The wedge is complex. It needs to perform from a wide range of lies and distances, and it needs to do so with precision. That's why wedges have several tightly manufactured specifications. Some, like loft, have always been easy to understand. Others, like bounce angle (right), remain confusing and elusive to average golfers. Even manufacturers see it differently.
"Most consumers have no idea what bounce is," says Brian Bazzle, product-creation manager for irons, wedges and putters at TaylorMade, which offers just one bounce angle for each loft. "Bounce can be limiting. A wedge needs to work in various ways."
Conversely, Titleist and Cleveland Golf offer multiple bounce angles for many of their lofts. "Bounce gives golfers the ability to hit certain shots with less difficulty," says Bob Vokey, Titleist's wedge designer. "Every player has a different technique, so that's why we offer so many options. One wedge doesn't work for everybody."
The trouble is that a wedge's bounce angle tells an incomplete story. Several factors, especially a wedge's sole width and sole grind, also affect the bounce. "The width of the sole acts like a wing on an airplane," says Jeff Brunski, Cleveland's manager of research and business solutions. "It creates a lot of resistance when it hits the turf or sand."
A wide sole brings the wedge's leading edge higher off the ground, increasing its bounce angle, but a thin sole keeps the leading edge lower, reducing the wedge's bounce angle. "Sole width is simpler to understand than bounce," says Mike Nicolette, senior product designer at Ping. "We can take a wedge that has 10 degrees of bounce and make it play differently by making its sole wider or thinner."
A modest sole grind near the heel and toe--fairly common in most wedges--accommodates typical turf conditions and neutral swingers. But a more aggressive grind often reduces the bounce angle and suits firm conditions and shallow swingers. (See the decision tree, below, to help you choose what might be your best option.)
David Llewellyn, Mizuno's golf-club research and development manager, believes in the right balance between grind and bounce. "If we can grind the right amount off the heel and toe but maintain the bounce angle in the center of the sole, we can make the wedge more versatile."
Ultimately, you can only understand how the sole of your wedge is working for you by getting with a clubfitter at the practice green. "If you're hitting thin or fat shots, find a fitter who can guide you into a wedge with the right bounce," says Craig Zimmerman, owner of RedTail Golf Center in Oregon. "It's an important concept that you can't afford to ignore."
DECISION TREETHE RIGHT BOUNCE
Just because you need low bounce on your 50-degree wedge doesn't mean you need it on your 60-degree wedge. In fact, bounce is a relative term: A high bounce angle on a low-lofted wedge might be considered low on a high-lofted wedge*. Most high-lofted wedges come in a wider variety of bounce angles because golfers use them to execute a wider variety of shots. Use this guide to estimate how much bounce you need for each wedge.