By Adam Schwartz
Class A PGA Professional/Head Pro Oasis Golf Club
Having a correct amount of wedges and the correct lofts is crucial to any player’s ability to score. There are many lofts that companies make in their wedges that could range anywhere from 46 to 64 degrees. Understanding your own game and knowing the lofts of your own wedges is the first step to knowing what you should have in the bag.
Standing 80 yards away from an elevated green can be a difficult shot for a majority of players simply because it requires an unorthodox swing. Without a proper wedge gap, players will sometimes try to “muscle” a sand wedge or “lay off” a pitching wedge. This can be a cumbersome exchange for any golfer. Regardless of skill level, half- or three-quarter swings are some of the most difficult to execute.
A player’s mental and physical discomfort with less than 100 percent swing could lead to hitting a sand wedge as hard as possible with enough power to chop down a tree. The majority of times there is a negative result that could lead to a 40-yard chunk shot or a bladed “snake killer” that, for a second, will be on the green but then roll 10 yards over.
That’s where the importance of “gap fitting” for wedges comes into play; it removes that decision mentioned above from the equation. Instead of trying swing hard with a wedge, the choice is to find a wedge useful to a player’s situation in and around 100 yards.
Take, for instance, some of the most recent winners of both the PGA and LPGA tour. Scott Stallings, PGA winner at Torrey Pines this past January, carries three wedges: 52, 58 and 62 degrees. Jessica Korda, LPGA winner in the Bahamas, carried three wedges: 50, 54 and 58 degrees (Golf World, Feb. 3, 2014). A player’s swing speed and carry distance with a pitching wedge can determine a custom wedge set for any player.
So if your carry distance with a pitching wedge is 110 yards, a player has the option of choosing two or three wedges depending on the club makeup of his entire set (14 clubs maximum). If a player only wants two additional wedges, consider having a club that would carry 95 yards and 80 yards. If a player wants an additional three wedges, they should get fit into lofts, which would allow them to hit 100-, 90- and 80-yard shots with a full swing.
Loft and gapping aren’t the only crucial components to wedge fittings; bounce also plays a key role. Bounce can be determined by how a player hits down at the ball, which is also known as divot depth. Golfers who tend to have shallow divots generally have a flatter swing plane and, therefore, need lower bounce so the club can slide through impact with less turf interaction. Golfers with steeper swing planes need higher bounce to balance the downward motion at impact. If you have the opportunity, the best way to determine your downward swing path is to schedule a visit with your local PGA professional, utilizing a lie board which would indicate where the sole of the club contacts the ground.
As a golfer, you always want something that feels comfortable, most importantly; but acquiring the correct lofts and bounce will definitely make the game more enjoyable.