair of shoes if your feet were different sizes every day, wouldn’t it?

But you have to start somewhere to sort through the wilderness of bounce angles and grinds, so, let me offer you my advice and see if that can’t help you through the process.

First of all, I believe that the potentially negative effect of the “wrong” bounce is much less on full swing shots than it is on the short delicate shots around the greens–clubhead speed can make up for a lot. Unless the bounce angle of the wedge is just a terrible match to your most common full swing path, I think “close is good enough” in this aspect. In general, however, I think if you play the usually lush turf of the northern U.S., you will benefit from a more aggressive bounce and/or wider sole than if you play the typically tighter turf of the south and southwest.

Please understand that is a generalization, however.

Secondly, I do not believe you can fit bounce off of artificial turf, as even the best mats do not really imitate the real thing, where you will encounter different grasses, grain against and/or with your shot direction, etc. There is simply no substitute for trying different bounce options on the course itself, hitting shots you face regularly from the variety of turf conditions you encounter on a round-in, round-out basis. If you are serious about trying to get the right wedge, you simply have to hit a wide variety of shots with it (or one like it) to see how it performs under all conditions and shot types.

So, if you were looking for a shortcut, I just do not have one. In my opinion, to accurately evaluate any of the various bounce angles and grinds in search of the best wedges for YOU, you must take them to your course and hit the shots you hit regularly to see how they react to YOUR technique and conditions. In this wedge trial and testing process, put most of your focus on your bunker shots and a variety of short shots around the greens. Dollars to donuts says that this process will allow you to find one or two bounce/grind combinations that separate themselves from the pack as best FOR YOU.

Hey, this is golf, and if it was easy, everyone would do it, right?

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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.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. William King

    Aug 19, 2019 at 7:02 am

    First, turf and ground conditions alter and for many players who do not travel, this won’t matter that much. But even for those who do come across great variations in club/turf interaction, it may be better to stick with what you know and are confident with than to change to a club that may theoretically be better for the new conditions.

    Secondly, the differences in sand are enormous from course to course, and from dry to wet. That may well make it a good idea to have two or more sand wedges with different bounces.

  2. Harald

    Aug 19, 2019 at 6:50 am

    Very interesting and clearly stated information. But the expression is either ” guys and dolls ” (and long may Damon Runyon’s memory live), or “ladies and gentlemen”

    Keep swinging

  3. Mark Leonard

    Aug 15, 2019 at 1:38 am

    You mention “…you will benefit from a more aggressive bounce and/or wider sole than if you play the typically tighter ….”. Can you please explain what is meant by “aggressive” in this context?

    • Jack

      Aug 15, 2019 at 3:23 am

      Aggressive is high bounce. Cuz if you have a lot of bounce on a tight lie it would be hard to use the bounce without frequent thin bullets across the green. That’s my understanding.

      It is confusing to name it that way. Just think high bounce and low bounce. And also effective bounce by how you deliver your chip shots.

  4. Mel B Inglima

    Aug 14, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    The explanation of the bounce with its picture was helpful. The sole gets “rejected” by the turf. However, the grind discussion, without any picture was less clear.(Tiger’s club picture didn’t fully describe what was going on – I had to use my often wrong imagination!) I’m left to assume that unless I’m a plus handicap golfer or professional, just don’t worry about it! Correct?

    As to trying different wedges on the course – whether the actual club you might buy or ones very similar – how do you accomplish this? I’ve found that equipment stores just do NOT want to lend out wedges. Pro shops may from time to time but they have far fewer choices.

    So, help! How do I really try out several wedges before buying? I’m not happy with my current wedges but very unsure about buying new ones without significant testing. (I’m a single digit)

    Thanks,

  5. Stacey Uchtman

    Aug 14, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Do you think a player will “learn” a specific swing based on the wedges they carry? Meaning in the first wedges they carry, do you think they will adjust and learn to play them and eventually be comfortable with that particular bounce/grind making it difficult to move to another combination? Mainly around the greens and less on full shots.

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Equipment

New Fujikura Ventus Red and Fujikura Ventus Black shafts officially launched

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Fujikura Ventus Red, Fujikura Ventus Black

Fujikura has been on a roll in 2019 with the Ventus shaft series, including multiple wins on the PGA Tour. What started off as one shaft is now officially three profiles with the introduction on the Ventus Red and the Ventus Black shafts.

