The Death of High-Loft Wedges?
Unless you've been living in a cave deep in the mountains of Afghanistan, you are aware that the Rules of Golf that define the groove geometry on irons and wedges is in the middle of changing. After 1/1/2011, we manufacturers will have to forever change the shape, depth and spacing of grooves, as defined in the Rules of Golf by the USGA and R&A. Essentially, new wedges and irons will have slightly less groove volume per inch of face, and those grooves will have radiused edges, rather than the sharp "ball-eating" edges we’ve been accustomed to the past few years.

The question remains as to what effect this will have on the average golfer, but the impact on tour scoring – which was the target of this rule change – appears to have been minimal. This column is in response to the question I received this past week from Scott S. regarding the impact on the 64* wedge specifically:
"Recently there have been a couple of popular instructors insist that the 64 degree wedge costs most amateurs strokes, rather than save them. And Peter Kostis recently said that with the new groove changes the 64 is dead. Your thoughts on these two topics and your opinion on the 64 in general would be awesome."
Well, Scott, I’m in complete agreement with Kostis on both these points. I see golfers have lots of trouble with most 60s, and that would just be aggravated by the additional loft of a 64 or more. Lob wedges take lots of practice time to master if you want them to save you strokes rather than cost you. Few golf courses have greens that are so fast and firm that we really need that extra loft, and controlling shot trajectories and spin on higher-loft wedges is a skill that takes time to learn – time most of us won’t invest in our short games.

Now, I fully expect to hear from a lot of readers who absolutely love their lob wedges, and that’s great, because I’m addressing trends here, not specific golfer cases. But in my observation, most golfers are much better with their 55-58 sand wedges around the greens and could really benefit greatly from a 53-55 degree “mid-wedge” as their primary scoring tool. This is going to be even truer with the new groove geometry on the 2011 wedges.

At EIDOLON, our testing and observation with golfers of all skill levels is that the new groove geometry really isn’t going to have that great an impact. From clean fairway lies and shots of 60 yards or more, clubhead speed takes care of spin for most players. From the rough . . . yes, you will see more of a “flyer” trajectory and distance, but not that bad. Around the greens on shorter shots, most golfers experienced only a slight difference in the spin and roll-out of these little pitches and chips. What we did notice, and have measured, is the fact that a slightly lower loft actually generates more spin with the new grooves. That’s because as loft increases, the ball tends to slide up the face more than with current grooves and their sharp edges. So, we found our test golfers actually getting better spin with wedges in the 56-60 degree range than with those of 62-64 degrees. And some – mostly mid- to high-handicappers – got improved spin performance with the “mid” wedges of 53-55 degrees than with their sand wedges.

That would cause us to believe that the higher-loft wedges are going to become less and less popular, as they will become even harder for typical recreational golfers to master to any degree of shotmaking consistency. By the way, the “what’s in the bag” reporting on tour players is showing more and more having a 58* as their highest lofted wedge, rather than a 60*. Food for thought . . .

Thanks for your question, Scott, and congrats on winning this week’s FREE EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge.


photo source
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[ comments ]
Scott Shields says:
Interesting ...
7/13/10
 
Banker85 says:
I do seem to spin my 52*, and 56* wedges more than the 60* but they do have the sharp grooves. I love my L wedge and use it primarily for anything within 40 yards of the green maybe even out to 60 sometimes. i use the L wedge a lot so i am able to control the trajectory pretty well to get desired roll.
7/13/10
 
mjaber says:
I love my 60*. It's perfect for me from about 75yds. It's also a whole lot of fun to hit a flop with. I've been using it more often out of the sand, too, but that could be due to the fact that I'm not happy with my 56* sand wedge and need to replace it. My short game (chips/pitches) go-to club is still my 52*.
7/13/10
 
SingleDigits says:
I've left my 64* wedge in the trunk all this season for the following reasons: a) only needed it maybe once or twice a round, b) it took a lot of practice to hit it well, c) hard to get consistent distances on full shots since just a little variation in how you strike the ball would result in large variances in distance. i.e. my full swing with the 64 would result in a 60 - 75 yard shot, which is not very accurate for a pretty close distance. So now I just carry 13 clubs.
7/13/10
 
Bryan K says:
You know...the funny part about all of this discussion about groove technology is that I'm primarily more of a bump-and-runner, so I am rarely trying to get a ball to hit the green and stop. I'm usually trying to roll it, even from over 125 yards. Furthermore, if I'm ouside of my wedge distance (and the pitching iron doesn't count), I'm generally going for the middle of the green rather than the pin.

