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Opinion & Analysis

The most overlooked reason you miss wedge shots

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“Get fit!”

It’s something we hear about all the time in the golf equipment world. Fitting helps optimize your gear, which leads to lower scores. With a driver, that also means maximizing distance and accuracy, and for irons and wedges, it’s about precision and dispersion. The issue is when most golfers are selecting wedges the main focus is often on loft gapping and bounce selection, which leaves golfers forgetting about one key factor: lie angle.

What is lie angle?

Golf club lie angle is defined as, “The measured angle between the axis of the shaft relative to the ground when the middle of the sole and grooves are parallel to the ground.” For you visual learners like myself, see the diagram below.

Why is lie angle so important?

Lie angle plays a crucial role in club performance, specifically related to the direction a golf shot will travel after impact. It plays its the largest role in launch direction and spin axis, which, when properly controlled, leads to tighter dispersion and straighter shots. Let me explain further…

Launch direction (horizontal launch): The horizontal angle the golf ball takes off at relative to the target line and measured immediately after separation from the clubface. Although the ball is moving in a 3D space, the vector is calculated in 2D space. The diagram below demonstrates an example of a ball with an 8.9-degree left horizontal launch direction.

Spin axis: The angle relative to the horizon of the imaginary line that the golf ball rotates around and is measured after separation from the clubface. Think of this as an airplane tilting direction when banking into a turn—the more banking the sharper the turn and for a golf ball that means more curve. The diagram below demonstrates a shot hit with 12.3-degrees left spin axis.

Making sure lie angle is properly calibrated through the set for any individual golfer makes it easier for the said golfer to hit shots online towards the intended target, even down to the shortest shots around the green. Ping’s Karsten Solheim was the first to introduce lie angle fittings to golfers and simplified its explanation by combining lie angle with length to end up at a color code. It is a reference that has become synonymous with fitting and Ping clubs.

The Original Ping Fitting Chart

Why wedges lie angles are the most important

The reason lie angle plays a crucial factor in wedge fitting is that as loft increases, so does the effect lie angle has on launch direction. Since wedges are the highest-lofted, highest-spinning clubs in your bag, as spin axis goes up so does the ability for the shot to end up away from the intended target.

There is one last part to this whole puzzle and it has to do with the speed at which wedges swung. At slower speeds, shafts deflect less, meaning as you go through the bag, greater shaft deflection occurs with the most happening with the driver. With the least amount of deflection, or droop, occurring with wedges, they need to be played flatter compared to your irons to make sure the face is pointed towards the target at impact—and just as importantly, to be sure the sole interacts properly with the ground.

The video below further explains the importance of wedge lie angle both around the green and on full shots.

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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.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Osnola Kinnard

    Jul 25, 2020 at 11:07 am

    Gonna have to disagree. I do believe in properly fit equipment. That being said, the most overlooked reason is, we simply aren’t that good. We are not only not that good, we don’t practice the way we should. Yes, properly fit equipment is key, but the truth is, you kind of just suck, and often we make poor decisions that got us to the point of needing some hero shot with a wedge and we are now attempting a shot we barely know how to do, and wonder why it turned out poorly.

    • gwelfgulfer

      Jul 25, 2020 at 5:27 pm

      I was basically going to say the same thing. It’s far more about lack of ability than a fitted wedge.

      • geohogan

        Jul 28, 2020 at 2:18 pm

        I think Ryans point is that no one will be as good as they can be unless the lie angles are correct for the golfer.
        The inaccuracy is magnified as loft is highest is simply a fact, many golfers arent aware of.

  2. Frank

    Jul 25, 2020 at 1:34 am

    Ben Hogan in Power Golf and Sam Snead in Natural Golf both said that they soled their clubs completely flat on the ground, Hogan going into more detail that if the lie angle was not soled on the middle of the face at address the whole swing will be off. Not impact, address. For some reason club manufacturers are making their clubs upright as heck to combat the average golfer uncocking their wrists prematurely, not because of shaft droop. With modern lie angles now, if you had to address it like Hogan recommended, you’d have to set up like Moe Norman to even get it to sole at the middle.

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The Gear Dive: Elk is in the house!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with the one, the only, the legend Steve Elkington.

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

The differences between good and bad club fitters—and they’re not what you think

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Club fitting is still a highly debated topic, with many golfers continuing to believe they’re just not good enough to be fit. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s a topic for another day.

Once you have decided to invest in your game and equipment, however, the next step is figuring out where to get fit, and working with a fitter.  You see, unlike professionals in other industries, club fitting “certification” is still a little like the wild west. While there are certification courses and lesson modules from OEMs on how to fit their specific equipment, from company to company, there is still some slight variance in philosophy.

