Wedge Guide – Bounce, Grind & Other Things

Engineered Golf

Wedge Guide

Research shows that around a quarter of all shots are played using a wedge so clearly, they are a vital part of every golfer’s game.  They can create birdies or save pars but can also cause problems for those of us who struggle around the greens if we are not using the right type of wedge for the shot. It is essential that the wedges you carry, improve your game and assist scoring.

Wedges may appear as basic clubs that are not as advanced in terms of technology as a driver or irons, but this isn't true. Different types of wedges along with varying specifications mean you really need to take advantage of the knowledge of an Equipment Professional like Engineered Golf. We have the knowledge to test, accurately determine, and build into your club all the wedge specifications that will suit your swing and needs.

Materials and Softness of Wedges?

There are many different materials used in wedge manufacture.  Each year new materials are introduced with new claims on performance.  Some materials are harder, some are softer.  The bottom line is that there are no differences in performance or playability from one material to another.

If you had the ability to test the exact same wedge design in 5 different materials and their colour was exactly the same, (so you could not visually tell one from the other), it would be close to impossible to pick out one material from another.  New materials are introduced in wedges to simply sell more wedges.

Feel and Performance

I am going to stress and ask you to take notice of this upcoming point – the feel and performance of any wedge is mainly due to the mass and the dimensional design attributes of the head itself plus the flexing characteristics of the golf shaft.

Get a very competent clubfitter like Engineered Golf, to recommend and sell the correct wedge that will best suit your game.  Finally, you will have that wedge fit for the proper lie angle; the correct shaft length; has the proper shaft and has the correct grip size.

When all this happens correctly you will have such a great playing wedge that you should care less what material it was made from.

Materials and Methods of Manufacture

Let’s look at some of the wedge material frenzies of the past.  There was the “forge it from mild steel and let it rust” era.  How about beryllium copper wedges?  Nickel wedges were a craze.  The main feature of beryllium copper and nickel was that they were very expensive materials.  Then there was liquid metal which was really expensive.  How about the soft 300 series non-magnetic stainless steels?  These are just a few examples and I am sure this list could be dramatically expanded.

There are also new materials just recently introduced and I am sure they will keep coming.  Have you guessed by now what the manufacturers are trying to do?  Each one wants to be the first with the latest and greatest material so they can sell the feature of a new softer feel wedge.  Everyone is looking for new softer materials.  First off, there is no new softer feel from any material used in a wedge that the golfer can detect and if there was, how would it actually help to improve the playability?  Besides, many of the new softer feel materials are not soft at all.  If you believed all this softer and softer stuff over the years and the manufacturers will really successful at doing it, you should by now, be able to press your finger into the face of your wedge and be able to bend the hosel with only 2 fingers.

Forged vs. Cast Wedges

Isn’t it strange that once again the discussion centers around softness of materials or the softest way to make them?  Everyone wants to sell you the softest feeling wedge.  I have already answered this question earlier.  So, once again, testing the exact same head in a forged mild steel version and a 431 stainless steel version, no one will be able to tell the difference.

However as a clubfitter/maker I prefer to work with heads that are formed from less brittle metals.   I will be able to more easily adjust the head's loft, lie and sole characteristics.  Stainless steels wedges are more suitable to change the sole without having to worry about rusting.  Most carbon steel wedges have a nickel chrome finish that is stripped off when regrinding the wedge's sole and the exposed metal will develop unsightly rust patterns.

However, golf being the mental game that it is, if you feel you can only play with a so called “soft feeling” wedge, then go for it.  I hope that I don’t offend you with my sarcasm, but it will make some other retailer, clubfitter or manufacturer happy.

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Groove, Face and COG Design Considerations

Grooves

Think of grooves on a golf club as the tread on a tire.  Each groove - there are roughly 15 to 16 - grabs the ball just like the tread grips the road, creating spin and producing ideal shot trajectory.

A 2010 rule change instituted by the USGA and R&A eliminated the use of wide, deep grooves in wedges - a feature that supposedly gave golfers an unfair advantage by creating more backspin.  The rule now restricts groove volume and edge radius on wedges, resulting in a higher launch angle and less backspin. Wedges that are designed with narrower, deeper grooves are for lowering spin and those with wider, shallower grooves enhance more spin. Mixing and matching groove conditions can dial-in superior spin and control.

As a result of the new rule, there are now two additional and different styles of grooves on wedges: vintage finish and laser-etching.

Wedges with vintage-finish grooves rust in a way that compliments the sound and feel inherent in the head design, while laser-etched grooves optimize the ball-to-face friction to create maximum spin.

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CNC Milling of the Face & Grooves

I am a firm believer in milling or machining the grooves into wedges as this is the most consistent and precise way to maximize, under the existing rules, their playablility.  I also want the faces milled flat prior to machining the grooves and the face surface should be lightly sandblasted,  Too much sandblasting of the faces will round the upper groove edge too much and reduce the amount of bite on the ball.

Vertical COG

Some golfers might need the assistance of different positions of the head’s center of gravity (COG). The center of gravity should try to be precisely aligned with the impact position (which varies from one loft to another) to produce exact distance and ball flight control. High COG’s will produce more ball speed when the ball is contacted higher on the face – good for perched lies in the high rough.

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Getting The Correct Distance

Two thirds of all golf shots are from 125 yards or less, making consistent wedge play a key to lower scores. For most players, we recommend 4 – 6o of loft between your wedges. This should lead to consistent 12 to 15-yard distance gaps for full shots. Some players can benefit from carrying four wedges, which leads to tighter yardage gaps and more full shots.

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Bounce - The Correct Interpretation

Effective Bounce is the real consideration of how your wedge will interact with the ground.  Don't think that a stamped angle on the bottom of the wedge will be the ultimate characteristic to consider.  Many clubs can have smaller bounce angles yet play more forgiving.

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The Intent Of Sole Grind

The sole grind refers to the additional shaping of the sole of the wedge usually around the heel or the toe.  "A grind can provide shot making opportunities around the greens," says Bob Vokey. Sole grinds, however, do change the bounce of the sole and so it is important to receive advice from a very qualified Golf Equipment Professional, such as Engineered Golf, on the types of grinds that will suit your game.

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Types of Wedges

Wedges can be divided into four main types:

Pitching Wedges (PW)

The first and most common wedge is the pitching wedge. Typically, with a loft between 44-48 degrees it is used primarily for full shots into greens and some longer chip shots. Most modern sets tend towards a lower lofted or stronger pitching wedge to blend in with longer-hitting iron designs, whilst also creating a need or gap for the, aptly named gap wedge.

Gap Wedges (GW)

As the name suggests these wedges fill the ‘gap’ between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge. Occasionally referred to as an attack (AW) or utility wedge (UW), these wedges tend to carry a loft of around 50 to 53 degrees. Largely suited to fuller shots, they are typically added to player’s bag to bridge a distance gap and offer more variety near the green for pitches that don’t involve a full swing and longer chips.

Sand Wedges (SW)

Usually in the range of 54 to 58 degrees, the sand wedge was originally designed, as the name suggests, to escape from green side bunkers thanks to the heavier and wider design of its sole. For a long time, it was the go-to club for chips and bunker shots around the green, because it was the highest lofted club in a player's bag until the lob wedge came along.

Lob Wedges (LW)

Lob wedges are the newest of the wedge designs. As its name suggests it has a high loft of around 60 to 64 degrees, allowing golfers to produce more height and spin with shots near the green. It tends to be used more to hit chips, flop shots and bunker shots than full shots.

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Which Wedges Should I Carry?

Most professional carry three or four wedges, to offer variation and selection to their short games. The key in you choosing a set of wedges is to make sure that there are no big gaps in loft between the lowest lofted iron in your set and each successive specialty wedge you introduce. Try to keep the lofting gaps to around 4 degrees between each club.  It is recommended players visit a certified club fitter to best understand the loft of wedges they should be using.

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Gapping - Loft

 

The loft of a wedge is simply the angle created between the face of the wedge and an imaginary vertical line. The more loft on a wedge, the more elevation on your shot, resulting in a higher ball flight with less distance.

