Next to the putter, wedges are the most efficient weapons to improve your short game. Golfers can reduce their handicaps significantly by choosing the correct wedge for their course conditions and by being custom fitted accordingly.
Choosing your wedges
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.
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.
Potential changes may be on the horizon relating to groove changes, but these arguably will have 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 the subject under consideration.
My personal belief is that limiting the size of grooves will bring more skill back into the game and force ball manufacturers to produce a different ball. All of which will dilute the ‘Bomb and Gauge’ mentality prevalent in today’s game.
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.
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 companies that specialize in wedges, in all lofts, such as Feel Golf, Vokey wedges, Bettinardi Golf and Eidolon Golf.
Unfortunately, one of the best wedge manufacturers, Sonartec, closed up shop due to a company raider, rather than due to the quality of the wedges.
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
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.
Mizuno MP R-12
This was the number one wedge of choice for our testing group!
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-R12 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 either player preference.
This grind is especially beneficial in tall rough and tight lies. Lofts ranging from 54° to 58° 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-R12 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-R12 feature a deeper, narrower groove for more control on full shots, while the groove in the 56° to 64° utilize a wider, shallower groove for extra spin on short shots.
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.
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 wedges
The Nike VR Pro 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. Thirty percent 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 VR Pro 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° degrees 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 left-handed).
PING ANSER CC Wedge
The Ping Anser Forged wedges are a complement to the Anser irons which arrived on the market in 2010.
Our testing group loved the design and feel of this wedge. No wonder Hunter Mahan raves about this club.
The Anser wedges are forged from 8620 carbon steel and have what the company calls a “soft yet solid” feel.
The sole tapers wider from heel to toe for improved performance from tight lies and bunkers, and the grooves are milled to tight tolerances and offer exceptional spin.
The wedge heads include a tungsten weight in the toe that maneuvers the CG (center of gravity) into the desired position and increases the MOI (Moment of Inertia). The flight characteristics that result are high-spin with a low-trajectory.
A toe stabilization bar allows for workability with forgiveness when playing the ball toward the toe.
The Ping Anser Forged wedges come in lofts of 50°, 52°, 54°, 56°, 58° and 60°.
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 Wedges “My Custom Wedge”
The new Cleveland 588 Forged wedges follow in the popular footsteps of the company’s iconic original 588 wedges. The 588 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.
One of the new things about the 588 Forged 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 3 finishes available; RTG (will rust), Black Pearl 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.
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. Twenty-one combinations of loft and bounce and five different sole grinds are available. 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. The new groove design and surface texture is supposed to result in 1,200 rpm – more backspin than the C-C wedges.
Model changes to the SM4 line include a new 46° 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 changes 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 used for full shots, and rounder toes and leading edges on the wedges most likely to be opened or closed at address.
The SM 4 will be 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, but more likely 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 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 out which works best for your game.
In memory of Steve Jobs who was a creative genius and had a perspective on life we can all follow. He always imparted wisdom and deep insights.
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
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” and his previous book, “How to Build Business Relationships through Golf”, updated for 2011, is still in the Top Ten Golf Business Book’s best seller list. His latest book, “The Right Mind for Golf”, has just been released this month and is already into the second printing.