Scoring clubs, that’s what wedges are in the game of golf. You may have seen or heard about golfers, who once used to carry 1-2 wedges, now opting for a 3-4 wedge setup. The simple reason for that – the more wedges you carry in your golf bag, the more your ‘greenside’ play options increase.
Think of it this way, unobstructed shots with greater roll and shots where the ball gets in the air and then quickly stops – both situations demand the use of two different wedges. In that case, what are the various types of wedges in golf? Does every player need to use/carry them? You’ll know this and more by the time you’re done with the article!
Golf Wedges Explained – An Overview
If you look at these packaged sets of golf clubs, you’ll see how every one of them comes with at least one wedge, which is mostly the pitching wedge. However, this isn’t the only wedge there is. You can also buy a sand wedge, lob wedge, and gap wedge. All are crafted with different loft angles, hence each is used for a different purpose.
With wedges, you have to know that these golf clubs feature the highest loft in the set. They’re specifically designed for hitting short approach shorts within 120 yards, pitch shots, chip shots, shots played out of sand bunkers, and basically any shot that demands the ascending of the ball with a sharp descent.
Different Types of Golf Wedges
Not every wedge is fitted with the same degree of loft. Different loft angles are used, so each golf wedge is made to hit a certain kind of shot. On that note, here are all the various types of wedges you can use to get the most out of your short game situation…
Pitching Wedge (PW)
Pitching wedge loft angle is 46–48 degrees.
PW is the wedge with the lowest loft. As long as you know how to hit a pitching wedge, you can go for a full swing to achieve a distance between 110 yards and 140 yards, or for long-range chip shots.
Sand Wedge (SW)
Sand wedge loft angle is 54–58 degrees.
The sand wedge is designed for getting the golf ball out of rough and sand traps. The higher loft here is precisely what helps with popping the ball up while also reducing spin.
It’s best used within 80-110 yards from that target pin.
Gap Wedge or Approach Wedge (AW)
Gap or approach wedge loft angle is 51–53 degrees.
This particular wedge fills the gap between a sand wedge and a pitching wedge. The distance you can generate with the help of a gap or approach wedge is 90-110 yards.
A full swing is possible here instead of softening your approach via PW or hitting more aggressively with your SW.
Lob Wedge (LW)
Lob wedge loft angle is 59–65 degrees.
It’s got the highest loft for getting your shots airborne quickly with minimal travel. The best lob wedges out there are very effective when you want to navigate obstacles, hit flop shots, or shots within 80 yards.
Features of Wedges That Matter the Most
How do golf wedges affect your game? They do it through several factors, such as the following…
The degree loft of golf clubs is the angle at which the clubface tilts. A higher loft automatically means a higher ball flight, but distance gets compromised.
Loft angle plays a major role in drivers, putters, and even more so in wedges. Just because of that, there should be proper, uniform gapping in the loft angles across your wedge setup. This should happen irrespective of how many wedges you carry. Be it 3 or 4, the loft spacing should be even, so there’s no inconsistency throughout your golf club set (meaning your every type of shot is covered).
As for the ideal wedge loft setup, here it is…
- Pitching wedge: 46-48 degrees
- Sand wedge: 56 degrees
- Gap wedge: 50-52 degrees
- Lob wedge: 60 degrees
Such a setup consists of a gap of 4 degrees to 6 degrees between any two wedges, thus your every single approach shot is covered, no matter the lie or distance.
Little attention is given to the bounce angle of wedges and I don’t understand why that is because it’s the very bounce of the golf club that strikes the ground. It’s the angle that’s between the sole of the club and the turf.
So what is the most fitting bounce angle for your swing speed and type? Also, course conditions play a part. So here are different bounce options you can select from…
- Low Bounce
The bounce angle is between 0 and 10 degrees.
Best for firm conditions and tight lies, low bounce is mainly a part of wedges with a lower loft angle i.e. pitching wedge and gap wedge. The combination of low loft and low bounce ensures that the wedge gets under the ball cleanly and produces longer shots.