Here is a little snippet from master craftsman Bob Vokey on the importance of understanding loft and it's outcome. He said, "I can't begin to tell you how crucial gapping in wedges is.  Most everyday players have little idea about the loft gaps with their wedges. They just take a pitching wedge and sand wedge and go. In the old days that was okay because most pitching wedges were around 51 degrees. But now they're 45 to 47 degrees while the sand wedge has stayed at 56. That's a two-plus club difference because now the pitching wedge is essentially the loft of a 9-iron."  Does that sound like you?

 

 

Effective Bounce

The ‘bounce’ of a wedge is the area of the club that hits the turf, hence ‘bounces’ the club through the surface under the ball at impact. The term "bounce" covers many of the elements involved in sole design: the bounce angle, sole width, leading edge, rocker and camber of a wedge.  I prefer to use the term "Effective Bounce" when dealing with all the many sole design elements.

 

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The bounce angle built into the sole of any wedge is not the single determining factor on how the club's sole will interact with the ground during the swing.  Most golfer's think that if one sand wedge has 10 degrees bounce and another has 13 degrees that the 13 degree wedge will automatically perform as if it had greater bounce.  This is not necessarily true.  I will spell out what we should be looking for in Effective Bounce to make up the sole's playability.

There are basically five factors that all work together that determine "Effective Bounce".  They are:

  1. The Sole Bounce Angle
  2. The Width Of The Sole
  3. The Sole Radius from front to back (leading eadge to trailing edge).
  4. The Leading Edge Grind (the transition of the leading edge of the sole into the bottom of the face).
  5. The Proper Lie Angle.
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0.101 To 0.161 Sq. Inches

NORMAL "Effective Bounce"

Normal Designed Sole Widths (.750' to .875")

Requires a very good skill level to be consistent.  These are the most common wedges used and sold today.  Many golfers would benefit by moving up to at least the "Increased" Effective Bounce Category.

0.162 To 0.242 Sq. Inches

INCREASED "Effective Bounce"

Wider Designed Sole Widths (1.000' to 1.375")

Will help most golfers improve their wedge game when moving up from "Normal" category - especially for those golfers inconsistent with their wedge play.  All handicaps apply here.  Mostly improves sand shots, pitches and chipping .  Helps to eliminate "fat shots".

0.243 To 0.312 Sq. Inches

GREATER "Effective Bounce"

Very Wide Designed Sole Widths (1.500' to 1.700")

Will help golfers with poorer wedge play and especially those that hit the ball fat when chipping and pitching the ball.  Helps any golfer with sand trap problems.  All handicaps apply here.  This wedge can be rolled open for special shots, but not by that much.

0.313 AND ABOVE Sq. Inches

MAXIMUM "Effective Bounce"

Extremely Wide Designed Sole Widths (1.800' to 2.000")

The absolute easiest to hit wedges.  Very hard to hit the ball fat.  For all golfers who experience frustration with their wedge play.  The least amount of skill required to play wedge shots.  These wedges are always played from a mostly square face position and will not hit as many types of shots (example:  no high lob type shots unless the loft is greater than 60 degrees).

NOTE:

Square inch effective bounce readings below .101 in.2 fall into the cautionary "expert only" area.  Without very high skill levels, it is very easy to hit these wedges "fat" or be very inconsistent with your wedge play.  My very honest advice is to put aside the golf ego and realistically assess your skill level - 95% of the time it pays off to move up to the next forgiving Effective Bounce category.

Bounce Angle

 

Most discussions on bounce refer more specifically to bounce angle. The bounce angle is the angle from the leading edge to the point where the sole actually meets the ground.  Many people think wedges sit flat on the ground, this isn't true.

Bounce, and specifically the bounce angle, is added to prevent a wedge from digging into sand or turf.  Unwanted digging action has a negative effect.  It retards the momentum of the club through the ball, so you need to get the bounce angle right for you.

The bounce is what you see when you place the wedge flat on the floor and the lead edge is slightly off the ground.  Quoting Vokey again - "The higher the lead edge is off the floor, the more bounce angle on the wedge. The importance of finding the correct bounce angle is related to your own personal swing, style of play, plus turf and sand conditions."

