We all hate to play against the guy who's got a killer short game. Isn't it time that you become that guy? After all, you needn't be the biggest, strongest, most-athletic dude in your foursome to be an up-and-in artist. What you do need is imagination, the proper technique and some good tools. And there's plenty of superb wedge weaponry at your disposal. It's a matter of knowing what's out there and finding the right fit for your game. Use these pointers wisely and you may just spawn a new nickname: Mr. Up-and-Down.
1. What's bounce and how much of it do I need?
Bounce is the angle represented by a line drawn from the bottom of a wedge (sole) to the leading edge. Many wedge models are offered in a variety of bounce options standard, low- or high-bounce. Here's a good rule of thumb: Try a low-bounce wedge if you play often in firm conditions (such as tight fairways), a high-bounce wedge in softer conditions.
2. What should I do if I dig?
Get yourself a wedge with more bounce, a wider sole or both. (Incidentally, wedges with broad soles are recommended in fluffy sand.) Check your bounce by hitting off a lie board (like you'd try during an iron fitting). If the mark on the tape is toward the leading edge, then you dig and should consider using more bounce. If the mark is more towards the middle, then you're free to choose among high-, medium- or low-bounce clubs.
3. How many wedges should I use?
We'd recommend four wedges for low and mid-handicappers. These should be a pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge. This'll remove the guesswork from 100 yards in and allow you to make full swings on touch shots rather than gauging distances with half- and three-quarter swings. Higher handicappers should begin by mastering two wedges, a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. You'll add a third, most-likely a gap wedge, as you gain experience.
4. What about the gaps between their lofts?
Be sure to determine the lofts (using four-degree increments) from the pitching wedge (46˚ to 48˚ degrees). Thus, we highly-recommend a gap wedge (50˚ to 52˚). Why a four-degree gap? We don't want any distance duplication between two or more clubs. Which means, in some cases, you may be better suited with larger (say, five-degree increments. (Another option is to build your set starting from the putting green and work back towards the tee.)
We recommend 60-degree lob wedges for skilled players only. It'll get you out of prickly situations, but it requires a lot of practice before calling on it in the heat of battle. The 60˚ can be a difficult club to handle without the proper amount of expertise. If you're a mid-handicapper and it's a lob wedge you're after, try the 58˚.
5. Is there such a thing as custom fitting for wedges?
Well, sure. You're doing a form of wedge fitting any time you select a specific loft for your bag. Beyond that, you can get fit for shaft length, lie angle, bounce angle (again, determined by your swing and course conditions), spin (some models have traditional grooves, others have more aggressive ones) and finish (shiny chrome, satin, black oxide, un-chromed).
Rob Sauerhaft is Managing Editor of Equipment for GOLF MAGAZINE