With golf companies creating more grind/sole options to choose from than ever before, it’s never been easier for golfers to find wedges that are perfectly suited to their golf game, their swing, and the courses they play.
That’s the good news.
The bad news? No matter what type of wedges you choose to play, the grooves on those wedges only have so much life in them when it comes to providing optimal performance.
For years now, Titleist has been an industry leader when it comes to wedges with its Vokey Design franchise, but it also has been well ahead of the curve when it comes to researching groove decay.
In an effort to maximize groove durability, Titleist uses a localized heat treatment within the hitting area of its SM6 wedges. That process does not impact feel and enables the grooves to function as intended for longer than they would have otherwise; but groove decay remains inevitable.
“The reality is all wedges wear out over time,” said Jeremy Stone, Director of Marketing for Titleist Vokey Design Wedges. “And what happens when a wedge wears out over time is the groove wall starts to wear away; it starts to get more rounded off from the original crisp, sharp level.”
What can golfers expect to see in terms of how their ball will react when their grooves have started to decay?
“What golfers are going to see as a result is their launch angle go up,”explained Stone. “So if all of a sudden that ball starts floating and you thought you nipped it pretty good, and you’re not getting that one hop and stop on the green, it might be time to check the wedges.”
Through the use of a robot at its Massachusetts testing facility, Titleist has done extensive wedge research in recent years about how grooves wear and what players can expect to see in terms of a loss of performance.
The results might come as a surprise to some golfers, while others might recognize what Titleist’s research has uncovered as it relates to what they’re seeing from the wedge shots they play.
“We found at 75 rounds of golf you might lose up to 1,000 RPM of spin, and that can result in almost double the rollout,” Stone said. “In our testing, we showed fresh grooves one hop and stop about 10 feet from the landing area. But at 75 rounds of play, (the ball) was releasing to about 18 feet and then at 125 rounds of play it was releasing all the way out to 24 feet.”
Of course, when it comes to wedge play, spin is king. After all, if you can’t create optimal spin on every wedge shot you play, you can’t control your golf ball.
And when it comes to controlling the golf ball, nobody does it better than Tour players. So how often will Tour players replace their wedges?
“On average, a guy like Jordan Spieth will replace his pitching wedge once per year, he’ll replace his gap wedge twice per year, he’ll replace the sand wedge three times per year, and he’ll replace the lob wedge four or five times per year,” Stone said.
“That’s an indication that not all wedges wear at the same rate. Your bunker club is going to wear out more quickly than, for example, your gap wedge, which you’re only hitting full out of the fairway. Sand will absolutely accelerate the deterioration of grooves.”
Golfers with access to a launch monitor can easily test their wedges against wedges with fresh grooves to see what kind of launch and spin numbers are being produced.
Many golfers, however, won’t have that option. If you’re one of those players, keep track of how many rounds you play with your wedges, be aware of which wedges you use most frequently from the sand, and pay attention to what’s going on with your ball flight and how your ball reacts when it hits the green.
If the ball is flying too high and not stopping as quickly as you’re accustomed to, SM6 wedges might be in order. And given that these are truly your scoring clubs, waiting too long to make a change is likely to have an adverse effect on how well you play.