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Opinion & Analysis

A lob wedge is the most dangerous club in your bag—and not in a good way

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For professional golfers, a 60-degree lob wedge around the green could be classified as a surgical scalpel. Many pros—most notably Phil Mickelson—have built their reputations on the ability to hit miraculous recovery shots with these higher-lofted clubs. Phil has even gone as far as carrying a 64-degree wedge for extreme situations where it might come in handy.

For regular golfers though, higher-lofted wedges can end up being anything but scalpel-like, unless you plan on using one to shred your scorecard after the round. Higher lofted wedges can become a massive liability because of their limited margin for error and the speed at which they are swung. This is also why we see so many people trying to innovate in the wedge market—small changes for regular golfers can make a noticeable difference.

The benefits and dangers of the lob wedge

Being able to effectively use a lob wedge can save a lot of shots around the green, especially when faced with a short-sided up and down or a difficult buried lie, but the hardest part of an open-faced lob wedge shot is repeatability. It’s why you can feel like a hero on one hole, and a complete failure on the next—because the ball ended up exactly where it started…or it ends up on the other side of the green…

We’ve all done it!

Professionals at the highest level have the benefit of hitting these shots countless times in practice over and over, not just at their home course but week to week in varying conditions on different grass types. Most golfers don’t have this luxury, and without practice or understanding the dynamics of hitting the shot properly, the failure rate goes up quickly. This is why reasonable expectations, good decision making, and simple technique changes can make a big difference.

The WHY?

Wedges with 60 degrees of loft (and even 56 in some cases) look easy to hit since they have large faces which in turn equals greater surface area to make contact but face area versus effective face area to make contact are two completely different things.

Compared to a club with less loft, the most extreme being a driver, there is a smaller effective area to make contact and transfer energy to the ball, and beyond the transfer of energy, any club that has an effective loft of more than 50 degrees at impact will be more difficult to control in less than perfect conditions since the coefficient of friction decreases. That means you have less control over launch parameters including spin, which on short shots is one of the biggest components to stop the ball close to the intended target.

Solutions to your wedge problem

This one is the most obvious, but it’s also the least exciting: practice. By dedicating valuable practice time to the short game, you can quickly see improvements. Practice helps ingrain “feels” in your technique and also helps build up the knowledge to analyze ground conditions and lies to know which club to hit and how to play the shot.

The second option is a new wedge—come on, who doesn’t want a new wedge? Whether it be based on loft, bounce, or sole configuration, getting set up with the right tools can make a world of difference, especially if what you are using now is ill-fit to your game. If you really struggle with the short shots around the green and are willing to admit that practice isn’t an option, I highly recommend trying a specialty club designed to make the game easier. I know it’s not the “sexy” option but something like the Cutter CTR1 wedge: Cutter wedge -here to help,  or a Square Strike wedge for chipping can make golf fun and easier.

Learning to hit different shots, and making simple changes to how you approach the hole can make a huge difference very quickly to your game. This can involve choosing to hit more low running square faced shots with lower lofted-clubs like a 9 or 8-iron, or if you are still trying to be as aggressive as possible, learning to hit delofted shots with your higher lofted wedges which can also help create more spin. If possible, taking a short game lesson with a teacher can be truly game-changing with a few simple technique adjustments.

Understanding where you loose shots can help you save them

Last but not least, managing expectations can help take the pressure off when hitting shots around the green and help you make better decisions, leading to lower scores. Instead of trying to hit a “hero” flop shot over a bunker from a bad lie, aim for a larger part of the green and give yourself a better opportunity make your next shot—again not a magic cure, but if you do this a few more times in a round of golf, you can turn those wedges into weapons—and not weapons of self-destruction.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. christian

    Aug 1, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    Hitting a lob wedge doesn’t need to be some big mysterious event. It’s the same as the rest of the irons in you bag. Keep your hands ahead of the ball at impact and you can hit a lob wedge just as effectively as a 4 iron. I don’t care if you’re hitting a one hop and stop pitch or a high soft lob, keep your shaft leaning forward and hands ahead of the ball at impact and you’ll hit 90% of them just fine. Everyone gets freaked out about 60 degree wedges for some reason and in the end, it’s just a club that needs a little practice to figure out…but then again, don’t all of your clubs need that.

