By Patrick Aretha, Club Fitter
Golf is hard, and anyone who endeavors to play this game will agree. So, let’s not make it harder than it needs to be by understanding the importance of properly fitted clubs for YOUR game. With so many options to choose from it can be difficult to figure out what is best suited for you. That’s why it is always best to consult your local club fitter. They have the experience and knowledge to help you better understand your game. That said, most golfers struggle with approach and greenside shots which means that improving your short game is a great way to shave strokes off your score. Having the ability to control spin and trajectory from various lies and course conditions is key, and that means that having the right bounce and grind on your wedges can have a significant impact on your ability to hit the right shots at the right time.
To start, bounce is defined as the angle formed by the leading edge and the lowest point of the sole of the club. This camber is measured in low bounce (4-6°), mid-bounce (7-10°), and high bounce (more than 10°). Secondly, golfers can choose from various grinds, meaning how the sole of the club is shaped. What combination of bounce and grind is best? The answer is dependent upon three things. First, your angle of attack is quite important. Then, consider what turf and sand conditions are like at the courses you play, and what types of shots you commonly face.
Let’s look at bounce as it relates to angle of attack. Generally speaking, a swing that is very shallow and tends to pick the golf ball will benefit from having a lower bounce. Oppositely, a swing that is steep and tends to dig deeper into the turf will benefit from a higher bounce. Most golfers will choose a mid-bounce wedge because it fits well with a neutral angle of attack. These generalizations hold true because bounce can affect how the club head digs into the turf or sand, which in turn affects where on the club face the ball is struck. A wedge with higher bounce is ideal for steeper swings because the higher bounce helps the clubhead enter and exit the turf more efficiently. A clubhead with lower bounce is ideal for shallower swing types because the clubhead has less interaction with the turf.
Angle of attack is important to consider and is widely used to make wedge selection easier, however, we must also look at the conditions of the courses we play most often. For the same reasons mentioned in the last section, shots played in softer turf or fluffy lies in sand will typically benefit from using a clubhead with higher bounce. Whereas shots played from very firm conditions and harder sand will be easier to make with clubs that have lower bounce. In these cases, it is the condition of the course that is allowing the clubhead to either dig more or less into the turf rather than the angle of attack alone. On the other hand, if you play a variety of courses and are unsure of what the conditions are like from one to the other, a mid-bounce wedge will be ideal because it gives the golfer more control in the most common lies that golfers will face.
This brings us to the point at which we can be more creative in choosing a wedge because what type of lie you are in and what type of shot you want to play will also affect what bounce and grind options you choose. Two golf shots are very rarely the same, and golfers will sometimes need to hit a ball over an obstacle and stop it quickly. Maybe next you’ll want to hit it with a lower trajectory and higher spin, so it checks up once and stops next to the pin. Tighter lies require more precise contact so typically lower bounce is ideal for lies in divots or where you are overcoming an obstacle and are short sided. But low bounce doesn’t always fit with your angle of attack or course conditions, which is where the grind, or shaping of the sole, comes into play. Every company offers several grind types to choose from. Essentially the effective bounce of a wedge can be adjusted by shaving more material off the heel or toe side, or the trailing edge. For example, a grind with significant heel relief can be used for normal shots as well as if you need to open the club face because the leading edge will not drag or dig heavily into the ground. Same goes for the toe side when playing a shorter chip shot with the club more vertical and swinging as if making a putting stroke.
To boil this discussion down to the most important aspects of bounce and grind, golfers will need to consider their swing type, the conditions they typically play in and what types of shots they like to hit. Generally speaking, bounce affects how well the ball is struck which gives golfers more control over spin and trajectory whether the swing is steep or shallow, or the turf or sand is soft versus firm. Grind allows the golfer more versatility in shot making by changing the effective bounce of the club for various shot types where the face is open, or the toe side of the club head is more in use. Hopefully this discussion has shed more light on the impact that bounce and grind have on wedge selection. As always, it is best to visit your local club fitter who can examine your swing dynamics and consult with you to make the best selection for your game.