When we meet a new player at the United States Golf Academy, we begin our time together with a discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the player’s game. It is a rare occasion when a student does not include “short game” as an area of concern. These students looking for short game help typically have another thing in common; if they own a sand wedge they only use it when they are in the sand. A good sand wedge is easily the most versatile golf club in your bag and no matter how confident you are around the green; you can only improve your results by taking advantage its versatility.
The modern sand wedge has evolved from utility club to scoring club. The configuration of the bottom of the club keeps the club from digging in as the club strikes the ground or turf. This “bounce’’ pushes the club forward through the ball as the club slides along the ground. With a sand wedge I don’t need to strike the ball as precisely as I would normally and as long as I keep the club moving, the increased loft of the club it produces a high soft trajectory and when the ball lands, a small amount of roll.
Most of us can produce a shot that has a lower trajectory that rolls like a putt. While it is nice to be able to produce this shot it becomes difficult to control when you must fly the ball in the air over obstacles like rough, sand or water. It is also necessary to use a higher trajectory when you have missed a green on the same side that the pin is located. This is called “short siding” and usually means you have little or no green to work with, eliminating the opportunity to use a low trajectory shot that needs room to roll out.
So where do you start when looking for a sand wedge? There are literally thousands of loft/bounce combinations available. I personally think the magic numbers are 58 degrees loft and 12 degrees bounce. The club has enough loft to make the soft high shots easier to play and twelve degrees bounce allows you to swing the club aggressively without fear of fat or chunked shots.
There are three essential golf clubs to lowering your score; a driver you can trust, a putter that fits your posture and a versatile wedge for shots around the green. Skipping one of the three is a sure way to higher scores.