Sam Burns explains the unique gear change he made to improve his wedge play
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Written by GolfWRX @GolfWRX
Sam Burns, the defending champion at this week’s Valspar Championship, certainly wasn’t hurting for PGA TOUR wins in 2021. Not only did he win the Valspar Championship in May, but he also won the Sanderson Farms Championship in October.
During the offseason, however, Burns and his coach Brad Pullin noticed that his mid-range approach play with his wedges could use improvement.
Burns, like most golfers, was using a gap wedge that had a “traditional” wedge look and design. As pictured below on the left, his traditional Jaws MD5 50-degree wedge had a low-bounce design, thinner topline, blade-like cavity and a more rounded shape than his Callaway Apex TCB cavity-back irons (on the right). Interestingly, Burns was also using a 46-degree pitching wedge that had a traditional wedge shape, rather than using a pitching wedge (PW) that was part of his iron set.
At the 2021 Valspar Championship, Burns won with four traditional Jaws MD5 wedges in the bag: 46, 50, 56 and 60 degrees.
Now, at the 2022 Valspar Championship, Burns has just two Jaws MD5 wedges (56 and 60 degrees) in the bag.
After thorough equipment testing during the offseason, Burns switched out his 46- and 50-degree Jaws MD5 wedges for two Apex TCB irons (PW and AW) that matched his iron set.
“Sam (Burns) called me and said he was struggling from 125-135 yards,” said Dean Teykl, Manager of Tour Operations and Player Performance at Callaway. “So we looked at some options and I told him the gap wedge that goes with the iron set is going to be more forgiving than what he was playing. From a design aspect, it’s more of a cavity back, and it has a little more bounce and a wider sole.”
Lofts and shafts being equal, as Burns found out, the Apex TCB irons (PW and AW) provided greater forgiveness on off-center hits, helping to reduce the negative impact of mishits on full shots. Due to the wider sole with more bounce, he also found the Apex TCB gap wedge to provide enhanced turf interaction since it doesn’t dig as easily into the turf.
“I think it was just a better transition from the irons into the wedges, and also the A-wedge is just a little bit better through the turf,” Burns told GolfWRX. “I was looking for a little more consistency, and those clubs provide that very well … I think there’s more forgiveness in those for sure than with the other wedges.”
Apparently, the switch has worked.
In the 2020-21 season, Burns ranked 25th on the PGA TOUR from 100-125 yards (17 feet, 9 inches) and 115th from 125-150 yards (23 feet, 6 inches). Thus far in 2021-22, he ranks ninth (15 feet, 4 inches) from 100-125 yards and 47th (21 feet, 6 inches) from 125-150 yards.
“He can (control the flight) with either option, but we noticed his distance control got better,” Tekyl explained. “It’s probably because it’s a little more forgiving. It’s blade versus cavity back, basically.”
Generally speaking, due to the increased perimeter weighting of a cavity-back iron versus a traditional wedge, an iron shape will tend to offer more forgiveness on full shots. Although traditional wedge shapes may offer greater versatility on chips and pitches around the green, gap wedges and pitching wedges are mostly used for full shots.
So why do most amateur and professional golfers opt for traditional wedges rather than high-lofted irons?
“It’s basically habit,” Tekyl said. “I don’t know that there’s a thought process there.”
For amateurs who are currently struggling with their wedge play, it could be time to try out a gap wedge that’s part of their iron set, rather than one that has a traditional wedge shape.
It has worked so far for Burns, at least.