Leave Your Lob Wedge

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Frank,
With Tom Watson almost winning the Open Championship and still successfully competing at the Masters, do you think more of us should look more closely at ending our bagged clubs at the 56 degree sand wedge?
How many times in a round do you have to throw the ball straight up in the air on most non-pro tour layouts?

–David
Calgary, Canada

David,
For more than two generations our sand wedge has had a loft of about 56 degrees.

When manufacturers tried to prove that their irons hit the ball farther than their competitors, they not only strengthened the lofts by as much as four to five degrees but increased the length by a half-inch and kept the same number on the bottom of the club.

This was one of the many reasons (another being it was very difficult to hit) for the extinction of then 1-iron. The loft being reduced to about 13 degrees, just to stay in line with the loft progression in the set, made it impossible – not just difficult – to hit. It was just a waste of space in our bag as the lob wedge has become for some of us.

While the lofts of all the other irons were changing, the sand wedge didn’t move from its 56 degrees and this created the gap between the PW and SW. Thus, the need for another pitching wedge called the gap wedge – because the pitching wedge name had already been taken.

It was Phil Mickelson’s display of extraordinary skill in being able to lob a shot almost straight up or on occasions backward that made us aspire to do the same. All we needed, to be like Mickelson was to get a lob wedge.

David, you are right, we don’t need this club and even some of the greatest players don’t carry them in the bag. For the rare occasion when you need to throw a shot straight up open your gap wedge – which has less bounce than the sand wedge – and hit the shot with confidence. From the rough the SW, with its 14 degree bounce, will work as well by opening it to have the effective loft of a 60+ degree lob wedge. What we need to do is a little more practice trying to perfect this shot using the wedges we have in the bag.

As a side note, I have been a strong proponent of a “Ten Club Rule” for pros which would make it more interesting to watch them display their true skills. Rather than changing the club specifications – such as grooves – which will affect all of us (99% of golfers) for the sake of trying to control the performance of 150 of the world’s best.

The 14 club rule was only introduced  into our game in 1938 to prevent professional golfers from selecting a club for every situation rather than skillfully using a limited set, also to reduce the load on caddies. If we want equipment rules to be the same for all golfers then the least disruptive way to deal with it – without requiring that all golfers change their clubs – is to adopt a “Ten Club Rule” for professional events. The only problem this would create is the ability to count to ten.

David, leave your lob wedge at home unless you really work hard getting it to perform on the practice range. See how to use a lob wedge by clicking here.

– Frank

Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com