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Golf Wedge Grinds Explained

Golf wedge grind is a very misunderstood concept. We get it, grind in a wedge is overwhelming, especially with the number of Vokey wedge grinds out there. Here we’ll cut through the marketing and help you understand how wedge grind can help you shoot lower scores.

This is a little nerdy, but it will help you play better golf for the rest of your life. After this, you should be able to look at any wedge and understand exactly how it will work for you.

Why is wedge grind important?

Your wedges will be interacting with the turf while the golf ball is still in contact with the club face, with some short game shots you may even contact the ground before the golf ball (a bunker shot). For this reason, the sole of the golf club plays an important role in what shots you can play and how the club head moves through impact.

Ever felt like the grass is too tight, or there is too much sand in a bunker? Well, this can be reframed as not having the right grind and bounce on a wedge for the conditions.

What Is Golf Wedge Grind?

Bob Vokey (Titleist Vokey Wedges) describes wedge grind as; “the manipulation or removal of material from the sole of the club, helping to improve contact with the turf. “

I like to think of the wedge grind as the shape of the sole. Others have called it sole geometry, which makes sense to me. Wedge play has changed considerably through the years, and it has become more customized to the needs of an individual player.

When I was playing junior golf, I played a lot of golf with scratch players on the cutting edge of the importance of customization in golf clubs. These guys would work on their wedges by hand and essentially grind them down to match the features they needed.

Companies like Titleist and Callaway have made it, so we no longer need to do that. Today there are options for F grind, D grind, S Grind, K grind, and more. These options are great from a playability standpoint, but they do make this process a bit more involved.

Here we’ll break down everything you need to know into two simple sections. The initial shape of the sole and then the additional grind you’ll find available.

Sole Geometry

There are three key aspects that are worth understanding when looking at the shape of a wedge and the sole: sole width, camber and radius.

Sole width

Sole with is super simple – how wide is the sole from back to front? If all else stays the same, the wider the sole, the greater the surface area contacting the ground and the more the wedge will ‘bounce’ off the turf.

Wide soles can give the feeling of security if you tend to catch the ground first. However, they tend to make wedges less adaptable and tricky to play from tight lies.

Camber

Camber is the curve on the bottom of the club, from the leading edge to the trailing edge on the sole of the club. More camber can help a wedge be more adaptable but reduces how much of the sole will interact with the ground.

Radius

Radius is seen when you look down at the head in the address position. The radius is the curve of the leading edge when looking down at the club head. More radius (curve) allows the leading edge to slide through grass, rather than grab and twist.

The sole width, radius and camber define how the golf club interacts with the turf. If you take a look at irons developed twenty or thirty years ago, you will see much sharper angles and straighter leading edges; this is why we know these irons and wedges to be less forgiving.

With modern technology and advancement, the clubs have become rounder to improve consistency in the game. However, wide, high-bounce soles make wedges less adaptable and tricky to play from tight lies. To help with this companies tend to start with a forgiving geometry, then ‘grind’ away key points of your wedges to help you hit short game shots like Phil Mickelson.

Key terms for wedge grind

All the fancy marketing terms you see can be boiled down into combinations of three ‘types of grind’. Each type has a specific purpose and uses for you as a golfer.

Full sole / no grind

If you have a wedge with a straight, consistent shape on the sole then you can consider this a full sole or no grind. In reality, even these wedges have some smoothing around the edges.

Example of full sole golf wedge
An example of a full sole wedge, note there is still some rounding and smoothing around the sole.

Toe relief

As the name suggests toe relief relates to wedges where the sole has been ground away towards the toe of the club head. This can help the wedge lay flat when you open the face.

The shaded area shows the area where the sole is ground away from additional toe relief.

Heel Relief

Heel relief relates to wedges where the sole has been ground away towards the heel. This style of grind can be very useful if you like to hit shots with an open club face from tight lies.

The shaded area shows the area where the sole is ground away from additional heel relief.

Trail relief

You guessed it – trail relief is where the back edge of the sole has been ground away. This is particularly useful if you like to play the ball forward in your stance and release your wrist through your shot game shots.

The shaded area shows the area where the sole is ground away from additional trail relief.

How To Choose A Wedge Grind

We’d recommend a three-step process for wedge fitting.

  1. Choose the right lofts for your wedges to ensure you cover key distances for wedge play and pitching.
  2. Choose the correct bounce on your wedges, to optimise your strike location on the club face.
  3. Select grind options that allow you to hit the key shots around the green.

