How to Choose a Wedge: What to Know to Make More Up and Downs

What you need to know to find the best wedges to help you score and give you more confidence with your shots around the greens and out of the sand traps.

Photo by Callaway
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Buying New Golf Clubs

When considering a new set of golf clubs to purchase, you may focus on your full set of irons, or perhaps on a new driver. To play your best and shoot your best scores, you will want to consider the scoring clubs: your wedges.

At a minimum, you will want your set to include a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. The best players in the world often carry four wedges: a pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge. Considering that the majority of your shots will occur within 100 yards of the hole, it is important to have the necessary golf clubs for you to be able to execute a variety of shots and get the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes possible.

A man hits his ball out of a sand trap, raising a spray of sand.
Photo by Cart Tek

Different Types of Wedges

Pitching Wedge (PW)

The pitching wedge is one of the more commonly found wedges, as it is typically included with a set of irons. The loft on a pitching wedge will range anywhere from 44 to 50 degrees of loft. The pitching wedge can be used on full-approach shots and short shots around the greens. Of the four types of wedges listed here, the pitching wedge typically produces a lower launch angle, but you will be able to hit further with it than with the other three types of wedges.

Gap Wedge (GW)

While the most conventional setup in a set of clubs is to have a pitching wedge and a sand wedge, the gap wedge is another wedge that has a loft between the pitching wedge and sand wedge. A full shot with the gap wedge will typically launch higher than the pitching wedge; however, the pitching wedge will often hit further than your gap wedge.

Here’s an example: your set may include a pitching wedge with 48 degrees of loft and a sand wedge with 56 degrees of loft, leaving an eight-degree “gap” between the two wedges. You may be able to hit your pitching wedge 125 yards and your sand wedge 100 yards. The gap wedge, typically 52 to 54 degrees of loft, can fill that gap, allowing you to hit from 110 to 115 yards.

Sand Wedge (SW)

While most sets do not include a sand wedge, many players add one to their set for shots around the greens and out of sand traps. The loft on a sand wedge can range from 54 to 58 degrees of loft. This type of wedge allows you to get more loft on your short-approach shots around the greens. On full-swing shots, the sand wedge will likely launch higher but will not travel as far as full swings with your gap wedge.

Lob Wedge

Many players like to add a lob wedge to their set makeup as it allows them to add another scoring club with more loft—typically 60 to 64 degrees of loft. These clubs are designed to help players hit short shots higher as a result of the added loft. The lob wedge can be used out of greenside bunkers or to hit higher shots when there is no room for the ball to roll too much. On full swings, the lob wedge is the shortest of the four wedges in terms of distance; however, players will find that they are able to hit their lob wedges higher than with the other three wedges.

Playing Characteristics in Wedges You Need to Know About

Leading Edge

The front and bottom edge of the wedge is called the leading edge. Compared to other clubs in the bag, the leading edge on your wedge may be sharper. This is important to understand because, if not struck correctly, the leading edge of your wedge could potentially “dig” in the ground, produce a bigger divot, and hit the ball well short of your target.

Bounce

The angle created between the leading edge of your wedge and the lowest point of the sole—the trailing edge—is the “bounce.” The bounce is the part of the wedge that makes contact with the ground as you are hitting the ball. It is important to consider the bounce on your wedges in order to achieve optimal contact, control, and spin. The right bounce for your swing and style of play can provide you with forgiveness on slight mishits, allowing you to still produce a decent golf shot.

The degrees of bounce in your wedges can vary between low (four to six degrees), mid (seven to 10 degrees), and high (10 degrees or more). It is important to consider both your swing type in terms of angle of attack, consistency in terms of ball and turf interaction, and your typical turf conditions when selecting a wedge that will help you to score and play your best.

  • Low-bounce wedges are typically used by players who can hit more consistent golf shots. Wedges with low bounce are ideal for tight turf and bunkers with harder or more coarse sand. Wedges with lower bounce make it easier for the player to slide the leading edge under the ball and hit higher, lofted shots—especially off tight lies. If you have a more shallow attack angle, you may want to consider wedges with low bounce.
  • Mid-bounce wedges are more versatile for the majority of players and typically have a bounce angle of seven to 10 degrees. For players who use their gap, sand, or lob wedges for short shots around the green, a wedge with a mid bounce may be better in terms of controlling the trajectory and distance. Mid-bounce wedges would work well on both firm and normal turf conditions, as well as sand bunkers with sand that isn’t too fluffy.
  • High-bounce wedges typically have a bounce angle of more than 10 degrees. The high-bounce wedge would likely be preferable for a player with a steep angle of attack, as it would help keep the club from “digging.” The high-bounce wedge would also be ideal for softer conditions, whether it be softer turf or softer sand.

Standard Wedge Sole

The sole of a wedge is the bottom of the clubhead. The sole and the leading edge are the two key parts of the wedge that interact with the turf. When determining which wedge will work best for your game, you will want to consider which sole works best with your swing type and the playing conditions at the courses you typically play.

A thinner sole will have a tendency to “dig” more in the ground, while a wider sole will have a tendency to bounce off the turf.

Wedge Sole Grind

The range of sole grinds can vary among your different wedges. Some soles can be “shaped” or ground to a specific design based on the playing characteristics of the club.

