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What is “effective bounce” anyway?

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Effective bounce sounds like a good description for what happens when a wedge shot works well, e.g. “he used the bounce effectively with that shot.” The phrase is more often used to describe how a wedge sole interacts with the turf, but it hasn’t often been defined. My aim with this article is to explain effective bounce and how to decide what sole design will work for you.

The purpose of a golf company’s educational material is to try to take fairly complex physics and explain it in a way that is simple and relatable, but still captures the basic meaning. This is a LOT easier said than done.

For wedges, bounce angle has traditionally been held up as the best attribute to explain how the complex geometry of a given wedge sole, delivered by a certain player, interacting with a particular kind of turf, will affect ball flight. Clearly this is a very intricate dynamic that we’re trying to simplify as best as possible to make a useful point.

Generally, a low bounce angle implies a sharper, blade-like impact that cuts through turf easily, whereas a wedge with high bounce angle has a more blunt impact. Our testing shows that when a club either doesn’t get into the turf sufficiently, or it digs in to the turf a lot, it leads to inconsistent shot making. It follows that a player with a swing that causes the wedge to dig too much will benefit from a wedge with more bounce. Conversely, a player who sweeps the club over the turf will get more consistent results with a wedge with less bounce.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 2.36.53 PM

Figure 1: 2 wedges with the same actual bounce angle (13 degrees) but different primary sole widths. As a result, the effective bounce numbers are very different.

There is, however, a lot more to a wedge sole shape than just the angle of the lead edge. Figure 1 shows two wedge sole designs from the toe view. Their measured bounce angles are identical, but one wedge has a much wider and deeper principal sole section. The back section of the sole, where it starts to rise up after the low point, doesn’t affect the initial ground impact, so it is not really part of the playable width.

The two wedges in Figure 1 will interact with the turf very differently, so just using a bounce angle to define a wedge sole is not sufficient. The wedge on the left, which has a thinner sole, will cut through turf more easily; the one on the right will avoid digging.

So, how do we communicate this? By putting an arbitrary number to it and calling it “effective bounce” or “plays-like bounce”.

Most companies these days, including Ping, don’t quote a measured bounce angle. We all use the term “effective bounce.” It’s a communication tool more than a scientific term. But since there’s no real definition or standard for this number, there’s a lot of variation in effective bounce numbers among golf companies. Ping’s 8-degree effective bounce wedge, for example, is probably a lot different from another company’s 8-degree effective bounce wedge. For this reason, there may be other measurements that are more intuitive and less open to interpretation.

Going back to Figure 1, the more visible and measurable attribute to use is the width of the principal sole section. This is easier to see and can be measured and compared from club to club. Sole width is not a perfect description of a wedge’s sole design, but it gives the golfer a better measure to use for comparison. To classify the sole of a wedge, you really need to know both bounce angle and sole width. Our Glide Thin Sole 60-degree wedge actually has 20 degrees of measured bounce angle, but an “effective bounce” of only 6 degrees. The main reason is the thin, 0.5-inch-wide sole. If you are just going to classify a wedge sole with a single number, the measured width is a more intuitive and comparable number than effective bounce angle. Simply put, a thin sole equates well with low effective bounce while a wide sole equates well with high effective bounce.

So, what kind of sole should you play? I often hear people say that better golfers play less bounce and higher-handicap players need more bounce. This isn’t really true. The fitting question comes down to club delivery and turf conditions.

Most players deliver a high-lofted wedge with something between -2 and -12 degrees angle of attack, and a shaft forward lean between about 4 degrees and 14 degrees. This is a very wide range.

Figure 2 (below) shows the same thin-sole wedge being delivered by two different elite-level golfers at Ping. The player on the left delivers the club with hands quite neutral and a shallow attack angle. On the right, the club is delivered with the hands well forward and a steep attack angle.

