What Wedges Should I Carry?

wedges-golfAll right so you finally made a decision to get a wedge besides the PW you already have but then you discover… Whoa! There is more than one type?

Well at least that was my expression the first time I wanted to get a sand wedge. I then got confused between the different types, loft angles, and the letters (P, A, G, S, L) in them. Not to mention deciding what wedge brand to pick.

In the middle of my confusion I asked my self “Do I really need all of those wedges? I thought I only needed the sand wedge”. Some time after I found out a quick answer.

Quick Answer! = Just carry a Sand Wedge (SW)

If you’re a beginner and the only wedge you have in your bag is a pitching wedge (PW as this is not really a wedge) then just add a Sand Wedge (SW) to your bag. Or a 54º to 58º wedge would be the same thing. Most major golf brands like to tag their wedges with the loft angle rather than to include the wedge type letter, and this makes it harder for newbies to identify what kind of wedge it is. But once again, just be sure a SW (54º to 58º) is part of your set.

I’m not saying the other wedge types are not important, but only if you really dig golf after a while and really want to hone your short game, should you consider getting more than one wedge.

As a golf beginner, you really just need a SW and your PW to learn all the needed shots in the short game. So if you want to get just one wedge besides the PW, it’s okay just make sure it’s a SW.

Then what are the other wedge types for?

The same answer you should get when you ask: “Why are there so many clubs in a golf bag?” and that is, each club (or wedge in this case) is designed to reach different distances with higher or lower ball trajectory.

What about the 14-club limit?

Glad you mentioned that, because that should answer your first question in the first place. So if you are going to play by the rules having no more than 14 clubs in your bag (including the putter) you have to decide weather you want to sacrifice your arsenal in the long game or the short game. In other words removing an iron, or a wood in order to fit 3 wedges. Or do like most of us casual golfers who prefer to have all the distance possibilities in the long range and handle the short game with only 2 wedges.

A common formula is to have these in your bag:

  • 3 woods
  • 8 irons (maybe replace 1 or 2 long irons with hybrids)
  • 2 wedges
  • 1 putter

And the two wedges are commonly the SW and the LW. To better understand why let’s take a look at the wedge types and their characteristics:

Types of Golf Wedges

Letter tagWedge NameLoft angleAvg. Distance *
PPitching wedge (10-iron really)44º – 48º100 – 130 yds.
GGap wedge50º – 52º80 – 110 yds.
AApproach wedge (same as G)50º – 52º80 – 110 yds.
SSand wedge54º – 58º70 – 100 yds.
LLob wedge60º – 64º50 – 70 yds.
* Distances are based on the average male golfer at full swing

PW = Pitching Wedge

Loft angle = 44˚ to 48˚

Not sure why this is considered a wedge, because pitching wedges are normally designed the same way irons are designed. So this can actually be considered to be your 10-iron.

It is called a pitching wedge because it’s a great club for pitch shots anywhere from inside the 60 yd. range. And many chip shots around the green. But if you use it with your normal full swing, you should get the ball anywhere from 90 to 130 yds. (100 to 110 yds. in my case).

This club is one of the most needed in all golf courses no matter the length or conditions; you can always find a shot where you’ll need a PW.

GW or AW = Gap Wedge or Approach Wedge

Loft angle = 50˚ to 52˚

This wedge came a little later in golf when an apparent “gap” needed to be filled. This gap was the angle degree difference between de 46º of the PW and the 56º of the SW. since the norm is to have about 4 degree loft in between each of the clubs in the bag, a 10º was to big of a “gap” hence, the gap wedge was invented and sometimes called “approach wedge”.

You can find controversial articles regarding GW and AW being the same club or not, but to me it’s just a matter of what loft do I need, just get it and forget about letters ☺

A full swing with this wedge should get the ball about 80 to 110 yds.

bunkershot-lorena-ochoaSW = Sand Wedge

Loft angle = 54˚ to 58˚

And this wedge is the most popular wedge for… yes you guessed it! The sand (dah), so if you find your ball in a bunker, this baby should come in handy.

Although pitch shots and chip shots are frequently executed with this club also, as well as full swing shots from inside the 60 to 90 yds. range.

LW = Lob Wedge

Loft angle = 60˚ to 64˚

Designed to make high but short distance shots when you want the ball landing softly or sticking to the green when it lands. It can also be used when you’re near the green but you have to jump over a bunker, water, a bush or any obstacle that won’t let you hit a pitch or chip the ball into the green. This high-trajectory low-distance shot is called the “flop shot” and is best executed with a lob wedge.

The distance covered with a full swing lob wedge should get you 40 to 60 yds.

Wedge Specs

If you want to get “techy” when buying a wedge, here are some specifications you want to look for:

Loft in a Wedge

This is the angle of the face of the club relative to the shaft. The greater the angle means the club’s face points more upwards and thus producing higher vertical shots for softer landing on the green, but less distance.

wedge-loft

image credit: golfbidder.co.uk

wedge-bounce-definitionBounce in a Wedge

This is the angle from the front edge of the sole (bottom bulky part) relative to the ground when the club is at address. The bounce angle can vary between 4º to 14º.

The higher the angle means more bounce, and more bounce means the club head digs less into the sand or turf when you strike the ball.

Higher bounce is good for conditions where the sand is loose or fluffy, or the grass is longer.

Lower bounce is better for what are called “tight lies” which means short grass and more compact sand.

 

Grooves

These are the linear dents along the face of the club that give the texture and grip effect similar to the grooves in a tire pattern. The grooves have a gripping effect on the ball at the moment of impact making the ball spin.

The most common groove shapes that are USGA rule conforming are the V shape and the U (square) shape.

Wedge Finish

The finish refers to the surface finish in the metal head of the club, which in most cases is just for the aesthetics of the club design. But depending on the finishing this can also contribute to the gripping effect for ball spin.

You can find wedge finishing in chrome, satin metal, black nickel (gun metal) and rusty. Rusty finish is the one that adds more gripping effect at impact.

Here is a great short video from GolfBidder.co.uk that summarizes most of of what we covered:

Conclusion

Remember to play fair having no more than 14 clubs in your bag. And unless you’re a short game specialist I would advice to just have 2 wedges instead of 3. Those wedges being the SW and the LW skipping the gap wedge.

That so-called “gap” you can reach it with a half swing or ¾ swing using your PW anyway. That should leave you all the possibilities with the long clubs, whereas if you take out an iron or a hybrid from your bag then you’re gonna have a bigger distance gap to fill in the long game.

The swing is harder to control with long clubs and the idea of shortening your swing with these can create unexpected results. It’s better to focus a full swing with long clubs and save your half and ¾ swing possibilities with the short clubs.

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