What Golf Wedges and Lofts Do I Need for My Game?Published on 09/18/2023 · 9 min readGolf Expert Tyler Monroe overviews the different types of wedges and how to pick the right one for your game.
Photo by Ron Alvey
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 is 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 with its versatility 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 full shots with full swings, to short pitch shots around the green.
The Gap Wedge (GW)
With improvements in short game technique, irons lowering lofts by manufacturers 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 loft and sand wedge loft. Also termed attack wedge, approach wedge(aw), 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 a 56-degree sand wedge, have developed over the decades to primarily help players get out of the bunkers. Now lofted from 54 to 56 degrees, these are often the highest lofted degree 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 traps for bunker shots and avoid getting stuck too deep and losing distance from a slowing clubhead speed.
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 for flop shots but is 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' bags, its higher loft can produce towering shot heights to fly over any obstacle, and land soft near any pin. The degree of lob wedge each player plays should also consider the level of precision at impact to consistently achieve the desired yardages needed from the wedge.
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 for 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 techniques, understanding your game and building a wedge setup with that in mind is paramount to playing these shots well. Greens can be anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 square feet, and 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 a birdie or just being on the green.
Pitching wedges and gap wedges are usually designed with similar weighting, shafts, possibly a cavity back design behind the face, level of forgiveness, and bounce as the rest of the golf clubs in the iron set following your golf bag's set 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 are interested in top designers like Bob Vokey, or Roger Cleveland, wedge manufacturers have made a wedge for you.
From full-face grooves to wide sole designs like the Cleveland Smart Sole wedges, to center of gravity positioning and perimeter weighting in the Jaws wedges to maximize forgiveness for high handicap players to blade-shaped wedges for more control, there is an option that fits various players. Brands like Cobra and wedge groove designs like the RTX Zipcore provide a ton of bite, while options like the Ping Glide wedge, Cleveland CBX, Callaway Sure Out, or the Callaway Mack Daddy CB Wedges deliver players a game improvement wedge and some of the most forgiving wedges available. Though constructed with varying shapes, groove designs, and soles, and built with steel or a graphite shaft, the effects of bounce and sole grinds on your wedges along with loft are the more important factors built into a wedge.
A key component of wedge design is the degree of bounce it has. The 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 normally sitting on the turf, in a low bounce wedge, the leading edge is closer to the surface for tight lies off firm conditions and further off the turf in a high bounce wedge. 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, for shallow or steep angles of attack, and the specific shot needed depending on the turf conditions. As the bottom end of the clubhead enters the ground, the bounce of the wedge 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, whether creating a deep or shallower divot, short game technique, and conditions you play in, not always personal preference or taste, all impact 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 relief in the 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 do you play longer clubs like your fairway woods, and hybrids, and how many swing techniques do you have around the greens, are all factors to consider when choosing the number of and best golf wedges for the game.
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. The next lofted wedge can be determined with proper loft spacing and an understanding of the number of wedges you would like to play. 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. Golf professionals, along with LPGA Tour and PGA Tour players, understand that even if they improve their position off the tee, performing these shots well, and consistently, will reduce scores faster than any other aspect of the game of golf. For amateur golfers, beginner golfers, or high handicap golfers those statistics amount to a tough day, much frustration, and ultimately high scores. Having different wedges, with the right loft, design, and makeup will enable you to play a variety of shots and at the 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.