We speculated on these when they first arrived on tour for testing (WRX SPOTTED: Fujikura Ventus Black, WRX SPOTTED: Fujikura Ventus Red), and now we have all the official details.

fujikura ventus red, fujikura ventus black

Top to bottom: Fujikura Ventus Red, Fujikura Ventus Blue, Fujikura Ventus Black

Fujukira Ventus Red, Fujikura Ventus Black details

Just like with the original Blue, the new Ventus Red and Ventus Black profiles are designed to help tighten shot dispersion and maximize ball speed off the driver and fairway woods–especially on off-center shots. What makes the Ventus line unique is Fujikura’s VeloCore Technology, which was developed to boost the clubhead’s performance by maximizing energy transfer combined with an accelerated taper design that enhances the loading of the shaft and players feel.

“Like with ATMOS Tour Spec, we expanded the line of Ventus to provide players and fitters with three different profile options to really fine tune their performance numbers. As we know one size does not fit all with clothing or golf shafts, so we wanted to offer more than just one profile of Ventus. These days, players are looking to hit ultra-precise spin and launch numbers, sometimes within 100 rpm of their target. Having multiple profiles allows us to accomplish this.” Pat McCoy Director of Tour Operations.

The Ventus line extension is a direct result of tour players looking for the same stability and accuracy that they’ve experienced with Ventus Blue but in a launch/spin profile they require based on their swing characteristics. The Ventus Red is designed to achieve slightly higher launch and spin than the current profile of Ventus Blue—which can be both helpful in the driver and fairway woods.

On the other hand, the Ventus Black is an extremely stout profile designed for more aggressive players with a stiffer profile in the butt section and especially in the tip section compared to the original Ventus Blue profile. The color-coded shafts line up to similar launch characteristics of other Fujikura products including the Atmos line:

  • Ventus Red provides golfers with a mid-high launch option with mid-spin for more carry distance
  • Ventus Blue (Original) delivers a mid-launch with low spin
  • Ventus Black produces a low launch with low spin for golfers who need a more penetrating ball flight

Fujikura Ventus: What the manufacturer says

“Ventus has an entirely new and proprietary multi-material bias core construction that delivers ultimate stability through transition and impact called VeloCore. The multi-material core is comprised of ultra- high modulus Pitch 70 Ton Carbon Fiber and 40 Ton bias layers that are the full length of the shaft for incredible stability. In addition to VeloCore Technology, Ventus is engineered with an ultra-stiff tip section – to reduce twist and lower spin – and an accelerated taper butt section maximizes energy transfer through the swing – enhancing feel and shaft loading. The result is an extremely stable, high-performance shaft designed to empower your driver or fairway wood.”

The Ventus line is available in a wide variety of weights in flexes ranging from 57 grams to 86 grams and R2 up to X flex. The shafts retail for $350 MSRP and are available exclusively at authorized Fujikura Charter Dealers starting September 3,2019. 

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Forum Thread of the Day: “Scotty Cameron Albertsons Boise Open putter covers”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day showcases Scotty Cameron’s Albertsons Boise Open putter covers. The vibrant french fries themed covers have been receiving plenty of love from our members in our forums, with one WRXer calling the new additions their “favorite headcover in a long time.”

Here are a few posts from the thread but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say on the covers at the link below.

  • jschwarb: “Gave up french fries many months ago … this cover makes me happy and sad. I’ll probably grab one for my T22 Fastback.”
  • manVSgolf: “This is my favorite headcover in a long time. Can’t wait to receive mine. Orders are still available for Club Cameron members.”
  • chrisokeefe12: “Those are so sick would love to get my hands on one of those.”

Entire Thread: “Scotty Cameron Albertsons Boise Open putter covers”

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Top 10 most iconic driver and fairway wood shafts of all time

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fujikura golf shaft

If there is one thing we love as golf gear junkies, it’s driver (and fairway wood) shafts!

From the early years to today’s modern designs, materials, and profiles, there are some shafts that have maintained steady popularity—like a Ping Eye 2 lob wedge. There are a lot of graphite shafts that have stood the test of time, and they bring back memories of great driver combos gone by.

This is my top 10 list (in no particular order) of the most iconic driver shafts of all time.

Fujikura 757 Speeder

Fujikura golf shaft

Launched more than two decades ago, you could arguably say it’s the shaft that started the shaft craze. Built from advanced materials in a profile that was designed to work for stabilizing larger driver heads of the time—you know when 300cc was HUGE. The Speeder 757 was an instant hit among PGA Tour players, most notably Fred Couples, who used the shaft for over a decade and was said to have at one point remove all the remaining stock from one of the equipment vans for his personal use.

