Autumn foliage can make late-season golf in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest areas of the United States spectacular, but cool days and damp conditions can make venues that were firm and fast during the summer play differently in October and November. Instead of worrying about the heat and humidity, golfers must contend with chilly conditions, morning dew that can linger for hours and soft, mushy turf that never dries out.
On the positive side, wet conditions can make it easier to hit the fairway because drives tend to stop faster after they land.
On the downside, moisture can play havoc with your short game.
To understand why, think of the grooves in your wedges as tires and pretend that your golf ball is the road. When your tires and the road are dry, you get plenty of traction and grip, which means you can drive under control. But if the road is wet and your tires can’t handle the volume of water you are driving over, they lose grip and your car can skid.
In dry conditions, the grooves of your wedges can grab the cover material of your golf ball and produce lots of spin to enhance control and stopping power. But when grass, the ball or the face of your wedge is wet, the grooves can’t grab the ball as efficiently, so it slides up the face of your wedge at impact. The result is a shot that pops up with a higher launch angle but significantly less spin, making it less predictable and controllable.
When the grass and golf ball are wet, wedges can’t grip the ball as easily or produce as much spin. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Greg Cesario, a wedge designer at TaylorMade, noted that turf interaction in damp conditions is also critical.
“What golfers need to do is to learn how to ‘pick’ the ball in these types of conditions to keep the ground interaction to a minimum and to keep ball contact as low as possible on the face,” Cesario said. “This will avoid the dreaded ‘climb up the face’ shot with no spin.”
Roger Cleveland, Callaway’s chief designer and long-time wedge expert, said, “It depends on the shot, whether you are in the fairway or the rough, but either way, there is more resistance in ground when it is wet. That’s why you need to be sure to have enough bounce, so the club can work through the ground without digging.”
Jacob Clarke, a design engineer at Ping specializing in wedges, echos Cesario and Cleveland.
“When it’s wet, the friction on the face changes and the spin optimization changes, there’s no doubt about that,” Clarke said. He added that accomplished golfers often compensate by playing shots in wet conditions further back in their stance, and with a steeper swing, to ensure ball-first contact.
If you are looking for more tips and help on how to hit shots from wet, soft lies, Dan Grieve, the head professional at Woburn Golf Club in England, recently produced a fantastic YouTube instruction video on how to hit short-game shots in wet conditions.
Golf club makers are constantly trying to improve ways of getting water, grass and debris off the face to help golfers retain spin. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Now that you understand how water can ruin your short game, you can grasp why equipment makers invest significant time and money into researching different types of grooves, microgrooves and surface roughening treatments. In dry conditions, generating spin with a 56-degree or 60-degree wedge from the fairway is easy, but maintaining high spin rates in wet rough and damp fairways is hard. Any feature or technology that can channel water off the hitting surface or minimize spin loss in wet conditions will translate to more control.
As for equipment, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to playing in damp, cool conditions:
1. Fresh grooves are a must. If you play often (three or four times a month) and your sand wedge and lob wedge are more than two seasons old, those old grooves will struggle to produce spin on wet courses. If you want to prolong your season but have old wedges, invest in new wedges.
2. Have bounce options. Moisture can compress sand in bunkers, and when that happens, high-bounce wedges can skip off the compacted sand and make solid contact challenging. But in damp rough and fairways, low-bounce wedges dig into the turf. Give yourself options by making the bounce in your sand wedge and lob wedge different, with one beinbg be a low-bounce club and the other a high-bounce club. Pick either combination that you like, but give yourself options.
3. Try using less loft. While it may seem counterintuitive, Clarke said that wedges with less loft, like a gap wedge, can often generate more spin on greenside pitch shots in wet conditions than sand or lob wedges. Why? The ball will slide up the face less on a club with 50 or 52 degrees of loft, so the grooves can grab the ball more effectively. A gap-wedge pitch shot will come off on a lower trajectory, but the combination of the retained spin and the soft green can make the shot a smart option.
Below are several excellent wedges you will find in pro shops that have technologies designed to help golfers handle wet and soft conditions more effectively.
Callaway JAWS Raw wedge. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Gear: Callaway JAWS Raw wedges
Price: $179.99 each with True Temper Dynamic Gold Spinner steel shaft and Lamkin UTx Charcoal grip. $189.99 with Project X Catalyst 80 graphite shaft.
Specs: Cast stainless steel with tungsten insert. Available in even lofts between 48 and 60 degrees and in four sole-grind configurations.
The Skinny: With aggressive grooves, a variety of sole-grind options and raw steel construction that will rust with time, the JAWS Raw wedges should help golfers produce more spin around the greens and hit a wider variety of shots. To increase surface roughness, Callaway added a series of microgrooves at a 20-degree angle to the main grooves. Read full review.
Shop Callaway JAWS Raw wedge
The CBX Full Face 2 ha a hitting surface covered with grooves and a surfacing roughening treatment between the grooves. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Gear: Cleveland CBX Full-Face 2 wedges
Price: $169.99 each with True Temper Dynamic Gold 115 Spinner Tour Issue steel shafts and Lamkin Crossline 360 grips.
Specs: Cast stainless steel with face-roughening treatment and vibration-absorbing gel backpiece. Even lofts 50 degrees to 60 degrees
The Skinny: The CBX Full-Face 2 has the largest face of any Cleveland wedge, and combined with perimeter weighting, tour-level grooves, surface-roughening treatments and a water-repellant treatment, it blends forgiveness and control. Read full review.
