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Grand Theft - Golf
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy

Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at askme@thewedgeguy.com.

They've Stolen Your Pitching Wedge!

At my company, EIDOLON, we talk with golfers every day who are looking to optimize their short game and scoring, and it seems of late that we are having more and more discussions with people who have recently bought new irons and are now experiencing full swing distance gaps between their new "pitching wedge" and their gap or sand wedge. The problem is that very few sets of irons sold these days even have a pitching wedge in them. Hear me out.

For this discussion, I'm going to declare that the "modern era" of golf club design began about 1970. That's when golf really took off as a sport for the masses and the industry expanded beyond the traditional brands - Spalding, Wilson, MacGregor, Hogan, etc. - to include newcomers like Ping, Lynx and others. Investment casting of heads began to challenge forging as an acceptable manufacturing method, and opened the door to a broader range of "creativity" in design concepts.

Up until then, a set of irons generally was a 3-Pitching Wedge ("PW" or "P"), with better players often carrying a #2 and/or even #1 iron. And the pitching wedge was your “go to” scoring club of 49-50* loft, with a little different sole design to make it versatile. Your sand wedge was typically used mostly for bunker shots and escapes from the rough.

But along the way, the industry became obsessed with distance, and discovered these new cavity back irons launched the ball way too high, especially in the short irons. So they began cranking down the lofts to “one up” the next brand. Now, I’ll grant you that giving golfers more height with their long- and middle-iron shots was a wonderful thing, but average players I meet can't keep their short irons out of the clouds with this technology, and their short range shotmaking suffers because of it.

By the mid-to-late 1980s, most sets of irons included a club with a “P” or “PW” on the bottom that had as little as 47-48 degrees of loft on it, and the sand wedge became a more widely-used scoring tool . . . which created a market for “gap wedges” of 51-53 degrees of loft. And that club, along with the sand wedge, became golfer’s “go to” scoring clubs, because they worked better. Following the lead of the new metal wood marketing messages, by the 1990s, irons also began to be sold under the “longer, further” mantra.

The result of this trend is that very few sets of irons sold today can even remotely be considered to have a true “pitching wedge” in them. A survey of the most highly promoted brands of irons on the market for 2010 reveals that the “typical” loft on the “P-club” or last iron (which I refuse to any longer call a “pitching wedge”) is 45-46 degrees, with some as strong as 43! Even the “players’ blades” have a “P-club” of 47 degrees; I only found a few models that had a “P” club of 48 degrees. The truth is that putting a Cadillac hood ornament on a Yugo doesn’t make it a Cadillac. You can put a “P” or “PW” on it, but an iron with less than 48-49* of loft just is NOT A PITCHING WEDGE . . . because it just doesn't have enough loft to allow you to pitch the ball around the greens. Sure, with a full swing it goes as far as you used to hit your 8-iron . . . because it IS an 8-iron . . . with a “P” on the bottom!!! And your gap wedge is now so far from your “P-club” that you have re-created that full swing distance gap that you bought it for in the first place. So, what is a golfer to do?

My suggestion is that you set aside your notions of “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” wedges and focus on the true lofts and performance of your scoring clubs. Start by doing some online investigation to find out the true loft of the “P-club” in your bag. From there, most golfers will benefit by building a set of “true wedges” that start at 3-5* weaker than the “P” club, and maintain that increment to the highest loft wedge you want to include in your set. For example, if you have one of these modern sets with a 44-45* “P-club”, you would probably be best served by a set of wedges at 48-49, 53-54 and 57-60 at the very least. A longer hitter could benefit from adding another scoring tool and decreasing those loft increments to 3*.

The key to building an effective set of golf clubs is to ensure you have the tools you need to score the golf course . . . any golf course. And if you are packing around a set of irons without a true pitching wedge, you are handicapping yourself when you are in scoring range. Do some research, and test some true pitching wedges . . . you’ll quickly see what a valuable scoring tool you’ve had stolen from you.


* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.


[ comments ]
hoonunya says:
Great blog! The guys that I play with regularly use 2 clubs weaker than I do on par 3's. They would hit longer but my clubs are old(er) school lofts.
This became really apparent to me when I found that I had to club up when I got this set. I hit my new 6 iron shorter than I hit my previous 7 iron. When I compared the lofts I found that my previous 7 iron was 1 degree STRONGER than my new 6 iron. No wonder it went further.
My PW is 47 degrees and then gap at 51, sand 55, lob 59. Still stronger than what you're suggesting but at least in the right direction.
6/4/10
 
hoonunya says:
Had to add:
Tom Wishon, a very good clubmaker, also says this and I don't have his irons. He has clubs where the clubmaker puts whatever medallion you want
OS752-44 Iron = 44° loft - includes #9 and #PW medallions
OS752-49 Iron = 49° loft - includes #PW and #AW medallions
www.wishongolf.com/designs_details.php?dKey=79&d
6/4/10
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

Click here to learn more about Terry.
 
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