Drive for show, putt for dough – it is the age old golf saying. Yes, we all want to smash our drivers but our short game is just as important to focus on to keep scores low. We have so many different styles and offerings for wedges and putters – loft, grind, full face groves, blade, mallet, plumber neck, slant neck, and the list goes on – that it can get confusing on what will work for your game. Here’s a breakdown of some of the key considerations when looking to upgrade your short game.
Mallet, blade, neck type, weight, length, brand—needless to say, there’s a lot that must be negotiated when purchasing a putter. Of course there are the intangible features that must be taken into account, such as feel and aesthetic, but there are also several factors that lead to making the right purchase. Here’s a breakdown of what to look for in your next putter.
You’ve likely noticed that not all putters look the same, in fact, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. That said, there are three main putter styles—blade, half-mallet, and mallet. What style of putter you use will likely depend on your stroke. Do you have a big arc in your stroke that swing the top open and shut? Or do you bring the putter straight back and forth? Blade putters typically provide more weight toward the toe, promoting an open-shut sweeping stroke that benefits those with an arc stroke. If you’re more of a straight back and straight through putter, you’ll find mallets and half-mallets deliver a more centralized weight toward the face to keep the stroke on path. Determining your stroke style is essential in getting fitted with the right putter style.
We often don’t pay too much attention to the length of our clubs, but we should, and when it comes to putters this metric is even more important to consider. In order to have a comfortable stance and set up at address, you’ll need a putter that is neither too short or too long, but one that matches your setup. If the putter isn’t long enough you’ll find yourself hunching over the ball and caving your shoulders to compensate. If it’s too long your stance may be too upright and rigid. Nestle into your stroke with a putter that feels natural and comfortable.
The weight of putter head plays a major role in determining elements such as speed, feel and distance control. Putter heads usually weigh between 320 g to 370 g depending on style and materials uses. When buying a putter you should inquire about its weight and test out various options to find one you feel most in control over.
One grip fits all? Not even close. You’ve probably noticed while watching the pros that virtually every player has a unique grip they use to help with their putting. When purchasing your next putter, take some time and test out various grip sizes and lengths. Some players like an oversized grip to help take their hands out of the stroke and rely on shoulder turn, other prefer narrow grips that rest deeper in the fingers. Whichever your preference, it’s worth trying out a few styles to find the right fit.
Depending on your stance and setup, you’ll want to buy a putter that has a natural flat lie you feel comfortable with. If the putter toe is up in the air and the heel is the primary point of contact you’ll need something with less lie to balance it out and get the sweet spot back on the ground. If the roles are reversed and the toe it touching down, try something with a bit of a flatter lie.
How do you find the right wedge for your game that fits perfectly into your set? How do you determine what bounce you need? What role does loft and gapping fit play when it comes to acquiring a new wedge?
Obviously speaking with one of our in store experts will help, but being knowledgeable on all wedges have to offer will help you narrow your choices. Given what we expect from our wedges—strike approach shots from 100 yards through to hitting a high-lofted pitch from greenside—making sure they are right for your game is key.
Where to start
There are a lot of factors that warrant consideration when purchasing new wedges:
- What type of clubs do you play (ie: cavity back, game improvement)? If you are playing game improvement irons with offset, try to have your wedges mirror that and you’ll find more confidence in the consistent look. If you are a better player, you’ll likely want to consider wedges that look more like a blade. Don’t worry—even those wedges have a lot of technology designed into them.
- Should your wedge brand match the rest of your set? Not always. Higher handicap golfers often play one brand, but we know many tour pros game one brand of irons and a different make when it comes to wedges. But feel free to mix and match based on personal preference.
- Consider what you’re trying to achieve. Is distance a factor? Are you seeking more forgiveness?
What kind of wedge are you looking for?
Don’t be too connected to the terminology of wedges—increasing sand wedges are used primarily from the fairway and for chipping, while lob wedges are used in the sand and to hit highly-lofted recovery shots around the green. You’ll likely need a gap wedge (48 to 50 degrees), a “sand” wedge (54 to 58 degrees, though, despite the name, not often used in the sand) and a lob wedge (60 degrees, and often used for short chips and bunker shots.) What you need to consider is where you’re going to use the wedge you’re seeking—from the fairway, or short chips, or out of a bunker.
What is gapping?
Gapping determines which wedges you need to cover certain yardages. As short irons get longer, the yardage between shots hit by your shortest wedge (60 degrees) and your standard pitching wedge (45 to 48 degrees) has grown. You want to have wedges that cover those yardages—say from 120 yards to 80 yards—with some consistency. That’s where gapping is a factor in the wedges you pick. A typical set might consist of a 50-degree, 56-degree and 60-degree wedge.
Bounce is an angle is how much lower the trailing edge of the club’s sole is in relation to the leading edge. The amount of bounce needed depends on the type of shots you’re intending to hit with your wedge, as well as the type of swing you have (steep or a sweeper). Bounce should be your friend, helping you from driving the leading edge into the turf.
You can determine the bounce you need by asking some basic questions—do you play on soft courses? Do you pick the ball? Those are key considerations to assure you have the right wedge.
Wedges do wear out if you play them regularly, causing less spin. That means you should probably replace your wedges every few seasons.