Wedges Are Critical to Your Scoring Ability
Get Custom Fitted and Benefit Therefrom
Next to the putter, golf wedges are the most efficient weapons to improve your short game. Golfers can reduce their handicaps significantly by being fit for course conditions and being custom fittied.
Choosing your wedges in 2012
It is estimated that 75% of shots during a round are played within 100 feet of the pin. As a consequence, over the past decade, wedges have become increasingly sophisticated, and dexterity with these instruments will certainly both lower your score and add to your enjoyment of the game.
Many golfers, including pros, now carry 2 to 4 wedges in their bag, yet what sets them apart is their mastery, through practice. The pros spend hours every day honing their skills with their wedges. The key for them is knowing their distances with each wedge.
Grooves in irons channel moisture and grass away from the club surface, thereby allowing for better, cleaner contact with the golf ball much like treads on a tire.
The new changes relating to groove changes, have had a minimal effect for the average golfer. Grooves are either of the U- groove, Square -groove or V- groove nature. Larger grooves allow for more spin and limiting the size of grooves is now the law.
Particular grinds, like a C grind, are becoming increasingly popular with short-game artistes. This is where the heel and toe are ground down on the trailing side of the sole. This allows the sole and leading edge to lay flat on shots where the face needs opening, while still providing bounce relief on full shots. In actuality, these wedges can give the best of both worlds to golfers of all levels.
Remember that for softer or fluffier sand shots, these generally require more bounce in a sand wedge. Likewise, players with steeper swing planes will need more bounce. For tight lies use less bounce.
Gap wedges were designed to fill the gap that exists between your pitching and sand wedge. A gap wedge allows you more opportunity to play full shots when you are faced with those difficult in-between distances.
Today’s pitching wedges have lofts from 44° to 48° and sand wedges from 54° to 58°. That’s a difference of around 10. The loft differential between a standard nine iron and pitching wedge is 4, so the gap between a pitching wedge and a sand wedge is almost 2.5 club lengths.
One is therefore forced to choke down on the wedge shots much of the time, and we all know that 3/4 shots are much tougher to play than full shots.
Gap wedges generally have 51° or 52° degrees of loft, which places them nicely in the middle. Most of the premium manufacturers produce gap wedges that match their sets. There are also specific niche wedge companies that specialize in custom wedges in all lofts, such as SIC Golf, Feel Golf, Bettinardi Golf, Eidolon Golf, SCORE Golf and Edel Golf.
Unfortunately, one of the best wedge manufacturers, Sonartec, closed up shop, due to a company raider, rather than due to quality of their clubs. Replacing the aforementioned Sonartec, Dr. Timothy Galbraith of SIC Golf, is one of two premier custom builders of wedges and incorporates many of Sonartec’s concepts. The other premier custom wedge builder is David Edel Golf.
Gap wedges have “bounce”, but the measurement or degree of bounce isn’t that relevant because gap wedges are mainly used for full shots. Bounce is where the trailing edge of the wedge sits below the leading edge at the address position.
If possible, look for a gap wedge with a similar face profile and shaft weight to your existing wedges.
Sand wedges are designed to slice through bunker sand and can also be used for approach shots and chipping around the greens.
They too have “bounce” which allows the club head to slide smoothly through the sand without digging.
Sand wedges are available in different “degrees’ of bounce:
Low handicaps – may prefer a little less bounce (around 8). This enables a low handicapper to judge shots more accurately from all sand conditions. However, it requires more skill to benefit from the low bounce – you must be able to hit the selected spot behind the ball with good precision, especially in softer sand where the sole will not slide that easily.
Sic Golf Custom Wedges
Without fear of contradiction, a custom made club will deliver superior performance and will reduce your score.
After the putter, wedges are the next most important clubs in a player’s bag and the most difficult to fit properly. Most fitters do not have a clue how wedges work and all but a few amateurs know what their
wedges should look like with regard to bounce and grind. Sic Golf was created to bring this knowledge and expertise to all golfers and to make wedges that fit the golfer’s swing, not fit the swing to the club
that they have purchased.
From personal experience, my wedge play from Sic wedges, has improved dramatically. What I really like is the way the wedge feels, sets up, and the confidence I feel over each shot. The buttery feel and dart-like accuracy is a beautiful thing to experience!
The most important characteristic of any wedge is it’s bounce. Bounce determines where the club will impact the ball. The player’s swing and how they deliver the club to the turf determines how much bounce
they need. Every player, regardless of skill, delivers the club differently to the turf, and therefore, in order to have the wedge perform properly, requires that the bounce be correct in order to execute the shot they are trying to hit. The grind of sole of the wedge works in concert with the bounce to give the player the best chance to hit the desired shot.
