The advent of the lob wedge has made some of golf's toughest shots a lot easier. Featuring a typical loft of 60°, and available up to 64°, the lob wedge is ideal for hitting high, soft shots that stop very quickly.
As a specialty club, the lob wedge (aka an “L” wedge) is designed to handle specific situations. For instance, if you're just off the green but must pitch over a bunker or thick rough to a pin that's very close to the green's edge; facing a shot from 60 yards or less that must carry a hazard and land softly; playing a sand shot where you're forced to clear a steep face directly in front of you; or confronted with a shot over trees.
Because it's the shortest, most-lofted club in the bag, the lob wedge is relatively easy to hit solidly. Still, some players struggle because they decelerate the swing or position the ball improperly in their stance.
Here are a few keys that generally work any time you're hitting the lob wedge:
- Set up with the ball in the middle of your stance and your weight distributed evenly on both feet.
- At address, the shaft should be perpendicular to the ground or leaning ever so slightly toward the target.
- The clubface should be square to slightly open.
- Focus on accelerating through the ball. A good trick is to make the follow-through longer than your backswing. For example, if you swing back to where the left arm is parallel to the ground, swing through to a full finish.
- The left hand leads the downswing, which keeps the shaft leaning forward and promotes a mildly descending blow.
- Trust the club's loft. If struck solidly, a lob wedge shot will shoot very high off the clubface with plenty of spin and stop almost immediately after landing. In other words, there's no reason to swing tentatively for fear of going too long.
Learn to use the lob wedge and it will become more than just a utility club. It will be a real weapon.
Tips to Turn Your Lob Wedge into a Weapon
The lob wedge is one of the most versatile and useful clubs that you have in your bag. Whether your lob wedge happens to be 58* or 60* doesn't make much of a difference - you should be able to create a variety of shots with this club regardless of the specific loft. Professional golfers get plenty of use out of their lob wedges during nearly every round that they play, but it is important to realize that plenty of practice time goes into learning these shots before they put them into action on the course. If you want to get maximum production from your lob wedge, you must be willing to invest a portion of each practice session into developing your skills with this crucial club.
When you think about the lob wedge, the first shot you think of is probably the flop shot. This is the one that always impresses the crowd when it is used by the professionals, as it sends the ball way up into the air from just a short distance away from the target. As fun as it is to watch a perfectly executed flop shot, this is just one of many shots that you can create when you pull your lob wedge from the bag. The goal, of course, is not to hit shots that look 'cool', but rather to hit shots that leave the ball close to the hole. All good golfers have a variety of shots that they are capable of hitting with each club, and that is certainly the case with the lob wedge.
If you spend time reading golf instruction in various places, you are probably tired of hearing how important the short game is to your score at the end of the round. While it might be repeated over and over again, it still remains just as true as it has always been. In order to lower your scores and reach your goals on the golf course, you are going to need to consistently improve your short game skills. Being a good short game player means you can use a variety of clubs to hit a variety of shots, depending on the situation at hand. Golf is a game that requires creativity and adaptation, as no two shots are ever exactly alike. You might think it sounds like more fun to spend your practice time on the range hitting drivers, but your time will be far better spent in the short game area. Make the effort to improve with your lob wedge, as well as the rest of your wedges, and you will find that par and birdie opportunities present themselves more often than ever before.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Trust Factor
One of the biggest problems that is faced by the average golfer when they decide to hit a lob wedge shot is simply the trust factor. When you look down at your lob wedge at address, you will see that the face of the club is nearly pointing right back up at you. This appearance can be a little off-putting, especially at first. Visually, it seems as though the club is going to go right under the ball, or at least hit it directly up into your face. Of course, the loft on the club is around 60* usually, meaning there is plenty of angle to propel the ball forward toward the target – but it doesn't look that way to the inexperienced player. If you are going to be able to hit quality lob wedge shots on a regular basis, the first thing you need to do is get over this visual hurdle.
The best way to conquer your fear of the lob wedge is simply to get out onto the practice area and hit a few shots. With these shots, you should have nothing at all in your mind except the goal of hitting the ball solidly. Don't even bother to pick a target or visualize your shot before hand. There will be plenty of time to add those details later – for now, just find a place where you have room to hit some shots, and go for it. During this practice session, the goal is to build confidence and comfort with your lob wedge. Try hitting some full shots (assuming you have room) along with some shorter pitches and chips. You might be surprised at just how much confidence can be developed in just a single practice session.
Another piece of the puzzle that will help you develop trust in the lob wedge is understanding that you need to hit down on this club (most of the time) just like any of your other irons. Assuming you are hitting a basic lob wedge shot into the green, you will want to strike down on the back of the ball to impart spin and cause the ball to rise up into the air. There are a couple of specialty shots where you won't be hitting down, but those will be covered later in this article. For now, it will be best to think about hitting down on the ball when you swing a lob wedge. Once you learn how it feels to hit down aggressively through a lob wedge shot, you will likely find that you are no longer afraid of this helpful club.
So what should you do if you have gone through a couple of practice sessions as described above and you still can't get comfortable with this club? Try moving down one wedge in your set and spend some practice time with that club to build up your confidence in hitting wedge shots in general. You probably have a wedge in your bag that is only a few degrees less-lofted than the lob wedge, so work on developing your skills with that one first. As you get more and more confidence with your gap wedge or sand wedge, you can then start to once again hit some lob wedge shots. Despite the difference in loft, you really don't have to do anything different with your technique in order to move between these two clubs successfully. If you can hit once wedge properly, you should certainly be able to hit the other. Hopefully, with the proper amount of practice using a lower-lofted wedge, your lob wedge will suddenly seem far easier to manage.
