Explaining 'Camber' in Golf Clubs

Definition of the golf club term that applies to soles

golf irons with cambered soles
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"Camber" is the term that applies to how much curvature, or roundedness, the sole of a golf club has.

Look at the sole of any golf iron you own and you'll notice that the sole is probably not perfectly flat; it is curved and rounded, perhaps very little or perhaps a bit more, but by a noticeable amount. That's the sole's camber.

Camber Is a Club Design Term

Camber is more of a technical, clubmaking term than one used by recreational golfers, but sole camber is something the best golfers do pay attention to.

"Camber" can be applied to both the club's sole curvature side-to-side (heel to toe) and front to back. However, when using "camber" or "sole camber" in relation to golf clubs, the reference is almost always to front-to-back (leading edge-to-trailing edge) camber. (Heel-to-toe camber is more commonly called "sole radius.")

However, many technical clubfitting guidelines refer to camber only applying to the front-to-back (leading edge to trailing edge) part of the sole.

The Role of Camber in Golf Clubs

Any iron can have sole camber, but the term is most commonly heard in relation to wedges, where the amount of camber is most likely to be the largest.

In fact, camber first came into golf as a specific design feature when sand wedges were invented in the 1920s. More rounding on the sole helped sand wedges create the "explosion shots" that blast golf balls out of bunkers. Prior to cambered sand wedges, it was most common for irons to have very narrow and flat soles, which produce more digging into the turf.

That's one thing to know about camber: "Diggers" (golfers who swing more steeply into impact) may benefit from more camber in the soles of their irons and wedges. Sweepers may benefit from less camber in those clubs.

More camber on the rear part of the sole (by the trailing edge) reduces bounce angle; more camber at the leading edge increases bounce angle. Grinding down both the leading and trailing edges of a wedge is one way tour pros reduce bounce angle. (Since camber is not something most manufacturers specify in information about their irons and wedges, bounce angle — which most manufacturers do point out, at least for wedges — can be an approximate stand-in that gives you information about a club's amount of camber.)

A thicker or wider sole will have more camber than a narrow sole, and wider soles are a staple of game-improvement clubs aimed at recreational golfers.

The bottom line: A cambered sole helps the club move more smoothly across the turf, or dig less into the ground when taking divots or playing out of bunkers.

Key Takeaways: Camber

  • Camber is a term for the curvature on the sole of a golf club. It most often refers to the front-to-back (leading edge-to-trailing edge) curvature.
  • Golf irons and wedges that have significant camber will also have wider soles to accommodate that camber, and wider soles are a common feature in game-improvement golf clubs.