Fitting someone for a wedge requires that the fitter take into account how the player swings ( is he a picker or a digger?), how much toe and heel relief do they need in order the get the club to the ball, what kind of sole grind will best facilitate this, and what lie does the club need to be to get the ball closest to the sweet spot of the wedge face. The next important aspect that a fitter should deal with is how to fit a wedge for a player that will instill the most confidence. The wedge should feel and sound good to the player.
The proper swing weight and choice of metals ( forged versus cast ) help instill this confidence. Next, the wedge should be pleasant to the eye.This means the offset, overall shape, and shape of the leading edge must fit the players eye.
The fitter must know the difference between measure bounce and effective bounce and how the effective bounce affects the performance of the stated bounce. Another advantage of being custom fit is the option to pick a shaft that will deliver the performance that benefits your swing and imbues confidence on every shot.
Taking all of this into account, OEM wedges will rarely, if ever, completely fit players. Some of these requirements will be met, but rarely all. Sic Golf’s mission is to properly fit the player and then make a wedge from the best forged steel (1025 carbon steel), with the proper swing weight, correct shaft for their swing speed, and correct shape to make the perfect wedge for the individual player, not the masses.
SIC Wedges are based primarily in La Quinta, CA and fittings are made by appointment.
$180.00 www.sic-golf.com Dr. Timothy Galbraith firstname.lastname@example.org 760-899-2517
Mizuno MP R-12
This was the number one wedge of choice for our testing group from the “Off the Shelf” category!
Expanding upon the legendary MP line of Grain Flow forged wedges, these 1025E mild carbon steel MP R-12 White Satin CC Wedge, features a more rounded, player-preferred head shape.
The MP R-12 wedges also feature a CNC milled face along with Mizuno’s exclusive QUAD CUT GROOVE technology, which enables Mizuno to precisely control the width, depth, draft angle and shoulder radius of each groove to deliver maximum spin control and ball stopping ability in all playing conditions.
Traditionally, the two most popular head shapes played on Tour are Teardrop and Round, and with the addition of the MP R-12 to the already popular MP T-11 series, Mizuno now has a Grain Flow Forged wedge for every players preference.
This grind is especially beneficial in tall rough and tight lies. Lofts ranging from 54° to 64° were created with a modified C-Grind, providing generous toe relief while maintaining bounce for shots from the sand.
Finally, the 50° and 52° MP R-12 wedges were engineered with triple cut sole design that is well suited for all shots. Mizuno is the first manufacturer to offer wedges with different grooves in one line, creating superior performance in each loft category.
The grooves in the 50° to 54° MP R-12 feature a deeper, narrower groove for more control on full shots, while the grooves in the 56° to 64° utilize a wider, shallower groove for extra spin on the short shot.
Available right handed lofts: 50°/06 (White Satin only), 52°/07,54°/09, 56°/10, 56°/13, 58°/10, 60°/05, 60°/08, 65°/07(Black Nickel only). Left hand lofts of 52°/07, 56°/13 and 60°/08.
The shaft is the extremely popular True Temper Dynamic Gold Spinner.
TaylorMade ATV Wedge
Standing for All-Terrain Versatility, this new, crisp looking wedge has been designed with significant relief at the toe, heel and trailing edge to reduce resistance and to change how the sole reacts with turf and sand – depending on how the club is positioned at address and how much the face is opened.
The USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is the fact that there are no bounce numbers etched anywhere into the ATV clubhead. Why? Because the sole takes on different bounces depending on how you position the club for the type of shot you’re hitting.
Their other USP, based on TMAG’s claims, are that the new all-milled groove design and micro-texture across the face generates more spin within R&A rules.
Available in a range of seven lofts (50°, 52°, 54°, 56°, 58°, 60° and 64°) with a new Lamkin wedge grip.
Bridgestone J40 Wedges
Our testing group loved both the compact head size with traditional shaping of this wedge and optimum feel they experienced around the greens!
Bridgestone Golf continues introducing its highly sought after J40 lineup of clubs with the addition of the Bridgestone J40 wedges. Using 8620 soft mild carbon steel, machine milled with extra surface roughness to maximize spin plus the proprietary Bridgestone Variable Bounce Technology and standard Dynamic Gold™ Spinner shafts for increased spin performance, the J40 wedges deliver in form and function, and results on the course.
Bridgestone’s Variable Bounce Technology in the sole was designed for precise shot execution from a variety of turf conditions..
The J40 wedges come in two finishes, the Black Oxide (reduces glare and rusts over time for additional “stickiness”) and Satin Chrome (traditional bright finish that is rust-resistant).
