It’s been said, rightly, that the game of golf is a morass of conundrums.
Hit down on the ball to make it go up. Aim left to make a shot go right. An aging and surgically repaired Tiger Woods almost wins on the weekend. And so on.
Another is the undeniable reality that recreational golfers, the ones who would benefit most from getting their clubs properly fitted, are the least likely to do so.
And in no instance is this more apparent than when purchasing wedges.
Equipment experts agree that wedges are the least understood, least appreciated, yet most frequently used weapon in the bag — other than the putter.
“Getting fitted for the right wedges is massively important,” said Jeremy Stone, director of marketing, Vokey Wedges. “There’s a reason we have all these loft, bounce and grind combinations and that’s to totally customize wedges to the individual golfer.”
The importance of wedges is also emphasized by the legendary craftsmen/design geniuses behind the ever-advancing technology.
For example, Titleist has Bob Vokey, whose dedication to the advancement of club design spans more than 40 years. Such is his reputation that the native of Canada was inducted into his home country’s Golf Hall of Fame last year.
Roger Cleveland is another such icon who can trace his club-making pedigree back to the late 1970s. For more than two decades, he’s been plying his trade at Callaway. He, too, is puzzled by the average golfer’s blasé attitude toward wedges since, as he points out, about 70 percent of shots during a round are from within 100 yards.
“A better short game is the best way for every golfer to lower their handicap,” Cleveland said. “You don’t need a lot of strength, but it takes practice, technique and clubs that are properly fitted.”
Another consideration is the typical course conditions in the region where you play most of your golf. Are the fairways firm and fast? Is the bunker sand fluffy? Is the rough thick and gnarly? Your handicap and physical strength also factor in. If you’re not strong enough to swing hard at a 60-degree wedge, then it is more foe than friend and you should be looking at a lower-lofted club. What’s your angle of attack? Are your divots shallow or deep?
There are technical factors as well, as pointed out by David Marshall, a longtime product specialist with Ping.
“A lot of golfers tend to pull wedge shots and can benefit from a slightly flatter lie angle in their wedges,” he said. “Another thing to remember is that a lot of wedge shots are not full shots. There’s technique and finesse involved. You will need to determine how many wedges to carry in your set and the comfortable distances for each to ensure all yardages are covered.
“Getting fitted for your wedges is a great way to maximize your talent.”
Major equipment companies have online interactive fitting apps. Titleist’s “wedge selector tool” is perhaps the best. But even Titleist’s Stone said “that is in no way a substitute for finding a great location that can fit you in person.”
Unless you’re a total gear head, you need a professional fitting. The variations are dizzying. The recently released Vokey SM7 wedges have six different grind options alone, with a total of 23 possible combinations.
Ultimately, as Cleveland says, the question is, “since average golfers are more likely to miss more greens than they hit, why don’t they get the right tools to fix that?”
John Gordon, who has covered golf for more than 30 years for Canadian newspapers, magazines and a TV network, has authored eight books on the game. He lives in Midland, Ontario.