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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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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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