[PHOTO: Dan Winters]

Question: Does sharpening groove wedges prolong their life, and should I try to regroove them myself? Or, should I just buy new wedges?

Answer: I’m not sure why you would try to regroove your wedges. It is nothing like sharpening a knife or lawn-mower blade. First, the tools on the market are unlike the cutters used to mill the grooves on the top wedges. Those are designed to cut intricate wall angles and groove edge radii. I don’t care if you’re a full-time longshoreman, your hands are not that strong. Second, the ability to use a handheld tool to restore groove depth isn’t a universal skill. The microscopic measurements of groove depth and the radii of the groove edges extend to the fourth decimal. Whatever restoration you believe you might be achieving with the latest GrooveGouger 2000 cannot handle ten-thousandth of an inch. Third, if you take a carbide-tipped cutting tool to one of your scoring clubs, you’ll probably ruin it for good, said Casey Shultz, senior product manager at Cleveland Golf.

“If you want to ensure your wedges are conforming, you should never have them sharpened,” he says. “[R&A and] USGA rules on groove designs are strict and followed by all major manufacturers to exacting tolerances. As soon as you alter grooves from production with a sharpener, you risk losing conformance to those rules.”

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Most everyday golfers would see better performance by simply cleaning their grooves occasionally. A test conducted by 100 Best Teacher Andrew Rice showed at least a 20 percent decrease in spin just from dirty grooves. Still, we understand the dilemma. When should you dig into your pocket for new wedges at maybe $200 to $250 a pop when the clubs themselves look relatively undamaged? For some perspective, Titleist reports that players such as Jordan Spieth change their 60-degree wedge every few tournaments! The company’s testing shows that a wedge with 125 rounds of play (maybe a thousand shots) yields 140 percent more rollout with 30 percent less spin than a new wedge with fresh grooves. Even a wedge with 75 rounds on it is pushing out shots with 80 percent longer rollout than the fresh-grooved wedge (eight feet less stopping power).

When grooves start to wear from overuse, two areas start to decline. You’re losing groove volume, which helps channel away moisture and debris on shots from the rough (or dewy fairways) so that the friction between the ball and clubface is cleaner for optimised spin and launch. Also, repeated shots are going to soften the groove edges. A more rounded edge means that the clubface won’t grab the ball at impact as easily, resulting in less spin. “By having a fresh set of grooves, the average golfer is going to have more control and confidence and hit the ball closer to the hole,” says Kevin Tassistro, Titleist’s director of wedge development.

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Another point to consider: if your ball of choice does not have a urethane cover like those played on the professional tours, you can probably keep your wedges longer. Our testing of golf balls reveals that those cheaper balls aren’t going to spin all that much on short shots even if you have just removed the shrink wrap on your wedges.

We have two rules when it comes to knowing when to upgrade to new wedges. (1) If you play regularly, maybe 30 times a year, practise a fair amount and you’ve gone two years without new wedges, you will notice better performance with new models. (2) If you notice you need to change the grips on your wedges, it’s time for new wedges.