Old wedges are like old friends, the kind you have total confidence in and whose weaknesses you overlook. But sentimental attachment may stand in the way of lower scores these days, as manufacturers are making rapid progress in—dare we say it?—wedge science. The pros on Tour carry three or even four wedges and regularly change the configuration to match playing conditions, substituting a wedge with more bounce for soft sand or adding a lob wedge if they expect to be pitching to a lot of tight pins. The emphasis is justified since two-thirds of all shots are from 110 yards in—wedge and putter territory.
Recreational players buying wedges should first decide how many they want to carry and then define the loft and bounce combinations they need. Space out lofts to achieve a ten- to fifteen-yard distance gap between wedges; choose low bounce wedges for firm sand or sod or if you have a sweeping swing style and high bounce for softer conditions and a steeper swing. Beyond that, choosing the right wedge is mostly a matter of feel and visual appeal. Game-improvement features such as cavity backs are less important in wedges than in longer irons because the higher lofts and heavier clubheads are naturally more forgiving. On these pages, the state of the art.
Dave Pelz, the former NASA physicist who has made a career of researching and teaching the short game, has teamed up with Orlimar to create a line of wedges that bristle with innovation. The key design goal was to produce consistent spin and distance control from wedge to wedge—Pelz recommends that players carry four, including a kind of super lob wedge with sixty-four degrees of loft. To achieve this consistency, the milled grooves in each of the four forged clubheads are different. The grooves are V-shaped on the pitching wedge, U-shaped on the sand wedge and box-shaped on the two lob wedges. Similarly, the various shaft lengths, shaft flexes and lie angles are engineered for constant feel and control across the set. Other innovations are DuroSteel face inserts to prevent erosion of the grooves and face texture and grips with minimum taper so that players can move their hands up and down while keeping the same feel. These grips take some getting used to, but in general the Pelz wedges feel like precision instruments. Priced at $129 each or $495 per set. Call 877-675-4627 or visit pelzgolf.com.
Callaway's new wedges, made from carbon steel to deliver a soft feel and to allow for tweaking of loft and lie, are its first forged clubs ever. Designed by Roger Cleveland, formerly of Cleveland Golf, they have a smaller clubhead and narrower sole than Big Bertha wedges for more versatility in creating shots around the green, and they come in two finishes: chrome ($140) and vintage ($150), which is raw carbon steel that will rust gently over time. Other features include a slightly heavier than normal, soft-tipped True Temper shaft for better control at slower swing speeds and a round grip with extra wrap near the bottom to make it easier to choke down. Visually, they share the thick top line of Callaway's other irons. Multiple lofts and bounces available. Call 800-228-2767 or visit callawaygolf.com.
In engineering its new wedges, TaylorMade discovered that, in some circumstances, groove design can account for distance variations of nearly twenty yards on identically struck wedge shots; the company claims that its milled "dual draft" grooves significantly reduce this inconsistency. The upper portion of each groove controls spin and launch angle, while the lower portion helps channel away debris and moisture. A proprietary RAC (Relative Amplitude Coefficient) technology focuses on feel—two small "pockets" milled into the back of each head disperse vibration energy at impact and help produce consistent feedback. We can attest to the smooth feel of these clubs, even on mis-hits—as can Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, who have already won events with the wedges. The thin top line and nickel-chrome plating looks great, too. Available for $129 each in multiple lofts and bounces. Call 800-888-2582 or visit taylormadegolf.com.