When you are approaching the green, the set of golf clubs that will make you feel really goof (or really bad) are your wedges. While age has made much of my game much weaker, my saving grace is my putting and my wedge shots. If I can get it within 100 yards of the green anywhere near regulation, I’m pretty confident that I can par it. There’s a certain skill with your wedge/approach shots that requires extreme accuracy to place the ball exactly where you want it, and to control what happens to the ball once it reaches that spot. It’s the one part of the game of golf that I love beyond all others.
Technically speaking, we’re still talking about your iron clubs here, but we wanted to give these golf clubs their own special article. Why? Because we love them, and also because they are just unique. While there are a few specialty/novelty ones, the primary ones that we will discuss here are the pitching, sand, gap and lob, and ultra lob wedges.
Your wedges have the highest amount of lob of all the clubs. They are designed to carry the ball up into the air at a high angle, and to land the ball at a short distance. While many others are designed for a low angle flight and to get the most distance possible (see the fairway woods for example), these are designed to do the opposite. They are generally used when you approach the green, are in a sand trap, the ball is buried in the rough, or you need to get up and over a close up obstacle such as a tree. They are used to get height, and to accurately place the ball on a particular spot.
In the earlier days of golf, before wedges were created, players used various clubs such as the jigger and niblick for close shots and to get out of sand traps. The problem with these is that they tended to get buried in the dirt or sand because they had no sole and the face was flat so that the ball tended to keep rolling.
Gene Sarazan was the first to come up with a solution. He got his idea for the fix after riding on an airplane. He noticed how the flaps on the plane were used to create lift. He designed the first sand wedge by adding weight to the sole and changeing its angle to dig into the sand and carry its way out of it, along with the ball. He used his invention to win two major tournaments, before revealing his creation. That same concept of a wide sole was later used on other clubs to create all of the wedges.
The pitching wedge (my favorite club) usually has a loft of around 48 degrees, and no bounce. Most manufacturers label it as “PW”, while Ping labels theirs as just “W”. It’s usually used from the rough or fairway on approach shots. If you have a good swing, you can expect to get a distance of roughly 100 to 120 yards with it. Some players also use it from the bunkers when the ball has not become buried in the sand, and also when you need to get more distance from your sand shots. You can also use it effectively from 25 to 50 yards out with a short chip shot swing. It is also used from the fringe as a so called bum and run shot.
The gap wedge is basically used just like the pitch. This is the most modern of all of the wedges, so it has not become very standardized yet. They typically have a loft of around 52 degrees, and a bit of bounce. That gap literally fills in the “gap” of the lofts (around 10 degrees) between the pitching and the sand wedges. It’s also known by the name approach, attach, dual or utility wedge. If you know how to use it, you can carry the gap for a length of around 90 to 100 yards, give or take.
The sand wedge is normally used to get your ball out of the sand trap/bunker. It is also often used in really thick grass (rough). It’s designed to literally cut through the sand/grass/mud and make its way (and your ball’s) out of the sand. The SW usually has a lot of around 56 degrees, but it can vary slightly among manufacturers. It has a high loft, bounce and mass. The modern sand wedges have a club head mass of up to 2.5 pounds, to help it cut through the firm sand traps. While most SW shots are usually within 20 yards of the green, it’s possible to hit the club up to 100 yards!
The lob wedge has a loft of around 60 degrees. It’s basically designed to punch your ball almost straight up in the air, and to limit its forward roll after it lands. It’s usually used in very close approach shots where you literally want to “stick” the green. It was designed by Dave Pelz (a NASA scientist) in the 1980’s. He wanted a club that would stick the greens that were elevated and surrounded by hazards. The L wedege is normally used in close range, between 10 and 50 yards of the hole. If you know how to swing it from the fairway, you can carry it for 40 to 60 yards.
The ultra lob wedge is an extreme club. It ha a loft of around 70 degrees. It’s also known as a flop or final wedge. If you have ever had your ball stuck on the lip of a sand trap, then you could have used the ultra to help get you straight up and over the lip.
So what wedges do you have in your bag? What’s your favorite one? We would love to hear from you!