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Do you really need to buy new wedges?

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I’m as guilty as the rest of the golfing population when it comes to replacing my wedges too infrequently. Quite frankly, the only time I’ve changed them over the last few years is when I’ve been sent new clubs to test by my equipment sponsor.

If I was left on my own, I’m sure I would use my wedges until the paint fell off. It’s NOT the best idea, but my attitude has been like a lot of you in the golfing world: “It really doesn’t matter for as little golf as I play.”

This story was prompted by a few new wedges I was sent to try. We all hear about how often PGA Tour players change their wedges, and how much spin we’re losing by not changing our wedges more frequently. It is true?

To help you understand the real impact of worn grooves, I put it to the test. I hit four common wedge shots with three different wedges on Trackman that included:

  • A new, 58-degree wedge
  • A worn-out, 58-degree wedge (used for one season)
  • A “super” worn-out, 58-degree wedge (used for multiple seasons)

The New Wedge

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 1.15.18 PM

The Worn-Out Wedge

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 1.15.30 PM

The “Super” Worn-Out Wedge

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 1.27.49 PM

The Results

10-Yard Flop

  • Super Worn: 3398 rpm
  • Worn: 4262 rpm
  • New: 4226 rpm

25-Yard Stock Shot

  • Super Worn: 5249 rpm
  • Worn: 4613 rpm
  • New: 5291 rpm

40-Yard Stock Shot

  • Super Worn: 6739 rpm
  • Worn: 6195 rpm
  • New: 6710 rpm

The only thing I can tell you about the 25- and 40-yard shot is that the super worn-out wedge seemed to have a sharper leading edge, and it felt like it was digging perfectly for my motion. As you can see in the Trackman screen shots at the bottom of this story, the ball was coming out flatter than the worn-out wedge, which decreased my spin loft and added spin. 

For more information on spin loft with wedges, see “The Wedge Project” by Andrew Rice at www.andrewricegolf.com

Full Shot (80 Yards)

  • Super Worn: 9435 rpm, peak spin rate of 10,117 rpm
  • Worn: 10,260 rpm, peak spin rate of 10,400 rpm
  • New: 10,641 rpm, peak spin rate of 11,121 rpm

The numbers tell us that wedge gurus are correct in saying that new wedges work better than the old ones when it comes to creating spin. The older the wedge, the less it will likely spin at all distances. 

For that reason, I would suggest changing your wedges when you begin to see the initial effects of wear so you can keep your “grip” on the greens. The first signs include wedge shots that launch higher than normal — particularly from the rough — and don’t stop or spin back as much as they once did. 

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: [email protected]

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. cody

    Jul 2, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    This article makes no sense. your data does not back up your conclusion.

  2. Steve Daniel

    Apr 18, 2015 at 8:24 am

    I would rather know the difference in “raw” vs “chrome” or other finishes. the golf ball I use has a bigger influence on spin than this test with new vs. old.

  3. A

    Apr 9, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    So, a super worn wedge spins just as much or up to 1000 rpm less than a brand new wedge? That’s the real take-away, right? I suppose that can be also regarded as a 0% or 10-20% reduction.

    How much spin does the ball have when it lands?

    My understanding, I can’t reproduce the trackman article as I can’t find it at the moment, is that on full shots the spin rate of a ball when it hits the green will roughly be the same (about 500 rpm) and the “lift” aspect has worn off and so it descends.

    My understanding is that the more spin that is generated at the start of the ball’s flight, the higher the launch, the shorter the distance the ball flies and the steeper the landing angle. And that it’s this last element, the landing angle, that allows the ball to land and spin back.

    Not every player wants or needs that. Did this “study” compare the deviation in spin rates shot to shot? Did the new wedge spin the ball more consistently at the same rate vs the super old wedge, or was there more variance shot to shot? I’d rather know my shot will react similarly on each shot than be concerned solely with the quantity of spin. It’s rather frustrating when you hit the middle of the green and it spins back off the front, or you expect it to spin with your brand new wedge so you hit it 10 yards past and it just stays there. At least in the process of wearing down a wedge, you’ve become familiar with how it reacts. But if you have access to a tour van and you’re familiar with how a brand new wedge reacts, than by all means, swap ’em out every round.

  4. Gary Gutful

    Apr 7, 2015 at 3:41 am

    There are some super smug gits that comment on these articles.

    Personally, I am glad that there are contributors that bother with these experiments (even if the methods aren’t accredited by the Society of Data Crunching Golf Noobs).

