QA Titanium Magic Wedges

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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@franklygolf.com
 
Frank:
Please settle an argument for us: At the same loft, same weight, same length, same swing speed, would a Titanium clubface fly the ball farther than a regular steel face? If so, what is the downside of using a Ti faced iron? Loss of control, less spin, or both?
 
Thank you,
Jerry

 
Jerry,
Please understand that titanium is not in itself a magic material that will make everything right in your world of golf. Some have made implied claims that titanium in the cover of a golf ball will increase the distance. In fact, titanium dioxide is used in the cover of balls -- as it is in toothpaste ' because its what makes white paint white. It has no effect on performance, but such is the way of marketing.
 
The answer to your first question is YES. A titanium face in a wood club does have properties which allow a spring-like effect to be designed into the club by having a extremely thin face. Steel doesnt have these same properties. If the spring-like effect (COR) Coefficient of Restitution is increased to the limit of .830 then you can expect (all else being equal) about 5 mph increase in ball speed. This will equate to about 12 yards or so. But because other launch conditions are also affected this could have an even greater effect on yardage. See COR made easy by clicking here.
 
Titanium in irons as you have described, if used purely as a substitute for steel, will make the club head lighter, because the density of titanium is less than that of steel. If you make the head the same weight by making it thicker or bigger and all else is equal, then the balls speed off the face will be the same. Under the conditions you describe -- same loft, length, weight, and swing speed ' the distance will be the same.
 
Generally titanium is used in the design of iron clubs for two or more reasons:
a) to allow for a better weight distribution -- i.e., to increase the MOI (forgiveness) by moving more weight from the face to the perimeter and back of the head as well as to help move the c.g. (center of gravity) back away from the face; and
b) to design a spring-like effect in the face of the iron to increase the ball speed.
 
Increasing MOI is a legitimate advance that can be helpful but expensive. But trying to design spring-like effect into the face of an iron is in my opinion a waste of time. It is possible, but in order to take advantage of it you must hit the ball high in the center of the face, which is not normally the spot where most of us make contact when the ball is on the ground.
 
If there is a designed spring-like effect, then the ball will come off the face faster, so you will gain a little increase in distance. But so what? If you arent hitting your 6-iron far enough, why not just take out your 5-iron instead? Thats why we have different clubs in our bag.
 
The other reason for using titanium in irons is to market the product. This too is an expensive move for relatively little real gain.
 
I hope I answered your question and settled the argument. If there was any money involved and you won, buy your buddy a beer.
 
Frank,
I carry a 3 handicap, and while I choose my equipment carefully and always based on the advice of a professional, Im struggling with what wedges should be in my bag. I currently carry three: sand, gap and pitching wedge.
 
Im in the market to replace all three and wonder what advice you would give for going through the process of selecting the right clubs. One area that Ive been reading about is getting the bounce right for my gap and sand wedge. This coupled with what loft is right and countless other questions has me confused. Please un-confuse me!
 
Thanks,
Don

 
Don,
Dont feel bad about being confused. Your wedges are very important; these are your scoring clubs, along with a very good and forgiving putter, so making the right selection is important. Dont dump your existing wedges until you have had an opportunity to assess what you need. These may fit into the gap that manufacturers have created for all of us.
 
For your information, todays PW is very much part of the iron set and not merely a utility club the way it used to be. It has a loft of about 46 degrees, which was the loft of a weak 8-iron about 35 years ago. Wedges are designed for specialty and short approach shots to the green or to get out of the problem areas in which we sometimes find ourselves.
 
When manufacturers started to violate the unwritten standard for lofts associated with specifically numbered clubs in an effort to hype their irons (declaring that their clubs hit the ball farther than everybody elses), they started de-lofting the entire set except for the sand wedge, which has remained at about 55 degrees. The PW, which was 50 to 52 degrees in the mid 70s, now has a loft of 46 degrees or even less in some cases. This leaves a gap of nearly ten degrees between the SW and the PW. Traditionally the difference between consecutive clubs in short irons has been 4 degrees, so we can fit about two clubs between the todays so-called PW and the SW.
 
This change has created the need for a gap wedge (GW), which should have about 4 degrees more loft than your pitching wedige. If the PW is 46 degrees, then the GW should be about 50 degrees. This still leaves you with about 6 degrees between this GW and the SW, which may be awkward if you want to maintain a 4-degree difference between wedges (though this is only a guideline). You may also want to select a 54, and increase the SW to 58. These new GWs would be used for pitching and controlled chipping when you dont have a lot of green to work with.
 
I have a 48 degree PW, and so Ive added a 52-degree and a 56-degree wedge. Because the 52 is really my PW, I have an 8 degree bounce, which is a good all-round bounce for my skill level (5.0 Hcp index). When I hit a normal full shot with my 52 degree, I can count on about 85 yards of carry. I use this as my approach wedge as well as for those short shots I want to spin from the fairway or light rough.
 
I use the 56 with a 14-degree bounce as my SW, which is a good bounce for most Sand Wedges. I can open the face of this from soft lies or out of the rough to pop it up. This is enough bounce to enable the club to slide through the sand without digging too deeply.
 
I dont carry a lob wedge, because I can do most of what I need to by opening the face of my 56-degree SW. For those who want and have a place for the lob wedge, Id suggest that you not get any more than 8 degrees of bounce, and in some cases a little less unless you are also using it as an SW. I do, however suggest that you practice with your lob wedge, and I dont just mean taking practice swings during a round.
 
Don, check the loft on your PW and fill the gap between it and your SW evenly, making sure you have enough bounce on the wedge that will be your main weapon out of the sand. For more on selecting a wedge please click here.
 
Hope this helps.
Frank
 
Hello Frank,
I am currently playing a Cleveland Launcher Comp driver, 9.5 degrees with a Fujikura Tour Platform 26.3 X-flex shaft. I was fit 2 years ago, and at the time my launch monitor numbers were really good. I recently got refit for irons and was able to sneak in a dozen shots with my driver just to check up on the launch numbers. The average launch numbers from this fitting were as follows:
 
Average carry: 263 yds
Swing speed: 112 mph
Ball Speed: 159.9
Spin (RPM): 3371 & -168 side spin
Launch Angle: 13.8
 
Basically I hit it real high (which I like) but I get very little roll. Do you have any suggestions on what I could do as far as changing shafts and/or lofts to get the spin rate and launch angle down to somewhere around the 2,700 RPM and 12 degree range? The guy who has fit me for the last 5 years is over an hour away and charges a lot for a fitting, and the other options in my area are not that good. I really want to update my driver or get a new one, but I dont know where to go with this. I like hitting it high (it gets me over trees on the many doglegs on my home course), but a little roll would help! Thanks for your help.
Martin

 
Martin,
Frankly speaking, you cant have everything.
 
You can change your launch conditions a little to get more roll by decreasing the loft of your driver. At your swing speed you should be launching the ball at about 12 degrees, and with less loft on your drive you will also reduce the spin to something closer to optimum, which is 2,200 to 2,500 for you. This will not, however, allow you to get over those trees you talk about unless you develop some trick shots.
 
My next suggestion is to get two drivers to cope with each of the conditions you are going to encounter. Dump one of your long irons to make room for the extra driver. I personally would prefer to add a hybrid and /or a short iron to my set than increase the number of drivers but it all depends what makes you happy.
 
Frank
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank 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@franklygolf.com