From Tee to Green: The Short Game, Part II


As we continue to look at the makeup of your toolbox, let’s focus on what wedges we can add to your set. This will make your game simpler and ensure that you have specialized tools for the short game, which is an area where many shots are wasted due to poor execution and planning.
A good starting point for this is to determine the loft of your shortest club in your bag (likely your pitching wedge or gap wedge). This club will look the same as the rest of the irons in your bag and generally should be the last club which you consistently take full swings with. You can find this information stamped on the club somewhere, or by searching for the club specifications online.
Let’s assume that this is a gap wedge (usually stamped G, A, U) and has 50 degrees of loft and when you swing with it fully you hit it 120 yards. You may recall in an earlier column that there is usually 4 degrees of loft separating the irons in your set which equates to about 12 yards in distance. This allows for proper distance spacing. If the lofts are too close together than you will have two clubs that hit the ball basically the same distance so you are wasting the chance to have a better tool for your game. If the lofts are too far apart you will have a large distance gap in your set where you will now have to swing very hard with the shorter club, or really ease off on the longer club. Unless you practice frequently, you likely wont have the touch and feel to pull these shots off in a real-time situation. Therefore, it’s best to aim to have 4 degrees difference in your clubs and thus you can take the same consistent swing with the proper club as the yardage dictates.
Based on the above example of your gap wedge being 50 degrees, perhaps selecting a 54 degree wedge and a 58 degree wedge would make the most sense based on yardage. You would probably hit the 54 degree wedge about 108 yards, and the 58 degree wedge about 96 yards. It will be up to you to evealuate your game and decide which distances you usually encounter when you play and select the loft requirement that fits this perfectly so you can not worry about swinging harder or softer than you normally do. Perhaps this means that you would choose a 55 degree and 60 degree arrangement instead which would now give you about 105 yards and 90 yards respectively.
The next main consideration for wedges is the bounce. You will find this info stamped on the wedges. Bounce is the angle inscribed by the leading edge of the wedge, the sole of the club, and the ground. In practical terms, lower bounce wedges (4 to 8 degrees) are advised for thin grass and tight lies, whereas those with more bounce (10 degrees and higher) are generally employed in deep rough or sand. Choose your bounce based on how much trouble you have in the sand, or where you use your wedges the most. Some players prefer to have mid levels of bounce (8 to 10 degrees in both) for versatility purposes, while others select a high bounce wedge (as a ‘sand’ club) and a low bounce wedge (for easier ‘loft/lob’ shots around the green).
If you have too much bounce on your wedge, you will skull (low driving shot) your shots as the club literally bounces off the ground and the leading edge of your wedge hits the ball, instead of the grooved face popping the ball into the air. Too little bounce may lead to the club digging into the ground and you will hit a lot of fat shots. Therefore, it makes sense to dedicate some time using different bounces until you find what best suits your game.