The Equipment Companies Are Jacking With You
I've played this crazy game since I was a toddler, and have been fortunate to be in the golf equipment industry for nearly 30 years. For almost that whole time, a "set" of irons included the 3-iron through pitching wedge.

But today, with the introduction of hybrids, we're seeing the 3-iron go away, and a set of irons is now usually a 4-PW. With all this evolution, what really steams me is that the emphasis on distance has caused manufacturers to "jack up" the lofts at the short end of the set, so that the "pitching wedge" is really a re-named 8-iron with 43-44 degrees of loft.

So what has that done to your game ?

I contend that, in at least one respect, it's done more harm than good - please hear me out.

When I was really learning golf in the 1960's, you had eight irons in your bag ranging from 21 to 51 degrees, which allowed you to have a full swing option from 190 yards down to about 100. The sand wedge would give you 85-90 - nine full swings with nine different irons, producing about 9-10 yards difference between clubs. Great.

But now, you have eight irons, with lofts from 21 degrees to 43-44 degrees - eight full swings for the distance of 190 down to 125-130 yards. So your distance gaps are only 7-9 yards, and you are "out of ammo" when you get inside 125 yards - except for your sand wedge and maybe a gap wedge.

With your new titanium driver, and modern golf ball, you play many more shots from inside 135 or so than we did back then, but you have fewer clubs to handle more shots. How much sense does that make ?

As I watch the golf equipment industry continue to "jack up" the lofts at the short end of sets of irons, I can't help but be angry at what these manufacturers are doing to your ability to score.

Does distance really lead to lower scores ?

We're fed a constant diet of "distance, distance, distance", but almost nothing about getting the ball closer to the hole. Some of the new sets of irons are sporting "pitching wedges" that have as little as 43 or 44 degrees of loft [Twenty-five years ago, an iron with 43-44 degrees of loft was an 8-iron!]. But they didn't change the lofts at the other end of the set, so all they've done to you is compress the range of distance between your 4-iron and your "pitching wedge".

So, if your "pitching wedge" is really just a re-named 8-iron, how in the world is that going to help you score better? All it does is give you fewer options when you get into real scoring range - 135 yards or less from the hole.

If you'll analyze a few rounds of golf - no matter what your handicap - you'll find that if you discount drives and putts, you'll have 25-40 "other" shots.

And if you are playing the right tees for your skill level, at least 50% (and probably 75%) of them were played from within 135 yards.

So, you're carrying 2 or 3 fairway woods, a hybrid or two, and all but one or two of your irons for possibly as few as 5-8 shots per round, and only 3-4 clubs for all those shots that really will determine how you score ! Does that make any sense at all ?

Let's assume that your "old" pitching wedge had 48 degrees of loft and you could comfortably hit it about 115 yards. And your 56-degree sand wedge gives you about 85 yards. If you are really focused on scoring, you've probably already added a gap wedge of 52 degrees to divide that difference in half.

Don't let the equipment companies decide what's best for you

But now, the major companies have decided to play on your testosterone level by decreasing the lofts on all your short irons, so that now you can hit a "pitching wedge" 125 yards, maybe even farther. 

But your sand wedge still goes about 85 yards, right ? So instead of having a 30-yard gap in prime scoring range, you have a 45 yard gap, and only an 8-iron masquerading as a "pitching wedge" to negotiate all the shots you will face in that distance. That's absurd, and will cost you lots of shots.

If you really want to score better, visit a qualified custom clubfitter/builder or your club professional if he has a loft/lie machine, and have them chart the lofts of your irons and wedges. Then go out and accurately and honestly determine how far you can reliably and repeatedly hit each iron and wedge.

What you'll probably find is that you have very narrow gaps (7-9 yards) between clubs at the long end of the set and very large gaps (15 yards or more) in the scoring end of the set.

But shouldn't it be the other way around ?

Imagine how your scores could improve if you could always have a comfortable full swing when you are between 85 and 135 yards from the hole ?

I'd like to hear comments and questions from you for a few days before I move on to discussing this topic further.

Thanks in advance for your participation.
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[ comments ]
iacas says:
I side with the equipment companies that put a pitching wedge at about 48 degrees. For most amateurs, that's a full swing from about 110 yards - and most amateurs aren't driving it inside of 110 yards on par 4s.

I also think that the "in between" shots are what separate the men from the boys, so to speak. I'm not afraid of an 85-yard shot, or a 50-yard shot. I've "Pelzed" my wedges and know how far they go with varying lengths of swing. Inside of about 25 yards, it's purely feel.

I'd be rather afraid of taking a full swing from 85 yards. Sometimes a full-swing from 110 yards will blade the ball 40 yards over the green. Imagine what fun you'll be in if you blade it from 85! :-)
Mike says:
I'm with you Terry. Kind of like the Annika Sorenstam way of swinging. All shots look the same for the most part, same tempo, etc.

