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How to use the bounce of your wedge correctly

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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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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Brian Zeigler

    Feb 24, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Greetings Dennis… Thank you for very much for the conciseness of this tip. It’s been most helpful in the year since you published it and I’ve come across a new dilemma (for me) of which I would appreciate your guidance:

    Would you have an opinion on the more/less bounce guidelines and approach to varying turf? I play mostly hard surfaces and the “Northern” bent/blue grass courses but have started spending more time in the south/islands and am adjusting to Bermuda and grain. My standard setup is a low bounce/wide sole/+camber 56 that I do most of my chipping with and a lower bounce 60 that has high heel/toe/trailing edge relief that I use mostly from green-side bunkers and for lob necessary shots. For what it’s worth, I’ve always fought and worked hard on minimizing a flip/cast in my swing, and my HDCP has hovered at 7 for a while and I tend to give away a lot of shots inside 75 yards.

    Thank you.
    Brian

  2. cgasucks

    Oct 29, 2017 at 11:05 am

    I see people with $800 Wedges with special custom grinds with is great but won’t do any good for them if they flip the club through impact.

  3. Dennis Clark

    Oct 19, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Steeper, if you’re -4 with a six iron you might be -6 with a wedge, hence the need for more bounce. -6 with the leading edge exposed will lay sod over the golf ball very often. The greenside bunker as well where we need to be steeper than ever. LOTS of bounce in fluffy sane. Hope it helps.

  4. TeeBone

    Oct 19, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    You say that short swings are very different than full swings. How should the Angle of Attack compare between the two with a TrackMan?

  5. Eldrick T

    Oct 19, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Can you teach me how. I don’t want to look like a loser again when I get back out on Tour and have to play in real tournaments blading the ball across the green

  6. Andrew

    Oct 18, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    It’s about time for the leaked SM7 pics. If I recall, the SM6 pics were leaked in October. Can we revisit this bounce discussion then?

  7. Dennis clark

    Oct 18, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Use very low bounce, move the ball back slightly and DO NOT expect the ball to go high. A high lob off a tight lie is PGA Tour stuff.

  8. Acemandrake

    Oct 18, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Do you make any adjustments when playing from a tight lie?

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Clement: Laid-off or perfect fade? Across-the-line or perfect draw?

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Some call the image on the left laid off, but if you are hitting a fade, this could be a perfect backswing for it! Same for across the line for a draw! Stop racking your brain with perceived mistakes and simply match backswing to shot shape!

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The Wedge Guy: The easiest-to-learn golf basic

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My golf learning began with this simple fact – if you don’t have a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, it is practically impossible for your body to execute a fundamentally sound golf swing. I’m still a big believer that the golf swing is much easier to execute if you begin with the proper hold on the club.

As you might imagine, I come into contact with hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. And it is very rare to see a good player with a bad hold on the golf club. There are some exceptions, for sure, but they are very few and very far between, and they typically have beat so many balls with their poor grip that they’ve found a way to work around it.

The reality of biophysics is that the body moves only in certain ways – and the particulars of the way you hold the golf club can totally prevent a sound swing motion that allows the club to release properly through the impact zone. The wonderful thing is that anyone can learn how to put a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, and you can practice it anywhere your hands are not otherwise engaged, like watching TV or just sitting and relaxing.

Whether you prefer an overlap, interlock or full-finger (not baseball!) grip on the club, the same fundamentals apply.  Here are the major grip faults I see most often, in the order of the frequency:

Mis-aligned hands

By this I mean that the palms of the two hands are not parallel to each other. Too many golfers have a weak left hand and strong right, or vice versa. The easiest way to learn how to hold the club with your palms aligned properly is to grip a plain wooden ruler or yardstick. It forces the hands to align properly and shows you how that feels. If you grip and re-grip a yardstick several times, then grip a club, you’ll see that the learning curve is almost immediate.

The position of the grip in the upper/left hand

I also observe many golfers who have the butt of the grip too far into the heel pad of the upper hand (the left hand for right-handed players). It’s amazing how much easier it is to release the club through the ball if even 1/4-1/2″ of the butt is beyond the left heel pad. Try this yourself to see what I mean.  Swing the club freely with just your left hand and notice the difference in its release from when you hold it at the end of the grip, versus gripping down even a half inch.

To help you really understand how this works, go to the range and hit shots with your five-iron gripped down a full inch to make the club the same length as your seven-iron. You will probably see an amazing shot shape difference, and likely not see as much distance loss as you would expect.

Too much lower (right) hand on the club

It seems like almost all golfers of 8-10 handicap or higher have the club too far into the palm of the lower hand, because that feels “good” if you are trying to control the path of the clubhead to the ball. But the golf swing is not an effort to hit at the ball – it is a swing of the club. The proper hold on the club has the grip underneath the pad at the base of the fingers. This will likely feel “weak” to you — like you cannot control the club like that. EXACTLY. You should not be trying to control the club with your lower/master hand.

Gripping too tightly

Nearly all golfers hold the club too tightly, which tenses up the forearms and prevents a proper release of the club through impact. In order for the club to move back and through properly, you must feel that the club is controlled by the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. If you engage your thumbs and forefingers in “holding” the club, the result will almost always be a grip that is too tight. Try this for yourself. Hold the club in your upper hand only, and squeeze firmly with just the last three fingers, with the forefinger and thumb off the club entirely. You have good control, but your forearms are not tense. Then begin to squeeze down with your thumb and forefinger and observe the tensing of the entire forearm. This is the way we are made, so the key to preventing tenseness in the arms is to hold the club very lightly with the “pinchers” — the thumbs and forefingers.

So, those are what I believe are the four fundamentals of a good grip. Anyone can learn them in their home or office very quickly. There is no easier way to improve your ball striking consistency and add distance than giving more attention to the way you hold the golf club.

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Instruction

Clement: Stop ripping off your swing with this drill!

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Not the dreaded headcover under the armpit drill! As if your body is defective and can’t function by itself! Have you seen how incredible the human machine is with all the incredible feats of agility all kinds of athletes are accomplishing? You think your body is so defective (the good Lord is laughing his head off at you) that it needs a headcover tucked under the armpit so you can swing like T-Rex?

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