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GolfSpy Barbajo Goes Wedge Fitting

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Wedge Fitting?  Really?

 

Wedge fitting has always been one of those things I kinda sorta knew was important, but never actually did.  Oh, I've been through driver fittings and irons fittings, but wedges?  Nahhh, I can make do…

 

My wedge history is checkered, arbitrary and exclusively “off the rack.”  I've gamed Vokeys and Clevelands and Cobras (oh my!), as well as off-center brands such as Carnahan (thx RookieBlue7!), Pinemeadow and Hippo (best $18 forged wedge in history!). 

 

But fit?  Nope.

 

This past weekend, 2nd Swing of Minneapolis, along with the Minnesota Golf Academy, kicked off a winter-long free fitting program.  Every Saturday one of 2nd Swing's master fitters will be at the Academy offering free fittings for the selected product category of the day.

 

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They started with wedges and they had me at “free.”

 

I met with Master Fitter Thomas Elsberry Saturday morning, and we got right down to work. 

 

The Current Set:

 

Thomas first asked me  about my current wedge makeup – the PW from the Nike Pro Combo set, a 52* Carnahan and either a 56* Nike Vr X3X (with the toe-sweep grind) or a 56* Vokey SM5 S grind.  He also asked me about my typical wedge miss – which is a pull left.

 

Then he got down to work – first tackling the issues of bounce and lie angle.

 

“When it comes to bounce, you have to consider where you play and what type of courses you play, and what's your typical wedge shot inside of 40 yards.

 

“Being in Minnesota, we typically have softer conditions here.  In, say, Arizona, the ground's definitely a lot harder, but here we want some with more bounce with a little wider sole because it's going to perform better on most courses here.”

 

Thomas then pulled out a lie board and attached bounce and lie stickers on the bottom of a couple of 56* Cleveland wedges and, after a quick warm up, had me hit a few ¾ swings with each.  

 

Bounce Is Your Friend, Lie Is Your Ally:

 

“Normally, with an iron you're looking left to right from a bending standpoint as to where we want the lie angle,” said Thomas. “With wedges we add another piece to it – we want to see where you're hitting this thing from front to back of the sole. That'll tell us what kind of bounce we need.  So depending on where we bottom out this club I'll start moving the bounce around to find out where the bottom of your swing is.”

 

Here's what we found...

 

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Thomas immediately jumped into analytical mode.

 

“See how both of these are hitting on the toe slightly? (I had told him I have a tendency to hit wedges off the toe and I don't, I usually pull them left).  That tells me the standard lie angle may be too upright for you.  Also, compare where the strike marks are with the 2-Dot wedge and the 3-Dot wedge.”

 

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“If you look at the 3-Dot wedge from Cleveland, you're almost dead center on the sole for full sole width.  That means the bounce is bottoming out very, very nicely for you.  That's 14* of bounce. So I do like that wider sole for you, especially in Minnesota.  With our conditions here it's almost always better to have a wider sole. 

 

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“Every once in a while I'll see a guy who needs a low bounce, narrow wedge.  Those guys tend to be ‘pickers,' so a low bounce is better for them.  Actually, I'll usually go with a cavity back design because they usually need some forgiveness there, as well.”

 

As stated earlier, the impact tape showed the club bottoming out toward the toe, indicating the standard lie might be too upright for me.   Thomas recommended getting wedges bent to as much a 3* flat.

 

“With a 6 iron if you're bending lie angle 1* - which isn't much – it results in about 7 yards of lateral movement.  So with a wedge, every foot matters,” he said.  “It really helps to dial it in.

 

“Imagine you could hit a good wedge shot that goes 10 feet left.  But if you were 1* more flat, now you're 4 feet right.  That's the difference between a 10-foot putt and a 4-foot putt.”

 

My last round my wedge shots tended to be left, around 20 feet or so. Thomas jumped on it.

 

“If you take that same wedge, bend it 2* flat, now maybe you're 5 feet left,” he said.  “Granted, there are some golf-swing things going on as well, but the difference between a 20-foot putt and a 5-foot putt is huge.  We make 5-footers.  20 footers? We don't make many.

 

“Just imagine if you have a wedge that helped your miss versus one that enhanced it.”

 

Lie & Length: 

 

Next was some impact tape on the face to check out the combination of shaft length and lie angle.  From the looks of things, Thomas did okay…

 

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Thomas also suggested to make sure wedge shafts are consistent with the rest of the set. 