I can't practice enough to be a Pelzite.

Having a swing that I can use from all distances appeals more to me than 5 swings and a clockface in my mind.
Kiwi says:
And this is why it's know so hard to pick a bag set up. You now have to find room for 4 wedges, yet retain some of the longer clubs as well
wedgeguy says:
I apologize for the delay in getting back to this issue -- it's been a crazy month for us with the dramatic growth EIDOLON is experiencing. But I'd like to offer some ideas on Kiwi's post about the difficulty of picking a bag setup. Most golfers will hit 8-20 shots per round with their wedges, and maybe as few as a dozen with all their other clubs (discounting driver and putter). To make room for more scoring clubs, you should review your frequency of use of your longer clubs, and ask yourself if you couldn't have gotten acceptable results with another club -- a choked up 4-iron instead of the five, a 4-wood instead of the three, etc. It makes good sense to compromise a shot every once in a while, than not to have the wedge you need several times in each round, doesn't it?
John says:
I would agree with the need for gap wedges. I just measured my irons and they are all about 4 degrees strong, with my PW at about 46 degrees. I just started playing and I am learning as I go. I already added 52, 56 and 60 degree wedges and my game has improved, but I realize that I need adjustments. Grip, hand position, wrist involvement, and body rotation all play factors into the actual loft of the club at impact. I would like as many wedges as possible so I don't have to make "on the course adjustments", or spend countless hours changing my natural swing. I would be interested if you could elaborate on the physics of a high lofted wedge shot and the trade off between extra ball spin versus distance. Should the wedges be spaced at only 3 degrees to make up for the increased loft and the possibility that a typical golfer could actually lose more than 10-15 yards distance at these lofts? What is the maximum playable loft for a full shot with the ball played in the middle of the stance, or slightly up in the stance? Does Iron Byron "deloft" these clubs to get them to hit consistently? I have to ask because what would work for Arnold Palmer, who hit everything low and with a draw might not work for me. I feel most comfortable when I play the ball forward in my stance. I hit everything high and usually fade. I think 49, 52 and 54 would be my ideal wedges for my swing. I know I will hit them high, but not far. Close to the pin is good enough for me. Great advice on your site. I will be trying blades soon.
wedgeguy says:
John, Thanks for some very good questions. Let me try to address them. You are correct that grip, hand position, and many other factors affect loft at impact. I'm a believer in very "quiet" wedge swings, with the body core doing most of the face squaring, rather than the hands. Until and unless you can make consistent contact, you have no chance of building repeatable shot patterns and distance. Regarding the "physics" of a high lofted wedge shot, realize that the more loft in the face, the more spin and higher flight will be generated. The mark of any good wedge player is the ability to manage loft at impact, regardless of what is built into the club. I think in general, amateur players allow the clubhead to catch or pass the hands at impact, adding loft and ballooning the ball. But I don't know how to respond to your suggestion that 3* differences between wedges might be better than 4* -- I'd like input from anyone out there who can add to this. As for Iron Byron, all shots are hit from a tee, and the club is not de-lofted, so in my opinion, that machine is merely a comparative testing device, not a true way to determine how the ball reacts from a well struck golf shot. Finally, though you are more comfortable playing the ball forward, that makes it very difficult for you to "stay ahead" of the clubhead through impact without forcing the hands into an unnatural path. Hence your high fade. If you will experiment with gradually moving the ball back in your stance, I think you will find that your swing becomes more consistent and your ball flight more manageable. Let me know how it works for you.
John says:
I do move the ball back and I hit a lot of hooks and draws. It feels wrong to me, but I work the ball if I have to. I think the farther my "dominant" left eye stays behind the ball the better my concentration. I am a "beginner" and I picked up the cheapest clubs I could find. I learned that all of my clubs have a different offset. My 4-PW cavity backs have a high offset, little offset on my 52 and 60, and to mess everything up my 56 is a blade with no offset at all. Does the offset really matter? I know you had the write up on the blades, but I get confused about blades and muscle back clubs and I am not sure if you were talking about the offset. Thanks for the input and great info on the site.
wedgeguy says:
John, I think your issue is more with your set make-up than ball position. The hooks and draws could be attributable to the offset in your irons -- that is a feature designed to promote that. Offset DOES matter, and excessive offset was designed specifically to close the face through impact. If you can, you should try out some of your golf buddies irons, focusing on more blade-like designs, or at least models with minimal offset. You will want to upgrade at some time, and the more different irons you try before then, the better decision you can make at that time. Finally, let's try to clear up your confusion about "blades" and "muscle-back" clubs. Those terms are reasonably synonymous, and refer to the "family" of iron designs that feature minimal offset and conservative weight distribution. In that category, however, you will find some variety. That's where testing comes in to play.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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