“The object of a bunker or trap is not only to punish a physical mistake, to punish lack of control but also to punish pride and egotism.” – Charles Blair Macdonald
By Ian Hardie
Frequently I talk to golfers who tell me that ‘they don’t get much spin on their wedge shots’
It’s not usually something they are complaining about by the way
Rather, it’s more of an observation of their golf game that they generally use to describe how they play as opposed to the images that we all have in our heads of PGA Tour players who spin the ball greatly with almost every approach shot that they hit
When I ask these golfers why it is that they think that they don’t get much spin on their wedge shots – I usually end up discovering a constant factor that contributes to their lack of spin on their wedge shots
Almost all of them have ‘an old favourite wedge’ in their bag that they won’t part with
It’s a club that has ‘got them out of trouble many times’ and as such is more like an old friend or a faithful dog than what it really is:
A specific type of golf club that is a mere part of the bag of tools you use to play the game
Read that bit again as it is important to understand!
The grooves on the faces of the wedges that most golfers who don’t spin the ball a lot use – are often in worse condition than the grooves on the face of the sand wedge in the image above – an image that you may have seen before in the extremely popular posts:
Now before you think ‘so what, how much difference can that make to my shots?’
Let’s take a look at exactly what the function of the grooves on the face of your wedges actually is because it may surprise you what they are really for
As in reality, the main job that the grooves on the face of your golf clubs do – is very similar to what the tread pattern on your car tyres does
They are primarily there to help channel any dirt, grass or sand that may be on either your golf ball or between it and the club face you are about to hit with – that may affect the shot you are about to play
Away from the part of the wedge face where it is about to strike the golf ball
Which means that the grooves are of most use to you when you are playing a shot from the rough, playing out of a sand trap, playing in the rain or on a dewy morning
All shots that I’m sure you are aware – benefit from having more control of the golf ball
Obviously, the grooves also assist in playing shots from a nicely mown fairway as the edges of the groove tends to ever so briefly ‘grip the golf ball’s cover’ as its struck which allows it
To fly away with more back spin than if it was struck with a smooth faced wedge
But ultimately, the biggest effect of worn or old grooves is most noticeable when playing that shot from the rough, a sand trap, in the rain or on a dewy morning
As without the grooves efficiently channelling things away from the impact point on both the golf ball and the club face
There’s no way to predict how the ball will react when it comes off the clubface
Something that a lot of golfers experience quite frequently but that can be dramatically reduced by making sure that the grooves on your wedges are in as good a condition as possible – all the time
That means that rather than holding onto your ‘old favourite wedge’ because you have had it so long and you can’t bear to part with it – the wedges in your golf bag should be viewed
Almost as ‘a disposable item’ in your golf bag that gets changed frequently
Basically I would suggest changing your wedges at the same time you change your grips – not exactly thrown away after each game but certainly if you are looking to play your best golf – then at the very least they should be changed every year to maybe two at the most
I bet you have never considered your wedges as disposable before!
If you look at the numbers though – it makes perfect sense as a summary of some of the figures I have gathered over the years not only make scary reading – they also explain why a lot of golfers hit some of the shots that they do
Let’s assume that you are a regular once a week golfer who doesn’t practice much with your wedges and that for the sake of our example you use a cast wedge head as opposed to a forged one – which will give you a slightly longer period before the grooves start to wear and become less effective
Due to the durability of the cast head golf wedge over the softer ‘forged head’
We are also going to assume that you play on a fairly regular golf course that doesn’t have massive amounts of sand on the ground or sand traps guarding every shot you play
As the more abrasive the conditions that you play in – logically the quicker the grooves and club face will wear and as you can imagine hitting lots of practice shots
With the same club a few times a week will also quickly speed up the wear rate
So let’s imagine that you bought a new wedge three years back and that you have really become attached to it – as a lot of golfers become to their wedges
Using the conditions described above, after three years of use your fairway wedge shots will be receiving around 12% less back spin compared to a new wedge
Doesn’t seem like too much of a problem does it?
In real terms it means that a really well hit pitch shot from the fairway with your wedge will end up with the same amount of back spin as a brand new #8 iron would produce
Still doesn’t seem too bad does it but take a second to consider the same shot played from the rough with a wedge that has had three years standard use
It produces a shot that has a massive 33% less back spin than a new wedge would
Which in real terms means that smooth pitching wedge that you are hitting out of the rough will end up producing the same amount of back spin as a new #6 iron would
Just take a second to think about how that impacts your golf game – as most golfers tend to struggle to stop a #6 iron out of the rough – don’t they?
Does that start to explain a few of the shots you have dropped over the years?
The numbers get worse as the wedge gets older of course – once the wedge is down to 50% of the back spin that a new wedge would produce or about 5 years old for a regular golfer
The shot’s it hits have the same amount of back spin coming out of the rough as a new #3 iron would and when your wedge grooves get to around 7 or 8 years old
At which time they will have around 72% less back spin when you hit out of the rough – you will end up with a wedge that when hit out of the rough provides basically the same amount of spin as your driver does
Those are some sobering thoughts aren’t they?
It’s no wonder that the average tour player typically change wedges four times a year
What does it all mean to your game?
If you play once a week and do the odd bit of practice in between and you haven’t changed your wedges in more than two years
You’re missing out on some performance
Something that I’m going to talk more about in ‘Does your ‘old favourite wedge’ cost you shots on the golf course – part two’