Golf club bounce is the angle between the ground and the sole of the club when the shaft is held in a vertical position.
For example: A club with ten degrees bounce will have a ten degree angle between the sole and the ground (barring any rounding of the sole). Notice how the back edge of the sole of the wedge rests on my finger, while the leading edge is slightly raised. Thanks to Gene Sarazen, who first invented bounce, irons have been built this way to deter the leading edge from shoveling or digging into the ground.
The greater the bounce angle of a club, the higher the leading edge will be from the turf at address and vice versa. It is important to note that all modern irons have bounce built into them; it is not something that is strictly reserved for the wedges.
There are two things that must be struck with every chip or pitch: the ball and the ground. And preferably in that order! This is where understanding and using club bounce comes in. Most golfers know that a chip or pitch must be struck with a descending blow. The dilemma that most golfers face is how to hit down without getting the sharp leading edge of the club stuck in the ground. For the majority of short game shots, the handle should beat the club head to the ball, similar to the full swing, but to a far lesser degree. If the handle gets too far forward, the bounce is removed and the club will dig too much. I find that golfers struggling with their short game are often alternating between sticking the club in the ground and blading shots over the green. This is where using the bounce correctly becomes vital: Think of it as an insurance policy that, when used correctly, allows for an acceptable result even with the ground being struck before the ball.
Locate a lie board (a flat, sturdy plexiglass board) and pitch a few shots from the board. You will notice that the back edge of the sole of your wedge is marked up from where it made contact with the plexiglass. Should the markings be too close to the leading edge, your hands are too far forward at impact and you are preparing to do some gardening.
If you do not have access to a lie board, (try plywood with paint on it) you can just make a few small practice swings during which you attempt to brush the ground with the back edge of the bottom of the club. There should be no divots – no matter what the turf conditions.
- The leading edge digs into the ground; the bounce glides along the ground. Use the bounce!
- If your club has ten degrees of bounce and the shaft leans forward more than ten degrees at impact, you effectively have zero -- or even a negative -- bounce.
- There should be no divot when you hit a chip shot. If the leading edge is cutting turf, you are not employing the bounce correctly. Divots with pitching will depend on turf conditions, but there should not be any digging there either.
- Lagging the clubhead into impact will lead to a loss of bounce and inconsistent results. Feel as if the hands and clubhead arrive at the ball at the same time.
- The ground must be contacted for there to be an acceptable result. Preferably after impact.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to let me know your thoughts!