A sweeping golf swing and shallow angle of attack – both situations demand to be tackled with a low-bounce wedge.
- Mid or Standard Bounce
The bounce angle is between 10 and 16 degrees.
Best for more versatility out of your short game, thus you can play this one from a wide range of conditions. Since the bounce angle is standard-issue, it’s the most appropriate wedge to pull out when your attack angle is average too.
- High Bounce
The bounce angle is higher than 16 degrees.
These are very specialized wedges that are sure to get your golf ball out of fine, soft sand and extremely soft turf as well. When the bounce is higher, you dig less through your swing to form a way smoother plane. Mostly, players chose high bounce when their angle of attack is steep. (Wait, what does this ‘angle of attack’ mean?)
3. Leading Edge and Sole
The clubface has a lower boundary or edge where it comes in contact with the bottom or sole. Then there’s the trailing edge too which consists of the bottom and the behind section of the sole.
You end up with low-flight, weak shots when it’s the leading edge that makes contact with the golf ball. Rather you ought to be striking downward to get both the leading edge and also the trailing edge to enable ground contact evenly. This way, the sole just glides across the turf instead of digging in.
The purpose of grooves built into the wedge clubface is to allow clean and consistent contact with the ball every single time. Grooves are also very adept at keeping away unwanted particles/elements from the clubface, such as dirt, debris, moisture, etc. Much like the tires of a car!
Furthermore, wedge grooves boost backspin, which increases flight time, hence distance. They provide more shot trajectory control, greater ball-stopping power, and shorter near-the-pin rollout.
Although you might want to know that both R&A and USGA have banned using wedges with deep grooves since they give you the upper hand in terms of producing more backspin. Hence, the restriction is placed on groove volume and even the edge radius in wedges. In turn, this results in less backspin, but the launch angle is higher.
In that case, the only two wedge grooves allowed are vintage finish and laser-etched. The former, when it rusts, leaves the metal with an intrinsic feel and sound. While laser-etching paves the way for maximum spin, these types of grooves don’t adjust based on your striking and playing tendencies in the long run (vintage finish grooves do).
However, both grooves are susceptible to wearing out and/or becoming dull when not sharpened once every few rounds of golf. So if you know how to clean your golf clubs properly and regularly, you can actually inspect the grooves and also keep them clean.
5. Sole Grind
The grinding of the soles is done so that each wedge feels more customized to a certain playing technique. For instance, there’s the heel grind, which ensures an open clubface to hit flop shots with extra height. And it does so by getting rid of material from the heel of the wedge. Likewise, there are different wedge sole grind options to suit specific playing conditions.
Although, unlike accurate, consistent measurements such as loft angle, bounce angle, etc., sole grinds are not uniform across all brands. Even though that heel grind setting will offer much the same flexibility as far as shot-making is concerned, the chances of a heel grind from a certain manufacturer being more suitable for you than the others by different brands are quite high.
6. Shaft Material and Flex
Time to talk about shaft construction.
You have graphite vs steel shafts where graphite is more lightweight and flexible, thus easier to hit if your swing speed is slow.
On the other hand, steel shafts, because of the stiffer, heavier properties, are more geared toward faster swing speeds. Also, steel enables you to gain greater shot precision through increased clubhead control, whereas graphite promotes a higher swing speed and extra power at the cost of control.
You find graphite shafts mostly on drivers. As for wedges, the choice of shaft material here depends on what you prefer and also on the shaft of the irons you use (so consistency isn’t compromised from club to club). But you can pick graphite for irons to boost distance and then steel for wedges for the sole purpose of improving control.
Lastly, putters always come fitted with steel shafts to enhance precision and control.
Moving on to shaft flex now, it’s how much the shaft bends during your swing. Choosing the right shaft flex also depends on your game. In the case of wedge shafts, these are more flexible and lighter in the tip section (close to the clubhead). Such a construction flicks that clubhead very subtly at the golf ball to create more backspin and improve trajectory.
