Wedges are indispensable tools in your golf arsenal, but do you really know what wedges you need in your bag? Depending on your level of skill and propensity for landing your ball in the middle of the worst parts of the course, you may be able to get by with just one of these magic irons. The degree of loft angle between the different wedges varies widely, making each a little better in specific situations and from specific distances.
Pitching wedges are often the first wedge a beginning golfer plays, since they’re generally packaged with a set of irons. The loft angle of a pitching wedge is between 46 and 50 degrees, depending on manufacturer, and is typically used from the fairway for shots requiring 100 to 120 yards of distance. It can also be used as an all-purpose wedge, but most are better off adding another wedge to their bag.
Gap wedges were designed to bridge the gap between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge and typically have a loft angle between 50 and 56 degrees. They’re the newest of the wedges, designed in response to casual golfers’ need for more range. Like the pitching wedge, it can be used in a variety of settings, but usually is most at home in the mud, sand and tall grass or from distances generally of 80 to 100 yards.
Sand wedges are specialty clubs designed with sand play in mind. The 54 to 60 degree lofts on these wedges are quite high, making a ball pop up and land close by – a hard shot of under 100 yards is typical. They can easily unbury balls stuck in the muck, and create dramatic and impressive “explosion shots” when the clubhead has to get under the ball in the bunker to dig it out. A clean fairway stroke can typically get you anywhere from 40 to 70 yards
Lob wedges come in high lofts of 60 to 64 degrees, with the ultra lob wedges reaching up to 70 degrees. Precision is the name of the game for the lob wedge. It’s not a club for every bag, but if you play courses with lots of hazards, trees or elevated greens, the lob wedge can get your ball up and over trouble areas. A typical fairway shot may get you 40 to 60 yards, but a 10 to 40 yard chip shot will surgically place your ball on the green.
Professional golfers typically carry three or four wedges typically arranged so they differ in loft from 4 to 6 degrees. The longest hitters will carry four since they don’t need as much distance from the rest of their bag, but the majority of pros carry three. Your casual weekend player can benefit from any or all of these clubs used in combination. If you can choose only one, go with the pitching wedge and practice more in the bunker, but if you’ve got the budget for a pair, adding a higher-lofted wedge like a sand wedge or lob wedge will ensure you don’t spend much time in the sand.