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Which variety of sand wedge is best for you?


While I was working out at my gym recently, a golfing acquaintance approached with a question.  “I was looking for a sand wedge on eBay,” he said, “and most of the wedges listed the bounce along with the loft. I didn’t know what that was.”

I helped with a short answer.

First, let’s delve into a little background about wedges. Some 95 years ago, late golfing legend Gene Sarazen felt a better way had to be found to extricate the golf ball from a sand bunker. So Sarazen invented a wedge that would not dig into the sand, but glance off the sand layer while the ball was resting on top of it in such a way that the propulsion of the sand itself would lift the ball in the air and out onto the green. It was truly a brilliant stroke of genius.

The original invention had a bottom flange deeper and wider than the original sole of the club which allowed the club to bottom out in the sand when the face was open. The extended area of the flange on the lower part of the club sole – specifically, the metal that extends downward – is called the “bounce.” Sand wedges can have 0 to 14 degrees of bounce. Nearly all of the top-of-the-line sand wedge manufacturers have the bounce stamped somewhere on the clubhead. And you can ask your pro or take it to a golf shop and they can measure it.

If you carry two or three sand wedges (in addition to your pitching wedge) you will need to figure what bounce to have with each one.

Short game guru Dave Pelz advises this: “Even if you own a perfect wedge swing, it’s the bounce that ultimately determines how much each club will react with the turf, sand and water, or whatever else your ball may be sitting in, through impact.” He goes on to say, “the bounce on your wedges is just as important as the attack angle of your swing. The two combine to  help you maintain speed through the ball or – gulp – dig into the ground and slow down.” Pelz urges taking few minutes to research the bounce angle on each of the wedges we play. If you are typically playing off hard, partially wet, sand, Pelz suggests using a lower bounce club. Let’s say you have both 56- and 60-degree clubs in your bag. The 60-degree wedge should have the lower bounce, leading you to use it from tight sand and also from very short sand shots where you need to loft the ball over a high bunker face. The bounce on your 60-, 62- or 64-degree lob wedges should be not more than 4 because you will often use them from tight grass lies where you need to flip the ball high in the air and expect it to land like a butterfly with sore feet. The flange on those clubs is relatively flat so you can slip the club under the ball, with some acceleration, regardless of the lie, and spin it enough to stop it almost immediately.  Higher bounce clubs are quite effective out of thick, fluffy sand, where the flange can prevent the club from digging in. “The important thing is to learn if the range of bounces in your wedge set is wide enough to tackle whatever the course throws at you. Regardless of the lofts you carry, make sure that your wedges offer a low-bounce, mid-bounce and high-bounce option,” Pelz says.

America’s hands-down master maker of sand wedges is Bob Vokey, who designs wedges with both his name and Titleist on them. Vokey is a leading example of a golf club artisan who has taken the bounce concept one step further. Vokey’s more recent wedges are stamped with “SM” which stands for “spin mill design.” All of Vokey’s current wedges are produced with six “grind” options. A Vokey grind is the “manipulation or removal of material from the sole of the club helping improve contact with the turf or the sand.” It’s an adjustment to the basic bounce of the sole itself. That provides more options for a player’s swing and course conditions. For instance, an L grind is for sweepers of the ball off the ground; an L grind is more for sand. “Proper bounce and grind combination promotes optimum contact, control and ball spin,” Vokey says.