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A Bouncing Idea: The Story of the Sand Wedge

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If you’re like me, it’s painful to watch the golf ball tumble into a bunker, or as you Americans like to call them, “traps.” Fear and trepidation soon follow while surveying the next shot from the sandy grave.

We watch in awe as professionals effortlessly splash their escapes exquisitely up to the hole. With endless hours to practice and a technique honed to perfection, these guys make it look easy. In fact, they sometimes prefer sand to greenside rough. The average weekend warrior has a much bigger fear factor and is less concerned in leaving the ball beside the hole as he is in not leaving the ball in the bunker. And the anguish of today’s golfer is only heightened as he sees the ball in anything but a perfect lie on the beach.

Compared to the early days of golf, however, bunker play is relatively easy.

LongnoseWaterRakeGolfWRX

A water iron (far left), a rake iron, and a long-nose play club (far right) from the 1900s

Back in the dark ages when golf was invented, the landscape was not as refined as we know it these days. Golfers had to put up with all sorts of interesting lies including cart paths, (made by horse and carts, not the tarmac cart paths we know of today), ruts, hoof prints and cow pats. In those days, golfers used all sorts of designs to extricate themselves from hazards including the “water iron,” which was used from casual water. Back then, you played the ball as it lay no matter what!

The bunker itself came from our golfing forefathers in Scotland. The first golf courses were built on sand-based links land, and pits appeared that they called “bunkers.” And merely getting the ball out of a bunker was an issue. They were really a hazard and golfers accepted them as a punishment. They were unkempt, were full of stones, shells, weeds, and rocks and didn’t have rakes. They looked like they had been fashioned by men drinking whisky, which was probably not far from the truth. Indeed in early exhibition games, the crowds used to stand in the bunkers to get a better view of matches.

RoyalCountyDownBunker

Royal County Down keeps the natural look to its bunkers.

Prior to the 1930s, the best club for short approach shots was the niblick, roughly equivalent to today’s 9-iron or pitching wedge. The design of this club, however, featured a flat, angled face and virtually no sole, making it difficult to use in sand and other soft lies as it was prone to digging into the ground. Players had to pick the ball cleanly off the sand, which required a good lie. The other alternative for bunkers was the jigger; it was similar to a chipper with a short shaft, but little loft. Less loft prevented the club from digging in too much on soft lies, but the compromise was the low launch angle and it was useless at moving through the sand to dig out a buried ball. The club was also not ideal for approach shots from a greenside bunker, as a chip shot made with this club tended to roll for most of its distance. The club designers in those days were often blacksmiths who offered up all sorts of strange solutions to the bunker dilemma. The rake iron (pictured above) was invented by a Scottish optometrist who became fed up of having to remove sand from the eyes of golfers playing at the local links, and created a club designed to cast up less sand when swung.

The governing bodies soon began to clamp down on design and banned many offerings. Spoon clubs offered varying degrees of loft and allowed players to scoop their ball out of sand traps and deep rough. Some had bowl faces, others featured deeply grooved faces, but not all of these designs conformed. Walter Hagen was using a lethal-looking sand wedge in the late 1920s, with a hickory shaft and a smooth concave face with a lot of loft and about a half pound of weight in the flange. This was deemed illegal and soon became outlawed.

OldGolfClubWRX

Walter Hagen concave sand wedge with a smooth face.

It is widely acknowledged that the biggest breakthrough in sand play appeared in the 1930s, and many connect Gene Sarazen with the design of today’s modern sand wedge. The story goes that he dreamed this club up after flying with Howard Hughes, the aviation tycoon, movie producer and scratch golfer. When Hughes’s plane took off, the flaps on the wings came down. We don’t know if alcohol or narcotics were consumed at the time, but Sarazen made a connection between the flaps and the flange you could add to a club that would allow it to slide through the sand and help the ball pop up.

SandWedgeWilson

Early Wilson sand wedges.

Sarazen experimented by soldering flanges to his niblicks, which were similar to a modern pitching wedge. Another modification that he made was to add extra lead to the front edge of the club face, allowing it to cut through the sand more smoothly. He sent the clubs to Wilson, and the company used those prototypes to come up with its first sand wedge in the early 1930s with a steel shaft, dot markings on the club face and the amount of flange that is still widely used today. After he won the 1932 British and U.S. Opens with the help of his new club, its popularity quickly grew. Almost 85 years later the club has hardly changed, and you’ll still see Wilson R-20 and R-90 wedges in the bags of golfers today.

Sarazen was also a pioneer of the explosion shot. Up to then golfers tried to pick the ball clean out. By hitting in behind the ball and using the bounce of the club, the sand shot suddenly became more consistent. Of course, Sarazen downplayed it, saying it was the game’s easiest shot because the club face never touches the ball.

gene_sarazen_sand

Gene Sarazen hitting a bunker shot.