Golf wedge shaft flex has a lot to do with how frequently you take 3/4 and full swings. For 3/4 swings using the pitching wedge, having more stiffness i.e. less flex in this particular wedge than the lob wedge is a more workable situation. However, less flex won’t work for the greater power of full swings. So it’s better if your pitching wedge and irons have the same shaft flex.
Now here are the general shaft flex options based on how much distance your drives cover…
- Ladies Flex: More often than not, women golfers drive the golf ball below 200 yards. That is why they choose drivers specifically engineered for carrying the ball farther.
- Senior Flex: Driving distance between 180 yards and 200 yards, mostly achieved by men above 50 years of age. Thus, the most forgiving golf drivers for seniors.
- Regular Flex: These are mid-range to high-range handicappers driving the ball 200-250 yards.
- Wedge Flex: This shaft flex is only slightly stiff and made for medium to low handicappers who choose irons with a stiff shaft flex.
- Stiff Flex: These are also for mid-to-low handicap players who can generate driving distances between 250 yards and 300 yards.
- Extra Stiff Flex: This one’s for you if you’re able to hit drives over 300 yards long!
7. Distance Gapping
We talked about loft spacing, now let’s move on to a more relevant and specific topic i.e. distance gapping.
Loft angle plays a major role in the matter of distance, right? However, it’s not the only determinant, your set of skills and strengths also count. In your golf bag, there must be a mix of different wedges and irons, maybe not from the same manufacturer also. As a result, this mixing and matching changes variables, which has an impact on shot distance.
Even if, let’s assume, you choose a single wedge set, but then the way you swing those wedges is different, there will be distance gaps between your golf clubs. Therefore, average distances i.e. how far you hit your wedges get compromised.
I think now is the right time to discuss swing velocity – an important factor that affects distance, but it’s not within golf club control. Rather swing velocity has to do with how fast or slow you swing your clubs.
A golfer with a higher swing velocity and one with a slower swing velocity, using a similar wedge setup that has a uniform loft gapping of 4 degrees, will not have the same distance gapping.
Higher swing velocities equal greater distance gaps, while slower swing velocities create a comparatively smaller distance gap from club to club because of the tighter range of their shots. Hence, the latter can freely increase loft spacing to 6 degrees.
8. Club Fitting
If you want to optimize your wedge performance, always prioritize club fitting. It’s crucial that the wedges you use match your style of play, only then can you aim for lowering your golf scores.
Club fitting entails knowing the standard length/size of golf clubs and also choosing the correct loft angle and bounce setting. All of these factors combine to give you a quality wedge that will actually rescue you from sand traps, strike the best chip shots, and do a lot more to get you to complete your 18-hole round of golf with better scores.
Different Golf Wedges – FAQs
Which wedge is the easiest to hit?
Consistently hitting perfect shots on every lie using wedges is one of the most difficult things to do, but it gets much easier if the wedge you’re using is highly forgiving. And that would be cavity-back wedges – they make sweet spot contact consistently, so the golf ball gets airborne quickly and easily.
How many golf wedges to carry?
The greater part of golfers carries 3 wedges, namely the pitching wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge.
What type of wedges do beginners use?
For beginners, a pitching wedge is more than enough because lob wedges and gap wedges are for better players while carrying a sand wedge is fairly common but it’s still an additional wedge.
What are 58-degree and 60-degree wedges used for?
Both 58-degree and 60-degree wedges are constructed for lobbing your golf shots high into the air and then making them land on the green very softly. For chip shots, sand bunker shots, but never for full fairway shots.
Here’s how to decide between a 58-degree or 60-degree wedge if you’re an average golfer.
Your wedges are where you start when you want to improve not only your golf scores but also your handicap. Don’t forget that 70 percent of the shots you take in your round of golf are within 100 yards. Also, 80 percent of your golf handicap depends on these very shots!
The importance of short game often gets sidelined, but you don’t have to make such a mistake. And knowing the different types of loft angles, bounce angles, and whatnot on all the golf wedges is the first step you take to improve your short game performance.
You should always use the right wedge, meaning one that’s good for you, and not what Tiger Woods is probably using!