Golfers demand a lot from their wedge game. After all, wedges are referred to as “scoring clubs” for a reason. From flag-hunting after a monster drive, to delicate pitch and chip shots off tight lies, and escaping thick rough and sand, golfers expect their wedges to perform in nearly every situation inside 120 yards. Those expectations are only magnified when you consider that golfers are exclusively zeroed in on one-putt range whenever a wedge is in hand. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one area of your game.
With this emphasis on the wedge game, the days of gaming a two-wedge set made up of a pitching wedge and sand wedge are over. As iron sets strengthened in loft over the years, the need for a gap wedge to fill the void left between a less-lofted pitching wedge and the traditional 54-56 degree sand wedge emerged. Many players also game a 58-60 degree lob wedge.
In order to round out a four-piece wedge set, golfers are turning to the used wedge market. Given the savings on a used wedge compared to buying one off the rack, and the ability to sift through countless options to find the perfect make, model, loft and bounce to complete their set, it’s no surprise the used wedge market is hot. James Tracy, General Manager and Master Fitter at 2nd Swing Golf, shared his insights on how to pick a used wedge that will help lower scores.
If you’re attentive throughout the wedge-buying process, you can get a deal on a used wedge that will help your game. Follow these “Dos” to make sure you end up with the right wedge.
Wedges are more susceptible to performance declines based on condition than any other club in the bag. If you have a wedge in your bag that’s made a few hundred loops, replacing it with one that’s gently used can give you a significant upgrade.
“It’s probably the one club where the condition impacts the performance the most,” Tracy said. “You put your wedges through the harshest elements. You’re hitting more shots with those, you’re taking bigger divots, you’re putting them through the bunkers and all those things wear the wedge out. Whereas cosmetic wear on the face of the putter, unless it’s pretty grotesque, is probably not going to affect things too much.”
The industry agrees that after about 125 rounds, a traditional wedge — as opposed to the wedge or wedges included in an iron set — begins to drop-off in performance.
The standard pitching wedge that accompanies todays iron sets ranges between 41 and 46 degrees of loft, with most having 43 to 44 degrees. If your next club is a 56 degree sand wedge, you’re going to run into problems when you need to either muscle a sand wedge or finesse a pitching wedge into a protected green. Adding a 48-50 degree gap wedge will instantly help your game.
“A preowned wedge is going to be amazingly appropriate to fill that distance gap, or create that loft structure in your bag that allows you to have more weapons when you get inside of 120 yards,” Tracy said.
This is similar to the advice above, but applies more to gaps in your around-the-green game than yardage gaps will a full swing. No two green-side situations are identical. Some require a forced carry over a bunker, mound, stream or other obstacle. Some offer plenty of green to allow your ball to roll up close to the hole, while others demand immediate launch and loads of stopping-power. It’s hard enough to execute all these shots with a full arsenal of four wedges. Attempting to do so with just a couple options can be downright infuriating.
According to the USGA, the average handicap of a male golfer in the United States is just north of 14, and according to thegrint.com, golfers with a handicap index between 10-15 hit 27% of their greens. That means that the average golfer who keeps a USGA handicap index misses about 13 greens per round. Adding a wedge to your collection that will give you more options around the green will prove immediately beneficial.
“You’re going to miss greens. If you don’t have the right wedges or don’t know how to generate spin and let’s say your highest loft is 54 degrees, even if you don’t change your technique, just by sticking a 60 degree wedge in your bag, you’ve added a new shot,” Tracy said. “Now maybe when you’ve short-sided yourself or stuck yourself behind a bunker, your odds of keeping that ball on the green and making a save go up. That’s where I think the preowned market for wedges is important, just to give players the ability to experiment with a different or an extra wedge to see how it impacts their scores long-term.”
When buying a used wedge, it’s more important to know the condition of the club than when purchasing any other used club, because of the eventual performance drop-off mentioned earlier. 2nd Swing offers a condition guide on all of its pre-owned clubs, so buyers know what to expect. Other reputable pre-owned club sellers will offer something similar, but if you can’t determine the condition of a used wedge before buying it, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
With the condition of a wedge playing a much larger role in the performance it will deliver, there are some key things to watch out for before pulling the trigger on a used wedge purchase.
Maybe you had your eye on a particular wedge when it launched five years ago and you still have the urge to add it to your bag. Surely you can find a bargain on a used one that’s been in somebody’s bag for half-a-decade, but by now it’s probably been through hundreds of rounds and is not capable of delivering the performance it did off the rack. Try not to settle for a wedge in rough condition, as it won’t make the impact on your game you’re hoping for.
“What happens is, because the grooves wear, the spin starts to become less consistent — especially when you add some elements like water and longer grass — and things start to become less predictable,” Tracy said. “The launch goes up because of the lack of friction, and it does start to impact performance a little bit.”
If you’re competing for a collegiate national championship, advancing through match play in the U.S. Amateur or jockeying for position in the Walker Cup standings, you’ll be much more keen to any performance drop-off of a used wedge, and will get a better return in your game by shopping for something brand new.
“For golfers that are hyper-sensitive to distance and short game and how their ball reacts, buying a preowned wedge might not be their best recipe,” Tracy explained. “Take the Spin Milled line from Vokey, for example. The collegiate players that I work with, when the SM8 comes out, they say, ‘Order me up another set.’ When the SM9 comes out, ‘Order me up another set.’ There’s two years in between and they might even be waiting too long sometimes.”
Believe it or not, those grooves on your wedges are the result of significant research and development investments, and some highly sophisticated manufacturing equipment. The depth, shape, curvature and walls are all specifically designed and manufactured to perform and conform to the USGA’s standards. Do you think club manufacturers would make this investment if the same thing could be accomplished with a $10 tool? The reality is, a groove sharpener won’t really make a dent in bringing performance back to those worn-out grooves.
Adding to your short game with the addition of a used wedge or two can be a great way to lower scores without changing your technique. However, purchasing a used wedge is trickier than searching the used market for any other club in your bag because of the expected performance drop-off after significant usage. It’s important to be thorough in your research as you work your way through the process of buying used wedges.
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