Golf wedges, commonly referred to as just the “wedge” around golf course, is one of the most important clubs to have in your bag. In fact, many of the world’s top golfers carry a variety of wedges in their arsenal. These clubs are designed to hit a wide range of close-in shots, usually from 120-100 yards or closer, including shots that are right around the green and in sand traps.
Wedges have a variety of “lofts”, which means they are shaped in such a way to strike the golf ball at many different angles. To help you get a clearer understanding about the different types of wedges, this being the pitching wedge, gap wedge, lob wedge, and sand wedge, we have put together this ultimate guide for you.
What is the Loft of Golf Clubs?
If you hang around golfers or golf courses long enough, you are bound to encounter the term “loft” as it applies to golf clubs. But what exactly does the term mean? In order to answer that question adequately, it is important to note that loft does not merely apply to wedges; every club in your bag, except for the appropriately-named flat stick, or putter, has some degree of loft to it.
The term “loft” or club loft can be defined as “the angle of the clubface as it is positioned on the shaft.” And the degree of a club’s loft angle is relative to the (imaginary) vertical plane, and not the ground.
As mentioned before, all of the clubs in your bag, 14 or under if you are playing according to the established rules, have a loft angle of some kind.
Drivers, for example, tend to have the lowest degree of loft, usually ranging from 9-13 degrees. However, beginner golfers can get away with an even higher degree of loft on their driver, as this loft will assist in getting the ball into the air more rapidly.
Fairway woods typically have a greater loft angle than the driver. A 3 wood, for instance, usually has a loft angle between 15 and 18 degrees; while the 5-wood carries a loft of 20-22 degrees. The 7-woods and 9-woods have the highest degree of loft among the fairway woods, usually coming in at 24 degrees or higher depending on the manufacturer.
When it comes to the irons in your bag, the higher the iron is, the lower the loft angle. For example, 3-irons have a much lower loft angle than the 6-iron; and the 9-iron has a higher degree of loft than the 7-iron.
Standard pitching wedges—as we will discuss in more detail below—have an approximate loft angle of 48 degrees, but there are other wedges with an even greater loft angle, including the sand wedge, gap wedge and lob wedge.
Throughout the history of golf, manufacturers have gradually altered the loft angle of the clubs they produce. These loft adjustments have been possible due to the lack of regulations pertaining to golf club loft. Most of these changes or alterations have been minor, but they do explain why a 9-iron of today is able to cover the same distance of an 8-iron of yesteryear.
What is the Bounce of a Golf Club?
A golf club’s bounce is the angle created by the line of the sole of the club in relation to the line of the ground. So when you hear that a club does not have bounce, it means that its sole lies completely flat against the ground. However, when has a large amount of bounce it will make it so that the leading edge of the club is prevented from touching the ground. Instead the trailing edge is on the ground.
Now wedges have many different degrees of bounce. This is largely dependent on the type of wedge that you are using. A lob wedge will usually have very little bounce whereas a sand wedge will usually have the most. However, some prefer their sand wedge to have more bounce than others, for use in bunkers with very fluffy sand for example.
A pitching wedge generally has between 2 and 5 degrees of bounce; a gap wedge between 5 and 10; a lob wedge between 0 and 10; and a sand wedge between 10 and 16.
The Purpose, Loft and Distances of the Various Wedges
Every type of wedge in your bag has a unique purpose and a general distance it can cover. This is why each of these clubs is assigned a different loft angle. To help you understand the loft and uses of these golf clubs, below we will discuss four of these wedges in greater detail: the pitching wedge, gap wedge, lob wedge and sand wedge.
The pitching wedge is a very versatile club, one that can be used for a wide range of shots around the golf course. In principle, it is deemed a “wedge”, the wedge with the lowest loft angle. Some also call the pitching wedge a 45 degree wedge or a 48 degree wedge.
Pitching Wedge Loft?
So what degree of loft is the pitching wedge? Generally, the standard pitching wedge loft degree can range from 45 degrees to 52 degrees, depending on the manufacturer.
However, these clubs are often treated as if they were just another numbered iron in the bag—and for good reason. Before the term “wedge” became the general common-speak for high-lofted golf clubs, the pitching wedge was actually labeled the “10-iron” in many matched golf club sets. One reason for this is it did—and still does—follow the general loft progression of the other irons in your bag. Today, most pitching wedges have a loft angle that is right around 46-48 degrees (give or take a degree).
When to Use a Pitching Wedge?
The pitching wedge can be used for a variety of shots, and the distance it can carry depends largely on the design of the club and the exact loft angle and the strength of the golfer swinging it. For approach shots, coming from the fairway or just off the fairway, the pitching wedge, with a full swing, can usually carry anywhere from 80 yards to 130 yards. For your average weekend golfer, a fully-swung pitching wedge is usually the club of choice for shots of about 100-120 yards. The exact distance the ball will cover using a pitching wedge will, of course, depend on a variety of factors, such as the accuracy of the swing, the condition of the course and whether the ball stops or rolls out after impact.
In addition to full approach shots, golfers can also use their pitching wedge to escape from troublesome areas (like trees), thus creating a better lie for the next shot; or for laying up in front of a hazard like water. When swung with a half-swing, the pitching wedge can also be effective for in-between lies of 40-50 yards. Many golfers also reach for their pitching wedge when their ball is on the fringe—the area adjacent to the putting green. When used with a “chipping” motion, the pitching wedge can be just as effective as a putter for these shots, lifting the ball over the fringe and onto the green—a technique golfers refer to as the “bump-and-run.”
