There are lots of different types of clubs involved in golf, so many, that it can be hard to really get a feel for the purpose of each one. For some clubs, it can come down to a matter of preference, but wedges are workhorses that every golfer needs in their bag. Unlike the woods or irons, there are only four types of wedges (ranging in degrees), making it a little easier to understand when and why to use each one. Read on for a short description of the different types of wedges in golf.
Included in most sets of irons you will find a matched pitching wedge in the package, so naturally, it’s the wedge players are most familiar with. Before 1931, this was the only wedge in golf, but even with the addition of other wedges, the pitching wedge remains an important general purpose tool and for many the most consistently used. The pitching wedge is the longest-hitting of the wedges, with minimal bounce and the lowest loft of 45 to 50 degrees. Use your pitching wedge for mid-range approach shots; a semi-professional player can often hit a ball 120 yards on the fairway with this wedge, but it’s not uncommon for a casual player to get 100 yards of distance.
The gap wedge was developed to fill the gap between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge, and is also known as an approach wedge. As you might guess, it’s best used when you’re approaching the green — the right gap wedge can gain a player 80 to 110 yards. Gap wedges are typically lofted from 50 to 55 degrees and have a little more bounce than the pitching wedge, enough to be considered middling. These features make the gap wedge a good general play wedge, though you may still get bogged down in very soft sand or mud if you use your gap wedge exclusively in tough spots.
Sand wedges are very special clubs designed to pop shots up and out of soft spots like bunkers. Invented by Gene Sarazen in 1931, the sand wedge is carefully designed with a high loft and lots of bounce to get players out of the sand faster, without bogging down if the ball is really buried. The bounce on a sand wedge is impressively high, so it’s not for general play, but it will save you when you’re in trouble. Sand wedges normally have lofts from 55 to 58 degrees, with 10 to 16 degrees of bounce. These wedges won’t gain you a lot of distance, usually only 65 to 95 yards, but they’ll save you strokes and obviously that’s important.
If you think the sand wedge is a special purpose club, you’ve not yet met the lob wedge. This club was invented in response to modern courses with higher, uneven greens. Pioneered by Ping and championed by a former NASA physicist, the lob wedge brings those really impossible shots within easy reach. With little bounce, but high lofts of 60 degrees or better, the lob wedge is a club you’ll want when you’re in a tight spot. You’re not going to see much distance, 75 yards at very best, but the extremely high loft will help you pop your shots up and over hazards like trees, traps, and water. Choose a loft that best fits your course, keeping in mind that every degree of loft reduces average distance but increases the height of your shot.