    Loving the rusty look of my Mack Daddys but would happily replace if/when they stop cutting the pistachios in the spin department.

  5. marcus

    Apr 6, 2015 at 9:49 am

    This study is scientifically un-measurable. Thanks for trying though.

    • TheCityGame

      Apr 7, 2015 at 10:31 am

      I love it when a guy thinks he’s sounding smart but ends up saying something completely stupid.

      “This study is scientifically unmeasurable”.

      What the hell does that even mean, dude? Are you trying to measure the study? The STUDY is scientifically unmeasurable?

      Is there a way that it is measurable but just not in a scientific way?

      Do you mean the spin rate on the clubs is not measurable?

      If you’re going to be that smug about it (“thanks for trying though”), you better be able to come up with better reasoning than “this study is unscientifically unmeasurable”. Nonsense.

      • Bob Pegram

        Jun 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

        Maybe he means that there are so many variables in how each player’s swing, angle of attack, etc. reacts with the club and ball, that it is impossible to make general conclusions. Even the author of the article mentioned that he was used to the sharper front edge of his most worn wedge which may explain the high spin from that wedge. It works for his swing – or he has gotten used to it and made his swing work with it> – who knows?

  6. MRC

    Apr 4, 2015 at 12:20 am

    Love my Mizuno wedges even after two years.
    The grooves look a bit tired but they come alive on the course.
    Thanks for the article Tom.

  7. Dave

    Apr 2, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    So in order to prevent hitting shots that don’t spin, we need to change our wedges when we notice that they’re not spinning? What a waste of a read.

  8. Ken N

    Apr 2, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    I just wrote to Barney Adams about this very topic a couple of weeks ago, so I was pleased to see it addressed here today. Part of my question that was left unanswered, though, was: aren’t today’s wedges made of tougher stuff, to last longer, than previous generations of wedges? If the limit was, say, 5,000 strikes per wedge five years ago, shouldn’t I expect to get 25% more out of today’s space-age-materials club? The Big Names are marketing them that way, and they’re certainly priced that way.

  9. Scott

    Apr 2, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Tom,
    Tom,
    Were you surprised that the differences were not more pronounced? Maybe I just can not comprehend the difference in 400 to 600 rpm, it does not seem like a lot. Although 1000 rpm on the full shot seems substantial, it would be nice to see was this means on the green in various conditions. I guess that is something that I can play with on my own.

    A side question. I have used a grove sharpening tool. Are there tests at a USGA event to see if the wedges comply? If not, do you know of anyone getting call out for illegal grooves?
    Thanks

  10. other paul

    Apr 2, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I like that the clubs are different but all the same loft. Because not everyone buys a new set of vokeys every year or two. Lots of people buy different brands each time. I played Cleveland two years ago, now vokeys, thinking of Mack daddy’s next time. This is probably more realistic for the majority of golfers.

  11. other paul

    Apr 2, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Well Tom, I look forward to the same article in 5 years when you have had time to spend $450 on 3 identical wedges. I hope you enjoy storing one, hitting one 10,000 times to wear it out, and hitting one 30,000 times to really wear it out. And then rewriting this article for all the angry people.

  12. AndyP

    Apr 2, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    What I got from the article is go source some really old worm wedges from the bargain bin. Cheers

    • petie3_2

      Aug 23, 2015 at 7:40 am

      My wedges of choice are 30 year old pre-Vokey Titleists; they’re almost identical to Vokeys but slightly heavier and better in the wet, long grass and sand. I had to pay $9 for one. (sob, outrageous).

  13. mark

    Apr 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    All the statements are correct. The article is correct in that a new wedge will give you more backspin. If it doesn’t interest, you then don’t buy a new wedge. Sandblasting the face is a cheaper alternative and makes the old wedge spin like new and you keep the same feel of the familiar wedge.

  14. Philip

    Apr 1, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    I wonder if this is why we see so many PGA players with rusty wedges. Maybe the rough surface gives them a consistent spin that doesn’t tend to change as they replace wedges.

  15. Mike

    Apr 1, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    According to Andrew Rice in The Wedge Project, it’s actually the surface area on the clubface between the grooves that through friction impart the majority of the spin on the golf ball. Andrew recommends to find a local business that does sandblasting and have them sandblast the face of your wedge a few time per year with aluminum oxide. I found a place that does it for $5 a club after which it spins like day it came off the rack.

