Stepping up your wedge game is a great way to help shave meaningful strokes off your scorecard. But before you can truly start to plan your approach to wedges, it’s important to first understand all of the options available to you and how they all work.
If you’re relatively new to golf, a “wedge” refers to a class of golf clubs that are very similar to your irons, but that have the shortest shafts, heaviest clubheads and perhaps most importantly - the highest degree of loft.
Loft is the angle at which any clubhead sits in relation to the ground and has a direct impact on the height and distance that you’ll be able to hit the ball. Low lofted clubs (like your woods) were designed to hit the ball lower and farther. Whereas higher lofted clubs (like wedges) are meant to hit the ball higher, but shorter distances.
Wedges have the highest loft of all the clubs in your bag and are generally used to shoot short, accurate approach shots onto the green or get you out of sticky situations on the course, like hitting out of sand traps or shooting over trees that stand between you and the hole.
If you check in most golf bags, you’re almost certain to find a pitching wedge and likely a sand wedge too. While these are certainly the most common types of wedges, they only represent about half of the full wedge equation.
Below is a quick introduction to the various types of wedges and some defining characteristics of each, to perhaps give you enough info to make an informed decision about which ones you should consider adding to your bag.
The lowest lofted of all wedges (usually between 44-48 degrees), the pitching wedge is the next club down after your 9-iron and can be identified by the letter “P” on the bottom of the club.
Thanks to the lower loft, your pitching wedge is great for hitting longer, higher shots. With a full swing, most people can hit a pitching wedge between about 75-150 yards (depending on the strength of the golfer).
Finally, because of their lower loft (relative to other wedges), it’s more difficult to get any sort of backspin when using a pitching wedge, so leave that up to some of the other wedge options.
As you can probably deduce, sand wedges are ideal for getting your ball out of sand traps and are identified by (you guessed it) the letter “S”.
Sand wedges typically have a loft of between 54-58 degrees and are ideal for hitting the ball out of soft lies like sand, mud and thick rough. The higher loft, paired with the heavier club head, allows you to hit the ball “fat” (i.e. take some sand or mud in front of the ball) helping to pick the ball out of the unsturdy, hazardous terrain.
With a full swing, most golfers can hit a sand wedge between approximately 45-85 yards, but thanks to the loft, this club can help make surgical approach shots that can stop dead on the green, or for the more advanced, put some solid backspin on the ball.
If you’ve ever been to London, England and used their subway system “The Tube”, you’ve heard the recorded voice call out - Mind the Gap. In that instance, it’s to make sure you don’t fall between the platform and the subway car, but you’d be well advised to heed the same warning here and look into getting yourself a gap wedge.
A slightly less common or standardized type of wedge, gap wedges do exactly what the name suggests - fill in the gap of club distance between your pitching and sand wedges.
Gap wedges are ideal from under 50 yards out and allow you to still take a full swing, which avoids you having to take any half-speed swings that are tough to gauge and execute with any consistency.
Gap wedges can be identified by a few different types of letters on the bottom of the club: “G” (Gap), “A” (Approach) or less commonly “U” (Utility).
Last but certainly not least is the lob wedge, commonly identified by the letter “L”. Lob wedges have the highest loft of all the wedge family (usually between 58-64 degrees) and therefore usually shoot the shortest distance.
These wedges are perfect for hitting high, short distance approach shots that you want to land with authority and within a tight space on the green.
If you’re close to a green that has lots of slope in play, using a lob wedge is a great club to pick the spot you want to hit on the green, then have it land and not roll towards those precarious sloped areas.
Lob wedges are also meant to get the ball up in a hurry, so if you’re behind a tree or other hazard and need to get your ball up and over quickly, make sure you reach for your lob wedge.
If you’re able to have all 4 types of wedges in your bag, a good combination would be to have a 45 degree pitching wedge, 50 degree gap wedge, 54 degree sand wedge and then add in a 58 degree lob wedge.
Remember - a good wedge shot around the green (hopefully) means shorter distanced - and therefore, fewer - putts!