Today, we are a lot more educated than ever on the design aspects of the sand wedge from the grooves and loft to the bounce. We have so many grind options these days with laser-engraved grooves machined to tolerances previously unachievable. Dave Pelz, Roger Cleveland, Bob Vokey and others are now celebrities of the short game, an industry within the game. The gap and lob wedges were natural additions, driven by marketing demands to sell more clubs, but in truth the basic concepts have only changed marginally. More loft seems to be the current trend, and it’s interesting to see 58-64 degrees as the new norm. I stop at 60, as I have this recurring nightmare of a ball coming straight up and hitting me in the face, but that’s another story

So the next time you find yourself on the beach, think bounce, knock it out and tip your hat to Eugenio Saraceni.

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Mark Donaghy is a writer and author from Northern Ireland, living in the picturesque seaside town of Portstewart. He is married to Christine and they have three boys. Mark is a "golf nut," and is lucky to be a member of a classic links, Portstewart Golf Club. At college he played for the Irish Universities golf team, and today he still deludes himself that he can play to that standard. He recently released Caddy Attitudes: 'Looping' for the Rich and Famous in New York. It recounts the life experiences of two young Irish lads working as caddies at the prestigious Shinnecock Hills course in the Hamptons. Mark has a unique writing style, with humorous observations of golfers and their caddies, navigating both the golf course and their respective attitudes. Toss in the personal experiences of a virtually broke couple of young men trying to make a few bucks and their adventures in a culture and society somewhat unknown to them... and you have Caddy Attitudes. From scintillating sex in a sand trap to the comparison of societal status with caddy shack status, the book will grab the attention of anyone who plays the game. Caddy Attitudes is available on Amazon/Kindle and to date it has had excellent reviews.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Greg V

    Aug 15, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Eugenio Saraceni – who is this violin player of which you speak?

  2. Flavastalloni

    Aug 14, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    Tom Morris Junior perfected the rutclub shot from off the green which won him his Opens

  3. Pe

    Aug 14, 2016 at 2:35 am

    I also have this recurring nightmare that while I play a links course in Scotland in the brutal winds and I go to take a pee in the gorse bush, the wind would blow so hard the pee would splash up and hit me in the face

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Equipment

Scotty Cameron unveils new Special Select Jet Set putters

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Scotty Cameron has today introduced the new range of Special Select Jet Set putters.

The limited release features a four-model collection designed for the player looking for a particular design aesthetic in a high-performance configuration with attention to shape, color palette and finish.

Precision milled in the United States from a block of 303 stainless steel, each new Limited Release Special Select Jet Set putter incorporates Scotty’s performance balanced weighting technology featuring customizable sole weights, as well as purpose-built aluminum sole plates designed to optimize weight distribution in the wider profile of the Plus models.

Speaking on the new range, Scotty Cameron said:

“A lot of golfers want to game the same putters the pros play. Our new Special Select Jet Set putters offer a taste of that experience with a few extras that put them in a category of their own. The Tour Black finish is something a lot of people really like, so when I can, I make putters using it combined with dark, smoky accents. The overall tone-on-tone look is inspired by custom car builders, and that’s where the Jet Set name comes from. We’ve offered this concept in years past. This is the next version of Jet Set. Specifically, the ‘Plus’ models that are in between the width of a Newport 2 and a Squareback 2. I developed this “tweener” size working with a few Tour players who wanted something in between the width of a traditional blade and our Squareback flange width. The Special Select Jet Set Newport Plus and Newport 2 Plus offer those desired sizes and happen to be the first we’ve created for everyone. Limited releases like these new Special Select Jet Set models are for those who want a high-performance putter, but also that little extra.”

In addition, the Special Select Jet Set Newport, Special Select Jet Set Newport Plus, Special Select Jet Set Newport 2 and Special Select Jet Set Newport 2 Plus feature custom graphics, a Tour Black finish with a dark, tonal color scheme, a specialized Pistolini Plus grip, shaft band and headcover.

Displaying the evolution of Scotty’s research in bringing the benefits of higher MOI to blade putter shapes, the line’s “Plus” models introduce slightly wider profiles than standard face-to-flange blade dimensions in design to offer maximum performance from a blade putter.

Special Select Jet Set Newport

“A souped-up version of Scotty’s classic heel-and-toe weighted blade, the Special Select Jet Set Newport includes a plumbing neck, the model’s distinctive rounded features and a unique sight line milled on the topline. Precision milled from 303 stainless steel, this limited release putter has a solid face, misted Tour Black finish, adjustable performance balanced raw tungsten sole weighting and includes the line’s new textured Pistolini Plus grip and Jet Set headcover.”

Special Select Jet Set Newport Plus

“Crafted slightly wider when measured from face to flange, the Special Select Jet Set Newport Plus offers a new size in high-performance blade putter design. Relying on proven multi-material design methodology, Scotty accommodated the fuller profile by distributing weight to the perimeter and incorporating a 6061 aircraft grade aluminum sole plate, anodized black and engraved with the line’s Jet Set graphics. A milled flange sight line provides clean alignment, while customizable stainless steel sole weights provide balance. A new, textured Pistolini Plus grip, Jet Set shaft band and specialized headcover complete the package.”

