Recently, one of my students came to me with a curious question. “Doc,” he said, “why do I hit it off the toe with my wedges, but not with other clubs?” We were on the practice tee, so I had him take out his wedge (pictured) and show it to me. He was right. He’d been hitting it off the toe so much that the clubface had started to wear down.
I asked him to set up to the ball. Without his even taking a swing, I immediately recognized the problem. The lie angle (the angle at which the sole of the club rests on the ground) was too flat, a characteristic that causes the club’s toe to dig into the ground at impact. When the toe digs down, the club’s heel comes up, and, as a result, shots are hit off the toe. (That’s a natural result, as the heel isn’t making contact with the ground.) Luckily for my student, wedges tend to be fairly forgiving when hit off the toe, so his shots stayed close to on-line; however, he wouldn’t be so fortunate if he were hitting a longer iron. They’re less forgiving and, when hit on the toe, result in low shots that tend to veer right.
You may be asking yourself why my student didn’t have this problem with his other clubs. Well, for the simple reason that his wedge wasn’t part of his 3-9-iron set. Those clubs were properly fitted, but his wedge was “bought off the rack.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right fit, and now he’s paying the price.
While lie angle was the culprit for my student’s mis-hits, you can’t always attribute these kinds of wear marks to how clubs sit on the ground. If, or when, you notice a similar abrasion developing on one of your clubs, the root cause can be traced back to one of the following: lie angle, posture or your grip.
The club’s lie angle is too flat for your swing. As a result, the toe digs into the ground at impact and the heel comes up. What results are shots hit off the club’s toe. For longer clubs, a lower ball flight is produced. There’s also a greater chance for the ball to veer right.
The Fix: Either change your wedge or have it bent so it’s more upright. If you suspect your club is too flat (or too upright, for that matter), use a “lie board” to determine where the club is bottoming out. All club companies and clubfitters have them.
You have bad posture. Check your distance from the ball at address. Your hands should hang under your shoulders in a neutral hanging position (not too close or far away from you). If, however, your arms are extended and your hands are away from your body, you’re standing too far from the ball.
When you swing, your arms and hands tend to return to their neutral position under the shoulders. It’s important to keep in mind that bodies strive for balance during the golf swing, so they’ll try to get into a neutral position through impact. Start in neutral, and your chances of solid contact improve dramatically.
The Fix: Adopt a proper posture.
You have a faulty grip. Because your wrists set the club’s lie angle, it’s vital that they’re in the correct position. A way to see if you’re holding the club correctly is to take a look at your glove. If its palm is wearing down, you’re not holding the club enough in your fingers. Regardless of whether everything else in your swing is neutral, gripping it more in the palm will set an incorrect angle and thus produce shots hit off the toe.
The Fix: Hold the club more in your fingers. Also, make sure your grips are the right size. If they’re too big or too small, you’ll be more inclined to grip it in the palm.