For example, on a gap wedge, you may prefer a more narrow sole grind, as you may use your gap wedge on more full shots. On your sand wedge, you may want a wider ground sole to help the club bounce out of the bunker and explode the ball onto the green. There is no right or wrong grind; it comes down to personal preference, your swing, and your typical course conditions. Manufacturers offer their wedges with different grinds (and bounces) so that you can find the best wedge for your game to help you score better on the course.

Grooves

The grooves on the clubface of your wedges are designed to create backspin to help you control your golf shots. When it comes to your scoring clubs (i.e. wedges), the grooves may wear out sooner than on your other clubs. This is simply because you will use them more during your round—especially your sand wedge and your lob wedge if you use these clubs out of the bunkers.

Backspin is produced as a result of the speed at which the club is traveling, the loft on the club, your angle of attack, and the friction produced between the golf club and the ball at impact. The grooves create friction between the clubface and the golf ball to create backspin. More friction leads to more backspin, which is why it is important to have wedges with good, sharp grooves.

Over time, your grooves can wear out, which will make it more difficult to produce friction or backspin. If you find it more difficult to spin your approach shots, you may want to check your grooves. If they look worn down, it may be time to consider a new wedge or sand wedge.

Sand Traps

When playing out of a sand trap, most golfers will use either a sand wedge or a lob wedge. In recent years, the lob wedge has become more popular to use in this situation because the added loft makes it easier for the player to get the ball up in the air and out of the bunker.

How you play your bunker shots may also determine which wedge is best for you to use out of the sand traps. If you tend to open your clubface, which adds loft to the club, a sand wedge may be the best option for you. It is important to note that when you open the clubface, you may also be adding more bounce to the wedge, which could cause the wedge to play differently.

It will be important for you to practice with your sand or lob wedge in different conditions. This will help you get a feel for how to play those different shots with the bounce of the club as you play it either square, open, or, in instances where the ball may be buried, with a more closed clubface.

Image of a wedge hitting a ball in a sand trap, raising a big spray of sand.
Photo by Callaway

Short Game

The quickest way to shoot lower scores is to improve your short game. To do that, you must be experienced in playing a variety of different shots, in different conditions, with different wedges.

Chip Shots

When playing a chip shot, the ball flies—or is in the air—a short distance and will roll a majority of the way to the hole. You will want to practice with each wedge to get a feel for different trajectories produced by each club and see how the ball reacts when it lands on the green. You may need to carry the ball a short or long distance and have it roll out. Being familiar with each of your wedges will help you choose the best option for the course.

Pitch Shots

When playing a pitch shot, the ball will fly a majority of the distance and only roll a short distance if struck correctly. When pitching the ball, as with any short game shot, it is important to become familiar with how far the ball rolls once it hits the ground, given the trajectory of the shot. Pitching the ball with different wedges can produce different trajectories and different roll characteristics. It’s important to practice different shots from different conditions so that you can execute successfully when a similar scoring opportunity presents itself on the golf course.

Sand Shots

When playing a sand shot, it is important to practice with different clubs to get a feel for how far you can hit a specific wedge in the air and how far it may roll. Remember that sand shots will typically spin more than a shot from the fringe or greenside rough area. You may find that you use your lob wedge more from the bunker because it is easier to hit higher and control the roll than with your sand wedge, but you should practice with your lower-lofted wedges for longer bunker shots, as it can be difficult to hit a lofted (or lob) wedge to a more distant hole location.

Personal Preference

Having an understanding of the different types of wedges, the components of the wedges, and the playing characteristics of the wedge design is important when looking to add new wedges to your set of golf clubs. In addition to understanding the wedges and their makeup, it is important to consider your swing characteristics, how you like to play various scoring shots, and your typical course conditions. Ultimately, when selecting wedges, it comes down to personal preference and what looks and feels right to you.

Beyond the playing characteristics of the wedges you are considering, there are also options in terms of the look of the wedge or the finish. Below are some of the options available from various manufacturers today.

Product image of the Cleveland RTX Zipcore Wedge Tour in Satin.

Chrome Finish: Wedges with a chrome finish were the standard for many years and are still available for those who prefer that look.

Product image of the Titleist Vokey SM8 Tour Wedge.

Brushed Steel or Satin Finish: The brushed steel or satin finish has become more popular in recent years due to the fact that this finish is not as reflective as chrome. Some players may find the chrome finish to be distracting, whereas the brushed steel or satin finish does not produce a glare.

Rust or Raw Finish: These raw or rusty wedges can feel softer and produce more spin while minimizing glare.

Product image of the Callaway Jaws MD5 Wedge in Tour Grey.

Tour Grey or Jet Black: These colored finishes are similar to the brushed steel or satin finish. However, it is worth considering that these coated finishes may wear over time and produce a look that could either be distracting or less appealing than the original look.

There is a lot to consider when investing in the most important clubs in your bag (aside from your driver and putter). You now have an understanding of the different options and playing characteristics available and how each matches up to your golf game. If you still have questions or have a question on a particular manufacturer, please feel free to reach out to a Curated expert for free advice and suggestions as to which wedges will most compliment your golf game.

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PGA Member - 23 years Certified PGA Professional - Golf Operations Certified PGA Professional - Teaching & Coaching ​ ​ ​

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