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Simplifying Bounce

Bringing you insights from the PING Proving Grounds, where our talented team of engineers, researchers, fitting experts and data scientists design and develop the newest product and fitting technologies to help you play better. Using the most advanced tools available, we’ll explain and explore the science behind golf-equipment performance. We’ll separate fact from fiction with the goal of helping you make informed decisions when choosing the PING equipment best suited for maximizing your performance.

Simplifying Bounce

By Paul Wood, PhD

Effective bounce sounds like a good description for what happens when a wedge shot works well, e.g. “He used the bounce effectively with that shot.” The phrase is typically used to describe how a wedge sole interacts with the turf, but it has’t often been defined. My aim with this article is to explain effective bounce and how to decide which sole design (and how much bounce) will work best for your game.

For wedges, bounce angle has traditionally been held up as the best attribute to explain how the complex geometry of a given wedge sole, delivered by an individual player's attack angle, interacting with a particular kind of turf, will affect ball flight. Clearly this is a very intricate dynamic that we’re trying to simplify to make a useful point.

Actual vs. Effective Bounce
Illustration of two wedges with same measurable bounce of 13 degrees, but different effective bounces due to the difference in sole width Actual vs. Effective Bounce wedge with 12 degrees of stated bounce wedge with 8 degrees of stated bounce cross-section of wedge with 12 degrees of bounce and a sole with of 0.78" 0.78” Sole Width Effective Bounce Angle 12° cross-section of wedge with 8 degrees of bounce and a sole with of 0.53" 0.53” Sole Width Effective Bounce Angle
2 wedges with the same actual bounce angle (13°) but different primary sole widths.
As a result, the effective bounce numbers are very different.

Generally, a low bounce angle implies a sharper, blade-like impact that cuts through turf easily, whereas a wedge with a high bounce angle has a blunter impact. Our testing shows that when a club either does’t get into the turf sufficiently, or digs too deeply, the result is  inconsistent shot making. It follows that a player with a swing that causes the wedge to dig too much will benefit from a wedge with more bounce. Conversely, a player who sweeps the club over the turf will get more consistent results with a wedge with less bounce.

A player with a swing that causes the wedge to dig too much will benefit from a wedge with more bounce. Conversely, a player who sweeps the club over the turf will get more consistent results with a wedge with less bounce.

There is, however, a lot more to a wedge sole shape than just the angle of the lead edge. The graphic above shows two wedge sole designs from the toe view. Their measured bounce angles are identical, but one wedge has a much wider and deeper principal sole section. The back section of the sole, where it starts to rise up after the low point, doesn’t affect the initial ground impact, and is not really part of the playable width.

The wedges in Figure 1 will interact with the turf very differently, so just using a bounce angle to define a wedge sole is not sufficient. The wedge on the left, which has a thinner sole, will cut through turf more easily; the one on the right will avoid digging.

How "Effective Bounce" Works


By putting an arbitrary number to it and calling it “effective bounce” or “plays-like bounce”.  Most companies, including PING, don’t quote a measured bounce angle. We all use the term “effective bounce.” It’s a communication tool more than a scientific term. But since there’s no real definition or standard for this number, there’s a lot of variation in effective bounce numbers among golf companies. PING’s 8° effective bounce wedge, for example, is probably a lot different from another company’s 8° effective bounce wedge. For this reason, there may be other measurements that are more intuitive and less open to interpretation.

Going back to Figure 1, the more visible and measurable attribute is the width of the principal sole section. This is easier to see and can be measured and compared from club to club. Sole width is not a perfect description of a wedge’s sole design, but it gives the golfer a better measure to use for comparison. To classify the sole of a wedge, you really need to know both bounce angle and sole width. Our Glide Thin Sole 60° wedge actually has 20° of measured bounce angle, but an “effective bounce” of only 6°. The main reason is the thin, 1/2-inch-wide sole. If you were to classify a wedge sole with a single number, the measured width is a more intuitive and comparable number than effective bounce angle.

Simply put, a thin sole equates well with low effective bounce while a wide sole equates well with high effective bounce.

Finding a Sole to Fit Your Game

I often hear people say that better golfers play less bounce and higher-handicap players need more bounce. This in’t necessarily true. The fitting question comes down to club delivery and turf conditions.  Most players deliver a high-lofted wedge with an angle of attack between -2° and -12°, and a shaft forward lean between about 4° and 14°. This is a very wide range.

Figure 2 (below) shows the same thin-sole wedge being delivered by two different elite-level golfers at PING. The player on the left delivers the club with hands quite neutral and a shallow attack angle. On the right, the club is delivered with the hands well forward and a steep attack angle.

The sole interacts with the turf very differently. In the first case, the sole hits the ground with a very glancing blow, and despite the downward force at impact (ball goes up, club is forced down) it will not dig excessively. In the second case, the lead edge of the sole presents a much sharper target to the turf and will tend to dig much more. For this second golfer, the thin sole in the picture will dig too much and a wide sole (with more effective bounce) will present a blunter target to the turf and be a lot more consistent.

Dynamic Delivery
Dynamic Delivery illustration showing the same thin-soled wedge with two different handle leans and angles of attack cross-section of wedge with 8 degrees of bounce arrow showing angle of attack green line representing the ground illustration of wedge in impact position with 12 degrees of handle lean and an angle of attack of -11 degrees lines forming angle that represents 12 degrees of handle lean 12° Handle Lean arrow representing angle of attack of -11 degrees -11° Attack Angle illustration of wedge in impact position with 5 degrees of handle lean and an angle of attack of -3 degrees lines forming angle that represents 5 degrees of handle lean Handle Lean arrow representing angle of attack of -3 degrees -3° Attack Angle
The same wedge will perform differently for golfers with different swing dynamics

There are many ways to swing a wedge. Even among our tour players there is a sizeable range from shallow to steep. If we made one sole design to cover both ends of the spectrum, it couldn’t be optimized for everyone. Often a top player will change their wedge for the course conditions.

A good example is Angel Cabrera. He has played PING wedges with each of the thin, standard and wide soles on different weeks depending on the course conditions. It may actually be worth thinking about having a couple of different options in the most lofted wedge to switch out on harder or softer courses.

I always encourage people to visit a PING Certified Fitter for these important scoring clubs, or at the very least demo a couple of effective bounce options on real turf where possible.

Paul Wood, PhD
Vice President of Engineering

Paul coordinates a department responsible for club design, product development, innovation, testing, prototyping and manufacturing engineering. He joined PING in 2005 after completing a PhD in Applied Mathematics at St. Andrews University, Scotland. He began his career as a research engineer, studying the physics of ball flight, the club-ball impact and many other aspects of golf science. He was part of the team that created both the iPING and nFlight fitting tools.

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