 

“Say you go buy your three Vokeys off the rack.  They come with S200 shafts, and there's nothing wrong with that.  But if you're playing C-Tapers in the rest of your irons it may not match up well.

 

“Since you're plaing KBS tours in your irons, you might want to look at a KBS Hi-Rev shaft for your wedges. It'll have a similar feel and load to it, so we'll stay in that family, but we'll add the spinny version of it,” said Thomas.  “It might give you another 500 RPM of spin with your wedges, which we'll take, and it'll help you stop the ball a little faster.”

 

Now that we have bounce, lie angle and length figured out, Thomas suggested trying out all of the manufacturers and seeing which one feels the best. 

 

“If you like the feel of forged, then look at forged wedges (My $18 Hippo is, believe it or not, forged and felt great!). If not, try the Titleist, try the Nike, Cleveland or Ping and see what you like.”

 

And that's the end of the wedge fitting process?  No way…

 

“Let's get the wedges and go out and play them for about two months and then come back in.  We'll bend them again until we get them to where you like it.  We'll go to the range and dial in the ball flight you want.”

 

Wedge Fitting With The Pros

 

Thomas was fortunate enough to do a wedge fitting with Lee Westwood, and says Westwood's fitting had nothing to do with numbers.

 

“We just kept giving him wedges and he'd hit them.  If it went through the ‘window' he wanted, it was good,” said Thomas.  “It had nothing to do with anything else.  He hit them until he found the ‘window' for his ball flight.

 

“What was amazing was that his new wedge had at least a 10 foot lower peak height.  The fresh grooves were just grabbing better and gave him a more penetrating ball flight.  The old wedge was ballooning just a little bit, and for those guys playing for millions of dollars that little bit is huge.”

 

2014-11-22 12.33.15.jpg

 

So after the fitting process, Thomas fit me up for a 52* and a 58* wedge set with KBS Hi-Rev shafts to go along with the PW from the Nike ProCombos.  The 58* will be a high bounce wedge, which will help in the sand and from the rough – two of my favorite landing spots – while the 52* will be medium bounce for more versatility. Both wedges will have about a 3* flat lie angle. 

 

What About Grinds & Grips?

 

“The more grinds the better, in my opinion,” said Thomas. “If you have your heal ground out it allows you to open up the wedge without the bounce taking effect.  You can open up that 58* and mike it a 64* and still play that shot.

 

“And if you're worried about the tight lie with a high bounce wedge, make sure you have a pre-worn leading edge.  Vokey is really big on that, and Scor's grind is the same idea.”

 

The last item on the agenda was grips.  Not sure if it's clear, but Thomas is a VERY thorough fitter.

 

“The only rule with grips is that whatever grip you play, it should be on all 13 clubs,” he said. “With wedges, though, you can have a little fun.

 

“I have a lot of players who will do more wraps of tape at the bottom of the grip – that way when you choke down on the club you don't feel like you're grabbing a toothpick. You're basically making it a non-tapered grip, and it's very popular with your better players.

 

“If you're choking down to hit the ball a little shorter, well, the grip will still feel the same as if you're hitting a full shot.  It's amazing how different the feel is.  Bubba uses a mid-size grip with 8 wraps of tape at the top and 12 wraps of tape at the bottom, so it's basically a baseball bat.  But it's all about feel to him.”

 

The entire wedge fitting process probably took 45 minutes, and Thomas was easy to work with an answered all of my questions, the dumb and the not so dumb.  I left the session feeling confident about my path forward for 100 yards and in. 

 

Key Takeaways:

 

1.     Bounce is your friend, and from 100 yards on in, you need all the friends you can get.
 

2.     Next to bounce, lie angle is your next best friend.  5 feet left is WAY better than 20 feet left.
 

3.     Consistency in shafts is important – you want a consistency with the rest of the set, although shaft stiffness will probably be a little softer, since you're not taking full swings all the time.
 

4.     Not mentioned earlier, but an important point – Thomas says the fall is the best time to be fit for any club.  You've had a full season and your swing is as consistent as it's going to be.  Spring is the most common time, but may be the worst time since you're rusty after a winter off.  

 

Next step with Thomas will be a full-bag fitting at 2nd Swing's new Tour Van Center, which provides a tour level fitting experience. 

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This looks like an awesome experience John! A wedge fitting is now on my list to look for and get done this winter

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That sounds like a GREAT fitting!

 

Thomas was very, very thorough BK.  His knowledge just came pouring through - glad I had the recording app on the iPhone because there was no way I was going to keep up...