The sole interacts with the turf very differently. In the first case, the sole hits the ground with a very glancing blow, and despite the downward force at impact (ball goes up, club is forced down) it will not dig too much. In the second case, the lead edge of the sole presents a much sharper target to the turf and will tend to dig much more. For this second golfer, the thin sole presented in the picture will dig too much and a wide sole (with more effective bounce) will present a blunter target to the turf and be much more consistent.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 2.37.59 PM

Figure 2: The same thin sole wedge at impact with 2 very different types of swing.

There are many ways to swing a wedge. Even among our tour players there is a sizeable range from shallow to steep. If we made one sole design to cover both ends of the spectrum, it couldn’t be optimized for everyone. Often a top player will change their wedge for the course conditions.

A good example is Angel Cabrera. He has played Glide wedges with each of the thin, standard and wide soles on different weeks depending on the course conditions. It may actually be worth thinking about having a couple of different options in the most lofted wedge to switch out on harder or softer courses.

I always encourage people to get an expert fitting for these important scoring clubs, or at the very least demo a couple of different effective bounce options on real turf where possible.

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Paul is the Vice President of Engineering at Ping, coordinating a department responsible for club design, development, innovation and testing. He moved there in 2005 after completing a PhD studying Solar Flares in the Mathematics Department at St Andrews University, Scotland. He has spent most of his time with Ping in the research department working on the physics of ball flight, the club-ball impact and many other aspects of golf science. Some of his projects at Ping include the nFlight fitting software, iPing, Turbulators and TR face technology. The idea behind these articles is to explain a bit about popular scientific topics in golf in a way that is accessible to most. Hopefully that will be easier than it sounds. www.ping.com

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Pingback: Paul Wood explains bounce and effective bounce - very well, I might add...

  2. DaveT

    Mar 30, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Paul Wood and Don Wood agree that “effective bounce” or “net bounce” can be computed from actual bounce, flange width, and perhaps other parameters. Please post the formula for these quantities; some of us would like to know how to compute it.

    Thanks,
    DaveT

    • Paul Wood

      Mar 31, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      Dave, as Don mentioned, the formula or even the exact definition of what we mean by effective bounce or net bounce is going to be different from company to company. It’s also a key part of our internal knowledge. Hence the desire to boil all of the numbers and physics down to a simple system to communicate out to the world. In Cleveland’s case there’s the one dot, two dot… in our case we have the thin, standard and wide sole. If you’re really interested in computing the numbers you’d probably like a job in wedge design or research.

  3. CT

    Mar 30, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    This sure is an eye opening article. No idea that bounce numbers stamped on a wedge are a manufacturers interpretation of how a wedge will play. IMHO manufacturers should state the actual bounce angle on the wedge (and the rest of the irons they sell) so that consumers know what they are testing/buying/playing. It is not that difficult to explain that “abc” actual bounce + “xyz” sole grind = a wedge that plays a certain way. I’ve only been playing the game for 30+ years and had no clue that one companies 10* bounce wedge could play the same as another companies 16* bounce wedge, or that one companies 12* bounce sand wedge could play much differently than another companies 12* bounce sand wedge.

  4. Steven Thomas

    Mar 30, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Paul:
    The best lob wedge I have ever owned was a Hogan “Sure Out”. It had a very wide sole and only 6* of bounce. The bunkers at our course are very inconsistent. Some are very fluffy and some are not, so this was a great wedge for those situations. Our fairways are very firm, and tightly mowed too. These clubs are not legal anymore because of the groove configuration. Are there any club manufacturers that make a wedge with a wide sole and low bounce?

    • Paul Wood

      Mar 31, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      I would struggle to comment on other companies offerings, but based on what you’ve said you may want something like a wide sole wedge with a grind to take bounce off at the lead edge. That’s very possible through our WRX department (no specific link to GolfWRX). Most wedge companies will offer custom grinds for a specific case like this.

  5. dcorun

    Mar 30, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I could barely afford the set of irons I have now. I sure can’t a afford a set of wedges for each course condition I play. I just open or close the face and play the ball back or forward with the wedges that came with my set and do the best I can. I’ve actually gotten pretty good at it.

