Aug 07, 2023

Viktor Hovland's improved short game can be tied to 1 wedge change

Short game improvements allowed Hovland to make changes to his Ping lob wedge.

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There’s a video on social media of Viktor Hovland discussing his flop shot mechanics with Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates by his side. The clip is less than 30 seconds and finishes with the newly minted Tour Championship winner hoisting the ball into the air and watching it land softly next to the hole.

Then comes the comment you wouldn’t expect to hear from one of the best golfers in the world: “I’ve never been able to do that before,” Hovland is overheard saying to Oates. “That was sick.”

For a brief moment, Hovland sounds like a giddy teenager who just learned how to pull off the impossible. But this comment is coming out of the mouth of a superstar who’s supposed to have every shot in his arsenal, flop shot included.

What’s truly fascinating about the clip is the realization that Hovland didn’t feel fully comfortable executing the flop shot until this season.

His short-game work with coach Joe Mayo has paid massive dividends — to the point that it’s allowed Hovland to take the “bumpers” off his lob wedge, so to speak, as things improved.

During a recent interview on GOLF’s Fully Equipped podcast, Oates detailed the behind-the-scenes lob wedge work he’s done with Hovland, going all the way back to last year when he officially put a Ping Glide 2.0 in the bag at the 2022 BMW Championship.

While Hovland’s short game wasn’t where it is today, he still wanted to be able to execute a myriad of shots with the lob wedge, including the flop shot. But with his well-documented short-game struggles, Oates figured a smart compromise could get Hovland what he needed without major modifications to the wedge’s sole.

“I’ll give Viktor credit,” Oates said. “For being a guy who struggled around the green, he still loved the idea of opening it up and taking the shot, even when he could do it. He could’ve gone down the road of adding more bounce, not opening the face up and just hitting it to 10 feet, but one of the reasons he made huge improvements is that he never went down that road. He always wanted lower bounce. He’d say the [open face shot] was one he needed to hit and figure out.”

The compromise turned out to be a low-bounce 58TS (Thin Sole) wedge that was bent two degrees weak to a stated loft of 60 degrees.

Bending a wedge two degrees weaker is going to add two degrees of bounce as well — it’s a one-to-one ratio for loft and bounce — thereby allowing Hovland to stay in a low-bounce, thinner sole product with slightly more bounce to keep the leading edge from digging into the turf.

As the wedge game continued to improve, Hovland came to Oates earlier this year at the Players Championship and asked for a true 60-degree Glide 2.0 TS to reap the benefits of even more versatility around the green. Hovland hasn’t looked back since that week.

“Now he’s playing a true 60-degree wedge that’s going to be more versatile,” said Oates. “It’s going to sit lower to the ground due to having less bounce, but it’s also going to require more skill. Ever since he changed, his stats have slowly gotten better and he’s never asked to go back [to the 58-degree]. That shows the work he’s put in learning how to expose that bounce and hit those shots a little bit cleaner.”

As for why Hovland continues to play the Glide 2.0 lob wedge when Ping is already into the 4.0 iteration, Oates noted it comes down to personal preference.

“The sole of [the 2.0] was always perfect for him,” said Oates. “The heel and back were perfect. Now if he wanted to go into the 4.0 lob wedge with the same characteristics, we’d probably have to do slightly different things to match it up.”

For now, Hovland doesn’t see any reason to change. He’s in a full-blown 60-degree that allows him to execute every shot. The proof is in the results — and the fist pumps Hovland made at the end of the video clip. It’s always nice when you have a perfect lob wedge in the bag.

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Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour. He can be reached at [email protected].