QA How to Choose Wedges

By Frank ThomasJuly 18, 2006, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
 
Frank,
I am a 15 handicap golfer and a little confused about wedges and what to look for. I am told by one friend that I need a Gap wedge and other golfing buddy that I need a Lob wedge. Who is right? -- Rob

 
Rob,
I am glad you asked the question as it is something a lot of golfers want to know. If you read my latest Newsletter you will not only see what to look for in wedges but also see what how our Frankly Friends have rated the wedges on the market today.
 
Below is a summary of what to look for:
 
LOFT:
This is a critical component of wedge selection. It dictates the distances you are capable of hitting the ball with that particular club. So make sure that all your wedge lofts work together so you have a club for the shots you will be presented with on the course.
 
BOUNCE:
Can be your friend or foe! Make it your friend by understanding that if you generally play in soft conditions you require more bounce on your wedges compared to hard conditions. Your Sand Wedge -- or that wedge you will most often use out of the sand -- definitely needs bounce to assist you in getting out of the bunker and this should be about 14 degrees.
 
LENGTH AND BRAND:
All your wedges should be around the same length (anywhere from 35-35 inches). They should also be the same brand and model if possible. This will assist you with a consistent feel and performance off the clubface.
 
GROOVES:
Make sure that the grooves are not worn down on those wedges you will be using to approach the green and where you need good ball control. The grooves on the Sand Wedge if used only out of the sand are not as important to keep in good shape as the rest of your wedges, because in almost every case sand is the interface between the ball and the club from a bunker and the grooves play only a small part.
 
Hope you find this useful.
 
Mr. Thomas,
I have been playing golf now for approximately one year and my average score is right at 100. Like most golfers I am looking for a driver that is easy to hit and yet can carry the distance off the tee box. I average 220 ' 235 yards with my present driver. Please help me find a driver to improve my distance. -- Alan Bullock

 
Alan,
You are now hitting the ball about 30 yards farther than golfers of average ability i.e. 27 handicap golfers. The average male golfer hits the ball 192 yards but believes he hits it 230 -240 yards. Obviously there are some golfers in this skill range which hit the ball a lot longer than the average as there are some who hit it shorter.
 
Unfortunately if you are using one of the larger titanium drivers produced in the last couple of years there is little you can do to gain much more distance other than optimize your launch conditions.
 
If you are getting about 230 yards but not launching the ball at the optimum conditions then there is some potential to gain distance.
 
If you review my article covering this subject I am sure you will be able to gain a few extra yards. The article is published in this months Newsletter at www.franklygolf.com. I hope this will help you and others with the same question. Unfortunately there is no magic bullet: it is now all a matter of basic physics.
 
Dear Frank,
Does the shaft flex or the kick point of the shaft affect the amount of spring imparted on the ball? If so, how? Thanks! -- Juan Gmez-Canseco

 
Juan,
The answer is no and let me explain why.
 
It only takes about .00045 of a second from the time the club first makes contact with the ball to the time the ball leaves the club face; the two bodies have traveled only of an inch.
 
During this time about 1500 lbs of force is being applied to the ball and it will accelerate from 0 to 160 mph.
 
During impact the shaft may as well not be connected to the head. It is the mass, velocity and MOI (Moment of Inertia) of the head which dictate what happens to the ball and how it is launched. The shaft plays no part in how the ball leaves the face of the club.
 
Most of the twisting or vibrations you first feel from the collision between the club head and the ball are long after impact has occurred and the ball has already left the face and is about 1 foot away from the club.
 
The only thing that is important just prior to contact with the ball is the club head velocity, direction and orientation and the golfer controls this through his only connection to the head i.e. the shaft.
 
The shaft is very flexible and deflects very little during impact.
 
It is the face of the club head only, with a little help from the frame of the face, which imparts the spring-like effect to the ball. This phenomenon is most often exhibited when using a large titanium driver.
 
Frank,
What are your thoughts on iron sets that gradually change from cavity-backed to blade as loft increases? I have been told that this is the new trend, does it really work. ' Christian

 
Christian,
This is a very good new trend because in a traditional set of clubs the longer and less lofted irons are more difficult to hit well than the shorter irons. The reason for this is that the MOI (Moment of Inertia) is lower on the less lofted and lighter iron heads. Visit my website to learn more about MOI.
 
In the past 25 to 30 years club makers have discovered that increasing the MOI of clubs makes them more forgiving of miss hits and have designed this into clubs designed for the average golfer. The pros hit the ball on the sweet spot more often than the rest of us and therefore dont need this forgiveness as much. We have listed about 300 types of clubs on my website into five categories of forgiveness or playability. This is the Maltby Playability Factor listing.
 
The thing is that as traditional iron head designs become more lofted in the short irons they get heavier and a little bigger and become easier to hit and are more forgiving and playable.
 
It is quite possible that most of us can use the same wedge Tiger uses but very few of us can use his 3-iron. So designers have made the longer irons as playable as possible and have progressively morphed these to a traditional design head for the wedges.
 
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com

Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins

By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 1:19 pm

Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.

Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.

Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.

After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.

With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.

Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

How did she evaluate her season?

“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”