  6. Zachary Smith

    Mar 30, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    I would say that you have an ‘off the shelf’ bounce angle. The effective bounce angle would be lower if you hood the face or play the ball back and much greater with an open face or ball forward position. As per usual, a simple concept is explained as complicated as possible. Certainly sales would have absolutely nothing to do with it.

    Unfortunately for me, ball back=hosel hit

  7. THE SWEET THONG

    Mar 30, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    CHACHING!- ANOTHER MILLION WEDGES SOLD TO THE SHEEP…..BHAAAAAA!

  8. Paul Wood

    Mar 30, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for the comments. I realized that I have been very remiss and not given credit to Cory Bacon, one of our design engineers, who put together a lot of the content and images for this piece. He’s one of the team that worked on the Glide wedges. Cheers Cory!

  9. ChristopherKee

    Mar 30, 2015 at 6:37 am

    I spent 20 minutes explaining this concept to the GS associate trying to talk my out if custom ordering the PING Glide wedges and to get Cleveland 1 dots because they had lower bounce. I purchased the Glide in SS AND TS anyway… Had out two chip ins for birdie my first day with the new wedges. PING, please send GS some better product literature.

    • JT

      Mar 30, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      Lol! Ase the saying goes, you are your own best advisor..

    • Paul Wood

      Mar 30, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Christopher, I’m happy you were confident enough to go with your own knowledge on this one. We are working on getting the best product literature and education we can to our accounts, but as you can imagine it’s not the easiest thing to do with such big organizations. There are some sales staff who really know their stuff and some who don’t – we’re just trying to tip the balance further to the well-informed.

    • MASSIVE MIKE!

      Mar 31, 2015 at 2:58 am

      As far as knowledgeable salesman at GS, RD and PGA SS,,,,, they are the equivalent of the salesman helping assist you in buying the right tie to go with what you think is your finely tailored suit!

  10. Joel

    Mar 29, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Everyone on this site should be forced to read this article. Well done good sir.

  11. MJ

    Mar 29, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    There are so many bounce stories. The bounce is used on turf with a u shaped swing arc that slides under the ball starting 2 or 3 inches before the ball
    What do you need bounce for if your going to strike the ball first
    Try it Tiger

    • person

      Mar 30, 2015 at 11:35 am

      You forget that the head still interacts with the ground before the ball is fully launched from the club face. How the club reacts to hitting the ground is entirely dependent of the sole width and bounce. The more bounce the club has, the more the club “bounces” up and affects the ball flight. Just look at any iron/wedge shot in slo-mo and you will see even clean picked golf shots are affect by turf unless you are hitting like the middle of the ball with the leading edge.

      • MJ

        Mar 30, 2015 at 12:59 pm

        Wrong
        The bounce is for the ball lifting up. Like a flap on an airplane wing which gave Sarezan the idea for bounce. Try a short pitch shot and see what happens when you slide club under the ball starting 2 inches behind ball. The ball pops straight up with no pinching.
        Obviously this is only for shorter shots but can be used for full swing high lobs

  12. Chuck

    Mar 29, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    This is a very good, very well-written and much-needed article. Kudos to Paul Wood and thanks to Ping for loaning him out to write this.

  13. BIG STU

    Mar 28, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    He hit it dead on with that article. I have the Maltby video that also explains this same thing and Maltby says the same thing. It can be very confusing to the average golfer of what really effective bounce is. And like Mr Wood said different companies measure and state bounce in different ways. A very well written and factual article

  14. johnnyb

    Mar 28, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Great article! Very clear explanation of a concept that can be quite confusing. Last year I had an experience that made me realize how important proper bounce can be. I live in Germany where it rains all the time, and most courses are wet and soft. I played wedges with a lot of bounce, and they suited me really well over here. I flew to San Antonio, TX and played a tournament in the howling wind on a rock hard golf course. I really struggled with the simplest wedge shots. I bought the Glide wedges for this season. I ordered the 56 in the WS and the SS, and the 60 in the SS and TS. It was a hard sell to my wife, but I think it was a good investment.

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