What Should Be the Shortest Club in Your Iron Set?Published on 09/09/2023 · 7 min readAre you wondering which club should be the shortest in your iron set? No matter what your skill level, this comprehensive expert guide will help you decide!
Photo by Dasha Petrenko
When I started playing golf in the early 90s, iron sets commonly included a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. However, in their quest for versatility and to satisfy all golfers, manufacturers began offering the sand wedge as an optional extra club in your set. In this post, I’ll address what should be the shortest club in your iron set while keeping your budget in check.
When you walk away from this post, you’ll know the different types of wedges that are included in a set, highlighting your options. I’ll also detail why wedges in your iron set may benefit your consistency but offer minimal versatility.
Different Types of Wedges Included in a Set?
The majority of iron sets feature a pitching wedge, but you also have the option of including a gap and sand wedge. Keep reading to discover the lofts of these clubs and when you should use them. You’ll notice that I left off the lob wedge, the highest lofted golf club you can swing.
The lob wedge is a challenging club to make contact with the ball, and its open clubface design is tough to control. That’s why I recommend beginners steer clear of it until your ball striking improves and you can handle a 60-degree wedge.
A pitching wedge is generally included in an iron set and is the lowest lofted wedge in the bag. I use a pitching wedge for shorter full shots and bump and runs, where I can use the decreased loft to keep the ball low and run it up to the cup.
Pitching wedge lofts range from 41 degrees on the low side to 48 degrees on the high side. A pitching wedge from an iron set tends to be stronger, preventing significant gaps between the 9-iron and pitching wedge. The forgiving, reliable Callaway Mavrik iron sets highlight the trend toward lower lofts with a 41-degree pitching wedge.
Gap or Approach Wedge
A gap or approach club is next in line after a pitching wedge. Most golf club manufacturers don’t include the gap or approach wedge in a standard set, but they give you the option to add it on.
Gap wedges are typically set at 50 to 52 degrees, designed to bridge the distance cavity between a pitching and sand wedge. It’s a worthwhile club to have as your handicap lowers, and you demand better short-game distance control. However, it’s not essential for a beginner, especially if you’re trying to keep your expenses to a minimum.
Like gap wedges, sand wedges are an optional addition to standard iron sets. I feel it’s a necessary club to have to elevate your short game. It’s a better club to use out of the bunker and generate loft on pitch or flop shots. Attempting lofted strikes with a pitching wedge is more challenging to execute, given its lower loft.
When I started playing, sand wedges were 54, 56, and 58 degrees, but some manufacturers classify the latter as a lob wedge. Cleveland is one brand that limits their sand wedges to 54 and 56-degree lofts. For example, the RTX Zipcore Tour wedges only offer two high-spinning, soft-feeling sand wedge lofts for lower handicap players.
Pros of Wedges in an Iron Set vs. Sold Separately
Wedges included in an iron set are typically more affordable, promote consistency and offer greater forgiveness than clubs sold separately. The section below dives into why they’re a more intelligent option for golfers on a budget and higher handicaps seeking lenient golf clubs.
The most significant advantage of an iron set is the reduced price per unit. For example, when I added a sand wedge to the Callaway Mavrik irons, the price increased by less than $100. If I’d purchased a Callaway Mack Daddy CB wedge individually, it would’ve cost over $110 for the wedge alone.
Like many retail offerings, the more you buy, the lower the cost of each unit becomes. That’s the exact scenario with an iron set. This is why adding a sand wedge and gap wedge to your golf set is cheaper than acquiring those wedges separately.
Compatible With Your Irons
Wedges included in iron sets are built to match the progressive descending shaft length, lie angle, and swing weight. The familiarity of the design makes the club easier to swing, control, and deliver into contact for consistent spin, launch, and distance control.
Purchasing wedges separately might lead to inconsistent specs relevant to your pitching wedge and other irons. I’ve seen this prompt golfers to chunk short-game shots simply due to a lack of consistency in the setup.
Iron set wedges are for a broad audience of amateurs. They feature ample game improvement technology, which raises the forgiveness profile to prevent spin and ball speed drop for improved short-game control.
The downside of the forgiveness is the lack of versatility and lower center of gravity (CG) in the wedge. Its lack of versatility restricts the ability to induce different shots around the green, and the lower CG sends the ball high, risking the loss of control upon landing.
Cons of Wedges in an Iron Set vs. Sold Separately
Despite the budget advantages of purchasing wedges in an iron set, it does have its downsides. I’ve found these wedges to reduce versatility, offer limited sole grinds, and generate less spin.
In my experience, wedges in an iron set limit short-game shot versatility. They typically feature a sole for neutral attack angles and moderately firm turf. While this works for the average player, it may not suit your setup, restricting your ability to play a pitch, flop, or bunker shot.
Limited Alternative Sole Grinds
Wedges included in an iron set are often fitted with a single sole grind, and there are limited alternatives. If the sole grind is ill-suited to your swing, it could cause you to dig the wedge into the turf consistently and chunk your shot, losing spin and distance.
Separately purchasing wedges gives you the luxury of customizing the sole grinds, lofts, and lie angles of each club. However, if you are a beginner, I recommend you hold off on this step and revisit it when your handicap is lower and you’re more confident about your optimal specifications.
Based on past experiences, I’ve found individual wedges deliver superior friction and spin on shorter shots. I attribute this to the sharp grooves and premium milled face on specialized golf wedges. There’s a reason you pay more for individually selected wedges versus those included in an iron set.
Despite the reduced spin rate on iron set wedges, it’s not drastic enough to influence your decision if you are a high handicapper. You’re not at a point where you need precise spin and distance control to attack the flag. At this stage, you only need to get the ball on the green as close to the cup as possible.
If you are a mid handicapper, you’ll likely demand more spin, control, and a softer feel from wedges. These features enable you to attack the flagstick and stop the ball close to the hole for an easy tap in. The Callaway Jaws MD5 offers mid handicappers a seamless transition into playable, aggressive spinning wedges.
The Shortest Club in Your Iron Set
After reviewing my prior experiences on what should be the shortest club in your iron set, the answer depends on your handicap. A sand wedge is the lowest club a high handicapper should carry, while a gap wedge is the shortest club I’d recommend for mid handicappers.
A pitching wedge is typically the lowest club a Low handicapper will carry in a set. Skilled golfers will then take the a la carte approach with the remaining wedges for greater greenside feel and spin.
If you’re a high handicap golfer seeking a sand wedge, I recommend the reliable Callaway Mack Daddy CB. Alternatively, talk to one of our Curated Golf Experts to help you add the correct wedges to your bag.