Granted, lofting short, high, soft pitches over bunkers or to narrow landing spots is the lob wedge's raison d'etre. It's practically a necessity if you play courses with fast, firm greens where you face a variety of short game challenges.
But if you limit use of the lob wedge (aka “L” wedge) to a 10-yard circle around the green, you may be, ahem, short-siding yourself. Depending on your swing speed and skill level, it can be a deadly weapon from as far out as 80-90 yards.
To get maximum utility from your L wedge, first determine exactly how far you can hit it with a normal stance and smooth, full swing. This may be 50, 60 or 75 yards, though some golfers can squeeze nearly 100 yards from theirs.
Let's say you come up with 70 yards as your max. Playing a full shot from this distance with your L wedge is a whole lot easier than backing off on a sand wedge or gap wedge and trying to gauge it just right. Likewise, a pitch from 50-60 yards becomes simpler with an L wedge in hand. Just grip down an inch or two and make a normal swing. The ball will fly a little lower than usual and hit the green with plenty of spin.
If you carry a sand wedge with lots of bounce (at least 10°), the lob wedge can be a great alternative when conditions are firm. This is true in fairways and bunkers, where the bounce on your sand wedge can cause the club to literally bounce off a hard surface and blade the ball. The typical L wedge features 5-8° of bounce and will slide more easily between ball and turf, or into hard, wet sand.
Maybe you've decided against getting a lob wedge because you felt it had limited use. Or maybe you carry one, but only pull it in obvious situations.
Give it a chance and you'll discover how versatile – and valuable – this club can be.
How to Get the Most from Your Lob Wedge
Believe it or not, the lob wedge is one of the most versatile clubs in your bag. While it might seem like it would be limited in uses due to its tremendous amount of loft, there are actually many different shots you can play with this club. Since you are only allowed 14 total clubs in your bag during a round of golf, it is important to know how to use each club to its maximum capability. Once you learn how to put your lob wedge into action in a variety of different ways, you will see just how effective this club can be as a scoring weapon.
In this article, we are going to cover many different topics with regard to the use of your lob wedge. We will touch on a variety of different shots you can hit with this club, in addition to offering some tips on how to swing it effectively. Also, we will go into the topic of club selection, helping you decide when the time is right to reach for your most-lofted club. While the lob wedge is certainly a versatile club, it is not always the right stick for the job – by the end of this article, you should have a good idea for when it should be put to use, and when it should be left in the bag.
If you are anything like most other amateur golfers, you have a bit of fear in the back of your mind when it comes to the use of the lob wedge. Due to the significant amount of loft on this club, many golfers are afraid they will be unable to hit the ball cleanly. After all, the club does offer a bit of a strange look at address. However, it is actually quite easy to hit if you just trust your swing and move through the ball with confidence. No, you are never going to hit this club very far, but that isn't the point. The lob wedge isn't meant to help you produce significant distances. Rather, it is meant to help you get the ball up in the air quickly so you can bring your shots to stop shortly after they land. When control and precision are required, few clubs can do the job quite as nicely as a lob wedge.
The best way to get over any fear you may have regarding the use of your lob wedge is to simply practice with this club as often as possible. By gaining experience, you will find there is nothing at all to be afraid of – and you will quickly come to love this club for what it can do for your game. Whether you are practicing full swings on the range or chip shots in the short game area, put the lob wedge in your hands on a regular basis.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Many Options
As mentioned in the introduction, there are many options for shots you can hit with your lob wedge. In fact, it could be argued that this is the most versatile club in the bag, although your other wedges could battle for that title as well. Of course, you won't be able to utilize the versatility of your lob wedge if you don't know what shots it is capable of producing. That is the point of this section – we are going to highlight a number of handy shots you can play with this club, provided you are willing to put in a bit of practice time and effort.
Below, please find a list of some of the most useful lob wedge shots.
- A full shot. Of course, you can hit a full shot with your lob wedge anytime you happen to find yourself with an appropriate distance to the target. Long hitters may be able to hit their lob wedge in excess of 100 yards, but most amateurs will fall somewhere in the range of 60 – 80 yards. It is important to make a comfortable, smooth swing with this wedge – don't try to force the shot farther than it wants to travel with regular effort. If you swing extra hard at your lob wedge, you are only going to create excess backspin and a ballooning ball flight. Stay within yourself, make a rhythmic swing, and accept whatever distance such a swing is going to provide.