  2. ChipNRun

    Jul 30, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    Two things to decide on LWs:
    * Can you hit a 60* reliably? If not, go with a 58*.
    * Whether it’s a 60* or 58*, you need to pull firmly through the shot with the left side. If not, you’ll come up short a lot on your LW.

    Once you resolve these two points, remember: a LW is not an all-occasions club. If you hit a lob into a green with a false front, don’t be surprised if the ball spins back to your feet. In this case, go to a chip and run if you’re going uphill slightly.

    I saw this happen several times from the U.S. women in the 2014 Curtis Cup. The U.S. would lob into the false front and die, or spin back, while the British/Irish women would roll a chip-and-run in close for an easy tap-in. (Fortunately, the US women were dropping iron-shot darts into the green from the fairway, and eventually won out.)

  3. Par-Tee-Animal

    Jul 29, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    Honestly, I think most of Ryan’s work is just product of boredom. This article is so lazily written that the only data he provides is a percentage of “sand saves” with no data on what kind of wedge was used during those attempted “saves”.

    Also on a similarly and ironic note, he includes a meme about skulling a sand wedge 170 yards from a bunker. What degree is a sand wedge again? Oh that’s right it’s between 54-57 degrees, so he’s basically invalidated his argument in one meme.

    How often are you going to open the face of a 60* lob wedge in a bunker or around the green? Hardly ever, want to know why? Because it has 60* of loft unlike the 56* everyone opens up and sweeps through the bunker with that has the added repercussion of higher bounce which leads to more skulled shots than a 60* with lower bounce.

    Now are lob wedges for everyone? Certainly not, there are guys like Lee Trevino who only carried a wedge as high as 54* and had a successful career. But for someone who want a little more confidence to land a nice soft shot onto the green over a bunker or even a water hazard they’re a nice tool to have. Why work on building a whole new swing for one shot when you can buy a club that effectively has the same mechanics?

    Ryan, I highly encourage you to rethink your Op-Ed articles as they’re basically non-educated opinions by someone who speed out articles that read like Buzzfeed headlines.

    I saw your latest post about club makers and gourmet chefs being similar, maybe it’s time for you to hang up the carry bag and take up cooking. At least that way everything is already measured out for you so you don’t have to try to use any critical thinking which you seem to lack.

  4. PATRICK CARROLL

    Jul 29, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    When i was a 25 handicap (maybe more that’s just a guess), I used a lob wedge often and ineffectively. Probably rarely at the right time. It probably didn’t help my score like using a 9 iron to bump and run would have. But it was fun.

    I’m officially a 12 handicap now. The big difference is I know the shots I CAN hit and know the shots I SHOULD hit. That combination means i spend most of my time using my 54* with great success. But, when I need to play a high, short, soft shot, I can do it with moderate success. Certainly much better than I could with an open faced 54 or lower.

    In short. Know the FEW shots and scenarios you NEED a LW and be diligent in using the club ONLY for those shots.

  5. Evan

    Jul 27, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    Why, when facing a short shot that needs to fly high and land softly, wouldn’t a LW be helpful, regardless of handicap- in fact probably more helpful to a less skilled player?

  6. JackCi

    Jul 27, 2020 at 8:15 am

    This is a dumb article. I use my 60* a lot and also any other club down to a 7 even around the green. The 60* is nothing short of s godsend around the green and one of the easiest clubs to hit. Whoever wrote this is a hack and should retire.

  7. BWeez

    Jul 25, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    A 60 degree wedge is useless and isn’t worthy of the slot in the bag, you’d be better off with a driving iron. My 56 degree is the most effective club in my bag and I use it in a million different situations. It is also the club I practice with the most. Anyone who puts anything above a 48 degree in their hand and hasn’t got serious reps with it is hoping to get lucky.

  8. Justin

    Jul 21, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    I think this article has some credence. I have a 60 degree wedge and used many different kinds of grinds and bounces in the past. It is in the grinds and bounces that I think can benefit each player the most. Once the player understands what is best utilized for them can the wedge be beneficial. I have though found lately I have gravitated to more my 56 and 52 on standard wedge shots and pitches and only using my 60 in specialty situations. It is quite a low bounce so it comes in handy on tight lies and firm bunkers. It has a decent amount of heal and toe relief. I am a low single digit handicap. Not sure if thats any relevance to the situation but I always used to just use a 60* form anywhere. Have found since I expanded the 56 and 52 it has allowed me greater control over being able to keep the flight down and get the ball running on the green faster.

