Managing Your Gaps
One of the critical elements of scoring inside short iron and wedge range is the ability to have accurate distance control. We call it “managing the gaps”, and what that means is that your set of clubs should be arranged so that you have the ability to make a controlled full swing on shots down to the shortest reasonably distance. Regardless of your skill level, hitting a shot a given specific distance is easier if the swing is not “chopped off” into some kind of “half wedge”.
The critical step in managing your gaps is to have the right clubs in your bag. What you are seeking is a graduation of lofts from your short irons through your wedges of about 4 degrees per club for most golfers. This will give the average player about 12-14 yards difference between clubs with a controlled full swing. Longer hitters would do well to reduce those gaps to 3 degrees, where shorter hitters often find gaps of 5 degrees to yield the desired results.
This sounds simple enough, right? Well, the equipment industry throws a wrench into this plan. Let me explain.
Many moons ago, pitching wedges were the “go to” club around the greens, as they had 50-51 degrees of loft and you could do a lot with them. As the quest for distance began to dominate golf club design, pitching wedges “migrated” to 48 degrees, which led to the development of the 52-degree “gap wedge” to fill that space between the pitching and sand wedges. As golf club design progressed into cavity-back, perimeter-weighted designs, with their low center of gravity, we’ve seen that “P-club” migrate even further south, so that 44-45-46 is the most common loft seen today, with some even at 42-43. Just for comparison, this is what an 8-iron was in the 1960s.
The point I’m making is that you cannot begin to know what your optimum loft matrix for your scoring clubs really should be unless you know the loft of your set-match 9-iron and “P-club”. That “gap” wedge that you’ve had for years probably isn’t the right loft to fill the gap anymore, if you’ve purchased a new set of irons since you put it in your bag.
Once you have the right tools in the bag, you can further dissect your full swing gaps by learning how to hit full-swing shots with your hands gripped down 1” on the club. This effectively shortens the club and will, for most golfers, cut the distance gap between any two clubs in half. It’s not hard to learn to perfect this method of improving your short range distance control, but it all starts with having the right tools.
As always, I’m going to challenge you to spend a little time learning your true full swing distances with your scoring clubs, and charting what distances you yield with your gripped down swings. It will be time well spent and pay big dividends on the course when you are trying “dial in” just the right distance on a short iron or wedge approach.
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Just built myself a set of "winter" irons/wedges. Interesting how from PW-52*-56*-60* they are - on paper - similar to old set and maintain almost identical gaps btwn clubs, BUT, they play considerably different. These wedges have spin-milled faces and WOW - I kept my old wedge grooves sharp, but this is a ho . . . nutha . . . levah
Matt F says:
I'm hoping to get a couple of component clubs made this winter. 7,8 & 9 irons, 35, 39 and 43 degrees respectively. With my Eidolons 48, 52 & 56 I feel this should help me out a lot. When I get new wedges I'll be going with 47, 51 & 55.
The Wedgeguy addressed this issue with me some time ago and as a result I totally rearranged my set of clubs. I threw out my 3 & 4 irons and my 5-wood and replaced the three with two hybrids (19* and 23*) that covered the same gap. By removing a long club I was able to add a 4th wedge. I now carry a Driver, 3-wood, two hybrids, 5-9 irons and a 46*, 50*, 54* and 58* wedges. This combination has really made my game more consistent. I have a 2 hcp on a full size course and I shot my age (66) this spring and recently beat my age by shooting 65 on the same course. Adding scoring clubs and learning how to play them has made a "big" difference.
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