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Learn About Wedges Print E-mail

Wedges are used for a variety of short-distance, high-altitude, high-accuracy shots such as hitting the ball onto the green ("approach" shots), placing the ball accurately on the fairway for a better shot at the green ("lay-up" shots), or hitting the ball out of hazards or rough onto the green (chipping). Wedges are irons with a higher loft than a 9 iron, which is typically lofted at about 42 degrees. There are usually six types of wedges with lofts ranging from 45° to 64°: pitching wedge (PW 48°), gap wedge (GW 52°), sand wedge (SW 56°), lob wedge (LW 60°), and ultra lob wedge (LW 64°). The pitching wedge is sometimes called or labeled as a 10 iron, and the gap wedge is sometimes called an approach wedge or Utility Wedge and labeled with AW or UW respectively. 

Which WedgesTo Buy

With the increased design technology in modern clubs, the cost of wedges has dramatically increased and each brand wedge can now cost from around $50 and up. You can also find custom clone versions for under $25 (see here). To get the best distance and accuracy it is also important to ensure that you know what length and flex shaft you should have. You can find these out for free using GigaGolf's free eFit system.

You can see some recommended wedges as part of the following articles:

Recommend clubs for Beginner Golfers.
Recommend clubs for Intermediate Golfers.
Recommend clubs for Advanced Golfers.

Pitching wedge

A pitching wedge is a type of golf club used to hit a shot with higher and shorter trajectory than a 9-iron and a lower and longer trajectory than a gap wedge.

Design and history

Though technically a wedge, pitching wedges are generally treated as if they were numbered irons. This is for a number of reasons: first, before the term "wedge" became common for high-loft short irons, the pitching wedge was actually numbered as the "10-iron" of a matched set, and to this day it follows the normal loft progression of the numbered irons. Also, even though it has been named a wedge, many matched iron sets for retail sale include the pitching wedge even when not including other wedges. Finally, the loft of modern irons has been reduced compared to older designs. This is both to compensate for cavity-back iron designs that launch the ball higher for a given loft, and to increase the distance carried by each club with the average golfer's clubhead speed to be closer to the pros (the pros now use similar and the difference between the amateur golfer and a pro remains). The pitching wedge, as a result, was delofted along with the numbered irons from a traditional loft of between 48–54° to between 45–50°,similar to that of an older 8-iron. Therefore pitching wedges are usually about 50 degrees.

Usage

The pitching wedge is a very versatile club. Being on the cusp between numbered irons and wedges, the pitching wedge has generally-accepted uses falling into either class. Used with a "full swing" similar to a short iron, a golfer can produce a high-trajectory shot that carries between 80–130 yards (depending on a variety of factors such as swing and club design), then "bites" with little or no roll after initial impact. Used with an abbreviated "chipping" motion, the club can produce short (25–45 yard) "lob" or "approach" shots. And with a "putting" motion, the club can lift the ball over rough or fringe onto the putting green from a short distance to the pin (10–25 yards). This last kind of stroke is commonly called a "bump and run" and can be done with many other irons, generally with a loft equal or higher than a 7-iron.

These clubs are most commonly used with a full swing to produce high-altitude shots such as approaches to the green or lifting the ball over trees. They are also commonly used to "lay up" in front of a hazard or to create a better lie for the next shot, recovery from firmer rough or sometimes from sand when the ball is lying on top of the surface. Modern pitching wedges range in loft from 42 to 49 degrees. Pitching wedges can have between zero and 10 degrees of bounce, though most pitching wedges have very low bounce (only 2 or 3 degrees) as other wedges like gap, or sand wedges are more traditionally suited for play out of hazards or "soft lies" like high grass or soggy ground where high bounce is desired.

Gap wedge

A gap wedge is a type of golf club used to hit a shot with higher and shorter trajectory than a pitching wedge and lower and longer trajectory than a sand wedge.

