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Wedge Guy: The science of selecting your wedges

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In my 30-plus years of designing wedges and running small wedge brands, I’ve reviewed tens of thousands of wedge-fitting profiles. And one of the most curious things to me about set makeup is how little science is typically applied to the selection of wedges. It seems that even golfers who go through a custom fit process for their irons, will often just randomly pick wedges off the retail rack.

In my observation, far too many golfers habitually select the same wedge lofts they’ve always played, without giving too much thought to whether those lofts are still right for their game and their set make-up.

For over four decades now, iron lofts have been getting stronger and stronger, migrating downward to a point where a “typical” pitching wedge has 45 degrees of loft, and some are as strong as 42-43 degrees. Contrast that to the “standard” of the 1980s, when that club with a “P” on the bottom was usually 48 degrees or higher. Add to that the advent of other technologies to make clubs go further, and almost every golfer profile we review has a huge distance gap right in the middle of prime scoring range.

Distance control precision is the key to scoring range performance, and that means almost all golfers can benefit from a scientific review of their actual carry distances with their short irons and wedges. My bet is that if you did that, most of you will find that your gapping is far shy of consistent and ideal.

You simply have to approach the building of your scoring club arsenal by really knowing your short irons. Almost all manufacturers post their specifications of their irons on their websites, and any qualified clubmaker/fitter can measure and tell you exactly what you have. Once you know those specifications, the next step is to get on a quality launch monitor or golf course and determine just how far your 9-iron and pitching wedge actually carry on average.

The following is what I have come to believe are some very basic fundamentals of building your scoring tools that will give you consistent yardage increments with full swings, and the right scoring options around the greens

  1. Loft increments of four degrees and shaft-length differentials of 1/4 of an inch from your 9-iron to each successive wedge should give you a yardage difference of about 12-14 yards, depending on your strength. Seniors and others with shorter distance profiles might find that 5-degree gapping achieves this ideal differential between wedges.
  2. Whatever shaft you play in your short irons should be closely matched in weight and flex in your wedges. At Edison, we build wedges on the KBS Tour in stiff and regular flexes, and the KBS Pro Graphite 80, which we highly recommend for golfers playing lightweight steel or graphite in their irons.
  3. Shaft flex is important. Almost all off-the-rack wedges from all major brands have the same shaft – a steel “wedge” flex, which is heavier and stiffer than the iron shaft played by the vast majority of golfers. This prevents a consistent feel and balance from your short irons to your wedges.
  4. Taking a tip from tour professionals, slightly flatter lies in your wedges will set you up for better wedge play. We recommend that the longer wedges – pitching and gap – be 1-degree flatter than your short irons. The higher lofted wedges should be 1- 2-degrees flatter in lie angle.

It is my general observation that golfers typically carry too few scoring clubs, and too many fairway woods and hybrids. In determining scoring set makeup, we ask golfers how many clubs they have in their bag that go further than their 5-iron. The answer is often 4-5. But why? If you are playing the right tees for your game, you probably don’t hit 4-6 shots a round with those clubs. But you might face as many as 18-25 shots with those clubs from 9-iron down, including chips and pitches.

You might take another look — a scientific one at that — at your set make-up and scoring range arsenal. My hope is that you can improve your results by improving your “hardware.”

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, or his leadership of the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2014. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to slightly raise the CG and improve wedge performance. He has just announced the formation of Edison Golf Company and the new Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf, which can be seen at www.EdisonWedges.com. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Lefthack

    Sep 1, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    I hit my pitching wedge 110 but I don’t usually swing my 52 or 56 wedge at full swing. I play my PW at 1/2 to 3/4 swing and the others are for pitches and chips inside of 50 yards. My 52 is lower bounce for easy lies and the 56 is for sand and thick stuff with a higher bounce. I struggled with a 60, so I stopped at 56*.

    I have used my 52 off the tee for sub 100 yard par 3’s. But I don’t have many of those.

  2. gdb99

    Aug 30, 2021 at 7:20 pm

    I’m a Sr. player, 59 years old. The course I normally play plays pretty long. Not a lot of roll in the fairways. From the white tees it’s just over 6100 yards. I play a lot more than 4-6 shots a round above a 5 iron. I would guess closer to 10. If I play the Club Championship, from just over 6800 yards, it’s a whole lot more. So I really don’t know how to set up the bag. I’m thinking of doing a complete bag fitting at Manchester Lane in 2022. Thanks for all your articles.

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