2006: For your game - Lofty expectations

Here’s a wild prediction: The 64-degree wedge will become the next big trend in golf equipment and be recognized as the ultimate lob wedge.

Many golfers already have been exposed to the 64-degree wedge, thanks mainly to Cleveland Golf and its venerable 588 wedge line. The 588 wedges originally were designed in May 1988. Included in the line is a 64-degree wedge with a high toe and broad sole.

The Cleveland 64-degree wedge is extremely versatile. Around the green or from bunkers, it is relatively easy to use for high pitch shots.

The challenge with any lob wedge, whether it has 60 or 64 degrees of loft, is hitting it the proper distance. Lob shots often seem to come up short, although seasoned players have learned to play these clubs with a high degree of skill.

As modern golfers became accustomed to lob wedges, Cleveland was joined by two other advocates of the 64-degree wedge – Feel Golf and Dave Pelz Golf.

Don Wood, formerly of Wood Brothers Golf, offers a 64-degree wedge bearing the name of his new company, For Golfers Only. Ram sells a 64-degree wedge, and other 64-degree wedges have names such as Pinemeadow, Paragon and GCI.

“I see these wedges having a big impact in golf,” Wood says. “You definitely can hit shots with a 64-degree wedge that you can’t hit with a 60-degree wedge.”

Lee Miller, founder of Feel Golf, says “Seventy-five percent of the time I’ll use the 64-degree wedge from a greenside bunker.”

Miller is the most bullish manufacturer of the 64-degree wedge, offering the club in four different finishes.

If 64 is so great, how about even more loft?

Pinemeadow sells a 68-degree wedge, although the most active research with higher lofts is being conducted by instructor Charlie Sorrell, using Feel Golf wedges.

Sorrell, a PGA Master Professional and the 1990 PGA Teacher of the Year, is headquartered at the unique Golf Meadows complex (www.sorrellgolf.com) in Stockbridge, Ga. Golf Meadows is a 22-acre private facility used strictly for lessons by Sorrell and his staff. It contains a large teaching area and three practice holes.

After struggling for years with some of his students – particularly the ones without adequate feel – Sorrell started bending wedges to higher lofts. His purpose was to produce clubs that could be hit with full golf swings, even on short shots.

After consulting with Miller, Sorrell began experimenting with wedge lofts of 73, 77 and 80 degrees. He concedes the 77- and 80-degree clubs had too much loft, but says the 73-degree wedge was a big hit.

“For the average player who doesn’t have great touch around the greens, we tell him to not do anything with the hands but hold on,” Sorrell said. “We tell him just to swing his arms.”

Helpful hint: Use a strong grip and always square the club face at address; do not open it.)

There is a method to his madness. The ball is played off the back foot and the hands are angled ahead of the ball, leading students to feel as if they are holding this angle throughout the swing, using their arms but not their hands, and pulling through with the left arm.

“You gotta have some speed,” Sorrell says of the swing. “You end up with an aggressive feeling, which is good.”

The 73-degree wedge does not work well from soft sand, but can be used quite effectively from firm sand.

With a 14-club limit, golfers are faced with some tough decisions. But with greens getting faster and pin placements getting tougher, perhaps the time has come to put a 64-degree wedge in your bag.

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