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Get your groove back

17 MAY 2016

By Peter Mumford

One thing that most amateur players marvel at is how touring pros can stop the ball on the green close to the pin. High handicappers struggle to put enough spin on the ball to make it stop while even elite amateurs have to work hard to find the right combination of swing speed and loft to control the ball.

There’s no doubt that stopping the ball on a dime is an art and requires lots of practice to develop the skill to make it work in game conditions. But there’s more involved than just the skill to make the shot: your wedges have to be in top shape too, with sharp grooves that can generate maximum spin for ultimate control.

Most players have a “go to” club that they use around the green. While this may provide them comfort and confidence to make all kinds of shots, it’s also likely to cause increased wear on the grooves of that particular wedge. Modern sets of clubs feature four wedges – a pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge. Obviously each will deliver different yardages on full shots but if you use one of them as your comfort club for work in close to the green plus sand shots, you’re going to find the grooves on Old Faithful wearing out much faster than the other wedges.

Worn grooves will have a sizeable impact on your ability to stop the ball. The folks at Titleist did some research on groove wear to determine what the actual results would look like. The video below tested three different wedges based on ‘number of rounds used’ to determine how much roll out the ball had after it landed.

The test featured three wedges, each with different usage – one with 125 rounds of play, one with 75 rounds of play and a brand new wedge. As you can see, the spin rate is highest on the new wedge and lowest on the wedge with the most rounds played. Spin rates might not mean much to you but the effect of lowered spin is an increase in the roll out distance, from 10 feet on the new wedge to 33 feet on the oldest.

The critical point appears to come at the 75 game mark when groove wear really starts to have a declining impact on your ability to stop the ball. And of course, it just gets worse from there.

For many players, 125 rounds is only two to three seasons of play but if you’re a range rat and like to practice from the bunkers or use the short game area a lot, your groove wear is going to be even more accelerated. Obviously not all wedges wear at the same rate, so it’s likely that only one or two of them might be in need of replacement.

Titleist shared an interesting story from their wedge guru Bob Vokey about players on the PGA Tour. Bob stated, “On tour, we typically see players follow the 4-3-2-1 rule. They’ll replace the lob wedge 4 times a year, the sand wedge 3 times, the gap wedge 2 times, and the pitching wedge 1 time. This gives them fresh grooves that they can trust will perform for their most precise shots.”

Presumably, you’re not going to replace your wedges as often as professionals, but how can you tell if it's time to consider putting some new wedges in the bag? One way is to get your hands on a new wedge and do some side by side comparisons with your current wedge. If your wedges are a couple of years old or more, you’ll be surprised at your new found skill and your stopping power on the green. That translates into fewer strokes.

Check with your pro to determine if your game could get a boost from some new wedges - and get your groove back.

Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag