Maybe a change to your wedge shaft may rejuvenate your short game too, but just don’t assume if you see a “wedge” shaft that is the only option you have.
How often do you take a full swing with your golf wedges? Trace back to your last round and recall all those ¾ or ½ pitch shots, chips from just beyond the apron or your greenside bunker play – all of those are taken with less than a full shot. Now think about this for a second. Since they are taken with less than a full effort and your swing speed is reduced, so should the flex of your shaft be reduced as well? After all a slower swing speed player is recommended to use a softer flexed shaft than someone stronger than them. Therefore I wanted to investigate does golf wedge flex makes any difference in accuracy and feel.
First, let’s look at buying habits amongst consumers. If you look at all the name brand golf wedges on the market, what kind of shafts do they have in them? The #1 shaft by far is a version of the iconic Dynamic Gold S-flex taper tip (typically labeled as “Wedge” flex). You may also see some similar weight and stiffness golf shafts in the likes of the KBS Tour Shaft or the Dynamic Gold Spinner golf shaft too. But let me emphasize this fact, in a blade style wedge from any of the major manufacturers, they do not offer a single Regular of Senior flex shaft to match what you may be using in the rest of your set. So in the minds of the major OEMs, either flex must not matter in golf wedges or they only offer this option because the professional golfers like that combination (again in a blade style wedge) and the rest of the golfing population are lemmings and buy what the manufacturers dictate. OK, maybe I am a cynic.
To test my theory, I used the SK Fiber Wedge Force golf shafts because they came in 3 basic flexes and had a similar shaft profile to one another. In addition, as the flex is reduced, the weight reduced as well. I set these up at 35.75” with a slightly oversize grip into three identical loft / lie Power Play Raw Spin 56º wedges. Each came out at D3. The rest of the specs are below.
I should state what the 5-iron flex equivalent is. In steel golf shafts, the frequency increases @ 4-5 cpm per club (shorter) due to the normal tip trimming or the suggested raw length of the taper tip shaft by the manufacturer. So if we were to account for the shorter length and slightly higher swingweights on the wedges compared to the rest of the numbers irons, you would typically see a 15-17 cpm increase in frequency over the 5-iron.
The literature from SK Fiber Golf (I know we own it now) inadvertently lists the 100g model as A-flex, 110 as R-flex and 120 as S-flex. While there may be some A-flex steel-shafted #5 irons that measure between 293-295 cpm, there are a number of popular lightweight S-flex steel shafts that do as well. So in reality, the 100 model is not an A-flex shaft. Another way to think about it is a softer version in the SK Fiber Wedge Force shaft family (or Baby Bear) compared to the 110 (Momma Bear) and 120 (Papa Bear) just the same way that not all S-flex shafts are the same stiffness.
To put this all in perspective, if a Dynamic Gold S-flex taper tip wedge shaft was set up in the same manner, the cut shaft weight would have been @ 119 g, overall weight of 471 g (would have had to use a lighter weight head to achieve D3) and a frequency of 339. This would have been close to the Wedge Force 120 model specifications.
I not only wanted to test partial shots but also full shots with each of these clubs. For the record, I normally play R-flex in heavier weight steel and S-flex in some of the lighter and more flexible offerings. Another golfer who I had conduct the same test was also using R-flex in his irons and of course S-flex in his golf wedges (because that is all that came stock with them).
The range I frequent for all my testing is one of the top 100 in the nation, so there are lots of flags set to certain distances to make it easier to hone in on your short yardages. Alternating among the three sand wedges as well as different targets, I came to the conclusion quickly that having the proper length (for solidness of contact), loft (for trajectory), lie (for direction) are far more important based on the accuracy of these variable weight and flex wedges. I couldn’t say one way or another that any one of the golf wedges was night and day difference in distance and directional control. However, the lightest and most flexible felt the best and most natural to me. Based on feel and no loss of control, I would have picked the SK Fiber Wedge Force 100 golf shaft or a shaft based upon the literature I honestly would have never had even tried.
The other player had a similar experience as me as far as the more flexible and lighter wedge didn’t cause him to loose accuracy. Of course at the beginning I did not tell him what I was handing to him. However, he could detect the weight differential of the 3 immediately, but could not tell there was any flex difference until later when I told him. Over time, I thought the two he hit best were the lightest and the heaviest wedge, but in the end he preferred the feel of the heavier model as it was more familiar to what he had been using.
Here is where I thought the biggest issue would be concerning distance and directional control by moving up and down in flex. When I say a full shot, I was not referring to jumping out of my shoes and trying to hit the ball farther. Who does that with a golf wedge anyway? What I was surprised by was the directional consistency of each one. After all these were blade style wedges offering little in the way of game improvement features. On the other hand they are shorter so they should be more controllable and easier to make solid contact. There was no glaring tendency other than the heaviest shafted wedge may have tended to go more right of my target than the other two. I felt the lightest one went a tad higher and further, but if so, I would have needed a launch monitor to tell me for sure.
The other player felt more comfortable with the heaviest shafted wedge for full shots. The way he describe the feeling, he had more momentum in his swing with the heavier weight which required less effort to swing. We could have added swingweight (via lead tape) to the head of the lighter two shafts to see if that would have changed his opinion.
I wanted to repeat the exercise so as not to find my conclusions a fluke. One thing I wanted to make sure I tried was to add 17g of weight to the Wedge Force 100 golf shaft with a clay-like substance that I can easily add or remove that will also stick to the outer side of the shaft when hit. The weight was placed @ 14” from the butt end so I could achieve the exact same overall weight as the Wedge Force 120 and have the same swingweight too. So essentially I was testing flex only (at least on paper). After hitting several shots with the club modified this way, I can tell you that even though the overall weight and swingweight were the same, they didn’t feel alike. There had to be a difference in the moment of inertia (MOI) between the two. No longer could I judge distance as well with the additional weight in that position. After removing the clay-like substance, I was back to form.
Next, I experimented by adding some weight to the heads of the Wedge Force 100, 110 and 120 shafts until I felt the performance improved. This made more of a difference than did the flex of the shaft, especially on the two lighter shaft models. I had to wait until I got back to my lab to see what the swingweights would be and subsequent flex as the additional weight will reduce the flex as well.
In the end, I had three sand wedges with completely different flexed and weighted sand wedges I had confidence I could hit my targets on both partial and full shots.
I’ll admit pitching chipping has never been my strong suit as I don’t practice enough. During this exercise over a three day span, that part of my game that had been sadly neglected has now become one of my strengths. The first night out on the course with the softer and lighter wedge shaft was probably the best exhibition I have had in years to and around the green.
There are by far more club fitting parameters to fit for in a wedge besides flex. So maybe the OEMs aren’t wrong in only offering one flex shaft for all. But on the other hand, feel is so integral to this game. As most shots are made with less than full shots and subsequent slower swing speed, I would opt for a shaft weight (first), swingweight (second) and flex (third) that feels most comfortable in my wedge. That is assuming I already know what head, length and grip size I need first.
To play devil’s advocate, I didn’t use a very flexible ladies or senior graphite shaft so I am not saying that flex does not matter altogether. But those tend to be much lighter than the shafts I tried. Anyway, I did say that weight and weight distribution (swingweight or MOI) are more critical factors. But those that nitpick over a whether to tip trim a little more to offset a higher bottom to bore measurement or soft step a raw length or two to create a little more feel are missing the big picture.
Maybe a change to your wedge shaft may rejuvenate your short game too, but just don’t assume if you see a “wedge” shaft that is the only option you have. Get custom clubfit! It can make a difference.