  9. Bas

    Jul 20, 2020 at 5:13 am

    I’m a 38 handicap and have a 60 degree Cleveland CBX in the bag. It is incredibly easy to hit, more so than my SW and AW (Callaway Rogue). I just put the ball in the middle of my stance, weight 50/50 and swing through the ball nice and easy. Nothing fancy. Love it from the sand as well.

    Although at my level I have never even thought about ‘opening up’ a 60 degree wedge. Why on earth would you do that? Isn’t the point of a 60 degree that you don’t have to open up your 54 degree? i would think that 60 would be enough.

  10. nomad golfer

    Jul 20, 2020 at 12:01 am

    I use a Lovett chipper wedge for getting out of sand traps otherwise it just stays in the bag. My reliable short range club is a sand wedge which I don’t use in sand !.
    Yeah it’s a funny game.

  11. Jonas Henderson

    Jul 19, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Exactly what audience are you addressing here? A lob wedge is an entirely legitimate tool for many serious golfers. I bet among single digit hcp players, most would say it’s indispensable. Among mid-cappers, I bet a good proportion wield it with decent competence, especially, if they use it for standard chips and pitches, and not hero shots.

    I’d wager the 3w has destroyed more rounds than LWs ever have.

    • gwelfgulfer

      Jul 29, 2020 at 11:46 am

      I’d easily take that bet. The LW has far more potential use in a round than a 3wd does for the vast majority. More so if they aren’t hitting a good % of GIR’s and blindly grab the 60* for each and every situation.

  12. Simms

    Jul 19, 2020 at 10:26 am

    If you play public golf I find it a lot easier to find a place to practice 58 degree lob and chip shots then any other shot…almost no one in the public course arena has a 100 yard grass to a real green practice area and for most of us 75% of driving ranges are mats (almost a waste of time for short iron and fairway wood practice). So I keep a 58 in my bag because I have practiced with it till it works.

  13. Tom Duckworth

    Jul 19, 2020 at 10:15 am

    I think Phil made the idea of a lob wedge popular for many golfers and that has probably hurt their games. In many weekend golfers minds their idea of the short game is to hit a high shot that lands close to the hole and stops, no matter what the shot really calls for. I guess a low running chip isn’t as sexy as a high lob but I’ll take closer to the hole any day.

  14. Matt70

    Jul 18, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    I only carry 46° and then 54°. Keep it simple. +0.2 hcap

  15. Duane Martin

    Jul 18, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    I still carry my Ping Eye 2+ SW instead of lob wedge…..57.5 degrees, double bevel sole, 64.5 degrees of lie angle.
    Best “SW” ever made imo…. easy to flop, easy to hit 80 yards and easy to hit all green side bunker shots with.
    But like everyone else has said….. practice goes a long way towards perfection.

  16. Rascal

    Jul 18, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    I agree, don’t see the need to take up the bag spot when I can use the 3i instead.

  17. Mac

    Jul 18, 2020 at 3:43 am

    Technique is king!

    • gwelfgulfer

      Jul 19, 2020 at 2:34 pm

      Pretty well this. Golf is hard, even harder to play very well and the vast majority of players in the world have had little to no actual quality instruction, little to no practice (or practice poorly because of lack of knowledge) or actual drive/ability to get better.

  18. Dicklaus

    Jul 17, 2020 at 7:06 pm

    I’ve been a Cat 1 golfer for the best part of 50 years. The whole basis of the short game is to get the ball on the ground as soon as possible – unless you’re forced otherwise.
    I tried a LW once and realised it was an unreliable club – unless I was prepared to put in a lot of practice.
    It was also evident that a better strike, and the same result as a LW, was possible by opening up my 54 SI.
    In other words, the shot I’d learnt as a kid & used for decades.
    Different strokes for different folks!

  19. Dan

    Jul 17, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    I was a scratch when 95% of players didn’t carry a lob wedge, myself included. You practice enough you can hit anything.