- A chip shot. As you would expect, you can certainly chip the golf ball with your lob wedge as well. Since it has such a significant amount of loft, chipping with your lob wedge is ideal when you need to stop the ball quickly after it lands. For instance, if you are short sided with only a small amount of green to work with on your chip, consider using your lob wedge. You can land the ball just onto the edge of the green, and thanks to the loft of the club, the shot should stop rather quickly after the first bounce. It does take some time to learn how to chip reliably with a lob wedge, so this is not a shot you should try on the course before first testing it out in practice.
- The flop shot. In addition to a standard chip shot, you can also hit a flop shot with your lob wedge. A flop shot is a short game shot which is played with a big swing, intended to toss the ball high up into the air. This shot is going to be deployed when you really need to stop the ball fast – such as when you are chipping to a downslope with little green to work with. There are inherent risks that come along with the flop shot, however, since it is difficult to execute and can go badly wrong when you make a mistake. Only skilled players should put this shot into play, and even then, those players should only use it when absolutely necessary. It is best to think of the flop shot as an option that you can use only when all other options have been ruled out.
- A greenside bunker shot. Despite the fact that this club does not carry the 'sand wedge' name, it can certainly be used for greenside bunker shots. You will still want to use your traditional sand wedge most of the time from the sand, but your lob wedge can help you out when extra height is needed. If your ball has come to rest right up near the front of the bunker, for example, the lob wedge might be the right club to help you get out of the trap in a single swing. Lay the face of your lob wedge wide open and make an aggressive swing – you will create a shot which leaves the bunker at an incredibly steep angle. It is hard to cover much horizontal distance with this play, so only consider your lob wedge on relatively short bunker shots.
- A pitch out of the trees. One interesting way you can put your lob wedge to use is playing a pitch out back into the fairway. If you have hit a poor tee shot on a particular hole, you may find your ball in a tough spot with not shot to the green. Should you happen to need to get the ball up and over some obstacles to return to the fairway, the lob wedge could be the perfect option. Most golfers think first about playing the ball low to the ground when pitching out of trouble, but that isn't always a possibility. If the low route is blocked, look up into the air to see if you can find a path back into play.
- A bump from the collar. The last shot on our list is the one you will likely use the least. However, it is helpful to know of the existence of this shot, as it can bail you out when the time is right. If you find your ball resting up against the rough while sitting on the fringe, you might not be able to chip the shot normally. Also, you won't be able to use your putter, because the flat face of the putter would get caught up in the grass behind the ball. To deal with this shot, use your lob wedge and intentionally hit the ball thin. You are going to 'belly' the shot toward the hole using the leading edge of the club. This kind of shot will come out quickly, so it only takes a small swing to reach the target. As is the case with the other shots on this list, you should practice the lob wedge bump before putting it into action.
It should be clear by this point that there are many possibilities for your lob wedge when on the golf course. You don't have to limit yourself to just full swings and basic chip shots – once you learn how to use this club properly, you can create a variety of shots in many different situations.
Full Swing Keys
If you are one of the many amateur golfers who struggles to hit your lob wedge solidly, this section should help you get over that hump. Usually, it is a mental challenge – rather than a physical one – which stands in the way on this point. Once you understand a few important swing keys to keep in mind with the lob wedge, you should be able to produce quality swings in short order.
Review the following list and think about these points during your next practice session.
- You must hit down. This is the point which gives the amateur player the most trouble. There is something about the significant loft of the lob wedge which causes players to want to scoop the ball up into the air. That is, of course, the wrong way to go about this swing. Because there is so much loft, you can hit down on the ball while still producing a high flight. Also, if you want backspin to help you stop the shot, hitting down is imperative.
- Place the ball in the middle of your stance. To make it as easy as possible to hit down through impact, you need to have the ball in the correct location in your stance. That location is perfectly halfway between your right foot and left foot. If you go too far forward of the center of your stance, it will be nearly impossible to hit down properly. Or, if you go too far back, you will have to scoop the shot just to get the ball off the ground. Stick with a center ball position and trust your swing mechanics to do the rest.
- Don't rush. The lob wedge is the shortest club in your bag, and as a result, it requires the shortest swing. However, you don't have to rush through the action just because you are making a short swing. Instead, take your time and let the swing build naturally, just as it should with all of the other clubs in your bag. Rhythm is always important in golf, and that is certainly true when it comes to the lob wedge.
There is nothing crazy that needs to be done in order to create solid shots with your lob wedge. As long as you stick to the same basics you use when swinging any other club, you should be fine. If the visual effect of the club's loft tends to get in your head, spend plenty of time hitting this club on the practice range until you build up your level of confidence. Knowing you can hit a solid shot with your lob wedge from back in the fairway will give you a great weapon to set up birdie opportunities.
Tips on Club Selection
Club selection is an important skill no matter where on the golf course you happen to be standing. When it comes to your lob wedge, you need to know when the time is right to put this club into action, and when you would be better off going in another direction. Using the wrong club can take an easy shot and make it difficult – and it can take a difficult shot and make it downright impossible.
As a general rule of thumb, your club selection decisions should be based on the principle of keeping the ball as close to the ground as possible. In other words, you want to get the ball back on the ground as quick as you can, while still hitting a shot that is going to put your ball in good position. Sometimes, you will be able to land the ball well short of the target, bouncing it up the rest of the way. In other cases, you will have to fly your shot almost all the way to the hole, using both loft and spin to stop the ball in its tracks.
Obviously, this idea of keeping the ball down is going to limit how often you use your lob wedge. For instance, when chipping from the side of the green, it is usually better to reach for a pitching wedge than a lob wedge, assuming you have enough green to work with. Lower shots are simply more predictable and easier to repeat than higher shots, giving you a better chance at success. Also, on longer shots, playing the ball as low as possible will limit the effects of the wind, which is always a good thing.
You don't want to think of your lob wedge as the default option when you get close to the green. It should not be the first club you reach for automatically, as there are easier clubs to use when the circumstances allow. With that said, you do need to be prepared to use your lob wedge, as plenty of chances to employ this club are sure to arise. When you find your ball in a tough spot with very little green to work with, the lob wedge can be your best friend. Be smart about your club selection, opt to keep the ball down whenever possible, and be ready to use the lob wedge when it is the best choice on the table.
There are a few more lob wedge-related tips which need to be mentioned before we finish this discussion. Please review the list below to round out your education on this important club.
- Pick the right loft. To most golfers, the term 'lob wedge' is going to refer to a club which has either 58* or 60* of loft. While that might not seem like a big gap, you can play slightly different shots depending on which one you select. Try both before making a purchase and pick the one which feels most comfortable in your hands. If you plan on using this club a lot in your short game, it would be best to opt for the 58* model, as it will be slightly more versatile. Also, if you are a relatively short hitter, having the 58* in your bag will give you a few more yards on your full swing shots – and those yards could be rather helpful.
- Keep it clean. You need to do a good job of maintaining the condition of your lob wedge as you make your way around the course. The nature of this club is such that you are going to take a divot on nearly every swing – meaning the club will need to be wiped off, and the grooves will need to be cleaned out. Your lob wedge will be unable to live up to its potential if you leave it dirty, so be consistent about cleaning it off as you go. As an added bonus, you will get a longer life span from the club when you clean it during your rounds, so you won't have to pull out your credit card to purchase a new wedge anytime soon.
- Consider a matching set. You are probably going to carry at least three wedges in your bag, if not four. With that being the case, consider picking up a set of wedges from the same manufacturer for the sake of consistency. Wedge shots include a lot of feel, and your feel should be improved if you are swinging the same club no matter which loft you have selected. This is not a requirement by any means, but it is a tip which may offer you a small edge.
- Splash it out of the rough. When you find your ball sitting down in some long rough, consider using your lob wedge to play a shot that is similar to the explosion shot you use from a greenside bunker. To play the shot, open up the face of the wedge and make a big swing. As long as you stay down through the shot properly, the ball should pop up out of the grass and – hopefully – wind up on the green. You would obviously prefer to avoid the long rough altogether, but this play can help you escape when you do find trouble.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of the lob wedge in your set of clubs. Are you going to use it as often as your driver or your putter? No – of course not. However, you will find yourself reaching for it on plenty of occasions, especially when you find your ball in a tough spot around the green. Learn how to use your lob wedge effectively and you should begin to save par far more frequently than ever before. Whether being used back in the fairway for an approach shot, or around the greens for an up and down save attempt, the lob wedge is a club you would not want to be without. Good luck!