Wedge fitting

[Editors' note: This is my final posting for 2006. My next column will appear after the New Year. Until then, have a safe and healthy holiday season.]

A growing number of you have been custom-fit for drivers and irons. But the percentages drop precipitously when the discussion turns to wedge fittings. Isn't it about time you maximize your short game potential? My suggestion: Learn all you can about wedge fitting from these experts. Then go out and get some wedges to match your swing and course conditions.

Steve Ogg, senior category director-customization, Callaway Golf:
"Have an idea about distances desired...consistent loft gap is usually preferred, e.g. if pitching wedge is 46°, a 52° gap and 58° lob provide uniform fitting. You should be fit for bounce angle in higher-lofted wedges based on angle of attack and most common turf conditions played. Fitting for lie angle is critical on wedges due to large amount of loft. As with all clubs, shaft parameters should be fit last with lie angle."

David Hunter, field promotions manager, Cleveland Golf:
"Here are things to consider...

a. Determine proper bounce
Bounce is the angle from the leading edge to the trailing edge of a wedge. You can be fit for bounce angle using lie tape. Striking the ground towards the leading edge of the sole means you need more bounce. Striking the ground toward the back (or trailing) edge means you need less bounce.

b. What attack angle is your swing? Is it steep, shallow or normal?
Steep - You take a large divot and you need more bounce on your wedge
Shallow - You pick the ball off the fairway and need less bounce
Normal - If you do not dig, and take a normal divot, then standard bounce will work

c. What kind of conditions do you play on? Are fairways firm or soft?
Firm fairways - you should have relatively less bounce
Soft fairways - you should have more bounce

d. How is the sand?
Soft deep sand - you should have more bounce
Firm tight packed sand - you should have less bounce.

e. Product availability
With Cleveland Golf's three-bounce system, you can fine tune and dial in your wedge to suit your swing and playing conditions.

The Low bounce option is an outstanding choice for shots from tight lies and firm turf conditions. The combination of less bounce and narrower sole width lowers the leading edge of the blade to promote clean contact on every shot. Perfect for players who have a shallow attack angle through impact.

The Standard bounce option is the best all around wedge for playability in all types of conditions for all types of players. It is very versatile for players who like to be creative around the greens. The Standard bounce is also an excellent choice for players who like to play an open or square face out of the bunker, and who have an average to slightly steeper attack angle.

The High bounce option is designed for play out of extremely soft turf conditions and bunkers. The combination of the wider flange and ample bounce angle prevent digging and create a smoother gliding action of the sole along the ground or sand. The High bounce is an excellent choice for players with extremely steep attack angles."

Tom Preece, director of global consumer connection, Cobra Golf:
"Determine first how many wedges you need. Better players often require fewer wedges (affords them the opportunity to put more/other types of clubs in the bag) because they have more swing versatility. In other words, they can "create" different types of shots. Less accomplished players can often benefit from more wedges (pitching, gap, sand, lob) since the lofts of these clubs naturally help gap distances without having to adjust swing speed. See a golf pro and hit good balls on a good range to examine accurate distances and ball flight."

Dr. Tom Mase, executive vice president research and innovation, Hot Stix Golf:
"The first consideration for wedges is set make up. How many wedges is a player going to have in the bag? One important element in the evaluation should be to determine the lofts you need. This should be based on how far you hit the 9-iron. You don't want a large distance gap between the pitching wedge and the utility wedge.

Bounce angle is also critical with utility wedges and custom fitting. It is based off several factors including angle of attack, types of shots the golfer likes and course type. This is going to depend on your home course and short game preferences. An experienced fitter will have several qualifying questions when it comes to customizing wedges.

Lastly, consider the ball you play. Balls can respond quite differently with drivers and wedges. If you use a distance ball for driving distance you will need a wedge that aids you spinning the ball more around the green."

Bill Iseri, manager of custom fitting, Ping Golf:
"How many wedges are you going to carry? Fill your yardage gaps - set maximum and minimum comfortable distances with each. This helps determine how many you need. Lie angle of wedges can be flatter than the rest of your set. If the wedge is used mostly for non-full swing shots, a flatter lie will impact more flush with ball and turf."

Tom Wishon, president, Tom Wishon Golf Technology:
"Wedge fitting should be more about matching to the green and bunker design of the courses you play most often. The three most important wedge specifications are loft, bounce sole angle and sole width from face to back. The longer the grass, the more fluffy the grass (Bermuda), the deeper and lighter the sand in the bunkers, the more bounce sole angle and/or wider the sole should be (and vice versa for less bounce and sole width).

Conversely, your wedge lofts should be higher if you play smaller, more terraced greens. You should also think about a lob wedge. The more steep the golfer's downswing, the more bounce and more face to back sole radius (and vice versa for less bounce).

Finally, the gap in loft between the 9-iron and the other wedges should not be less than 3-degrees and not more than 5-degrees to ensure proper distance increments between all wedges."

Rob Sauerhaft is the Managing Editor of Equipment for GOLF MAGAZINE. E-mail him your questions and comments at golfletters@golfonline.com

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