One thing that I'm learning with my lob wedge, though, is that as I get better and better at using it to hinge-and-hold, I'm getting worse and worse at getting good roll off of it. I can almost always land it within a couple of feet of where I want it, but I can't get it to release like I want it to. So I am experimenting with taking more club.
7/13/10
 
birdieXris says:
I was actually thinking about re-doing my wedges either at the end of this year or early next season. Going with a 50*, 54* and 58* we'll see though.
7/13/10
 
cicero says:
I don't have a ton of experience with equipment, so I ask this question with a sincere desire to improve my knowledge (and maybe my game): How big a difference does 2 degrees make in a high-lofted wedge? I've read frequently of people going from a 60 to a 58 for the sake of playability or maybe some other preference. Do those 2* affect playability that much, or is there something else to consider?
7/13/10
 
birdieXris says:
@cicero I know that i, personally, put a 60* in my bag for the versatility that came with it. I rarely use it for full wedge shots because of my tendency to back it up off the green. It's more a utility club for deep greenside bunker shots, tough pitch and chips from the rough, and a few 50 yarder and in shots. Fully, i can hit it about 85 yards but it goes so high it really needs a windless day to do anything constructive. 2 degrees can make all the difference in the world. It could be 10 or more yards distance, and depending on the bounce of the club it may be exponentially easier to hit. a 60* with a bounce of 6* and a 58* with a bounce of 6* will play differently from eachother for sure.
7/13/10
 
DoubleDingo says:
I have a hard enough time hitting a 56 degree wedge consistently regardless of how much I practice, let alone a 58, 60 62, 64 wedge. If I need additional loft for a flop, I open the face of whatever club I feel will carry the hazard in question at the time. But I tend to shy away from flop-shots most of the time.
7/13/10
 
birdieXris says:
After much consideration, i moved forward with my final equipment tweaks and just purchased a 50*, 54* and 58* eidolon wedges. Nice. Set is finally complete.
7/13/10
 
onedollarwed says:
It seems to take a few shots to "sight in" my 60, but then it's deadly and very precise. So I have to make sure to use it right out of the gate during a round to get the feel and trust it.
7/13/10
 
TeT says:
54° is my favorite
7/14/10
 
Joness says:
It is winter here in Melbourne Australia and we are trudging around muddy courses and wet sand in the bunkers. In summer my favorite club around the green is my 60 but in the winter I find any fat shots get stuck in the wet ground and there is no margin for error. The greens are also softer so the loft is less important. Hence I tend to play with 52 and 56 a lot more and even with my 45p. The one place i use my 60 L in winter is in the bunker. Less bounce and it gets throught the heavy sand much better than my sand wedge.

Stephen J
7/14/10
 
sepfeiff says:
Typical range of available bounce is higher in an off the shelf 56 than a 60 due to the wide use of a 56 as a sand wedge. Higher bounce is a better choice for am players because it prevents digging or hitting fat. Could this be why most am players prefer them to a lower bounce higher loft?
7/14/10
 
lewisgl says:
A late comment. I have been using conforming wedges for a few months and notice that the 60 degree does indeed seem to be harder to control with the conforming grooves. Since the ball flies higher the distance is a little tougher to control and when the ball lands it rolls out well beyond where it hits, especially on firm greens (I use Pro V1 class balls, including Srixon Zstar and etc). I also have a 58 with conforming grooves of the same make and bounce and it is stopping the ball as fast or maybe faster than the 60 is generally, not a substantial difference, but enough for me to drop the 60 in favor of the 58. As about an 8 handicap my wedge game is pretty good, obviously not nearly as good a a pro level player but I practice enough to do pretty decently around the greens. I am going to go with the 58 and 54 henceforth. I can definitely see the 60 degree and higher lofted wedges becoming less popular with the conforming grooves.
6/27/11
 
dottomm says:
I couldn't hit my 56* very well, until I started using a 60*(thank you terry) and now I can hit both clubs remarkably well. Talk about scoring clubs!
6/27/11
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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