"Sole Food," Part 2
You can Read Part 1 of "Sole Food" HERE!

On Tuesday, I began the answer to Michael Y, who inquired about the evolution of the sand wedge, from the older models with wide soles with lots of camber, to the modern renditions, which generally feature narrower soles with various bounce angles and an endless array of grind specifications. Today, I want to follow up that history lesson with a discussion of just what makes a wedge sole work.

It all starts with "bounce." By definition, "bounce" is the downward angle from the leading edge to the trailing edge of a club, in this case, wedges. The two drawings illustrate low and high bounce options – you can see that the high bounce would offer more “rejection” force upon contact with the ground, and would therefore be more suitable for soft turf or sand. The low bounce option would, of course, offer less rejecting force, making it more suitable for firmer turf or packed/wet sand. Pretty simple, right? Well, not that much.

Adding to the complexity is that the angle of the bounce in the sole is correlated to the width of the sole. In the above drawings, if you made the low bounce wedge’s sole twice as wide, it would significantly lower the trailing edge, and the resulting wedge would function more like a high bounce wedge, even thought the actual bounce angle is only 6-8*. Similarly, if you made the high bounce wedge’s sole half as wide, it would greatly reduce its rejecting effect and make it perform like a low bounce version with half the measured angle. That’s why a simple number, i.e. 8*, 12*, etc., cannot accurately define how a wedge will perform. You have to also consider the sole width that goes along with that number.

Confused yet? There's more.

On many modern wedges, you see some evidence of grinding in the rear of the sole, most commonly in the back of the heel and toe areas. This came from tour players, who wanted the leading edge to sit closer to the ground when they laid the wedge open for flop shots and other. This effectively reduces bounce, which they can afford because of their tremendous skills and the fact that they play firm sand most weeks. [When was the last time you saw a plugged lie on tour, versus on your own course(s)?] Every tour player spends tons of hours practicing with their wedges to develop their extraordinary skills, and so they know exactly how they want their wedges ground. These guys can actually feel the difference between one wedge and another with only a degree or two different bounces. You and I – no way! And, if they get to a tournament where the turf or sand conditions are different, they simply go to the tour vans and get their wedges ground or get new ones – FREE!

The ‘C’ grind Michael mentioned is named for the shape the main part of the sole takes on when the heel and toe are ground off this way. The trailing edge of the sole takes on a radius from heel to toe that has a distinct curvature.

The main thing you must realize is that any area of the bottom of the club that angles upward, or away from the turf, is really not in play during the swing. Only the part of the sole that makes contact with the turf through impact can affect the way the clubhead is rejected. And that every wedge will perform a little differently from various turf conditions. Almost all wedge companies that talk about bounce will advise that “diggers” and those who play soft turf should choose wedges with higher bounce angles, and that "sweepers" and those who play firmer turf should choose wedges with less bounce.

And I still challenge that "wisdom" with the observation that every golf course, everywhere . . . has every turf condition imaginable. And that very few golfers can be pigeonholed as either "digger" or "sweeper." But that would get into an EIDOLON sales pitch, and I try to refrain from that as much as I can. Hope you all forgive me, but it does pay my bills!

I encourage you to ask away with any more questions about this topic, and of course any others. This one could be fun as you all chime in!
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[ comments ]
Banker85 says:
SO, ummmm. ya. confused. So i have 52*/10* bounce, 56*/14* bounce, and 60*/10* bounce wedges. The firmer the turf like now the fairways are dry and hard. better to hit with the lower bounce club so the sole wont reject the turf like a higher bounce club would? could a high bounce club on firm turf result in thinned shots? and low bounce shots on soft turf result in fat shots?
Scott Shields says:
@ banker - thats exactly it. Higher bounce on the club + stiffer surface = more elastic collison ---> greater chance of the club skipping and thinning/bladding a shot.
Scott Shields says:
and similiarly the converse is true. Although, I feel not as much extreme. I feel like I can still pick a ball with a low bounce off a soft surface ... just requires more precsion (i.e. hitting the ball first)... but I've created my share of 3" wide, 10" divots that way.
LongTimeAway says:
Hey Banker85, FWIW based on my understanding: yes, yes, and yes. But skill level, landing area, etc. probably needed to be factored into the club selection. :-)

"On many modern wedge" section forward, I found really interesting. I found the part about tour players, extraordinary skills and firm sand very intriguing, which leads to another question (and reinforces that tour players are playing a different game). Did "C" and other grinds exist before the sand wedge? If not, it makes me wonder when and if different grinds would have ever been invented.