Low Bounce Angle Wedges

Wedges with a bounce angle of 4 to 6 degrees are considered low-bounce. Wedges with minimal bounce will be better suited to players who sweep the ball, taking a shallower divot, firmer turf conditions (i.e. links courses) and heavy, coarse sand in bunkers or bunkers with little sand. Clubs with less bounce (0-10 degrees) will suit tight lies and drier, fast-running heathland and links courses, or golfers with shallow attack angles.

Mid Bounce Angle Wedges

Any wedge with 7 to 10 degrees of bounce is considered to be a mid-bounce wedge. It will be the most versatile option, suited to a wider range of conditions and swing types.

High Bounce Angle Wedges

High bounce wedges have more than 10 degrees of bounce, meaning the leading edge sits higher when the sole is rested on the ground. High-bounce wedges are best suited to players who dig at impact, taking deep divots, softer conditions (i.e. parkland courses) and bunkers with deep fine sand. belong to the super game-improvement group and are designed with the emphasis of an easier short game, especially chipping and bunker shots.

If your local course tends to be wet parkland, wedges with more of a "standard" bounce (10-16 degrees) are less likely to dig into the ground. These would also suit players with a steeper angle of attack.

The sand wedge features a combination of a wider flange and higher bounce (16+) to prevent digging and create a smoother gliding action of the sole along the ground - hence that wonderful "thump" sound when splashing the ball out of a greenside bunker.

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Sole Grinds and Their Intent

As you are busy grinding away on the course, trying to save par?  Manufacturers are busy grinding wedges in a way to help players hit better shots!

So, what is a sole grind?  In basic terms, the sole grind refers to the additional shaping of the sole of the wedge usually around the heel or the toe. More wedge manufacturers are now offering a range of sole grinds in addition to the standard wedge sole. They literally grind the soles with a machine to suit specific turf conditions or shots.  "A grind can provide shot making opportunities around the greens," says Bob Vokey. “We have all kinds of sole grinds, which we designate with a letter."  Sole grinds, however, do change the bounce of the sole and so it is important to receive advice from a very qualified Golf Equipment Professional, such as Engineered Golf, on the types of grinds that will suit your game.

F Grind

The F Grind is for traditionalists - those who favor a classic design. It’s complete sole is designed chiefly for the complete swings & square face shots. It's an all-purpose grind that's perfect for full approach shots into the green. It's provides a compromise to both normal and soft turf conditions.

S Grind

The S Grind is a full soled wedge with material ground from the trailing edge, which narrows and slightly reduces the bounce of the sole. The S grind is designed for players who prefer playing shots with a square face position and have an attack that ranges from neutral to a steep/digger condition. It is best suited for medium to soft turf/ground conditions.

M Grind

If you're looking for versatility - the M Grind might just be for you. You can hood the face, open it up, or hit it square. It's also great from the bunkers. It works well on courses with average or firm turf conditions. Keep in mind that the M Grind is geared towards those with a shallower angle of attack. (Unlike the D Grind which is intended for those with a steep angle of attack.) M grind soles allow you to open the face of the wedge without the leading edge coming off the ground.

D Grind

The D grind is a high bounce option with the same crescent shape as the M Grind for the shot generating versatility. The D Grind is the right choice for better players often on courses with softer turf. It's best suited to a golfer with a steep angle of attack who wants to generate a lot of spin.

K Grind

If you're a golfer who struggles from the bunkers (or you play a course with that deep, dry, fluffy sand) then the K Grind could best be suited for you. It's also ideal from soft turf conditions around the green. It offers the most forgiveness of any of the grinds. That makes it a good option for a mid to high handicap golfer.

L Grind

The L Grind is for golfers typically dealing with firm turf conditions. It's often preferred by golfers who are always trying to create shots around the green. The L Grind boasts a thin crescent shape allowing optimal green side usefulness, and yet it is a unforgiving wedge grind. This grind is for very talented players with great touch. Love to execute those high flops? Then the L Grind is for you.

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U Grind

The U Grind has a concave sole that allows golfers the ultimate in versatility. It’s a very highly relieved wedge grind, with a very rounded leading edge to help extremely talented golfers with great hands get the club under the ball to hit high, soft shots from almost anywhere. It has 10 degrees of bounce in the square position, but like the C Grind, it’s playable when opened or closed because of its unique sole shape. Translation: Only try the U Grind if you can successfully play a lot of specialty shots with your lob wedge — opened, closed, toe down, etc. Its 10 degrees of bounce and wider sole in the square position also makes it a good choice for golfers with moderate-to-steep angles of attack.