  20. Richard Pym

    Jul 17, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    For me it’s all about course management a good player knows most of the time what type of shot to hit around the green. I think that the slightly higher handicappers sometimes try to hit the miracle Mickelson esq flops shots they have seen from TV rather than taking the easier shot for say bogey and walking away with 1 or 2 points rather than a blob.

  21. Bob Jones

    Jul 17, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    My 60-degree wedge is calibrated to certain distances for pitching and for chipping. I have practiced with it around the green and am familiar with what I can do with it and what I can’t. It’s a big stroke-saving club for me.

  22. joe

    Jul 17, 2020 at 3:35 pm

    My lob has much less bounce (BeCu 588 60*) than Sandy. I use it in hard packed sand or shots that need to get up and stop quickly.

  23. Jim Swyer

    Jul 17, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    I can see the point of view from which the article was written. I just think that it’s more to do with handicap/ball striking/practice/focus/nerves etc… All that said, I use 4 wedges. My 58 is a go to club in tough green side situations. Plus I use it inside 70yds for full shots.
    I get the idea that it’s a do or die club for some, but I don’t know if it’s bad for that many. With practice it can be a great get close to the pin club!!!

  24. KP

    Jul 17, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    I never thought I would see an endorsement for gimmicks like the Square Strike wedge on GolfWrx, a website that is supposedly geared towards serious golfers. I’m stunned.

  25. Acemandrake

    Jul 17, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    56 is easier to use than 58 or 60. It’s also more versatile.

    For me, there’s just less thought involved with the 56.

  26. David

    Jul 17, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    I could probably hit 75% of my 60 degree shots with my 56, but still would play it more often in a round than I would a 3 wood. For my set I have put a 60 in the bag, lowered the loft on my 5 wood, and dumped the 3 wood to stay at 14 clubs. Newer 60s seem to have better weight distribution and easier to hit than my older versions did but that’s just my opinion. I think it comes down to understanding your capability when picking your target landing area, but its doesn’t seem any harder to hit to me. I understand I’m not Phil.

  27. Sean Foster-Nolan

    Jul 17, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    I disagree. I have both a 58 and 62 degree. They are real stroke savers for me.

  28. DougE

    Jul 17, 2020 at 11:38 am

    I too have to disagree, with respect.

    I feel this article might be better published on a site where the majority of players are mid to higher handicappers. Not WRX. The article itself is not totally off base in the opinions presented, though it is quite condescending if you are lumping good players into the equation. You don’t get to be a single digit handicap without having good control of your wedges and a somewhat thorough understanding of the design and dynamics of wedges and swings, particularly short game swings.

    Personally, I could not play to the level I do without a good quality lob wedge. I use anything from a hybrid to a 58* around the greens, but 90% of the time, it is my 58. It is the most trusted short game club in my bag. Sure, I screw up with it, occasionally, just like everyone else does from time to time, but I’ll take the 90-95%, good to excellent shot, success rate I do have with it any day, over not having a LW in my bag at all. Yes, I admit, I practice and play a lot (virtually everyday), so I am very aware of how to handle it properly. But, I would also guess, that the majority of WRX readership would fall into my same category (4.8), or better. Most here are serious players of the game, not just casual golfers.

    A simple qualification in the beginning of the article suggesting that it is aimed more at mid to higher handicap level golfers, and then the article has plenty of merit. JMO.

  29. John B

    Jul 17, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Am 84 now – 30 years with my Ping 60 degree lob. Swing plane & speed very important. Don’t give up, just practice, practice!

  30. Brandon

    Jul 17, 2020 at 10:34 am

    I think the negative feedback misses the real point Ryan is trying to make. Perhaps Ryan should change the title to “A lob wedge CAN be the most dangerous club.” It seems like the real point of it is that the club can be dangerous when trying to replicate the shots tour pros make look easy. I like using my lob wedge as much as any of you, but I wouldn’t dream of trying anything more complicated than a simple pitch shot.

  31. Big_Church

    Jul 17, 2020 at 10:30 am

    I’m a 12 index and use a 60 all the time around the green, gets me out of trouble(which happens a lot) quite often. Disagree here.

  32. Obee

    Jul 17, 2020 at 10:19 am

    Define your audience first. The overwhelming majority of players below a 10-handicap can wield a LW just fine, and for many players 5 and under, it’s their go-to wedge around the green.