Then there are agnostic fitting facilities that work with a curated equipment matrix from a number of manufacturers. Some have multiple locations all over the country and others might only have a few smaller centralized locations in a particular city. In some cases, you might even be able to find single-person operations.

So how do you separate the good from the bad? This is the million-dollar question for golfers looking to get fit. Unless you have experience going through a fitting before or have a base knowledge about fitting, it can feel like an intimidating process. This guide is built to help you ask the right questions and pay attention to the right things to make sure you are getting the most out of your fitting.

The signs of a great fitter

  • Launch monitor experience: Having some type of launch monitor certification isn’t a requirement but being able to properly understand the interpret parameters is! A good fitter should be able to explain the parameters they are using to help get the right clubs and understand how to tweak specs to help you get optimized. The exact labeling may vary depending on the type of launch monitor but they all mostly provide the same information….Here is an example of what a fitter should be looking for in an iron fitting: “The most important parameter in an iron fitting” 
  • Communication skills: Being able to explain why and how changes are being made is a telltale sign your fitter is knowledgeable—it should feel like you are learning something along the way. Remember, communication is a two-way street so also being a good listener is another sign your working with a good fitter.
  • Transparency: This involves things like talking about price, budgets, any brand preferences from the start. This prevents getting handed something out of your price range and wasting swings during your fit.
  • A focus on better: Whether it be hitting it further and straighter with your driver or hitting more greens, the fitting should be goal-orientated. This means looking at all kinds of variables to make sure what you are getting is actually better than your current clubs. Having a driver you hit 10 yards farther isn’t helpful if you don’t know where it’s going….A great fitter that knows their stuff should quickly be able to narrow down potential options to 4-5 and then work towards optimizing from there.
  • Honesty and respect: These are so obvious, I shouldn’t even have to put it on the list. I want to see these traits from anybody in a sales position when working with customers that are looking to them for knowledge and information…If you as the golfer is only seeing marginal gains from a new product or an upgrade option, you should be told that and given the proper information to make an informed decision. The great fitters, and I’ve worked with a lot of them, will be quick to tell a golfer, “I don’t think we’re going to beat (X) club today, maybe we should look at another part of your bag where you struggle.” This kind of interaction builds trust and in the end results in happy golfers and respected fitters.

The signs of a bad fitter

  • Pushing an agenda: This can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Whether it be a particular affinity towards certain brands of clubs or even shafts. If you talk to players that have all been to the same fitter and their swings and skill levels vary yet the clubs or brands of shafts they end up with (from a brand agnostic facility) seem to be eerily similar it might be time to ask questions.
  • Poor communications: As you are going through the fitting process and warming up you should feel like you’re being interviewed as a way to collect data and help solve problems in your game. This process helps create a baseline of information for your fitter. If you are not experiencing that, or your fitter isn’t explaining or answering your questions directly, then there is a serious communication problem, or it could show lack of knowledge depth when it comes to their ability.
  • Lack of transparency: If you feel like you’re not getting answers to straightforward questions or a fitter tells you “not to worry about it” then that is a big no-no from me.
    Side note: It is my opinion that golfers should pay for fittings, and in a way consider it a knowledge-gathering session. Of course, the end goal for the golfer is to find newer better fitting clubs, and for the fitter to sell you them (let’s be real here), but you should never feel the information is not being shared openly.
  • Pressure sales tactics: It exists in every industry, I get it, but if you pay for your fitting you are paying for information, use it to your advantage. You shouldn’t feel pressured to buy, and it’s always OK to seek out a knowledgeable second opinion (knowledgeable being a very key word in that sentence!).  If you are getting the hard sell or any combination of the traits above, there is a good chance you’re not working with the right fitter for you.

Final thoughts

Great fitters with great reputations and proper knowledge have long lists, even waiting lists, of golfers waiting to see them. The biggest sign of a great fitter is a long list of repeat customers.

Golf is a game that can be played for an entire lifetime, and just like with teachers and swing coaches, the good ones are in it for the long haul to help you play better and build a rapport—not just sell you the latest and greatest (although we all like new toys—myself included) because they can make a few bucks.

Trust your gut, and ask questions!

 

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Podcasts

TG2: TaylorMade P7MB & P7MC Review | Oban CT-115 & CT-125 Steel Shafts

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Took the new TaylorMade P-7MB and P-7MC irons out on the course and the range. The new P-7MB and P-7MC are really solid forged irons for the skilled iron players. Great soft feel on both, MB flies really low, and the MC is more mid/low launch. Oban’s CT 115 & 125 steel shafts are some of the most consistent out there. Stout but smooth feel with no harsh vibration at impact.

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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