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C Grind

The C-Grind, like the Y-Grind, features heal and toe relief, though it’s slightly more pronounced than the Y-Grind.  Designed for firmer conditions and versatility around the green. The heel and toe relief allow for several shots, especially opening up the face and keeping the leading edge low, without radically impacting the bounce angle of the club. It enables a wide variety of shot types, great for shots with varying face angle. It is more suited of for firmer turf and sand conditions. The model swing consists more of a sweeping attack angle with a shallow divot.

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Y Grind

The Y-Grind features subtle heel and toe relief. The grind provides enough versatility to manipulate the club face and play shots from a variety of lies but does so without radically impacting the bounce angle of the club.  The player and turf/sand characteristics are for a wider range of conditions than the C Grind.

Finishes

Once a wedge has been made, it is given a finish to offer a distinct look and colour. This is purely down to personal preference and taste as different finishes will have almost identical levels of feel. However it is important to know how each finish will wear over time.

Finishes such as Chrome or Nickel will maintain their colour and appearance longer.

Unplated or raw finishes are designed to wear or rust more over time, which can improve friction and lead to improved spin.

Darker finishes look great initially but over time the paint will wear off on the sole and face to give some nice wear marks if you like that sort of thing.

There are manufacturers who also use proprietary heat treatment techniques to deliver dramatic durability for longer lasting spin.  However, that comes with a cost - it makes the steel more brittle and harder, or impractical, to adjust the loft and lie angles.  Maltby  and others, use special metallurgical treatment for some of their models to preserve wear to the top edge of grooves.

The days of every wedge being coated with chrome-over-steel are over. Finishes now include black nickel, chrome, rusty or raw (unchromed), beryllium copper, nickel-coated and oil can. etc.

Many differing types of finishes on most wedges are mainly cosmetic and are subject to your personal preference. There are a few practical exceptions. The duller-looking finishes do not reflect as much light in the sun, while those with a "nickel coated" or "oil can" finish are specifically manufactured to rust over time and typically impart just slightly more spin on the ball.

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Shafts

Virtually all wedges come with steel shafts unless the wedges are part of a graphite set of clubs.  Most steel shafted wedges also come with a standard 'wedge' flex. This is actually more like a stiff shafted steel shaft in flex but designed specifically for the shorter club. It provides maximum feel and accuracy and in such a short club the flex is less important.  However, for those highly sensitive "feel" type players that have a specific wedge mainly used for touch shots, (not full shots), then I have found they prefer a slightly more flexible shaft tip.

Grips

This may not seem too important, but many golfers have a problem with grips that they do not know about.  We often go out and buy a wedge here and a wedge there.  They are often from different manufacturers and we end up with a different grip type and size on our wedges than we have on our set of clubs.  I want to point out that it is very important having the same grip on ALL the clubs in your set - just disregard the putter!  In this manner, you have the same grip material, the same grip size and taper under both the right and left hands.  You will also have the same grip weight.  This is one more overlooked area where Engineered Golf  will help you you become more consistent by removing any of the bad equipment variables in your set of clubs that do not help you.  Each little thing corrected adds to the overall improvement in fitting.

Summary

I want to thank you for reading through this long section on wedges.  Hopefully you have found the information both enlightening and informative.

The wedge can be a miracle club that reduces strokes; the problem is that some golfers are playing with wedges that will never give them consistent performance.  I presented a new way, (and the best way), to look at wedges and their characteristics that can help any golfer improve, if needed, by switching from wedges that are not helping their game or even more importantly, hurting their game.  Most all properly executed wedge shots require that the sole of the club contact either the turf or sand to work properly.  I pointed out that the sole design is a key factor regarding wedge playablility because it is the only part that interacts with the sand or turf, and is a very major part of any wedge fitting discussion.  This also happens to be the most misunderstood part of how and why wedges work.

Next Steps...

If you want to set up a time for an in-depth discussion, evaluation interview or fitting then don't hesitate to reach out to us.  I look forward to helping you.

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