Wedges Golf Clubs
In the sport of golf, a wedge is a subset of the iron family of golf clubs designed for special use situations. As a class, wedges have the highest lofts, the shortest shafts, and the heaviest clubheads of the irons. These features generally aid the player in making accurate short-distance “lob” shots, to get the ball onto the green or out of a hazard or other tricky spot. In addition, wedges are designed with modified soles that aid the player in moving the clubhead through soft lies, such as sand, mud, and thick grass, to extract a ball that is embedded or even buried. Wedges come in a variety of configurations, and are generally grouped into four categories; pitching wedges, sand wedges, gap/approach wedges and lob wedges.
The class of wedges grew out of the need for a better club for playing soft lies and short shots. Prior to the 1930s, the best club for short “approach” shots was the “niblick”, roughly equivalent to today’s 9-iron or pitching wedge in loft; however the design of this club, with a flat, angled face and virtually no “sole”, made it difficult to use in sand and other soft lies as it was prone to dig into soft turf. The club most often used for bunker shots was called the “jigger”; it was used similarly to today’s pitching wedge, and had a similar short shaft, but its loft was closer to the “mashie” of the day (equivalent to today’s 4-iron). The lower loft prevented the club “digging in” to soft lies, but the low launch angle and relatively high resistance to the club moving through the sand to “dig out” a buried ball made recovery from a bunker with this club very difficult. The club was also not ideal for approach shots from a bunker near the green, as a chip shot made with this club tended to roll for most of its distance.
The modern sand wedge, the first of the clubs to be called a wedge, was developed by Gene Sarazen after flying in Howard Hughes’ private plane. Sarazen noticed the flaps on the wings that were lowered on takeoff to help create lift, and surmised that the same could be done to a high-lofted golf club to help the clubhead cut through and then lift out of the sand (bringing the ball with it). He built his first prototype in 1931 by taking a niblick and soldering extra lead to its sole to add mass, then adjusting the angle of the sole to about 10 degrees from level with the ground, which he found to be the optimal angle to prevent the clubhead either digging deeply into the sand or skimming (bouncing) along the top. The resulting clubhead profile was roughly wedge-shaped as opposed to the blade-like style of high-lofted irons, hence the name. He brought his new club to compete in the 1932 British Open, but kept it hidden from the authorities to avoid having it ruled illegal. He won that tournament with a then-record score of 283 (the sum of four rounds of play), and also won the subsequent 1932 U.S. Open with a final-round score of 66 that would stand as a tournament record for almost 30 years.