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Friday, December 26, 2014

How to Match Your Sand Wedge to the Sand

I have an old book (2002) called Turn Three Shots into Two by PGA Master Instructor Bill Moretti. It's a book on various facets of the short game, and I found some info in the section on sand play that may be news to many of you.

While most of us focus on how to play from various types of sand, we don't always realize that we're having trouble playing from different types of sand because we have the wrong sand wedge for the job. I can tell you this from experience. For a long time I thought I couldn't play from the sand until I found out I had the wrong amount of bounce for the sand at my favorite course. Once I got the right wedge, I had no more trouble.

According to Moretti, when you choose a sand wedge you need to consider the type of sand on the courses you'll be playing, the weight of the club, and the way the wedge fits in with the rest of your set. The three main design variables that you need to consider are:
  • the loft (Moretti's specs are from 55 to 58 degrees, but now they can easily range from 52 to 64)
  • the bounce (typically from 8 degrees or low bounce, to 13 degrees or high bounce), and
  • the swingweight (D1 to D8 -- that's light to heavy -- although women's clubs can go down to C8 and I've seen men's clubs up to E2)
Swingweight is just a measure of how heavy the club head feels relative to the club's grip. A higher swingweight makes the club feel heavier at the top of the swing and slows down your change of direction.

Moretti makes the following recommendations:
  • If you play a variety of courses -- that is, many different types of sand -- you should stay in the middle of those ranges for loft and swingweight.
  • If you play mostly hard sand and elevated greens, pick a wedge with more loft (higher number), less bounce, and a lighter swingweight.
  • If you play mostly soft sand and heavy rough, pick a wedge with less loft (lower number), more bounce, and a heavier swingweight.
And those choices reflect the way you'll want to use your sand wedge:
  • In the softer sand you'll want to use the bounce more so you make a shallower swing to let the club head slide under the ball.
  • In the hard sand you use the bounce less so you make a steeper swing that's more like a chipping stroke.
Those are the basics. And of course there's no law that says you can carry one of each -- a high loft / low bounce wedge for short game shots off tighter lies, and a low loft / high bounce wedge for fluffier lies.

Just for the record, I originally had a 56-degree wedge with around 10 degrees of bounce. The problem was that my course had very soft sand. I went to a 52-degree wedge with 13 degrees of bounce and immediately started hitting good bunker shots.

Believe me, the right sand wedge is a truly miraculous piece of equipment.

Of course, it's possible you play something else, like a course with soft sand and deep bunkers. That would indicate a high loft / high bounce wedge, wouldn't it? But such a club is very specialized and might not get used enough to carry its weight in your set. Your local pro can get you fitted for what you need.

But at least now you know the basics of matching sand wedge to sand.

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