"Sole Food," Part 2
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy
Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.
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