What is a gap wedge? Well, not too long ago (before the mid-1990s), there were only two wedges that ever made it into a golfer’s bag: the pitching wedge and the sand wedge. That was fine for “back then,” because that was before manufacturers began decreasing the loft of the pitching wedge. Pitching wedges that once had a loft of 51-52 degrees are now typically made with lofts less than 49 degrees, while the sand wedge has remained a 56-57 degree loft club. This large gap—between 7-8 degrees of loft—often made it difficult for golfers to select the right club on certain shots. Fortunately, the gap wedge has put many of those difficulties to bed.
Gap Wedge Loft?
So what degree is a gap wedge? The gap wedge loft typically ranges from 50-54 degrees, the gap wedge is a club designed to fill the “gap” between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge.
Also known as the “all wedge,” the gap wedge began to appear in the mid-1990s, and today, almost every golfer on every professional tour carries this type of wedge in their bag. Some golfers also refer to the gap wedge as the 50 degree wedge, or a 52 degree wedge.
When to Use a Gap Wedge?
Needless to say, the gap wedge is typically the club of choice for approach shots that are too long to take to with your sand wedge and too short to take with your pitching wedge. There is no exact gap wedge distance, because this is unique to each golfer. For instance, if you typically hit your sand wedge about 80 yards with a full swing, and you hit your pitching wedge roughly 120 yards with that same swing, your gap wedge would be the ideal club selection for approach shots between 90-110 yards.
In addition to approach shots, the gap wedge can be the perfect club for laying up in front of a hazard; or for escaping tall grass around the fringe of the green. Many of today’s best golfers have come up with ingenious ways to use this club, including hitting chips with top spin; and clearing a deep sand trap surrounding the green.
What is a lob wedge? The lob wedge is by far one of the most versatile weapons to have in your golf arsenal. The lob wedge loft typically ranges from 58-60 degrees. The lob wedge degrees are about 2-4 degrees greater than that of a sand wedge.
Also known as the “Lofted Wedge” or “L-Wedge,” the club is typically the shortest-hitting iron in any golf bag, and the one that produces the highest arc. Some players may also refer to the lob wedge as the 58 degree wedge or the 60 degree wedge.
When to Use a Lob Wedge?
As you might imagine, many of the world’s best golfers use their 60 degree lob wedge when forced to hit short shots over a hazard of some type (water, sand). Lob wedge distances usually average around 50 yards or less, and are great for approach shots. Lob wedges also tend to be very accurate when used correctly, as they help the ball to land softly, rarely producing any roll due to the high arc. This can be a great advantage when approaching greens with difficult pin placements, where even the slightest error can be tragic. Experienced golfers can even create great backspin using these clubs.
Simply put, the lob wedge is one of the golfer’s best friends, making shots that were once near impossible very playable indeed.
The sand wedge has been around for decades and has helped many a golfer achieve lower scores than otherwise possible. Also known as a “sand iron”, the sand wedge has many unique features that distinguish it from other irons in the bag. Of course, its open-faced design is great for creating loft when loft is needed, but what truly stands out on this club is its sole and the “bounce” that sole creates.
On most of the other irons, the sole of the club forms a right angle to the shaft of the club, which means the sole is approximately parallel to the ground when the club is at rest, allowing the leading edge of the club to get between the ball and the ground more easily. A sand wedge, on the other hand, 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 design feature, and the fact that the sand wedge has a wider sole than any other iron, allows it to glide through the sand upon impact—its original purpose—rather than dig in and get “caught up.” As such, it allows beginner golfers to escape these traps with their dignity intact, and helps professional golfers treat the sand as if it were any other shot.
The sand wedge began to catch on in the golf world about 1935—the year that golf professional Gene Sarazen used a brand new type of club to help negotiate the sand traps during a professional tour event. Today, you will find the club in almost every golfer’s bag, and many manufacturers even include the sand wedge in their matched golf club sets.
Sand Wedge Loft
So what degree is a sand wedge? Usually a sand wedge’s degree of loft is right around 54-56 degrees. As such, the sand wedge is also referred to as the 54 degree wedge or 56 degree wedge.
When to Use a Sand Wedge?
Thanks to the sand wedges loft and bounce, it is the perfect club for escaping greenside bunkers with a lot of trajectory and spin. Furthermore, due to its wider-than-average sole and “bounce”, it is also ideal for negotiating rain-soaked and muddy areas of the course, as well as very thick rough that tends to grab other irons. Many golfers also use their sand wedge for approach shots that range in distance from 80-100 yards; and for chipping around the green.
Pitching Wedge, Gap Wedge, Lob Wedge and Sand Wedge: Each of these clubs has a unique purpose, as well as a graduating loft angle to help it achieve that purpose. In summary, the pitching wedge is a great club for chipping and when approaching the green from roughly 120 yards out, and the gap wedge is the club to reach for from about 100 yards out, when a sand wedge just won’t do. Use the lob wedge around obstacles and when arc and a soft, accurate landing is needed, and always rely on the sand wedge in the bunkers—it was intentionally designed for that purpose.