History

Over time the loft angle on irons has been reduced for multiple reasons including improved designs and the desire to advertise longer ranges for clubs. This has affected long and short irons including the pitching wedge which is now pitched about the same as an 8-iron from the 1960s, generally about 48 degrees. However, sand wedges have not changed because they must have a 54 to 58 degree loft to be effective in the sand. It is now popular for golfers to carry a wedge in the 50 - 54 degree range to fill the gap; these are typically referred to as a "gap wedge".

Design

Gap wedges are loosely defined, but typically have the loft between that of a pitching wedge and sand wedge, between 48 and 54 degrees, but at the extremes there is redundancy with either the sand or pitching wedge. Most players look for a separation of 4 degrees between clubs. A frequent compromise gap wedge is 52 degree.

In the lower loft range, from 48 to 52 degrees, the gap wedge typically has little or no angle between the sole and the ground when the club is at rest—that is, no bounce. This wedge is used primarily from the fairway and favors firm lies. It is often called an "approach wedge" and is sometimes labeled "A". Wedges with more loft are frequently called "dual wedges with lofts between 52 and 54 degrees; these typically have a higher bounce angle. These can be used as an approach wedge or a sand wedge, and are useful for popping the ball out of heavy rough. The bounce helps to prevent the club from taking deep divots on a sloppy or soft fairway. This is sometimes labeled "D".

There is little consistency in labeling gap wedges; many manufacturers simply label it with its angle. Some manufacturers call it an "all wedge" and label it with "A," creating confusion with the lower-loft approach wedges. The Karsten Manufacturing Company, maker of the Ping brand of golf clubs, labels its gap wedges with "U" for "utility wedge". It is uncommon to find a gap wedge labeled with "G". Adams Golf and King Cobra are among the few manufacturers that label their irons with a "G".

Sand wedge

A sand wedge is a type of golf club used to hit a shot with higher and shorter trajectory than a gap wedge and a lower and longer trajectory than a lob wedge.

History

Gene Sarazen began to win tournaments in 1935 with a new club he had invented that was specialized for sand play. He is hailed as the inventor of the sand wedge. However, history goes about 3 years further back than that. "Spoon" clubs offered varying degrees of loft and allowed players to scoop their ball out of sand traps and deep rough. As manufacturers became more and more innovative with club design, new types of wedges appeared. Some had concave faces, others featured deeply grooved faces, but not all of these designs conformed to USGA and R&A regulations, and many were banned. With the concave-faced wedge having been outlawed in 1931, Sarazen designed his sand wedge with a straight face. Another modification that he made was to add extra lead to the front edge of the club face, allowing it to cut through the sand more smoothly. After he won the 1932 British and U.S. Opens with the help of his new club, its popularity quickly grew.

Design

The modern sand wedge is often the heaviest iron in a player's bag, with most weighing nearly 40 ounces (1.1 kg). Traditionally it also had the highest loft at 54 to 58 degrees (55-56 being most common), although that distinction now goes to the lob wedge, which often has a loft of 60 degrees or more. It usually has one of the shortest shafts, between 33 inches (84 cm) and 36 inches (91 cm), though in some sets the sand wedge has a longer shaft than the pitching wedge. A longer shaft encourages the player to hit sand wedge shots "fat" (where the club hits the ground before the ball); in most situations this is highly undesirable as the majority of the energy of the swing is wasted digging into the turf, but in the case of hitting out of a bunker, a "fat" shot gets the club underneath the ball to lift it out of the sand.

Bounce

The main distinguishing difference of the club from most others, however, is a feature called "bounce". On most other irons, the sole of the club is perpendicular to the shaft, meaning it is roughly parallel to the ground when the club is at rest allowing the leading edge to get between the ball and the ground more easily. A sand wedge however is designed with the sole of the club at an angle to the ground in the same position, lifting the leading edge of the club off the ground.

