Although “grip it and rip it” is a common saying on the tee box, wedge play requires a certain touch and practiced accuracy if you want to land the ball close to the pin for an easy putt. When watching the pros on the driving range, you’ll notice a lot more wedges than drivers, and improving your shot game is the first step to a lower score. This buyer’s guide for wedges will cover the four main points of purchasing new and used wedges.
Four Types of Wedges
The gap wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge form the different categories of wedges. The most commonly used wedge, the pitching wedge, is often included in the sale of a typical set of irons while the other three types of wedges are usually sold separately.
PITCHING WEDGE / LOFT RANGE: 44° TO 49°
Typically sold in a set of irons, the pitching wedge is designed to get under the ball on contact to send the ball high in the air. Pitching wedges range between 44° and 49°, and when the average player strikes the ball properly it can travel between 110 and 125 yards. Before advancing your game with the three other wedges, it’s important to learn how to use the pitching wedge first.
GAP WEDGE / LOFT RANGE: 50° TO 54°
Rather than lightly swinging a pitching wedge or over-swinging a sand wedge, the gap wedge covers the difference in degrees and distance between those two. Lofted between 50° and 54°, the gap wedge allows you to perform your normal swing when you’re between 80 and 100 yards away from the pin.
SAND WEDGE / LOFT RANGE: 54° TO 58°
Made with a heavy club head and specifically designed to slide through sand and tall grass, the sand wedge pops the ball in the air quickly so as to avoid contact that will slow the ball down. In addition to preventing the ball’s contact with sand and tall grass, this high trajectory also limits the ball’s spin so it won’t land on the green and bounce or roll away from the hole. Sand wedges are designed with a loft between 54° and 58° and can travel from 80 to 100 yards.
LOB WEDGE / LOFT RANGE: 59° TO 65°
Made popular by flop shot-master Phil Mickelson, the lob wedge lifts the ball high into the air with a loft between 59° and 65°. These tricky shots are great when you’re trying to avoid and obstacle blocking the green or when you need to place the ball ever so gently on the green, as the high trajectory yields a soft landing and limited rolling.
Loft & Gapping
A club’s loft is the angle at which the club face lies relative to the shaft. The loft dictates how far the ball will travel and its likely trajectory. Wedges have the highest lofts of any club. It’s recommended to have four degrees of difference between wedges. For example, if your pitching wedge has a 48° loft then you should have a 52° gap wedge, a 56° sand wedge and a 60° lob wedge.
The bounce is measured by how the club’s sole – the bottom of the club – rests on the surface, typically landing between 0° and 14°. The higher the bounce, the less the club will dig into the surface. This means you want a high bounce when shooting out of soft, fluffy sand and longer grass. On the other hand, you want a lower bounce when hitting the ball off the fairway or hard sand so the club will dig deep into the surface for proper contact.
Think of grooves on a golf club as the tread on a tire. The grooves grab the ball just like the tread grips the road, creating spin and producing ideal shot trajectory. The grooves also produce ball-stopping power when contact is made between the ball and the green. A recent rule change instituted by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the R&A, a spin-off from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, has eliminated the use of deep grooves in wedges. Deep grooves gave golfers an unfair advantage by creating more backspin. The new rule restricts groove volume and edge radius on wedges, resulting in a higher launch angle and less backspin. As a result of the new rule, you’ll see two types of grooves on wedge – vintage finish and laser-etching.
Vintage finish: Wedges with vintage finish grooves rust in a way that compliments the sound and feel inherent in the metal. As the wedge ages, it takes on the character that suits your style of play.
Laser-etching: Laser-etched grooves optimize the ball-to-face friction to create maximum spin, but these grooves don’t adjust to your striking tendencies over time.