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That sounded like and awesome experience.  I really wish there was something like that by me. What did he for for gapping of your wedges?  Was it based on what you currently played or did he look at numbers and make recommendations? Also what wedges did you go with?

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That sounded like and awesome experience.  I really wish there was something like that by me. What did he for for gapping of your wedges?  Was it based on what you currently played or did he look at numbers and make recommendations? Also what wedges did you go with?

 

Hi Dan --

 

Thomas suggested I go with a 52* and a 58*, based on the loft on my PW and desire to only go with 3 wedges, or rather my desire to carry 3 hybrids on the low end of the bag.  

 

Have not made any decisions on which wedges to go with yet - I liked the Cleveland wedges very much but want to try a couple of forged options before making a final decision.  I'm just glad I have some specs to work with now...

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It sounds like a great experience and that he listened to you.  I hope it leads to more greens, less putts, and lower scores for you.

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Now I'm confused. My clubs were fit to 2* flat because I was hitting off the shelf clubs on the heel side; they were too upright. It seems that if you were hitting on the toe side, then they are too flat. Mine fit, so what do I have wrong?

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Now I'm confused. My clubs were fit to 2* flat because I was hitting off the shelf clubs on the heel side; they were too upright. It seems that if you were hitting on the toe side, then they are too flat. Mine fit, so what do I have wrong?

 

Probably should have examined better - my mishits are generally off the toe, but when i hit it flush my misses are the pull lefts.

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Yea according to lie board, they should be bent more upright. Ball flight matters more than the tape. But judging from the lie tape I would have guessed your pulls are from turning your shoulders too much pulling over the top. Hitting toward the toe that much on the sole would already be sending the ball to the right with a square delivery. I was a bit confused about that too. It's hard to see flattening them even more.

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Yea according to lie board, they should be bent more upright. Ball flight matters more than the tape. But judging from the lie tape I would have guessed your pulls are from turning your shoulders too much pulling over the top. Hitting toward the toe that much on the sole would already be sending the ball to the right with a square delivery. I was a bit confused about that too. It's hard to see flattening them even more.

 

That square delivery thing may have been the problem.  My guess is that he was watching my swing and ball flight to determine lie angle.  The lie tape was used more to determine bounce...it does sound a little counterintuitive, but a tendency to pull left indicates too upright.  My wedge swing is more or less out to in.  He watched me hit about 20-30 shots and saw what he saw.  At least he didn't laugh....  :huh:

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I'm the type of person who could go through fittings everyday :)  What a great experience. Let us know if you see a difference on the course 

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At least he didn't laugh....  :huh:

Did he tell you to keep your head down? That's so you can't see him laughing. :)

 

That was a great experience. I wish there was someone like that around here that could look at my SCORs to see if they are fit. They feel great; I hit them great; they must fit, right?

 

Thanks for sharing.

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Sounds like a great service that we could all benefit from. I really need to get out there and find a good local flub fitter.

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Did he tell you to keep your head down? That's so you can't see him laughing. :)

 

 

LOL!  I was wondering why he kept standing out of eyeshot...

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You have got me wanting to do something like this! I have a mismatch of wedges in my bag and I think getting them consistent and fit will definitely be a benefit. Thanks for sharing!

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Got a clarification from Thomas regarding the recommended lie angle...

 

"My normal process for lie angle usually doesn't start till the actual clubs come in. Most of the OEM's have a little variance in lie and loft, so I usually wait until we get our hands on the actual wedges that you would be playing. The process for fitting the lie angle would be more based on outdoor performance than an actual lie board. We would look at the results of the ball flight and where the ball ended up and try to blend that in with your desired results. I am also looking at how your divots are looking toe deep VS heel deep. Lastly would be face pattern, where is the ball hitting on the face. long story short is we would tackle lie angle as an ongoing process based off of performance.

 
To answer the question on your impact on the lie angle. Based off of that test yes the club is too flat at that current setting and would be bent more upright. But the lie board is just the first step of many till you would have the lie angle dialed in."
 
There - that does fill in the blanks a little...there's the lie board, but ultimately it comes down to swing and and results.  The next step in the process for me will be to try different wedges of the winter and see what I like, and then order up what I need.  Then next spring I'll get with Thomas and we can dial in the exact loft and lie out on the range.  

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That agrees with what I thought. I like the ongoing process based off of performance. Sounds like you have a winner there. Let's hear more next spring!

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I've got another question for you John. Are you considering going the scor type route and getting a wedge to replace your PW from the pro combos?

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