This accomplishes three things; first, this design generally requires more material, which increases the weight of the clubhead for more momentum and places that weight low and forward in the clubhead for higher launches.

Second, the angled sole lifts the leading edge off the ground at the bottom of the swing, preventing the club from "digging in" to softer lies such as muddy ground, thick grass and of course sand, instead tending to skim over the surface. This in turn allows players more flexibility when addressing the ball; the player can line the ball up in the center of their stance and take a "normal" swing in which the club will skim over the turf before contact with the ball, or alternatively they can move the ball rearward in their stance (towards the right foot for a right-handed player) and strike the ball earlier in the swing. The natural consequence of such a shot, executed correctly, is that the clubface has less loft at contact, so the ball is launched at a lower angle for more distance. Without bounce, such a shot even if executed correctly will generally cause the club to dig into the ground after it contacts the ball which, with such a high-lofted club, prevents the player from following through on their swing and can cause injury.

Lastly, when playing from a bunker, the ball may have buried itself deeply into the sand (depending on the sand's consistency and the degree of impact, the ball may be completely submerged). To lift it out, the clubhead must contact the ball from underneath, meaning the leading edge of the club must sometimes be an inch or two (2-4 cm) under the surface of the sand at contact. The angle of the sole counteracts the natural downward pressure of the club face digging itself ever deeper into the sand, making it easier to swing the club down under the surface of the sand and then lift the club, and the ball, back out again.

Other clubs, especially short irons and other wedges, now incorporate a small degree of bounce to assist in plays from the rough or other soft lies, but the sand wedge will typically have the highest amount of bounce of any club in a player's bag. There are however exceptions; Callaway Golf for instance markets a "Big Bertha" line of irons in which the lob wedge has significantly higher bounce than the sand wedge.

Usage

As its name suggests, a sand wedge is used most often to extract the ball from a bunker. However, the features which make it useful for this purpose are advantageous in other soft lies such as thick rough, soggy ground or mud. It's also used from firmer grass lies for lobs or chips, generally onto the green. It can also be used as any other "short iron" would; with a "full swing", a skilled golfer can typically hit a sand wedge between 80-100 yards. Tour players often use a lob wedge (60 degree wedge) to get out of sand traps with controlled trajectory and lots of spin.

Lob wedge

The lob wedge is known for being the shortest-hitting of all of the wedges and providing the most loft on a shot. Lob wedges are used to produce shots with a very high arc, and are most often used for shots over hazards and other obstructions. Due to the high arc of the shot the lob wedge, like the other wedges in the set of irons, produces little roll after landing on the putting green and can even be used to produce backspin if necessary. Lob wedges are one of the newest additions to the modern collection of golf clubs and, along with the sand wedge and gap wedge, were not included prior to 1931.

Ultra lob wedge

This article contains weasel words, vague phrasing that often accompanies biased or unverifiable information. Such statements should be clarified or removed. (June 2009)

An ultra lob wedge is used to hit a shot with higher and shorter trajectory than a standard lob wedge. This club may be labelled "UL" and has a loft of about 64°, the highest loft of any golf club. It is used for specialized, extremely high-angle shots such as from the "lip" of a bunker. This wedge is generally made by speciality companies and some argue that their purpose is redundant, as a regular lob wedge can be "opened" for extra loft in situations calling for such a high launch angle. However, side spin is increased when opening any club. It is generally easier to hit the ball with a square faced club.

Recommended Wedges

You can see some recommended wedges as part of the following recommendations:

See our recommend clubs for Beginner Golfers.

See our recommend clubs for Intermediate Golfers.

See our recommend clubs for Advanced Golfers.

For a great selection of discount custom wedges, check out GigaGolf. GigaGolf custom fit all clubs using the eFit System, which helps the player determine the ideal length and shaft for him or her. The clubs are as good as many of their commercial counterparts but at a much better price. GigaGolf offers quick simple shipping and have a 30 day money back guarantee. For more information see GigaGolf Wedges.