The Right Wedges and Lofts for Your Game
Golf expert Tyler Monroe overviews the different types of wedges and how to pick the right one for your game.
Importance of the Wedge Game
Green complexes are just that, complex. Every green is unique, characterized by varying slopes, bunkers, and cuts of grass producing a multitude of shots every golfer must successfully navigate to shoot low scores. As pars last defense and perhaps the most amazing aspect of each hole, greenside shots require proper technique, the right equipment, and more practice than any other aspect of the game. Whether you’re a professional golfer, low or high handicapper, need specific grinds, moderate bounce angles, or simply the right wedge lofts to get the ball up in the air, understanding the types of wedge designs and what they are intended to accomplish is a necessary starting point to building a great short game.
Types of Wedges
Wedges are described by their primary function, including Pitch, Attack, Sand, and Lob, and are designed with different lofts to produce those shots. The loft of a wedge or the angle the clubface lies relative to the shaft creates the ball flight trajectory. These lofts can range from 44 to 64 degrees giving players a different launch angle and trajectory into the greens with each wedge. Although wedges are grouped into these labels, knowing wedge lofts and their varying uses are what is important to your game.
The Pitching Wedge (PW)
Lofted between 44 and 48 degrees, this standard club in most iron sets follows the 9-iron in loft, design, and feel, and is the most common wedge available. With lower lofts the pitching wedge is useful from 100 or more-yard approach shots from the fairway, to distance wedge shots, to short shots around the green.
The Gap Wedge (GW)
With improvements in short game technique, irons lowering lofts by design, and in keeping with proper loft spacing of 4-6 degrees, has created the need for a gap wedge to fill that widening space between a pitching wedge and sand wedge. Also termed attack wedge, approach wedge, and utility wedge, the lofts for these wedges cover between 50 and 54 degrees. To avoid having to swing excessively hard from the fairway with a sand wedge or finessing a full swing pitching wedge, the gap wedge offers the ability to keep a consistent swing in positions between those other wedges. The gap wedge is offered as an option in an iron set though many players prefer it to match the feel of the other wedges in their bag for improved consistency in the short game.
The Sand Wedge (SW)
A staple in most players bags sand wedges, typically thought of as 56-degree wedges have developed over the decades to primarily help players get out of the bunkers. Lofted from 54 to 56 degrees it is often the highest lofted wedge in a player’s bag allowing for a higher trajectory to stop faster on the greens. Designed with leading edges and bounce to get through heavy sand and turf, sand wedges are uniquely made to glide through the sand and avoid getting stuck to deep and losing distance on the shot.
The Lob Wedge (LW)
Between 58 to 64 degrees, the Lob Wedge is a specialty wedge used to get the ball up quickly and stop as fast as possible. With its high loft it can be a useful tool but also the most difficult wedge to hit as a good amount of clubhead speed is needed to get the high trajectory. Though it is not a staple in most players bag its higher loft can produce towering shot heights to fly over any obstacle, and land soft near any pin.
Knowing Your Distances
Beyond these closer greenside shots and following the rest of the irons in the bag wedges are also used as an attack wedge or approach wedge shots from longer distances into the greens. As the loft produces these different trajectories spacing the lofts to not overlap and be effective from different positions from the green means wedges should be spaced between 4 to 6 degrees of loft. For example, a player may have these as their distances per wedge and loft.
- 9-Iron – 110 – 125 Yards
- Pitching Wedge 48 – 95-110 Yards
- Gap Wedge 52 – 80-95 Yards
- Sand Wedge 56– 65-80 Yards
- Lob Wedge 60 – 50-65 Yards
With golfers having different levels of ability, strength, and full swing technique, understanding your game and building a wedge set with that in mind, is paramount to playing these shots well. Greens can be anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 square feet, having the right club with the right loft to knock it close to the pin from distance can be the difference between being on the green to make birdie or just being on the green.
Pitching wedges and gap wedges are usually designed with similar weighting, shafts, looks, and bounce as the rest of the iron set to follow your golf bag's sets progression in feel and performance. If you prefer these wedges can match the rest of your wedges also. Whether on a budget and need a lower-priced Tour Edge or Wilson wedge, or interested in top designers like Bob Vokey, Roger Cleveland, or Phil Mickelson, there is a wedge made for you. Designed with varying shapes, finishes, and shafts, the effects of bounce and sole grinds on your wedges along with loft are the more important factors built into a wedge.
Another key component of wedge design is its degree of bounce. Bounce angle in a wedge is the angle created between the leading edge and the lowest point of the sole or bottom of the club. With the wedge sitting normally on the turf the lower the bounce the closer that leading edge is to the surface. Wedges are generally designed with the appropriate degree of bounce to play the shots intended by the wedge though some brands offer options to fit any swing type and specific shot need. The bottom end of the clubhead that enters the ground, bounce has the primary effect of keeping the club moving through the turf or sand by preventing the club from digging too deep. Depending on your swing path, angle of attack into the ball, divot pattern, short game technique, and conditions you play in, all have an impact on the level of bounce you need and in which wedges. Bob Vokey notably says “Bounce is your friend” as it can return the club to the ball despite an incorrect angle into impact.
More specific than bounce, various sole grinds of the club improve your ability to play the many specialty shots that challenge you around the greens. Heel grinds can help minimize the change in bounce if you open the clubface to play a lob shot for example. Conversely, toe grinds can be useful to toe the club up for chip shots to keep the heel from dragging in the turf.
How Many Wedges Should You Play?
Getting you set up for the right number and type of wedges requires knowing a few more things about your game. How often do you play, how seriously do you take your wedge game, how many clubs do you have in your bag, how well you play longer clubs like your fairway woods, and how many swing techniques you have around the greens, are all factors to consider when choosing the number of wedges. Some players prefer to have many different swings with a few wedges, while others keep their short game swings more minimized, and play four wedges. The first thing to understand is there is no standard pitching wedge loft as there is no standard 9-iron loft. Knowing the highest lofted iron in your bag is critical to begin to build your wedge set. With proper loft spacing and understanding the number of wedges you would like to play, the next lofted wedge can be determined. Typically, a sand wedge is the next highest lofted club after the pitching wedge to be added as the rounded leading edge, higher degree of bounce, and shorter distances produced, give players the best next option from the pitching wedge.
Wedges and Your Game
Perhaps the long drive is fun to hit, yet statistics tell us the average golfer misses 70% of greens in regulation, meaning first, golfers are not hitting their approach shots well, and second, the reliance on greenside wedge shots is significant. Professional golfers understand that even if they improve their position off the tee, performing these shots well, consistently, will reduce scores faster than any other aspect of the game of golf. For amateurs, those statistics amount for a tough day, frustration, and ultimately high scores. Having different wedges, with the right loft, design, and makeups will enable you to play a variety of shots and at very least have the right tools to get those shots accomplished. If you would like any help with finding the best wedges for your game, chat with me or one of my fellow Golf experts for free advice and recommendations.