Available lofts are 52°, 54°, 56°, 58° and 60°.
Nike VR Pro DS Forged wedges
The Nike VR Pro DS forged wedges feature the company’s new “X3X” groove design. This is another great product from Nike. Our testers really enjoyed the look and responsiveness, aka gripping power of this wedge. Nike told us that the laser crosshatch pattern applied to the surface produces this feature. 30% of our testing group wanted these wedges in their bag.
Furthermore, per Nike, to increase spin and control while conforming to the new groove rules, the VR Pro wedges feature more and deeper grooves on the clubface.
The Dual-Sole design ensures an ideal set-up from sand, fairway, deep rough or fringe. The unique relieved heel design comes into play when the face is an open position, allowing the leading edge to sit low to the ball. A great wedge especially in wet conditions.
The VR Pro DS wedges are forged and available in two finishes, Satin Chrome or Brushed Oxide Raw.
Ten different combinations of loft angle and bounce angle are available, with lofts ranging from 48° to 60° and bounce from 6° to 14°. The loft/bounce combos are 48°/10, 50°/10, 52°/10, 54°/12, 56°/10, 56°/14, 58°/6, 58°/10, 60°/6 and 60°/10. (The 52°/10, 56°/14, 60°/10 wedges are also available in left-handed.) A 62°/10 is available in the Chrome finish.
Nike VR Pro DS wedges is $119.99. www.nikegolf.com
Callaway Forged 2012
Callaway’s new Tour Inspired wedges, are forged from 1020 Carbon steel affording a golfer a soft feel and will supposedly enable golfers to attack the pin more aggressively and with renewed confidence.
So sayeth Roger Cleveland, Callaway’s chief designer, who has packed each wedge with a clubhead full of features that offer outstanding control, spin and feel. Amongst these features are 21 tightly spaced Tour CC grooves with sharper edges. Using Callaway’s superior proprietary Triple Net Forging process – this provides the wedge with highest levels of spin and control from the rough.
The Tour CC grooves, a softer, more gradual ‘C’ shape, provides versatility for shot-making by relieving the heel and reducing the width of the sole. The face lays wide open and reduces bounce and, according to Cleveland, also promotes the ideal trajectory and distance on the course.
The wedges are available in steel shafts, dark chrome or copper finishes in left and right-hand options. The wedges have a variety of lofts and bounce angles: 52°/10, 54°/11, 56°/11, 58°/9, 60°/9 and 64°/8.
PING Anser Forged Wedge
Our testing group loved the design and feel of this wedge. Hunter Mahan, a two-time winner in 2012, raves about this particular wedge.
The Anser, is forged out of soft 8620 steel. The biggest difference between the Anser wedges and the other wedges in Ping’s lineup (Tour-S, Tour-S Rustique, Tour-W TS( Bubba Watson choice) is that there is no back weight. With the Anser, club builders can insert small weights inside the hosel to adjust for a player’s desired shaft weight or shaft length.
A machined face and grooves ensure maximum spin and control, while a high-density tungsten toe weight is balanced by a longer hosel to optimize the CG position for penetrating high-spin trajectories.
The Anser wedges have a thicker face in the impact area and a stabilizing bar that will bring consistency to your shot making. Control also comes from minimizing face fluctuation.
A machined face and conforming grooves, says PING, allows the golfer to manage spin from all conditions and a re-shaped sole geometry presents greater versatility in shot making.
The Forged Anser wedges come in lofts of 50°/12, 52°/12, 54°/12, 56°/12, 58°/10, 60°/10.
The stock steel shafts are the extremely popular Dynamic Gold Spinner W and Ping CFS; the stock graphite shaft is the TFC 169i. The True Temper DG Spinner shaft increases spin for more stopping power on the green.
Cleveland R.588 Forged Black Pearl Wedges
The new Cleveland R.588 Forged Black Pearl wedges follow in the popular footsteps of the company’s iconic original 588 wedges. The 588 Black Pearl forged wedges are constructed from 1025 carbon steel and go for that soft-yet-solid feel, and include Cleveland’s Tour Zip Grooves Laser Milled face technology to help maximize spin.
This finish is ideal in reducing glare to make it easier to frame the ball at address.
One of the new things about the 588 Forged Black Pearl wedges is the stock shaft, which is a Tour Concept steel shaft. Tour Concept, developed by Cleveland and Tour Temper, has what Cleveland calls “a unique stiffness profile” that includes a “less active” tip. Cleveland claims, “This shaft promotes a more penetrating ball flight, increased spin and optimal distance control”.