From this process, you can see that wedge grind allows you to fine-tune your wedge setup – making your clubs better for tight lies, sandy bunkers, out of the rough…it sounds like a small point, but trust us, it can make a big difference.

When choosing the proper wedge grinds, think about:

  • Golf course conditions you will encounter (short grass, long grass, hard turf, wet and soft turf, sandy/firm bunkers)
  • Your general strike location (too high or low on the club face)
  • Your angle of attack
  • How much you like to manipulate the face of the wedge (open / closed)
  • Your chipping and pitching technique (hands level or ahead at impact)

This may sound like a lot to consider, but you can really have fun with your choices now you understand the basics.

I like to vary the wedges in my bag when it comes to both wedge bounce and grinds. Wedge shots are considerably easier when you have various tools to use for shots around the green.

Let’s run through some simple examples:

High handicap Mike – needs forgiveness, lush grass and sandy bunkers

This is a classic example of someone who will benefit from a wide sole, high bounce wedge with little grind. A more cambered sole and/or some heel/toe relief will make this standard configuration more adaptable.

Creative Georgia – likes creativity with chip shots, plays on a wide range of courses and conditions

This is a great case for having a mix of high and low-bounce wedges, but making sure the high bounce wedge has a good amount of heel, trail and toe relief in the grind. This will allow her to play well in lots of conditions, but still manipulate each wedge to hit creative shots.

Links player Tom – tight turf, deep sandy bunkers, struggles with confidence

This player would benefit from two wedges that have a mid-sole width, low bounce and some generous grind. The bounce will help with any heavy shots, but the grind should allow them to hit shots from tight turf. They may then need a bunker-specific club with a high loft, high bounce and a full sole for those deep, sandy bunkers.

Let’s wrap up with a look at what some of the top wedge manufacturers offer:

Titleist Wedge Grind

If you are shopping for Titleist Vokey wedges, the grinds are a bit involved. When you choose a specific grind like the L Grind, keep in mind that it will impact the lofts and the bounce angle options that you have as well.

Titleist has a really good handle on the grind and bounce technology in golf clubs, and if they don’t make lob wedges in the grind that you want, chances are there is an excellent reason behind it.

Here’s a brief overview of the Titleist wedge grinds and what you can expect.

  • L Grind: lowest bounce option with a lot of versatility; the L Grind is best for the better player looking for more control around the greens.
  • F Grind: an all-purpose wedge used for more full swing shots; we like this one in a pitching wedge or gap wedge loft; some may even find this to be versatile for a sand wedge.
  • M Grind: to remember what M grind stands for, we always think about the “most” versatile; for golfers that like to manipulate the clubface, the M Grind is a great option in a variety of lofts.
  • S Grind: the S Grind is a narrower-looking wedge designed for golfers that like to hit square face shots; if you don’t play with the clubhead all that much, the S Grind is a good choice.
  • D Grind: the D Grind is a high bounce wedge that works well for golfers that have a steeper swing and need more bounce to get through the turf.
  • K Grind: Titleist calls the K Grind the ultimate bunker club as it has the highest bounce and is built for those that prefer playing shots with a bit more forgiveness in softer turf conditions.

Callaway Wedge Grind

Callaway has a new line of Mack Daddy Jaws Raw wedges, and there are four grind options to choose from. Similar to Vokey wedge grinds, you will have several choices here used to create shots of different types around the green.

  • Z Grind: built for medium firm conditions and golfers that like to open the face more around the greens, this comes standard with 8 degrees of bounce angle, only available in higher lofted wedges.
  • S Grind: the Callaway S Grind is similar to the Titleist M Grind; this is standard for golfers that want to play with a square clubface, and it’s the most popular grind option from Callaway.
  • X Grind: a higher bounce angle for those with a steeper angle of attack and a deep divot, a good option for greenside bunker shots.
  • W Grind: the W Grind features the widest sole and a more rounded leading edge for the golfers that need the most forgiveness in their game.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide has helped you cut through the crazy land of wedge grinds. Armed with this information you should now be ready to buy some new wedges and take your short game to the next level!

Get out there and try a few of them to really compare the differences. If you haven’t got access to a wide variety, ask your golfing friends to borrow theirs for a few shots. Check out the sole compared to your wedges and see the difference when you hit chips and bunker shots.

Happy golfing.

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Britt Olizarowicz is a former teaching and Class A PGA professional with more than 25 years spent with a golf club in her hand. Britt is a small business owner, author, and freelance golf expert that knows this game inside and out. She lives in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children.

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