While its complication is often overlooked, being a good wedge player might be arguably the most demanding aspect of golf. Not only do you have to find multiple wedges that fit your swing shape, your game, and the courses you play most often, you also then have to learn to execute a multitude of shots with those clubs, be it full shots or shots played from around the green.
In addition to being complicated and demanding, wedge play is also one of the most important aspects of golf. Not buying it? Well, the next time you make it out to play 18 holes, count how many times you use your wedges during the round. The number just might surprise you.
When it comes to wedge play, there’s nobody in the world of golf who’s more highly regarded than short game guru Dave Pelz, whose list of students over the course of the last several decades includes names like Phil Mickelson, Payne Stewart, and Vijay Singh.
With so much to consider when it comes to wedge play, both in terms of equipment and technique, we reached out to Pelz, who’s rated by Golf Digest as one of the top-20 golf instructors in the world, for some of his thoughts on wedges, including Cleveland’s new RTX-3.
Here’s what he had to say in response to our questions, answers that could prove valuable in terms of setting up your bag and executing more successfully on the course with your wedges.
TGW: What are your initial impressions of RTX-3, what do you think golfers are going to like about this wedge line?
PELZ: “For many manufacturers, wedges are an afterthought. I’m the brand ambassador for Cleveland Golf because the short game and the scoring clubs are a forethought. The attraction with RTX-3 is that the face just keeps getting better. The face friction is what I love because backspin is in short supply these days since the USGA changed the groove rule, and it really helps to get the face friction from RTX-3. A lot of competitors sandblast the face and (the wedge) is really good when you first use it. But then, after you use those wedges in the sand, you lose the friction. The RTX-3 face grabs the ball and when you use it in the sand the friction doesn’t go away. Everyone needs to try the new RTX face. They’ll love it. I also want to talk about the bounce on the sole. I’ve worked with a lot of Tour players for a lot of years and these wedges are straight off the PGA Tour. They just glide through the turf so well. If you hit just behind the ball with this sole, there’s nothing better out there; they’re the best”.
TGW.com: What does the average golfer need to understand about bounce when it comes to picking wedges?
PELZ: “The most important thing that golfers need to understand is that you have to have the right bounce on the sole of the wedge for the shot you’re trying to hit at that moment. As you hit the ball and the turf, which happens closely together, if you have too much bounce on the bottom of the club for the shot you’re trying to hit, the club bounces off the turf and starts going up instead of going down. The point is, every wedge in your bag should have a different bounce. For every wedge shot I play, I want the right bounce. I pick the club for the shot, and it’s most important to have the right bounce. For example, if I’m hitting from a tight lie, I want less bounce, but if I’m hitting a shot from tall grass, I’ll want more bounce.”
TGW.com: Should a player’s skill level be a consideration when it comes to picking wedges?
PELZ: “Is it that bad players need a lot of bounce? Heavens, no. It’s about having the right bounce for the shot you’re trying to play. Every pro in the world has a wedge in their bag that doesn’t have a whole lot of bounce, or at least they should if they want to make any money. So should the average player. And it’s no harder hitting a 60-degree wedge than a 50-degree wedge. The most important thing for the amateur is to accelerate through impact.”
TGW.com: You advocate that golfers carry as many as 4-5 wedges in their bag. Can you discuss your thoughts on the importance of having multiple wedge options?
PELZ: “We have a lot of schools, which we call “Scoring Game” schools, and the one thing we’ve learned that’s true is that, no matter who it is or at what level they play, the closer you get your wedges to the hole the better you putt. Pros will hit 7-10 shots from inside 125 yards every time they play. Amateurs will hit many more shots from that distance, and the truth is that amateurs need wedges more than pros. And they need more wedges to cover more distance gaps. Personally, I carry five wedges and each is a different loft, has a different length, and has a different bounce.”
TGW.com: You’ve worked with great wedge players throughout your career. In addition to devoting ample time to practicing, what advice would you offer average golfers to help them improve their wedge play?
PELZ: “If every golfer would accelerate through impact, from the grass or the sand, they would see their short game start to take off. Acceleration gives you good, solid impact, and it puts backspin on the ball. That’s the biggest fundamental that goes around the wedge game. From the grass, play the ball in the middle of your stance and accelerate, and from the sand, play the ball more up in your stance and accelerate. But another tip that I would mention is that golfers practice most what we call the sacred 14-yard shot. In doing research, we’ve found that the average distance that players miss greens is 14 yards away from the hole. Practice flying the ball using different clubs 10-12 yards and then letting the ball roll out to the pin. You’ve got to learn that shot. That’s the most frequent shot in golf, and you could be faced with that shot 6-8 times per round.”