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|The Bob Wedge has operating instructions milled right into the clubface. (Courtesy of Bob Burns Golf)|
A few years ago, I was playing a golf course in Ireland, and my caddie and I were talking about the differences between golfers from the U.S. and golfers from Ireland. The first thing the caddie brought up was wedges.
"My father once told me that the number of wedges in a player's bag is inversely related to their skill with any of them," he said. "And in my experience, he was right. If I see four wedges in my golfer's bag, I know he won't be able to use any of them."
The point was that a skilled wedge player can use one, or maybe two, wedges to hit any shot.
But given the recent proliferation of bounce- and loft-angle combinations, which wedge should the golfer who wants to simplify his arsenal choose?
Bob Burns Golf, creator of the No Bananas anti-slice driver, has applied his game-improvement acumen to wedges.
The result is The Bob Wedge, the first every-wedge for everyone.
At first glance, The Bob Wedge ($106) looks like a practice aid or maybe like the result of an accident at the foundry.
On the back of the clubhead is a pronounced flange that provides biased, offset, variable bounce, depending on how far you lay the clubface open. Arrows are milled into the clubface itself, along with bounce and loft angles. The combination of arrows and numbers diagram where and how to address the ball for the desired loft and bounce.
In fact, The Bob Wedge effectively provides golfers four different wedges with the following specs, dependent on how far open the face is set:
Square: 56-degrees loft, 1-degree bounce
5-degrees open: 58-degrees loft, 4-degrees bounce
10-degrees open: 60-degrees loft, 9-degrees bounce
15-degrees open: 71-degrees loft, 11-degrees bounce
Although one might at first think that a club with operating instructions milled right into the face represents the pinnacle of gimmickry, concerted testing of The Bob Wedge demonstrated true functionality and solid performance.
I asked a couple of players to test out The Bob Wedge on the chipping green and on the course. Karl Newton, a 12-handicapper from Mahomet, Ill., hit a few chips and called over to some friends: "Hey, you guys have got to try this!"
The clincher was when Newton laid the wedge fully open and took a three-fourths swing with the 71-degree loft option. "This goes against everything I learned in my last lesson," he muttered right before tossing the ball 7 feet in the air and landing it softly next to the practice green cup about 8 feet away.
"That was fun," he grinned, "but if I'd missed it, the ball would be on the first tee now."
Don Hicks, a 20-something handicap from Walton, Ind., complained that he could save 10 strokes a round if he could just chip. He took The Bob Wedge out on the course for nine holes and came back invigorated.
"I need to practice some more with this," Hicks said afterwards, "but I felt like I could hit shots that I wouldn't even try before."
Hicks pointed out another benefit of the wedge: For guys like him trying to get down to the 14-club limit, The Bob Wedge allows him to take two, or maybe even three, wedges out of his bag.
Personally, I was impressed that the unique bounce system really does let you lay the clubface all the way open, and the leading edge still lies flat on the ground. The versatility truly is remarkable. On one end of the shot-making spectrum, I could hit the 56-degree loft 120 yards. On the other end, I could flop the 71-degree loft 10 feet in the air and 6 feet in front of me.
But, as both Hicks and Newton noted, The Bob Wedge requires some practice to use properly (like any wedge, really). My major complaint was that the somewhat sharp, square leading edge on the heel sometimes dug into thick rough; a somewhat more rounded heel would be preferred. However, after a few dozen flops, I got the hang of how to keep that heel from snagging.
The wedge comes standard with a super-soft Winn grip, but the one on the wedge I tested felt a little loose on the shaft, as if it were not completely glued down.
The best way to lower your scores is to improve your short game. The Bob Wedge is thus the ultimate game-improvement club. With some practice, anyone can chip and run, flop, and blast out of the sand like the pros, using just one club.
And at just over $100, The Bob Wedge represents the best investment in your game that I've seen in a long time.
For more information, visit www.bobburnsgolf.com.
July 20, 2009
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
One writer who travels more than nearly anyone I know said his Sun Mountain's Club Glider Meridian Golf Travel Bag was a "game changer." He said he'd never travel again without it. After this jaunt to Northern Ireland, I have to agree.
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