When was the last time you replaced your wedges? Three years ago? Five years ago? Let’s hope it’s not the latter, because if it is, you’re costing yourself shots due to lack of spin. It’s one thing to keep a beloved putter from the ‘90s; it’s another to keep a favorite wedge with worn-out grooves. According to Cleveland’s director of R&D, Jeff Brunski, even a three-month-old 56-degree RTX 2.0 wedge has 300 rpm less spin than a new RTX 2.0 wedge on a full shot from the rough, causing the ball to run out 10 percent (or 1.5 feet) more.
“Tour pros are constantly replacing their wedges,” says Bob Vokey, whose eponymous clubs from Titleist are very popular with pros. “Most amateurs, on the other hand, don’t replace their wedges often enough. A wedge will typically perform for about 60 to 70 rounds, depending on the player’s practice habits. For most avid golfers, that works out to be 1.5 to 2 years.”
If you’re in the market for new wedges, it’s definitely worth taking the take the time to get fitted. Although an outdoor session with a trained fitter is the best way to get the right wedges for your game and playing conditions, new hi-tech fitting systems from the likes of Mizuno and Cleveland make it easier than ever to find the correct specs indoors, too.
“The combination of attack angle and shaft lean at impact are crucial parts of getting fit into the correct bounce,” says Adam Sheldon, brand manager at Cleveland. “Our Wedge Analyzer, which can be found in all major retailers across the country, measures these critical factors and recommends the correct bounce for any player after just a couple of swings.”
Many amateurs are afraid of bounce—the angle of a club’s sole—thinking that a lot of it will make a wedge harder to play off the turf. Instead, they buy a wedge with less bounce and/or play the ball way back in their stance, then burying the leading edge in the turf. But bounce is your friend, not only in the heavy sand, but on tight grass as well, because it will keep the club from digging and help it glide through the shot as long as your hands and shaft are at 90 degrees or slightly forward at impact.
“People don’t create loft early enough in a pitch shot or in the bunker,” says Roger Cleveland of Callaway, who’s been making wedges since 1983. “If you don’t create loft, you can’t release it. Most amateurs play it too far back, which de-lofts and de-bounces it. Phil [Mickelson] says there are two shots: there’s one up and one back for a low checker and hardly anything in between. And on most forward shots he’s hitting slightly behind the ball. He’s not hitting the ball first. You’ve got to release it early.”
If you need to hit more of a flop, a design with some of the bounce removed from the heel will help. “There’s a big trend on tour toward more and more bounce because it helps the club to not dig, but if you get too much bounce on the heel, it makes the club less versatile,” says Mizuno club engineer Chris Voshall. “The club is going to sit on that bounce and is going to lift that leading edge up and make it tougher to get under the ball on a tight shot. You have to make sure there’s enough of a grind that it allows for greenside shots, but you don’t want it to be so much that it affects the playability of the bounce.”
Two other points to consider: If you have a 60-degree wedge, you might want to ditch it: You need a lot of club-head speed to hit such a high-lofted club a decent distance on full shots and the leading edge tends to dig on shots around the green. And depending what wedges came with your set, you might want to drop the pitching wedge and replace it with a 46-degree gap wedge, like a lot of tour pros are doing.
“The design of these wedges can provide more versatility and shot making opportunities than some current pitching wedge designs geared toward distance,” says Vokey. “Some everyday golfers may benefit from this design, while others will prefer the pitching wedge that comes with their set. It is always best to work with a professional club fitter to determine which wedge is the right fit.”
Spin it any way you like, but new wedges will probably do more for your game than any other club.
Callaway Mack Daddy PM Grind
Designed by Phil himself (thus the initials), there’s almost 40 percent more grooves across the entire face, even on the high toe, which moves the weight up to help get the ball out of deep rough. $129, 56–64 degrees
Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0
A new micro-milled “Rotex” face pattern and sharper grooves produce a lot of spin from the rough, while two heads shapes, three sole grinds, and 10 loft options means there’s a combination for everyone. $130, 46–64 degrees
“Loft-specific” grooves create more spin on higher-lofted models and a little less on lower-lofted ones; the Performance Fitness System will help you find which of the 25 different loft and bounce configurations are right. $130, 49–62 degrees
Engineered from the hands down—with an extra-long grip that encourages choking down and grooves that launch the ball lower but with tons of spin—helps flight the ball with the idea trajectory and spin. $140, 47–60 degrees
Titleist Vokey Spin Milled 5
A 7% larger groove in two different configurations (depending on loft) delivers maximum spin by channeling away grass and sand; each of the 17 grooves are individually milled and inspected. $129, 46–62 degrees