What's In Your Sole?
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.
Last week we talked about offset, particularly in short irons, and had a great dialog that I’m sure will continue for a long time. Staying on the topic of functional parts of a golf club, this week we’re moving to the sole, thanks to a question from Bob H., who asked:
I am perplexed by all the different options in club design. Some clubs are blades with a 5/8"- 3/4" sole. Other clubs have a wide 1" - 1.125" sole. What is the purpose of a wide sole on the club head base?Well, Bob, your question brings to mind one of my favorite Ben Hogan quotes (there are many, believe me). He was known to say that “a golf club is 90% shaft and 10% how it goes through the dirt.” Pretty profound, but understand that this pearl of wisdom was from a time when there was very little technological understanding to either. Shafts were very crude compared to what we have today, and the sole of most irons was narrow and featured a negative bounce that made them pretty efficient “sod removal tools”.
The sole of an iron has several functional attributes, which all work together to deliver a measure of playability and/or forgiveness to the golfer. Since you asked about width specifically, let’s start there. Generally speaking, the wider sole will provide a higher measure of forgiveness to the golfer in terms of swing path. The wide sole will not tend to dig as much for those who often (or always) have a steep swing path. Being wider, it also places more weight low in the clubhead which produces higher shot trajectories – desirable in long and middle irons, but not so much in the short irons as I explained in a recent post.
But the sole of the club works in tandem with the amount of bounce the club was given by its designer(s). A narrower sole with more bounce can provide the same assistance as a wider sole with less bounce. Usually, those irons with wide soles have very little bounce, or they’d be practically unplayable.
“Players blades” typically have a narrower sole with less bounce, which gives the golfer more control over the shotmaking, i.e. less built into the club, so more options to the player. “Game improvement” irons typically have a wider sole to help the golfer hit the ball higher, and to keep from digging up too much sod with a steeper swing path. In between are a vast array of sole widths and designs. The only way to find out what works best for you is to take them to the course for a demo -- NOT a driving range, and definitely NOT a hitting mat inside. You can only learn what kind of sole gives you the playability you are seeking by hitting real golf shots on a real course. And always, always, always demand to demo more than one iron. You need to see what the middle AND short irons do with YOUR game. To demo the 6-iron only is not going to show you what the scoring clubs – 8-, 9-irons and PW – will do in your hands. And those – along with your wedges – are your money clubs.
So, there’s a primer on sole width, Bob. I hope that helps you better understand what to look for as you shop for those new irons this spring.
* 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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