At the first November Masters, nearly half the field
will be taking on autumnal Augusta National with Vokey wedges in the bag.
Whether it’s April or November, whether the azaleas are blooming or not, the job doesn’t change for Vokey Tour Rep Aaron Dill (@VokeyWedgeRep). Now in his 13th year manning the grinding wheel inside the Titleist Tour Van, Dill makes certain every Vokey wedge player on the PGA Tour has the tools they need to take on their next challenge, week in and week out.
We caught up with AD to talk about how he’s helping players prepare for one of the most anticipated Masters ever, the importance of spin and control at every major championship, and how you can identify when you need a fresh set of grooves.
Everyone wants to win these so players take preparation to the next level.
My instinct – after talking with players – says this Masters will be soft, grainy, and long. With that in mind I feel many will be OK with their current wedge setup, however, this does not mean I won’t be prepared to make adjustments on the fly.
Augusta National has a way of making major changes at a moment’s notice to alter course setup. We’re looking at about 50 Vokey wedge players competing this week and I have everything I need to make sure they’re ready, no matter what.
After talking with Titleist Brand Ambassador Justin Thomas, he described the course as beautiful and healthy. The grass is a little longer than expected but the greens and bunkers are the Augusta National standard. The bunkers are a great combination of the firm base you hope for with a delicate layer of sand giving them the appearance of a possible soft base.
This thin layer of sand allows a ball to sink slightly so there could be several bunker shots that come out with very little spin and some decent roll out. Greenside the grass and conditions could be grainy causing some issues, so I would expect many to rely on a sand wedge or a lob wedge with a little more bounce. We could also see a lot of putting and fairway/hybrid use in those locations.
Most players have requested a fresh lob wedge identical to the gamer they currently use. Some have asked for full sets, and others have asked for wedges just because they want to stamp something fun and memorable.
A player’s #1 goal during a major is control. Players who have control of their golf ball tee to green are the likely choice in a major championship, especially those who perform the best inside 125 yards. This is a big reason why wedge selection can be one of the most important things to get right before the start of a major.
Spin performance and spin management is the key to keeping control of your golf ball – a main reason why my job never stops. Majors tend to have firm and fast greens which encourages fresh grooves for the stopping power and trajectory control.
A low launching wedge is the goal, it’s a great way for players to control the flight and distance, add fresh grooves and you have a perfect flighted high spinning wedge shot sure to leave some short putts for birdie.
This is the reason why so many request and change wedges before a major. It eliminates worry on whether or not that part of your bag is under control.
A big part of my job is checking grooves and making sure our players have the stopping power they need to hit high quality wedge shots. We use a simple 1-2-3-4 rule that helps us not just keep our spin high but more importantly manage spin where it’s needed and where it’s not.
The general rule is that we switch out their pitching wedge once a year, gap wedge twice a year, sand wedge three times, and lob wedge four times.
Replacements of grooves happen most often with the sand and lob wedges to keep the spin high so they have the best control possible around the green. Our testing shows that a good baseline for players to start thinking about replacing their wedges is every 75 rounds.
If you’re practicing with them a lot, that number will go down.
The tells for spin decay are pretty simple. Sometimes players can look at the face and see visual wear – deformed and damaged grooves are a good example of grooves needing to be replaced.
Performance-wise spin decay appears in three main ways – higher ball flight, erratic carry numbers, and loss of spin down range when the ball makes contact with the green.
Turf interaction and shot types are things we address on site when course conditions are different. I usually will not make any changes till I or the player knows that the course is requiring a change in sole or bounce type.
Course play and encouragement to learn the course is the first step we take before making a change – I am a firm believer in keeping the same clubs unless something is causing the player to feel uncomfortable with his current gamer wedge.
A major tends to be a place where a change can occur more frequently due to setup and difficulty. We’re talking about changes in grain patterns, moisture levels, firm vs. soft, and changes in bunker types.
All things we consider in helping players find the perfect grind and bounce combination during a major.
- Vokey Wedge Rep - Aaron Dill