Shop Cleveland CBX Full-Face 2 wedge
Cobra Snakebite sand and lob wedges have grooves covering the entire hitting area. (Cobra)
Gear: Cobra Snakebite
Price: $159 with KBS Hi-REV 2.0 Wedge shaft and Lamkin Crossline grip
Specs: Available in three sole grinds and even-lofts from 46-60 degrees
The Skinny: The grooves in the Snakebite wedges are CNC milled into the hitting area for increased precision and sharpness. According to Cobra, they produce about 300 rpm more spin than Cobra’s previous grooves, and the new face milling pattern produces 50 percent more spin in wet conditions.
Shop Cobra Snakebite Wedge
Grooves in the Mizuno T24 san wedges and lob wedges are wider and shallower to move water and debris off the hitting surface. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Gear: Mizuno T24 wedges
Price: $180 each with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts and Golf Pride MCC grips
Specs: Forged 1025 carbon steel infused with Boron. Available in even lofts from 46 degrees to 60 degrees in three finishes (Raw, Soft White Satin, Denim Copper) and in five sole configurations.
The Skinny: The combination of a thinner topline, shorter blade length, loft-specific grooves and five different sole grinds makes the T24 wedge family the most versatile in the Mizuno’s history. Sand wedges and lob wedges (54-60 degrees), however, get wider, shallower grooves to help channel water and debris off the hitting surface and protect spin. Read full review.
Shop Mizuno T24 Wedge
Ping Glide 4 wedges (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Gear: Ping Glide 4.0 wedges
Price: $128.98 each (Down from $200, save 36%)
Specs: Cast 8620 carbon steel with an elastomer insert. Available in four sole grind options and even lofts from 46 to 60 degrees.
The Skinny: There are 17 combinations of lofts and grinds in the Glide 4.0 wedge lineup, and all of them have microgrooves to create extra friction on the face and a HydroPearl 2.0 finish that repels water and helps ensure consistent performance in dew-covered fairways and wet rough. Read full review.
Shop Ping Glide 4.0 Wedge
The PXG 0311 3X Forged wedges have a high-toe design and grooves that cover the entire hitting area. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Gear: PXG 0311 3X Forged wedges
Price: $179 each
Specs: Forged 8620 carbon steel in Chrome or Xtreme Dark finish. Even lofts from 50 degrees to 62 degrees.
The Skinny: The PXG 0311 3X Forged wedges have a high-toe design and grooves that cover the entire face to create a larger, more versatile hitting area, especially when you open the face on flop shots and in bunkers. Even when the face is opened, there are grooves that can grab the cover of the ball to help generate spin and increase control. Read full review.
The Spin Tread is designed to get water off the face more effectively, to protect spin in wet conditions. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Gear: TaylorMade MG4 wedges
Price: $179.99 each with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue 115 Wedge shaft and Lamkin Crossline 360 grip.
Specs: Cast 8620 carbon steel with a raw-steel hitting area and seven different milled sole grinds. Even lofts from 46 degrees to 60 degrees.
The Skinny: TaylorMade designed a new surface-roughening pattern to the raw steel face of the MG4 wedges to help golfers create more spin, especially in wet conditions. That spin, combined with more sole grind options, should create more short-game versatility for golfers in all conditions. Read full review.
Shop TM MG4 Wedge
Titleist Vokey Design SM9 wedges. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Gear: Titleist Vokey Design SM9 wedges
Price: $179 each with True Temper Dynamic Gold S200 shafts and Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 White grips
Specs: Cast stainless steel with six sole grinds available. Even lofts from 46 to 62 degrees.
The Skinny: The most-played wedges on the PGA Tour, the grooves in the sand wedges and lob wedges (56-62 degrees) are wider and shallower to help keep water, sand and debris from the face more effectively on shots around the green. Between each groove, Titleist added a series of microgrooves to increase surface roughness and help golfers generate more spin on delicate chips and pitch shots. Read full review.
Shop Titleist SM9 Wedge
Tour Edge Exotics Wingman Wedge. (Tour Edge)
Gear: Tour Edge Exotics Wingman wedges
Price: $139.99 each with True Temper Dynamic Gold 115 Wedge shaft.
Specs: Forged stainless steel with polymer inserts and an adjustable weight. Even lofts from 50 degrees to 60 degrees in three sole grinds with five different bounce options
The Skinny: Tour Edge designed a high-toe wedge with weight removed from the back flange, then added thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) to soften the feel. After Tour Edge mills the main grooves into the high-toe-shaped hitting area, microgrooves are milled between each main groove to add surface roughness and increase friction. Read full review.
Wilson Staff Model Tour Grind wedge. (Wilson)
Gear: Wilson Staff Model Tour Grind wedge
Price: $139.99 each with True Temper Dynamic Golf X100 120 shaft and Golf Pride Tour Velvet grip
Specs: Forged 8620 carbon steel with milled face. Available in 56-, 58- and 60-degree versions.
The Skinny: Available only in sand wedge and lob-wedge lofts, the Staff Model Tour Grind has a significant amount of material ground out of the heel and toe areas, which should make it easier to open the face, get the leading edge under the ball and still receive the benefit of the bounce. Read full review.
Shop Wilson Staff Model Tour Grind Wedge