Fascinating stuff. Thanks for the explanations.
Agustin says:
The way I see it:
1. Examine your current lie and know how it will influence your shot
2. 3. Know your swing and it's limitations
3. Know your equipment, what it's designed to do and how it will respond to your current lie and your swing.
4. After evaluation the 3 previous points... play it SAFE; meaning a shot that you can pull off 80% of the time or more.

Because of the varied conditions we normally encounter I suggest you should have both a low bounce and a high bounce wedge in your bag for any given round. The high bounce should be your "middle" (56°-58°) or most versatile wedge since you may have to play several types of shots with it. While the low bounce wedge should be your highest lofted wedge (60-64°) since you will not be opening the face when your are using it...
Agustin says:
@Banker85 - One important point... If you have a steep angle of attack and you're a little inconsistent... be very careful with low bounce clubs on firm conditions... The less rejection provided by the low bounce plus the "sharper" leading edge will cause any fat shot to dig; meaning it will still be your turn after your shot. Your wrists will hurt for a while as well... I know from experience ;)
Banker85 says:
thanks all, I am not sure if i am steep or not? any tell tale signs? I dont take much of a divot with wedges but i do take some turf. I am fairly consistent with the wedges as far as distance and accuracy. I had a 60* with i think it was 8* bounce and that sucker would dig in on most full swings hated that club.
Agustin says:
@Banker85 - Your problems with the 60°/8° are one of the signs of a steep attack. This is not a swing flaw at all; you just have to be aware of it to make some adjustments. Once of the adjustment is to have higher bounce on you clubs... another is to play the ball back in your stance to ensure solid contact before the club hits the ground... But this is a chicken and egg story... the further back in the stance the ball is, the steeper the swing will be.

Pro's and low handicap highly skill players can modify their swing hit the ideal show. We don't have that benefit... If we try to adjust our swing for each particular shot bad things tend to happen.
cjgiant says:
I got a lower bounce sand wedge for the simple fact that in the traps I normally played, the sand was thin, and the clay was so close, that I thought the high bounce made my getting out of traps more difficult. I did feel more confident from the sand when I made this move, but I did become a little more hit-or-miss with full shots (and more miss on soft/wet turf).

This article and related ones made me realize why, and I have taking that knowledge to the course. Still too early to know if it's helped considerably, but I appreciate the explanations. Might be time to go get fitted for wedges.
Nojdemo2 says:
OK, so the really important metric i.e. the amount of club-head rejection is based on both the bounce angle (b) and the width of the sole (w). Wouldn't a better single metric then be the height of the leading edge on impact: if my trigonometry is correct, w*sin(b). Bounce can then be measured in millimetres. You could even take the variation due to grinds into account by publishing a bounce height range: 3-7mm.
onedollarwed says:
There are several ways to influence the amount of "rejection" and several reasons as well. These just don't appear on a mystical pu-pu platter for our picking. Like has been said... steepness of swing, ball position, opened club faces, up/side hill ground, buried ball. Plus, different golfers prefer different shots and ball flights.

The good news is that you can take a wedge on a hard floor, say, and simulate many of these positions... and watch the leading edge come up or down, the toe or heel come up or down, and even take a look at the trailing edge.

Then there's getting some pracice. You can correlate experience with your club facts from repeated experience, but only if you can visulaize/internalize the facts of the club, and the facts of the ground, and the facts of club and ball position.
windowsurfer says:
Per aGustin: "Your problems with the 60°/8° are one of the signs of a steep attack. This is not a swing flaw at all; you just have to be aware of it to make some adjustments. [cut]... another is to play the ball back in your stance..."

I have 60/8 and 50/6. Lots of tight lies on home course. Play'em back in stance. Ball checks aggressively, stays low. I am happy w results. For wet or fluffy lies, I try to sweep more with a pronounced inside-out swing path and make sure I finish with body facing frwrd, hands high/front. Seems to work in preventing fat shots and still gives pretty good stopping spin. Am I on the right track w this two-shot/two-club repertoire?
elliottgaryusa says:
I would be interested to know when it might be beneficial to grind the sole down a bit. My wedges 52*/8*, 56*/14, 60*/8*. The 52 & 60 bounce seems OK for me but I avoid using my 56 on anything but sand or very tall rough.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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