All Those Wedges
Wedges – those lofted clubs you need for a variety of short game shots. But why are they all different and how many do you really need? Pro Shop Manager and Canadian P.G.A. Alec Hubert gives the run down on everything you need to know (and maybe more!) about wedges.
Short irons are typically used for full swing approach shots and wedges for partial swings and delicate shots around the greens. Through the years, irons have progressively tended to go stronger with their lofts to satisfy the need for longer distances. Traditionally a pitching wedge was created with 48 or 49 degrees of loft; whereas todays PWs are typically in the 44-47 degree loft range. This is typically not enough loft to chip and pitch with enough precision. Thus, golfers are needing to add more wedges to their bag.
Wedge Lofts – a lot to choose from!
48 degrees is basically a pitching wedge but it is offered by most wedge manufacturers because of the stronger iron set lofts.
50-52 degrees are commonly called “gap wedges” because they bridge the gap from a PW to a SW.
54, 56, 58 degrees can be considered “sand wedges” although most golf professionals probably use more than this from the green side sand unless they are facing a long bunker blast.
60, 62, (64!) degrees are “lob wedges” and the most lofted clubs that people carry in their sets. Phil Mickelson (famous for his flop shots) uses a 64 degree wedge in many tournaments that have thick rough or tightly mown chipping areas so that he can loft the ball way into air. This club allows him to be precise from even the diciest situations around the green. Alec suggests that most golf professionals use there 60 degree wedges the most because it allows them to play the ball back in their stance, which will ensure a ball first contact, and the loft will allow them to get adequate height on the shots so that they don’t run out of control. This technique is commonly referred to as the “one hop and stop” chip.
This is a poorly understood element of a wedge and almost impossible to recognize with the naked eye. Essentially the bounce is the angle that the leading edge sits above the sole of the wedge. A wedge with higher bounce will tend to literally bounce off the turf or sand through the hitting zone. The lower bounce wedge is more like to have the leading edge dig into the turf or sand. A typical range of bounce on wedges is anywhere from 4 – 14 degrees and most wedges will specify on the club what the bounce is. In choosing a particular bounce, look for the conditions of the course you play most often. If the sand is light and sort of crusty it would be best to have a low bounce angle so the club can dig a little. If the sand is heavy or really soft it is better to have a higher bounce angle so the club doesn’t dig in too much. The same rules applies for fairways.
There are a lot of buzz words that manufacturers are using about their milling processes and how much spin they are creating. Titleist Vokey calls their wedges SM6 which means Spin Milled Version 6. Cleveland’s 588 Wedge has Rotex 2 milled faces and Callaway has one of the more creative names, MD3 milled which stads for Mack Daddy version 3. Basically these processes create a rougher surface on the face of the wedge and thus makes it easier for a player to spin the ball. Upon close inspection you can actually see and feel the differences in the face of each wedge. Furthermore, today’s wedges are typically made using much harder types of metal which preserves the life of the grooves and face for a longer period of time. Additional changes have been made to wedges over time with regards to grooves also. Talk to Alec if you want to learn more, he’s a wealth of information!