Now you can customize your own wedge, hence the “My Custom Wedge” terminology. Golfers can choose from 3 skin options, multiple color options, paint, logo and text. Also there are 4 finishes available; RTG (will rust), Black Pearl, Chrome and Satin finishes, and from low, medium and high bounce angles. With 10 different lofts, there are plenty of options for golfers seeking to mix-and-match loft and bounce.
Lofts: 48°,50°,52°,54°,56°,58° and 60° are available with various bounce angles.
$109 per wedge www.clevelandgolf.com
Vokey Design SM 4 Wedges
Over 25% of our testers really liked this wedge for overall looks and performance. And what better an endorsement can you get, than from the newest World No.1 Rory McIllroy.
From the gifted hands of Bob Vokey comes the new soft 8620 carbon steel SM 4 wedge. The new Vokey Design SM4 wedges feature both a new shape (slightly larger teardrop profile) and 17 precise, individually cut and 100% inspected grooves that maximize groove geometry and push groove edge radius to the conforming limits. Like the 200’s, the heads of the new SM4 wedges are slightly larger than the original Spin Milled and C-C wedges and feature dimension and shape progression through the lofts.
Using computer aided design (CAD), Their new shape was inspired by Vokey’s original 200 series. There are 21 combinations of loft and bounce and five different sole grinds. The SM4 wedges have a CNC-machined perfectly flat face and precisely cut groove geometry using a formed cutting tool that creates a tighter tolerance on both the groove size and edge radius.
According to Vokey and Titleist, the wedges’ gripping power is enhanced through the milling of micro edges for additional surface texture on the club face. Supposedly, the new groove design and surface texture results in 1,200rpm more backspin than the C-C wedges.
Model changes to the SM4 line include a new 46-degree pitching wedge and higher bounce models in lofts of 48°, 50° and 52°. Ten models, ranging from 54° to 64°, will now be offered with specialty sole grinds that Vokey developed on Tour. More than just the loft angle and bounce angle change from club to club. As the wedges increase in loft, the club head size also increases, while the top lines become more rounded; the leading edges also become more rounded the higher the loft.
That design progression results in squarer toes and leading edges on the wedges most likely to be employed for full shots, with rounder toes and leading edges on the wedges most likely to be opened or closed at address.
The SM 4 is available in both left- and right-handed models. The MSRP will be $140 per wedge with steel shafts and $165 per wedge with graphite shafts.
Three finishes will be available, Tour Chrome, Black Nickel and Oil Can.
Miura K Grind Wedge
Miura Golf’s K Grind wedge certainly has a distinctive look. The sole is fluted or notched; it might appear to some as a wave-like design, more though as some sort of finger slot.
Nevertheless, the intention of the unique channels or “sole relief” is to improve turf interaction by reducing the resistance against the sole in all lies, especially in wet conditions.
Another advantage we found was that this wedge can help a golfer avoid catching it fat on long bunker shots and avoid deceleration on quarter- and half-shots around the green.
The Miura K Grind is only currently available in a 56° loft and comes in two available finishes; black and white nickel chrome. The standard lie angle is 63.5°, though this can certainly be dialed in to fit you if need be. The standard bounce angle is 12°
The MSRP is $250. www.miuragolf.com
The best way for you to get the right wedge is to understand the course conditions you will be playing on the majority of the time. Most retailers have a 30 to 90 day return policy, so take advantage of playing these different wedges to find which works best for your game.
In reality, you may need two complete wedge sets, especially if you play desert golf (Palm Springs or Phoenix) in the winter and city golf in the summer (San Diego or Chicago). Kikuyu versus Bent grass necessitates a particular wedge for each of these surfaces.
Shafts are crucial to a wedge’s performance. Wedges require the proper engine i.e. the shaft and when the proper shaft is matched with the proper grind, the result is unparalleled. The most popular shafts are those from KBS, True Temper, Nippon, Miyazaki, UST and Axe. Your fitter will work with you to determine the right shaft for your wedge expectations.
Most importantly, if you have the opportunity to visit SIC Wedges in Southern California or Edel Golf in Liberty Hill, Texas, or through their network of fitters, take advantage of being custom fit for a few dollars extra per wedge.
Lastly, to know how to use your wedges and determine your exact distances with each wedge, take a wedge lesson with your PGTAA local pro.
Barry Lotz, J.D., Ph.D. is the director of the Professional Golf Teachers Association of America. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, the California Golf Writers Association, and serves both as a Consultant and Mediator to the golf industry. He is also the author of numerous books, including “333 Best Web Sites for Golfers”, “How to Build Business Relationships through Golf” which is in the Top Ten Golf Business Book’s bestseller list. His latest book,” The Right Mind for Golf”, released in February, 2012 is already in its second printing.