Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wedge Fitting Re-Visited

The United States Golf Academy was recently named by Golf Digest Magazine as one of the Top 100 club-fitters in the United States. If there is a reason we were chosen for this honor I think it is simply this. We have assembled a group of excellent golf instructors who understand that you can’t have a conversation about how to swing a golf club without knowing something about the playing characteristics of the club. Nowhere is that more evident than with the wedges you play and yet they are often overlooked during the fitting process.

When buying new clubs, the wedges should be fit in a separate process. The reasons to do so are basic. First, we use the wedges for shots covering a broad range of distances. Where the variance might be +/- 7 or 8 yards with an iron, it could be as much as 25 yards with a wedge. Second, we make a variety of different swings to achieve the distance controls we seek. Outside - in cut shots, inside - out paths for low spinning shots to the green, steep or shallow angles of attack depending on lie and shot requirements. Our ability to hit these shots requires perfect clubface control.

The ball flies where the face of the club is pointed at impact. When the face of the club is tilted the effect on the ball is magnified. The more it is tilted the greater the effect. The effect on the ball flight of a wedge that is too upright or too flat is exaggerated due to the increase in loft. As a review, because of the tilted plane of the wedge, how that plane is tilted will influence the direction the ball leaves the club and also how the ball spins.

Most golfers play with wedges that are too upright. So for a normal shot and swing they get a ball flight that is often left of the target. If they don’t have the knowledge of club dynamics and how the dynamics change with the fit, they often compensate by turning the face open thinking the pull was caused by a closed face. Some will reroute the club on a bigger path to the right, which is the recipe for a shank, but that is another story for another day. Unfortunately, by opening the face, they also increase the amount of loft the club has at impact. The result is a straight shot high that flies shorter than expected due to the increase in loft. Unfortunately, by opening the face you also flatten the lie angle of the club. You can see this at home. Take your sand wedge and lay the club head flat on the ground with the leading edge of the face straight away from you. Now rotate the club head in a clockwise manner (opposite for lefties) and watch the face open. If you keep the club flat on the ground you will notice your hand drops lower and lower as you open the club. Why would this be a problem? Lie angles are usually tested by striking a ball off a board and then looking to see where the board marks the golf club. A wedge that is too upright, with an open face to compensate, will mark the sole of the club as if it is a perfect fit. So we keep playing at a disadvantage because we think we have the correct fit, blaming our lack of talent when it is really a club fit issue.

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