Aldila NV

Aldila NV Green golf shaft

One of the very first “low-spin monsters,” the Aldila NV took the PGA Tour and retail by storm when it was introduced. The unique green paint made it easily recognizable, and thanks to the many weights it was offered in, it was just as popular in fairway woods as it was in drivers. Honorable mention goes to its cousin the NVS (orange version) that was softer in profile and easier to launch. At a time when most off the rack drivers had three shaft options (low, medium, and high flight-promoting shafts), the NV was the staple as the low-launch option in many OEM offerings.

Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board

Diamana Blue Board - Tiger shaft

Originally very hard to find, the Diamana Blue Board was a shaft that fit a large variety of golfers. Its name was derived from the blue oval that surrounded the “Diamana” on the all silver/ion painted shaft. Just like others on the list, the Blue Board came in a variety of weight options and was made particularly popular by Tiger Woods. Best known by most shaft junkies as being extremely smooth, it is one of the first sought after shafts in the aftermarket.

True Temper EI-70

True temper graphite EI70

It’s hard to picture a classic 900 series Titleist Driver without an EI-70 shaft in it. The EI-70 was lower torque—when that was a big talking point in shaft design—and it had a fairly stout profile, which in turn made it very stable. Unlike others on the list, it was much more subdued as far as its paint and graphics, but the green shaft was a mainstay for many years on tour and in the bags or recreational golfers.

Graphite Design Tour AD DI-6/7

Tour AD Di7 Tiger orange shaft

It’s hard to figure out if it was the design and performance of the shaft or the performance of a certain golfer (a certain Mr. Woods) that to this day makes the Tour AD DI-7 so popular. Painted BRIGHT orange with a bend profile that offered a lot of stability and playability for a variety of player types, it can still be spotted on tour every week. You could call the DI-7 the grandchild of the YS6/7, which should also get an honorable mention for its well documented smooth feel.

UST ProForce

UST golf shaft gold graphite

The aptly nicknamed “Lakers Shaft” because of its original gold and purple paint job, this was another shaft that was just as popular at the retail level as it was on the PGA Tour. As driver head sizes were going up (400cc ), players were looking for stability and this offered it. The most notable player to use it was Jim Furyk, who won the 2003 U.S. Open with one in the bag.

Grafalloy Blue

Blue graphite shaft stenson

Henrik Stenson and the Grafalloy Blue in his 3-wood. Name a more iconic duo…(I’ll wait). An updated and stiffer version of the Prolite, the Blue stood out for a couple reasons—its color, and its extremely low torque. Most golfers wouldn’t consider the Blue a very smooth feeling shaft, because it took a lot of speed and a quick tempo to maximize its performance, but it did birth another shaft for average player: the Prolaunch Blue, which is still available to this day.

Matrix Ozik TP7HD

1000 golf shaft Matrix

$1,100 bucks! That was the original asking price for the Martix Ozik TP7HD. Matrix thought of this design as a concept car of shafts and threw everything they had at it including exotic materials like Zylon, and the fact that it was wrapped on a 16-sided hexadecagon mandrel. Some golfers said it had a fluid-like feel (we golfers can sure be weirdly descriptive) but it still had a LOT of stability thanks to the materials. Although never as popular as many on the list, if you did spot one of these in the wild you knew its owner was VERY serious about golf gear.

True Temper Bi-Matrix

bimatrix Bubba golf shaft

Bi (two) matrix (a surrounding medium or structure). The first and only truly notable shaft to be made from putting two very different and distinct pieces together. The bottom portion of the shaft utilizes a steel tip section that serves to add stability and additional weight. This shaft is quirky, which is something that could also be said about Bubba Watson, who has used this shaft for over a decade now in MANY different Ping drivers (although Tiger did give it a go for a short period).

Accra SE-80

ryan palmer accra 5 wood shaft

This shaft might seem like the underdog of the bunch, but if you talk to any longtime club builder and get into “vintage” aftermarket shafts, undoubtedly the Accra SE-80 is going to come up at some point. Originally launched in 2006, the SE-80 combined a very low torque rating with an active tip section to help increase launch—yet feel extremely stable. Even though this shaft design is officially a teenager now, you can still find it in the bag of PGA Tour winner Ryan Palmer, who uses it in a TaylorMade R15 5-wood.

 

Editor’s Note: Let us know any shafts you think should be included in the comment section, WRXers!

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