One of the many reasons tour players are so very good around the greens is that the golf clubs they use are so perfectly suited to them — particularly their wedges, and even more specifically the bounce of their wedges. Not only do they carry a variety of wedges for a variety of courses, but they are also quite skilled in using the unique advantages that lofted wedges have.
Bounce is a term that has skyrocketed recently in the golf vernacular. With the advent of the new lofted wedges and the myriad designs now available, many golfers are now learning the value of “bounce.” So let’s get a working definition of bounce. Bounce is the angle from the leading edge to the trailing edge on the sole of a wedge. A picture I try to paint for my students is this — when you address the golf ball with your wedge in its properly lofted position, how high is the leading edge sitting off the ground? The higher it is, the more bounce a wedge has. That’s an easy way to understand bounce, which keeps the leading edge from digging into the turf.
When used properly, your wedges are the most forgiving clubs in your bag. The bounce will slide along the turf, allowing golfers to hit shots even if the turf is contacted slightly before the ball. From Phil Mickelson to Uncle Phil, we all need bounce… and we need to know how to use it.
Here are my six general bounce guidelines:
- If your attack angle is steep, you need more bounce.
- If your attack angle is shallow, you need less bounce.
- If the course has tight lies, use less bounce.
- If the golf course has heavier lies, more bounce.
- If the sand is fluffy, more bounce.
- If the sand is firmly packed, less bounce.
There are other factors, of course: the heel grind, the toe grind, etc., but the guidelines above should be helpful.
Touring professionals are constantly grinding wedges to adapt to the playing conditions of the week. Most of us don’t have that luxury, but we can collect a variety of wedges and bounces over time and use them as needed. An example might be a day when you know rain the night before will leave the sand firmly packed down, or you’re going to play a links-style course that has tight lies. You might consider leaving the high bounce wedge in the garage that day.
Once you find a wedge with the right loft and bounce combination, you’ll need to understand how to use it properly. The secret to understanding good short wedge shots is realizing they are played very differently than full shots. It starts at setup and continues through the swing. When you’re hitting short wedge shots, you need to expose the bounce and swing the golf club so that the trailing edge can be in play. When you do it right, you’ll get grass stains or sand residue on the very back of your wedge sole. That’s a hint that you’re doing things correctly.
Here are some suggestions to help you expose the bounce on the golf club. Note that these are generalized hints that are not for everyone, but they will help the vast majority of golfers hit better short wedge shots.
- First, weaken your grip by moving both hands slightly to the left (lefties, do the opposite). This will assist you in getting and keeping the club face open.
- Open the club face at address.
- Set your body open to the target.
- Move your ball position forward in your stance.
- In taking the club away, you should get a distinct feeling of rolling the face open (supinating the right hand and forearm).
- The downswing must allow for the rear side (right for righties) to stay UP. The biggest mistake I see is a body slide, a right side tilt, and the right shoulder going in too low.
- The body turn through the ball must be complete with the front facing the target and the golf club exiting LEFT on the follow through.
- The club face cannot turn over! It must be “held open” through the shot with little to no supination of the left arm.
The most embarrassing shot in the game is a chunked wedge or a shot left in the bunker. Trying any or all of the above tips should help you minimize those errors. Remember, BOUNCE the golf club into the golf ball. Your scores will thank you.
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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301
In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.
Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.
Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.
Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”
“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”
“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”
Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?
- Make sure the face is clean and dry
- Open the blade slightly, but not too much
- Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
- Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going
Make sure the face is clean and dry
If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.
Open the blade slightly, but not too much
Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.
Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.
My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.
Opened too much
One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.
Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack
As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.
So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.
Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!
Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going
The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.
Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.
Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!
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