William Shakespeare wrote a romantic line in Romeo and Juliet that said, “A rose would smell just as sweet by any other name.” This may be true, since it implies that a rose’s name has nothing to do its beauty and fragrance.
Shakespeare aside, we do give names meaning. We all know what beer is, or should be. The words “shovel”, “hammer”, “water”, etc., tell us exactly what we can expect to see and use. A rake is not a shovel. A hairbrush makes an inadequate hammer. And a tall glass filled with sand won’t quench your thirst.
Listen to me and you might just improve your score range performance.
This week’s blog was “inspired” a friend in the golf industry who I have known for many years — a former PGA Professional, and an industry representative — who had taken a few year off from golf to raise a family. I was flattered when he called to talk about wedges and began with, “What in the hell has happened to irons?”
He explained that he just had a fitting, and was “prescribed”, one of the latest iron models by a major brand. (We will not name the company to protect their guilty). He was shocked to learn that the “P club” (which most people refer to as a “pitching wedge”) was constructed with 42 degrees loft.
We’ll go back to the era when iron sets were given numbers. The “pitching wedge” was originally the last iron after the 9-iron, the one with a loft between 50 and 52 degrees. MacGregor numbered it “10” and other people simply wrote “W”, but the club was still the same. It measured 35 inches in length and had a loft between 50 and 52 degrees.
The professionals in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s became masters of their “pitching wedges”, hitting a variety of magic scoring shots at distances of 115-120 meters and beyond. They could hit the ball low, high and anywhere in between. The ball could be turned over or a small cut made. The ball could be made to hit, stop and roll on a dime or released and rolled out a little.
The legends all used a “sand-wedge” but they recognized that it was a tool for bunker play, and not to be used on the green except in certain situations where its enhanced bounce and loft gave them more creative freedom. The “pitching wedge”, for most players, was their main scoring club.
As perimeter weighting evolved iron lofts started to increase, until the “P club” was no longer a wedge. One can argue — or even prove — that the true “pitching capability” of a club ended once its loft dropped below 48 degrees. These legendary professionals and elite players were also masters of bump-and run shots. They used their 8-iron or nine-iron which had a loft of 42-44 degrees.
Here we are, in the year 2020. Your bag has changed a lot, even though golf hasn’t. For your full-swing shots, you need to have a variety of clubs with lofts ranging from 20 degrees to 45 degrees. This will allow for consistent distance gapping and optimize your approach game. You can choose how many clubs you want to carry, whether they are hybrids, high-loft woods or irons.
You will also need one or two more lofted wedges for the more difficult greenside recoveries. You might call this club your “gap-wedge” in modern golf club jargon, but it is so much more.
According to our research, golfers who use their “true pitching” wedge (49-53 degrees loft) for less than full wedge shots will experience improved distance control and spin. This club’s dynamics reduces the tendency of the ball to slide up the face, which is always detrimental to distance control and spinning. It is also more forgiving if you hit shots slightly thick or thin. There’s also that.
It’s possible that I’m “old-school”, but just because I call a club something doesn’t mean it’s what it’s not. Your “P-club”, for example, is not a pitching wedge anymore.