Explaining Bounce and Bounce Angle in Wedges

Plus How Your Swing and Course Conditions Influence Bounce Angle Requirements

Illustration of bounge angle in golf wedges
Courtesy of Cleveland Golf  

"Bounce" is a golf term referring to the lowest part of the sole of a wedge, that part of the wedge sole that is actually in contact with the ground at address and that causes the front of the sole to be off the ground at address.

"Bounce angle" is a measurement, expressed in degrees, of the angle between the leading edge of the sole and that lowest point on the sole.

The higher the bounce angle, the more the leading edge of the sole is off the ground at address. And different levels of bounce angle (higher or lower) in a wedge lead to slightly different playing characteristics.

Bounce and bounce angle are elements present in all iron golf clubs, not just wedges. But the terms are commonly used almost exclusively in reference to wedges.

The Amount of Bounce in Wedges

There is no industry standard for bounce angle; each manufacturer decides how much bounce to build into its wedges, and what options of loft and bounce angles to offer.

Bounce angle can range anywhere from zero degrees to 14 degrees or higher. You can think of bounce angles of four degrees or less as low bounce; 5-10 degrees as medium bounce; and anything above 10 degrees as high bounce.

Today, many golf manufacturers provide golfers with a wide range of loft-bounce combinations from which to choose. A company might list its wedges as, for example, 46-8, 50-8, 50-12, 54-10, 56-14, 58-4, 58-8 and so on, where the first number represents degrees of loft and the second number represents degrees of bounce angle.

Some wedge soles are designed so the golfer can change the effective bounce angle by opening the clubface.

Bounce Controls Digging

What is the purpose of bounce on a wedge sole? Think of bounce as a way to control how much your wedges dig into turf or through sand or rough. The more bounce a wedge has—the higher its bounce angle—the better it will resist digging. Another way of saying it: Higher bounce equals smaller, shallower divots.

You can also think of bounce as a feature that reduces the drag on a wedge moving through sand, or through longer grass or thicker grass.

If you hit a lot of fat wedges, you might be using wedges with too little bounce (lower bounce making it easier for your wedges to dig). If you are hitting a lot of thin wedge shots, you might have too much bounce (higher bounce causing the sole to literally bounce up after contacting turf).

But bounce angle doesn't exist in a vacuum; your swing and course conditions affect how much bounce is best for you.

A Golfer's Swing Type Influences Bounce Requirements

Yes, swing type does have an impact on how much bounce will work best for you.

"Golf course conditions and the way the golfer swings the wedges down into the ball have a bearing on how much bounce is good or bad for any golfer," says club designer and clubfitting researcher Tom Wishon, founder of Tom Wishon Golf Technology.

These are the general guidelines:

  • Golfers who swing their wedges steeply into impact (a steep angle of attack) need more bounce;
  • Golfers who sweep into the ball (shallow angle of attack) require less bounce.

Course Conditions Also Influence Needed Bounce Angle

The short, and general, answer to whether golf course conditions influence how much bounce angle in your wedges will work best is this:

  • Firmer conditions require lower bounce angles;
  • Softer conditions require higher bounce angles.

These are good rules of thumb. Many tour pros change out the specs on their wedges from week to week based on the golf courses they are playing.

When to Favor Higher or Lower Bounce Angles

Another way of stating the effects of the golfer's swing and course conditions on bounce requirements is this:

Favor higher bounce angles ...

  • ... the fluffier the sand;
  • the deeper the sand;
  • the lighter the sand;
  • the longer the grass in the rough;
  • the softer the fairways;
  • the steeper you swing the wedge down into the ball (the steeper your angle of attack).

Favor lower bounce angles ...

  • ... the more coarse the sand;
  • the more shallow the sand;
  • the heavier and wetter the sand;
  • the shorter the grass in the rough;
  • the firmer the fairways;
  • the more level you swing the wedge down into the ball (the shallower your angle of attack).

Do You Need to Care About Bounce Angle?

If you are a golfer who wants to maximize your ability to score well, bounce angle in your wedges is definitely something to consider. You can experiment with demo clubs, or discuss your options with your friendly local PGA Professional or knowledgeable pro shop staff. Better yet, you can schedule a wedge fitting with a clubfitter.

If you're a recreational golfer, an occasional golfer, someone who just wants to get out in the fresh air and enjoy time spent with golf buddies, don't sweat the technical stuff. But next time you buy new wedges, do keep in mind the general rules of thumb about bounce mentioned above.