Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped Mailbag, sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive GOLF.com series in which we field your hard-hitting gear questions.
Should I play a game improvement wedge or one that allows for greater versatility? Can’t I find a wedge that gives me both? – Brad S., Kansas
Sure, you can. It’s possible to have a wedge (or wedge set for the matter) that combines forgiveness with versatility. The question is, how much of each do you want? The more you lean towards a wedge built for forgiveness, the less versatile it’ll be. And the more versatile your wedge, the less forgiving it will be.
To better understand this give-take dynamic, let’s get back to basics. Typically, when we think of forgiveness, we think of how much distance or accuracy we lose when we miss the sweetspot on the face. This is especially true with drivers, woods and even with irons. (And for all intents and purposes here, let’s assume that you try to swing your clubs the same way every time.) More “forgiving” driver/wood/iron models also resist twisting at impact to help keep the ball online in its intended direction.
With wedges, forgiveness is attributed to more than just distance and accuracy loss. A forgiving wedge is designed to be easier to use—whether it be from the fairway, rough or in the sand. And unlike other clubs that you generally have one swing with, wedges are designed to be swung several different ways from a variety of lies and differing playing surfaces. This means they’re meant to perform with full swings, half-swings, quarter-swings, pitches, chips, lobs, sand shots, etc. Also, they’re made to work off short grass, long grass, soft sand, firm sand and so on. Furthermore, it’s the overall design that lends way to creating more forgiveness. This means a forgiving wedge usually has a wider sole for added bounce, a larger clubface, and in some instances, a cavity behind the face for improved distance control (consistent distance.)
The problem with adding forgiveness is also in the overall design. The wider the sole and the more bounce it has, the more difficult it becomes to hit open-faced shots with any sort of regularity. This means forgiving wedges tend to work best when played one way—with the hands slightly forward and a squared clubface. Think of Cleveland’s Smart Sole wedge as a prime example in this category.
A versatile wedge (also known as a player’s wedge) is designed for shotmaking. These wedges tend to have smaller profiles, lower bounce angles and thinner soles, all of which enable open-faced shots that although promise more reward, require added skill to pull off. A versatile wedge (like Cleveland’s RTX ZipCore) is good for golfers who like hitting a variety of shot types like chunk and runs, quick hoppers, low rollers or flop and stoppers. You get the idea.
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Cleveland Smart Sole 4 Wedge
Here’s the important part. There’s one more factor in how wedges perform, and that’s the golfer who wields it. Whether you’re a skilled player, mid- or high-handicapper, or maybe you’re completely new to the game, it’s crucial you choose a wedge that matches your swing tendencies first, where you tend to play second, and what skill level you are, third. It’s possible you’re a single-digit handicap, but maybe you tend to swing steeply with your wedges and make big divots/occasionally hit it fat on mushy golf courses. If that’s you, you’re better off opting for a wedge with a greater bounce angle and a wider sole to lessen your mistakes– even if it means giving up a little on versatility.
Or, you could be the opposite player type. You may be new to the game, but your wedge game is pretty solid and if anything, you thin your short shots more than you hit them fat. This may be the result of either a shallow swing or firm course conditions or both. In either case, a lower-bounce wedge with a more compact sole shape could be just what you need to score better from around the green.
And to reiterate your question, there’s plenty of middle-of-the-road wedges out there that come pretty darn close to splitting the difference between versatility and forgiveness. The Cleveland CBX Wedges both come in not only a wide array of lofts and bounce combinations for custom levels of performance, and also come with cavity-backs for added forgiveness.
Remember, go with your swing type first, where you play second, and your playing level third. Follow that order in your wedge selection and you’ll be on the right track towards improving your short game with any wedge you choose.
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