A long walk on the beach can be calming, but when you’re on the course the last thing you want is to end up in the sand. Before the 1930s, you’d be in a lot of trouble in the bunkers, but thanks to a clever golfer, we now have the modern sand wedge. No matter if you play with TaylorMade wedges or Titleist wedges, you probably owe a big thanks to Gene Sarazen.
Before the early 1930s, golfers had only one wedge in their bag: a pitching wedge, commonly called a “jigger.” Golfers had been building homemade prototypes to help get themselves out of the sand long before this, but most didn’t conform to golfing regulations and were banned due to concave or deeply grooved faces.
But one fateful day during this time of heavy wedge experimentation, Sarazen went flying with Howard Hughes. He had an epiphany while he watched the flaps on the wings as they lowered on take-off to help create lift for the aircraft. Why couldn’t that same concept be applied to a club, he wondered — so he took a club similar to a modern 9 iron, and added extra lead to the sole to increase the mass while adding about 10 degrees to the sole’s angle.
Sarazen debuted his wedge at the British Open in 1932, after sneaking it in past the officials because he was sure it would be deemed illegal. He won the British Open that year, and his sand wedge’s legality wasn’t called into question — in fact, Wilson Sporting Goods began manufacturing them en masse in 1933 as the Wilson R-90.
Although he never patented his club, Gene Sarazen had an endorsement contract with Wilson that lasted 75 years, perhaps the longest in golf history. He was still under contract with the sports giant when he died in 1999. Over the years, he helped refine the sand wedge and also contributed the “reminder” grip, which showed players where to place their thumbs on their clubs.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to Gene Sarazen, Howard Hughes, and their fateful airplane ride. If not for those special little flaps, Sarazen would have never figured out how to get more golfers out of the sand. Without them, clubs like the TaylorMade wedges and Titleist wedges wouldn’t pack the punch they do today.
Next time you’re in the market for the latest and greatest sand wedges in golf, take a look at the selection at 3balls.com. We have clubs for every player, from cost-effective used golf clubs to the most technologically advanced and newest clubs in the game.
By National Photo Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons