Are you Using the Right Golf Wedge?
Between 60% to 65% of the shots you take in a round of golf occur within 100 yards of the hole. It’s also been estimated that about 80% of the shots that golfers lose to par occur inside 100 yards!
Those are remarkable statistics and point to the disproportionately large influence that the short game has on your overall score. They also emphasize how important it is that amateur golfers do everything they can to improve in this vital part of the game.
There are several types of shots that comprise the short game – full-swing approach shots from 50-100 yards, pitch shots, chip shots, and bunker shots – but the common denominator on all of these shots is that, for most golfers, they will all be played with a wedge of one type or another.
So, given the importance of the short game, and the fact that wedges are used so frequently during your round, making sure that you have the right ones in your bag becomes a really important matter.
In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of golf wedges that are used in the short game, and we’ll also make some recommendations as to which specific brands and models represent the best wedges for your game.
Table of Contents
Types of Golf Wedges
Basically, there are four different types of wedges. Which one you would choose to use for a specific shot will depend on several factors: the distance you are from the hole, the lie from which you are hitting, the trajectory you’d like to see, and how you’d like the ball to react once it hits the green.
The Pitching Wedge is the lowest-lofted of all the wedges, but the highest-lofted of all the clubs that come standard in most full iron sets. Depending on the manufacturer, pitching wedges will range in loft from about 46° up to about 48°. Because they are the lowest-lofted wedge, they will tend to produce a ball flight that will be lower than the flight you’ll see with the other wedges, and they will generally be used from farther out.
There will be occasions when you may choose to pitch or chip with a pitching wedge, particularly if you want to play a lower, running shot, but the predominant use of the pitching wedge is for a full-swing shot from about 70-110 yards (depending on the swing speed of the player). Almost without exception, the pitching wedge will come included in the complete iron set that you purchase.
Years ago, before the introduction of the gap wedge, most golfers would carry only two wedges: a pitching wedge of 46° – 48° and a sand wedge of 54° – 58°. As you can see, however, the difference between those two could be as much as 12 degrees of loft. And with each degree of loft equating to 2-3 yards of distance, that would leave a substantial yardage gap that could exceed 20-30 yards!
In that scenario, if you were to face a shot that fell within that large gap, you would have been required to use either the lower-lofted option (the pitching wedge) and swing easier, or the higher-lofted option (the sand wedge) and swing harder. Either way, you would be required to hit a shot that doesn’t match up with the normal full-swing carry distance of either club. And since amateurs rarely practice those types of shots, getting the right carry yardage can be a challenge.
As its name suggests, the Gap Wedge was invented to bridge this gap between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge. With a loft of about 50°- 53°, it provides you with the ability to hit full-swing shots that fall within that yardage gap. But in addition to that purpose, the gap wedge can also be a very effective tool for pitch and chip shots around the green as well.
Although gap wedges have not traditionally been included in the iron sets that golfers purchase, more and more manufacturers have begun packaging them into their sets in recent years. But if one is not included as part of your standard set, they can be purchased as a standalone club from one of the wedge manufacturers.
Historically, the Sand Wedge has been a mainstay in almost every golfer’s bag since it was introduced back in the 1930’s. It’s proven to be an extremely versatile club, the primary function of which is to escape from sand traps, but with a loft of about 54° to 58°, it is also very effective for pitch and chip shots around the green.
The primary reason that the Sand Wedge is so effective and has become so popular is because of a distinctive feature that is incorporated into the club’s design. The main distinguishing difference of the Sand Wedge is a feature called “bounce,” which revolutionized the way that shots are played from sand traps.
Bounce refers to the rounded portion that protrudes from the club head’s sole, which serves to effectively raise the leading edge off of the surface. The term “bounce angle” is a measurement of how much the sole of the club head lifts the leading edge. In so doing, it enables the head to skim through the sand without the leading edge digging into it. This same feature is why the Sand Wedge is very effective for use from other difficult lies around the green as well.
Once again, the name of this club identifies its primary role in the short game. When you are faced with a shot that needs to be launched high and to land softly, or when there is a tight pin with not a lot of room for the ball to roll out after landing, it’s often necessary to hit what is referred to as a lob shot. The Lob Wedge was created for just such a shot
The standard loft of the Lob Wedge will usually be 60°, but you will occasionally find them as low as 58° and as high as 64°. Many players elect to pitch and chip with their lob wedge, and some may choose their lob wedge when they are in a sand trap, but their primary use is when a higher launch is needed.
Wedge Gapping: Which Wedges Should You Carry?
The question often arises as to which, and how many, wedges you should carry in your bag. As for how many, that largely comes down to a matter of preference…and budget. Many golfers choose to carry all four of the wedge types, while others opt for only two or three. But clearly, to be able to handle all of the different types of shots you will face in the short game, and all the various yardages you will be hitting from, most players would benefit from carrying more wedges rather than fewer.
When describing the characteristics of the Gap Wedge above, we discussed how it fits perfectly between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge in terms of carry distance. In other words, it fills the gap between those two clubs, so that you will not be faced with uncomfortable yardages for which you don’t have the appropriate club.
Well, the exact same philosophy applies to all of the other wedges as well. In choosing which wedge lofts to buy, an effective selection method to use is to make sure that there are no sizable yardage gaps between any of the wedges in your bag.
If you were to check the loft differentials between all the other irons in your set, you would find that there is about a 4 or 5-degree separation between each iron. For instance, a typical 7-iron will have about 34-degrees of loft, while a typical 8-iron will have about 38 degrees. From manufacturer to manufacturer, these may vary slightly, but successive clubs will usually have this 4 or 5-degree variance (and, therefore, a 10-15 yard difference).
When you choose your wedges, you can apply this same loft and yardage “gapping” process. Example: if the pitching wedge in your set has 48° of loft, then you would want to select a gap wedge that has about 4-degrees more loft, in this case 52°. And you could then proceed to select your higher lofted wedges using the same process. In this case, you might then select a 56° sand wedge and a 60° lob wedge. That would give you four wedges, all nicely spaced at 4-degree intervals, ensuring that you have no significant yardage gaps.
Recommended Golf Wedges
We have analyzed and tested all of the models on the market and we believe that the following three represent the best options that you should consider for your next wedge purchase:
If your main selection criterion for a wedge is getting exceptional spin, the Callaway Mack Daddy 5 has to be at the top of your list. This is a wedge that is all about maximizing spin. According to Callaway, the MD5 provides “spin with teeth,” and says it has “the most aggressive groove in golf.”
The previous wedge model in the Callaway line was the Mack Daddy 4, and it too had a reputation for producing excellent spin. But the Mack Daddy 5 has upped the ante with a totally new groove design. It still features the same groove-in-groove design that the predecessor had, but they have changed the groove’s wall angle, from 5° in the MD4 to 37° in the MD5! This makes the edges even sharper for maximum grip and spin.
They haven’t ignored feel, either. The MD5 has a nice soft feel due to the use of 8620 carbon steel. And there is an incredible variety of loft/bounce options. In fact, there are 23 different combinations that are offered, ensuring that you’ll be able to zero in on the exact one that suits you the best.
|MD5 Lofts available:
50°, 52°, 54°, 56°, 58°, 60°
|W, Low-Bounce W, C, S, X
Platinum Chrome, Tour Grey
#2: Cleveland CBX 2
We wonder why more manufacturers haven’t thought of this. For amateur golfers who need as much forgiveness as they can get from their clubs, Cleveland has come out with a cavity-back design in the CBX 2 that caters to golfers who sometimes struggle to find the sweet spot consistently.
This cavity-back design, combined with two other changes Cleveland introduced in the CBX 2 — a hollow cavity near the heel and a heavy weight in the toe — maximizes this wedge’s Moment of Inertia (MOI), which is a measure of how resistant a club head is to twisting when the ball is struck somewhere other than the center of the face. Translation: even if you miss the sweet spot, the design of the CBX 2 will still produce shots that fly as if there had been a center-face hit.
|CBX 2 Lofts available:
50°, 52°, 54°, 56°, 58°, 60°
|Sole design options:
|46°-52°: V-shaped, 54°-56°: S-shaped, 58°-60°: C-shaped
Titleist made some interesting design changes in their Vokey SM7 wedges. If you look at the backs of the various wedges, you’ll notice that the shaping is just a little different depending on the loft of the club. This was done to take into account where the ball is typically struck when using different lofts, and to position the Center of Gravity (CoG) in the optimal place for that normal impact area.
When using a wedge with a low loft angle, for instance, you’ll usually hit the ball lower on the face. Similarly, it’s more common to hit the ball higher on the club face when using higher-lofted wedges. The SM7 adjusts the placement of the CoG to account for this. This is a brilliant idea, and the results in the SM7 are obvious, with more controlled ball flights and more consistency.
The other really noticeable feature of the SM7 is the high amount of spin that it produces. The Spin Milled grooves really grab the ball.
There is an SM7 model for everyone. With lots of loft and grind options, there are 23 different combinations available to suit any swing style and course condition.
|SM7 Lofts available:
46°, 48°, 50°, 52°, 56°, 58°, 60°. 62°
Full Sole: F, S, K – Heel/Toe Relief: M, D, L
Tour Chrome, Brushed Steel, Jet Black
Short Game guru Dave Pelz once said that “he who rules the short game collects the gold.” He made that statement after extensive research had revealed just how significant the short game is on the scores of golfers at every level, concluding that this aspect of golf can make or break your entire game.
With so much riding on your short game, it makes sense that you should take seriously the task of choosing the types of golf wedges you will carry in your bag. Pay attention to the gapping concept that we discussed so that you will eliminate the possibility of facing uncomfortable yardages for which you don’t have the right tool.
Start by figuring out the loft of your pitching wedge, and then fill out your complement of wedges in 4 or 5-degree intervals. And take a serious look at the wedge models we’ve recommended. They can make a big difference in the quality of your shotmaking…and on your overall score.