  33. Brian Parsons

    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:54 am

    I completely disagree with this. I’m a 7 index and I would be lost without my 60. Gets me out of trouble around the greens all the time. I use it almost exclusively on shorter sand shots its my go to club for a full 80-90 yard shot from the fairway. Love my 60.

    • Brandon

      Jul 17, 2020 at 11:40 am

      I agree with you completely. Sometimes I’ll chunk or blade my 60, but I do it with my 56 or my 52 as well. Definitely not going to buy an infomercial wedge just because I suck. I’d rather be a 7 with real clubs and be able to look at myself in the mirror than a 5 with clown clubs.

  34. SV677

    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:47 am

    I agree, lob wedges are a disaster waiting to happen. I pretty much only use one for full shots. Even then I avoid it as much as possible. I also do not open the clubface because the ball goes 45* left (lefty) every time. I think a max of 56* is enough unless one is very skilled. Find the safe spot on the green and hope for a long putt and avoid disaster.

  35. Alexander Thompson

    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:39 am

    I disagree with this idea. I think more golfers should utilize a lob wedge. It’s not necessarily about technique of hitting the ball. It’s about knowing how to set up to the shot correctly. Feet position, hand position, and ball position are the keys to hitting a lob wedge. These don’t require much practice since they are set up related. Promoting gimmicky clubs to make the game easier is a set up for failure when the solution is rather simple and allows people to have a better understanding of what the club should be doing at impact with the ball.

  36. Skip

    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:32 am

    Dumb article to assume nobody is good enough to use a lob wedge.

  37. brian

    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:27 am

    I stopped playing with anything higher lofted than a 56 degree. I can open the face and hit flops every bit as easily with a 56 and it has more utility, for me, than a 60.

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Opinion & Analysis

So you wanna work in golf media…

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I get this question all the time: “So, how does someone get a job in golf media?”

Hmm…I could give you a bunch of tips, ideas, resume suggestions, etc. I’m not going to. All I know is how I got here. It’s a story of passion, initiative, blind luck, God, and desperation.

I feel like in the telling of how I got here you will see a path but not the only path.

My story—condensed into the point golf gear took over my life.

It’s 1993, and I’m a sophomore in high school at John F. Kennedy Memorial in Burien, Washington. I was a baseball player my whole life, and for whatever reason that summer, I decided it wasn’t for me anymore, and I wanted to go scrub clubs, pick balls and have the occasional lung dart with my buddies at the local country club. At that time, golf was something to me just shy of an afterthought. I had played the occasional short 9 as a kid, went to a camp or two, but in all honesty, it was just another game.

Fast forward to my first week working at Rainier G&CC—the second assistant was a guy named Mike Montegomery (DOG at Glendale CC now), and he took me to the range to help pick balls and hit some into the net. After about 30 mins of pounding balls, I was hooked. Hook, line, and sinker.

I’m an obsessive person by nature, so when I get into something, it becomes a bit scary—I want to know everything. That’s when the equipment junkie revealed himself, and it all started with a trip to the dentist and an issue of Golf Digest.

This one…

Golf Digest, February issue, 1993

This magazine started the whole thing. No, it wasn’t the fact that Phil Mickelson graced the cover, it was the advertisements. The color codes of Ping, the black and gold of Cobra, Titleist Tour Balata, Founders Club, and on and on. Everything looked just so damn awesome. I wanted to try, see, touch and feel everything I could. And I did. From that point, until even today, golf and golf gear dominate a good chunk of my thoughts every day.

Lesson #1: To do this job well….you have to obsessed.

Now we are in 2005. I’m working in Irvine, California, for LendingTree slanging equity loans to the A paper client,s and in the search engine, I type David Duval golf clubs…

Before I go further it must be acknowledged that my good friend Nico Bollini and I used to spend HOURS on Getty images and at the local Wajamaya scouring pictures of players bags in Golf Classic magazine and any close-ups Getty would catch. Instead of going to parties and chasing girls as normal people do, we were trying to see what shaft Ray Floyd had in his Bridgestone J’s driver.

Back to DD. I type in “David Duval golf clubs,” and I land on this weird forum thing called BombSquad Golf. It was a site that not only talked gear in-depth like Nico and I did, but they had some dude taking pics at tour events. It was golf porn. I was in. Eventually, BSG became nothing, and Richard Audi and GolfWRX.com took over. That story is very well told, so I won’t go into it.

