In Golf Club Fitting with PGA Professional Gary Balliet, we’ve already learned about the Club Fitting Variables, and now we’re learning how to fit wedges and putters.
The standard length of wedges used to be 35 inches. Today, there is now standard, although there are common lofts, lie angles, and degrees of bounce:
* Pitching wedge = 48 degrees of loft, 64 degree lie angle, 5 degrees of bounce
* Gap wedge = 52 degrees of loft, 64 degree lie angle, 8 degrees of bounce
* Sand wedge = 56 degrees of loft, 64 degree lie angle, 12 degrees of bounce
* Lob wedge = 60 degrees of loft, 64 degree lie angle, 3-4 degrees of bounce
When getting fit for wedges, there are two questions you should ask:
1. What are the course conditions like where you play the most?
2. How long is your backswing when you use your wedges?
Course conditions and swing style should determine the wedge you play. A dig sole is best for hard surfaces, low cut grass, and hard sand. A bounce sole is best for soft surfaces, high grass, and soft, deep sand. The length of your backswing determines your lie angle. For a full swing, the lie angle of your wedge should match that of your 5-iron. For anything less, you’ll want something much flatter. If your swing is really shallow, you should play a wedge with less bounce (more dig). If your swing is really steep, you should play a wedge with more bounce (less dig). If you have a more neutral swing plane, it’s likely that you can play just about any bounce.
The purpose of grooves is to displace water and grass.
There are several wedge grinds available. A heel grind is best for hard conditions in the Southern states. The heel and the sole are slightly ground. A v-grind is best for the softer conditions found in the Northern states. Bounce is removed off the sole of the club. In a tour grind, the leading edge is smoothed out to allow for more digging. You don’t want to play a wedge with less bounce in wet conditions. It will dig too deep and cause fat shots.
There are five characteristics that must be understood to understand the proper fitting of a sand wedge. Each characteristic has led to the grinding of wedges for PGA Tour players. Those characteristics are: sole bounce angle, sole width, sole radius (leading edge to trailing), leading edge radius (roundness), and length and lie angle to satisfy posture.
The early 1900s niblick with 13 degrees of bounce, the precursor to the modern sand wedge with only ten degrees of bounce, has 400% less effective bounce. Why? Because of the five bounce characteristics mentioned above. Effective bounce, not just bounce, should be considered.
There are eight putter fitting variables: length, lie, hosel design, head design, sight lines, grip, weight/swing weight, and loft.
Length (32-36″) helps ensure proper set-up. Eyes should be over or slightly inside the target line, and the hands should fall naturally under the shoulders. A putter that is too short will result in putts that are pushed, whereas a putter that is too long will result in putts that are pulled.
Most lie angles are designed standard to flat. A putter that is too flat will result in putts that are pushed, whereas a putter that is too upright will result in putts that are pulled. Hosels can be designed in either an L shape or an S shape. A putter hosel that is too on-set will result in putts that are pushed, whereas a putter hosel that is too offset will result in putts that are pulled. The head of the putter is usually one of two designs: blade or mallet-style. A mallet-style putter tends to result in putts that are pushed, whereas a blade results in putts that are pulled.
The weighting of the putter head is one of the most overlooked aspects of putter fitting. If you balance the end of the putter on your finger, you can determine the club’s ideal stroke path. For example, if the head of the putter points straight down, it’s known as toe-weighted or toe down and requires an in-to-out putting stroke. If the head of the putter hangs at a 45-degree angle, it’s heel-toe weighted, meaning it requires an inside-square-inside putting stroke. A putter head that hangs flat and points directly to the sky is known as face-balanced and requires a stroke that is straight back, straight through. The best putter to use is based on stroke preference.
Putters also come with a variety of sight lines. Compare these sight lines to the sight lines you use when you’re shooting a rifle. The sight lines on the putter help you properly aim at the target. No lines or one line on the top of or back of the putter can result in putts that are pushed, whereas putters with 2-3 lines on the top of or back of the putter can result in putts that are pulled.
Grip size matters too. Larger grips will tend to deaden the hands and wrists. A putter grip that is to large can result in putts that are pushed, whereas a putter grip that is too small can result in putts that are pulled.
The weight and loft of the putter you should use is determined by the speed of the greens you play. On faster greens, you want a lighter putter with just 1-2 degrees of loft. On medium to slow greens, you want a heavier putter with 3-6 degrees of loft. The average putter loft off the rack is about 3 degrees.
The proper putter fit allows you to create the proper path/face angle relationship to get the ball rolling end-over-end toward the intended target as opposed to side-roll. The path of the putter should match its face angle, meaning at impact, the putter face should be square to the target line.