Club-fitting series: Find the right wedges
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
For decades Bob Vokey constructed and repaired golf clubs for the best golfers in Southern California. Since 1997 his name has been synonymous with wedges from Titleist.
Vokey splits his time these days between Titleist’s California research and development facility and various professional tours around the world. And often during his travels, especially to the Far East, he’s revered as a golf icon. Much like his colleague Scotty Cameron, Titleist’s putter designer, Vokey draws huge crowds of ordinary golfers and golf fans seeking his wedge wisdom.
Vokey’s name is on all Titleist wedges. In 2010, Titleist made 17 Vokey wedges in each of two groove configurations – the old larger grooves and the new smaller grooves (Titleist calls them C-C, for condition of competition).
Following an edict from the U.S. Golf Association and R&A, Titleist and all other golf club manufacturers stopped making the larger grooves at the end of 2010.
So, in an era of smaller grooves, how does a golfer find the right configuration of wedges? Vokey approached this question thoughtfully in the manner of a scientist trying to explain his field of expertise to untrained observers.
“Well, analyze where you play,” said Vokey (www.vokey.com). “How big are the greens? What kind of wedge shots do you have to play? What’s the turf like? What’s the grass like? Do you get a lot of tight lies?”
Vokey wedges start at 48 degrees and progress in 2-degree increments to 64 degrees. Bounce angle on the sole varies from 6 degrees (48-degree pitching wedge) to 14 degrees (a standard 56-degree sand wedge).
Vokey wedges offer a choice of bounce in most of the lofts.
“We can fit any golfer,” Vokey said. “Personally I am big fan of (higher) bounce, and I think all golfers need to learn how to use it to their advantage.”
Softer or fluffier sand, Vokey explained, generally requires more bounce in a sand wedge. Likewise, players with steeper swing planes need more bounce.
Many golfers know how to open the clubface to produce higher, softer lob shots, but Vokey also talked about a technique in which touring pros effectively stand a wedge on its toe and hit pitch shots with little or no contact with the turf.
“Take a wedge lesson,” Vokey advised. “That’s where all of us can save shots around the green.”
Vokey likes 4-degree gaps between wedges.
“Know your gaps,” he says. “Know your exact yardages.”
Vokey’s recommendation: Carry four wedges. If you feel you need a 60-degree wedge, go 48-52-56-60. Or ditch the 60 and go 46-50-54-58. Vokey believes many golfers would score better if they carry a 58 rather than a 60.
“The 60-degree wedge requires a lot of confidence,” Vokey said. “How do you get that confidence? By practicing a lot. You don’t automatically become an expert with a 60-degree wedge just by sticking it in your bag. Generally speaking, the 58 is easier to hit.”
Another piece of Vokey advice: Never play with more than half an inch of extra length.
“I get all these kids saying, ‘Give me an extra inch with the wedges.’ Wait a minute! Wedges are for creativity and better shot control,” Vokey said. “One inch over is too much. You’re hitting many wedge shots when you’re choking up, anyway.”