That fueled my golf junkie for a long time. It wasn’t until 2012 and the urging from my then-girlfriend that I began writing for WRX. Since I was on the site so much and had so many opinions, she jokingly said, “You should write for them,” to which I replied, “I should.”

This is where luck comes in. I found the contact info at the bottom of the site and ended emailing Zak, the editor at the time.

“Hi Zak,

My name is John Wunder and I am extremely excited and interested in writing for Golfwrx! I have been a member of this site for over 6 years now and I have always admired the professionalism and in-depth coverage that your site provides. I am what they would call in the golfing streets a “Junky”. Tour news, college news, equipment trends, companies, in the bag info, history, etc. You name it, I know it. I’m a lifer and the only thing I have left to do to get my fix is either learn how to putt and play the mini-tours or start writing. Unfortunately, even the belly putter was of no use to me so writing it is! As writing goes my experience is limited with the exception of the occasional Facebook comment but my knowledge of the game and its culture is undeniable.  I’m dying to be apart of this thing and if I had not been scrolling to the bottom of the page I would not have noticed the link to you. Maybe it’s a sign from the Golfing Gods, you never know. Any information you can give would be much appreciated.  I Look forward to hearing from you.”

Lesson #2: You won’t know what’s possible until you ask.

Eventually, Zak gave me a shot and from 2012 to 2018 I wrote roughly 30-40 articles for WRX. For fun, for free, for the love of the game. I wrote opinion pieces, did some video articles, reviews, tournament recaps, etc. Every time they asked, I said HELL YES. Why not? Golf content is what I think about all day anyway. It requires no real study or extra work to execute. It’s something I can just sit down and do, sometimes quickly.

Now we find ourselves in 2018. It’s late January. My son Seve had just been born and my main source of income at the time (film/tv) was slow and unpredictable. I had two months of savings left, no consistent income coming in to speak of, and with two kids and my girl that I am supporting. Things got scary. Desperate is a better word. In that desperation, a decision was made. I wanted to finally do the thing I’ve always wanted to do. Work in the golf business.

I sat down and mapped out my plan…

Lesson #3: Don’t be afraid of desperation. God can be found there.

But how? What can I bring to the table?

Remember obsession? Remember the power of asking?

I knew my knowledge of the tour and golf equipment was abnormal, to say the least. It still is. I knew that I had a Rolodex to choke a horse, and I had the email of someone at WRX that I could plead my case to. The editor at the time, Andrew Tursky. My email to him was very similar to my email to Zak. I plainly told what I wanted to do, why they needed me, and left it at that.

The term the squeaky wheel gets the grease is so true in my case—every job I have ever chased, there were two things I made sure were in place…

  1. I knew my passion equaled my knowledge
  2. I was willing to hear NO multiple times until the right YES came along.

Lesson #4: Know where you want to go (and tell people).

That email turned into a face-to-face with the GolfWRX brass, to a “yes we will hire you,” to getting a job doing what I love.

The job I was hired for has mutated into something way different. Every person at GolfWRX.com does multiple jobs—there is really no definitive titles or boxes we fit in. It’s a passionate, nimble crew and to a person, everyone is a golf junkie degenerate, including the owner, Rich. That was the deciding factor of going down this path. Yes, I wanted the job, but after meeting Richard Audi and discovering he was just as crazy as I am, I knew I had to work for that man.

The moral of the story is this: Golf media is not a box anymore. You don’t need a degree in journalism or your doctorate in Bill Shakespeare.  It’s the time of the hustler. So, if you have something to say, say it, something to show, show it, and most importantly if you want to get in, ASK. ASK. ASK. Someone will say yes eventually and when they do, what you do with that YES is up to you.

Hope this gives you a hint that like anything else, there is not one door, there are multiple. Knock, scream, kick, and do it with some fire.

Lesson #5: ANYTHING is possible if you want it bad enough

 

 

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Instruction

Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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Gear Dive: Barracuda winner Richy Werenski, also JJ and AD from the Titleist tour truck.

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On this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with the newly minted winner on the PGA Tour Richy Werenski and also checks-in with Aaron Dill and JJ Van Wezenbeeck from Team Titleist on what’s going down at the PGA Championship.

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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