Special Select Jet Set Newport 2

“Designed with the proven shape, plumbing neck and tri-sole of a modern Newport 2, the Special Select Jet Set Newport 2 is milled from 303 stainless steel with customizable tungsten sole weights, a Tour Black finish and the line’s Jet Set graphics package, including a specialty shaft band, headcover and textured Pistolini Plus grip. Incorporating a subtle design characteristic—and inspired by the putters he makes for touring professionals—Scotty included a milled sight line on the topline rather than a standard flange line. A limited number of left-handed Special Select Jet Set Newport 2 models were also created.”

Special Select Jet Set Newport 2 Plus

“Splitting the difference in flange width between a Special Select Newport 2 and Squareback 2, the Special Select Jet Set Newport 2 Plus offers a Tour-inspired shape that introduces the next profile in high-performance blade design. Milled from 303 stainless steel with a solid face, the Newport 2 Plus has a 6061 aircraft grade aluminum sole plate, anodized black and engraved with the line’s Jet Set graphics. A milled flange sight line provides clean alignment, while customizable stainless steel sole weights provide balance. The putter includes the line’s new, textured Pistolini Plus grip, Jet Set shaft band and specialized headcover.”

The limited release Special Select Jet Set putters will be available worldwide on Aug. 19, 2022, at Titleist authorized golf shops, and are priced at $650 each.

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2022 TaylorMade Hi-Toe 3 wedges launched

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What you need to know: TaylorMade is launching the latest iteration of its “Swiss Army knife” Hi-Toe 3 wedges. In contrast to TaylorMade’s MG3 wedges, Hi-Toe 3 wedges feature a higher toe peak, higher center of gravity for lower launch and more spin, a four-way cambered sole, and full-face scoring lines all aimed at maximizing versatility and performance around the green.

TaylorMade Hi-Toe 3: What’s new

  • Full length scoring lines on all lofts above 54 degrees for additional spin on open-faced shots.
  • Raised micro-ribs between the full grooves (introduced in MG3 wedge) add texture to the face for increased spin and performance on partial shots.
  • Aged copper finish to complement the raw face

TaylorMade Hi-Toe 3: Additional technology

In order to assist in executing “all the shots” TaylorMade Hi-Toe 3 marketing references, TM engineers again incorporate a four-way cambered sole into the 8620 carbon steel Hi-Toe 3. Generous bounce and a wide sole meet a low leading edge for enhanced playability from a variety of lies.

And of course, the weighted toe pad “high toe” portion of the Hi-Toe 3 raises the center of gravity and moves it closer to the center of the face in an effort to produce lower launching, higher spinning shots.

ZTP Raw Grooves are implemented in the Hi-Toe 3 for optimal spin across a variety of conditions.

Full face ZTP RAW grooves

What TaylorMade says

“Our athletes all offered great input individually, but collectively everyone wanted something versatile. They wanted a single wedge that could perform around the greens from deep rough, thick fescue, bunkers with different sands, in wet conditions and from tight lies. That’s a lot to fit into a single design, but with Hi-Toe 3 we’ve done it.” — Bill Price, Product Creation, Wedges and Putters

TaylorMade Milled Grind 3: What it looks like

52 degree

56 degree

60 degree

Pricing and availability 

Hi-Toe 3 is available for order now at www.taylormadegolf.com and at retail locations with an MSRP of $179 USD. Hi-Toe 3 comes stock with the KBS Hi-Rev 2.0 shaft (115g) and Lamkin Crossline 360 Round 52 gram grips (Gray/Blue/Black End Cap).

Hi-Toe 3 is available in standard bounce (50, 52, 54, 56, 58, and 60 degrees), low bounce (58, 60 degrees), and high bounce (58, 60 degrees).

KBS Hi-Rev 2.0 115 shafts are standard along with Lamkin Crossline 360 grips.

MyHi-Toe 3

Added elements of personalization are available through MyHi-Toe 3. They may choose from four different finishes, including the classic brushed copper, chrome, black and raw, before selecting text, logos, and paint fills to create a purely unique design.

A complete list of customizable options includes:

  • Finish
  • Grip
  • Shaft
  • Length
  • Personalized text
  • Loft & bounce
  • Custom paints fills: Logos, icons, carbon steel, hosel rings, text

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Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (8/9/22): Mint Ping i500s

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At GolfWRX, we are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment of the game in many ways.

It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball. It even allows us to share another thing we all love – buying and selling equipment.

Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for a set of mint Ping i500s.

From the seller (@lawrencedc1): “Asking $725 Plus Ship.  Played 5 rounds.  Didn’t make the Bag!”

To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: Mint Ping i500s

This is the most impressive current listing from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

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