    • Philip

      Apr 1, 2015 at 11:53 pm

      Same reason why some PGA players do not clean the sand out of their wedge grooves after coming out of the bunker – extra spin. I could put some water on my wedges and do a few practice shots in the sand before play to get them ready. I guess I could always empty the sand out of my bag after a few weeks or so.

  16. Tom Stickney

    Apr 1, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    RG– I take umbrage that you feel this way; I do articles based on facts. I don’t sell clubs nor do I get paid to do these articles. Thus I have no bias other than the facts.

    • RG

      Apr 1, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      OR
      The other thing is you can over spin a wedge. Sam Snead said,” I never made any money with my ball coming back at me.”
      Jackie Burke still plays the same wedge he used to win Augusta in the 50’s.
      The”facts” that you represent in your article are based on a data set from a machine, and from the photos you attached three dissimilar clubs. .Empirically speaking your data sets are flawed. In addition here are more “facts” that go into visualizing and creating good wedge shots. other than new grooves and more spin. Touch and feel have a lot to do with it and new wedges can be counter productive to this end.
      Thank you for sharing and I do not mean any rudeness toward you and your findings, but your experiment is flawed,

    • Steve Daniel

      Apr 18, 2015 at 9:10 am

      Tom, don’t take offence.
      as a retired engineer I like data, but there are too many things left unsaid in this review. for this to be a valid test you would need several sets of documented clubs with several samples of balls, people, and etc. that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the article. I do the same types of things myself.

  17. Nathan

    Apr 1, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Brand New Pro V1 Ball makes my wedges feel new again

  18. Perry

    Apr 1, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    The only way I’d buy this is that if all 3 clubs were the exact same model with the exact same shaft. It’s an awesome idea, but I don’t think you’re comparing apples to apples. You’d get similar results if you had three different head/shaft combinations of new clubs.

    • Dave S

      Apr 1, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      Took the words right out of my mouth. From the pics, it’s pretty clear they are not the same brand.

    • RG

      Apr 1, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      You are 100% correct. This “article” is another in a long line of “you need to go buy new clubs” articles.
      OR
      The other thing is you can over spin a wedge. Sam Snead said,” I never made any money with my ball coming back at me.”
      Jackie Burke still plays the same wedge he used to win Augusta in the 50’s.

  19. Brody

    Apr 1, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Tom,

    Nice article, I enjoyed it. Would you foresee those Groove Sharpener tools making any difference on spin rates? Replacing wedges every season can certainly get expensive; I’d be interested in seeing if those tools make any difference on Trackman.

    • Steve

      Apr 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      +1

    • Jon

      Apr 1, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      The only problem with groove sharpeners is if you cut the grooves too deep that club becomes non-conforming. Since I don’t play in any USGA sanctioned tournaments and no longer maintain GHIN, I use the groove sharpener at the beginning of every season (Golf Works part no. GW1111) and it does a pretty good job. It saves me $120/year which buys me about 3 rounds of golf.

  20. Mikko U

    Apr 1, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Interesting to read that there wouldn’t be much difference on partial swings. For me there was a huge difference going from three years old wedges to new ones even on 40-yard chip/pitch shots. They turned into hop and stop rather than hop and roll out.

    Also, isn’t there quite a lot of slippage from any 58* wedge? So wouldn’t some 50-52 degree wedges have worked better as there’s less slipping due to the loft and the grooves would have probably made a bigger difference (or showed more precisely that there isn’t a difference)?

  21. Chuck

    Apr 1, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I don’t doubt the data; but almost as important to spin, is the feel I have developed with older wedges. Weight, balance, bounce, etc. Before the groove rule went into effect, I bought a handful of the kind of gap wedge (Vokey 452.08) and sand wedge (Vokey 258.08) that I love, and I nurse them as much as possible. So while the grooves do get worn, at least they are pre-rule grooves. Legal for me until 2024.

    This all gives real meaning to the short-lived (why???) TaylorMade solution, which was to supply exchangeable faces for its XFT series wedges.

    http://www.taylormadegolf.asia/bn/xft-wedge-specifications.php

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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On Spec: Homa Wins! And how to avoid “paralysis by analysis”!

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This week’s episode covers a wide array of topics from the world of golf including Max Homa’s win on the PGA Tour, golf course architecture, and how to avoid “paralysis by analysis” when it comes to your golf game.

This week’s show also covers the important topic of mental health, with the catalyst for the conversation being a recent interview published by PGA Tour with Bubba Watson and his struggles.

 

 

 

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