Get a Great Number
You lob wedge is not only useful around the greens, of course, but also out in the fairway where you can use it to hit accurate approach shots from short range. Depending on the power and style of your golf swing, you should be able to hit a lob wedge anywhere from 60-100 yards in the air, meaning it is a great weapon to set up birdie chances on short par 4's or par 5's where you have laid up after two shots. Holes where you have a lob wedge left into the green are going to be some of your best birdie chances all day long, so you want to be sure you are ready to capitalize on these opportunities.
One of the keys to hitting great lob wedge approach shots is having a clear number in mind for how far you can hit this club with a full swing from the fairway. It is relatively easy to get the ball on line from 60-100 yards away, so it will be a matter of distance control when trying to get the ball close to the hole. Hitting your lob wedge shots on line doesn't do you much good if you are 10 yards short or 10 yards long – you will only have good birdie looks when you become adept at dialing up the right distance time after time.
Unfortunately, hitting your lob wedge on the driving range isn't going to do you any good in terms of learning your yardage. Driving range balls don't react like regular golf balls, so watching where your ball lands on the range isn't a good indication of how far it will fly on the course. It is still worth your time to practice your swing on the range, but don't think that you can use the distance information from the practice range when you get out onto the course. Instead, you are going to have to learn your distances as you go by carefully keeping track of how far you hit every lob wedge shot played from a fairway lie. It may take a few rounds before you have hit enough shots to settle on a distance, so write them down as you go. Once you have logged 10 or 15 full swing lob wedge shots with their corresponding distances, you should have a great idea for how far this club is capable of hitting the golf ball.
It doesn't particularly matter what your number happens to be with the lob wedge, as long as you have it in mind every time you pull this club from the bag for an approach shot. For some players, the number might be 65 yards, for others it may be 95 or 100. Don't feel badly about your game if you don't hit your lob wedge as far as some other players – there is no advantage to be gained by hitting a long lob wedge. As long as you know how far you are going to hit this club, you can knock the ball close to the hole and set up birdies time after time.
There are two main ways in which your game can benefit from knowing your yardage with a lob wedge. They are as follows –
- Lay up target. When you decide that you can't reach the green with the shot you are about to hit – or you decide that reaching the green would be too risky – you will have to lay up. While a lay up is generally seen as an easy shot, that isn't always the case. There are frequently hazards which guard lay up areas, and picking a target to lay up to can be a challenge. However, when you have a perfect distance in mind for your lob wedge, you can use that number as your lay up target. So, for example, let's say that you have determined that 80 yards is your perfect number with the lob wedge. If your ball is currently 250 yards from the hole, you will know that you need to hit the current shot 170 yards in order to leave yourself 80 for the next shot. With that simple math out of the way, you can pull your 170-yard club from the bag and make a good swing. Even if you don't land right on 80 with your lay up, you should be close enough to leave an easy lob wedge into the green.
- Avoiding hazards. If you are facing an approach shot into a green that is guarded by a variety of hazards, you need to be sure in your yardage so you can keep your ball safely on the grass. This is particularly important if the green is protected by water – even a slight miscalculation in your yardage could lead to multiple strokes being added to your score. For instance, picture an approach shot of 80 yards where there is a pond in front of the green. While you have 80 to reach the hole, you also have 75 just to carry the water. So, should you pull your lob wedge and fire away, since 80 yards is your perfect number with that club? Not necessarily. Knowing that a normal swing will send the ball 80 yards in the air, it wouldn't take much of a miss-hit to come up short and put the ball in the water. Instead, consider using your gap wedge or sand wedge to play the ball slightly behind the hole. While this strategy might not allow you to hit the ball right next to the cup, it will keep your ball dry and keep those penalty strokes off of your card.
It is important to have a good number in mind with all of the clubs in your bag, but it is particularly crucial when talking about your wedges. If you want your lob wedge to become a real weapon that can set you up for pars and birdies, you will need to know exactly how far you are going to hit it time after time. Keep detailed notes each time you hit this club on the course and you should soon know exactly what to expect from a full swing lob wedge shot.
Short Game Variety
There are two general schools of thought when it comes to chipping the golf ball. Some people think you should chip with as little loft as possible while still carrying the ball onto the green, while others think you should use your most-lofted club and fly the ball up close to the hole. In reality, neither of these 'camps' is wrong or right – you should use whatever method it is that allows you to get the ball consistently close to your target. Some players are better at the bump-and-run style, while others excel by putting the ball in the air. Whatever it is that comes naturally to you, master that technique and use it as frequently as possible.
Learning how to chip with your lob wedge will greatly improve your overall short game. That isn't to say that you have to always chip with this club – far from it. You can certainly hit chip shots with other, less-lofted clubs as well, but you want to at least have the ability to chip and pitch with your lob wedge when necessary. Using a lob wedge to hit short shots will enable you to get the ball up into the air quickly, and then stop it quickly when it comes back down. In certain circumstances, this ability is absolutely essential if you hope to get the ball up and down.
To hit a basic chip shot with your lob wedge, you don't need to change anything from your normal chipping technique. You can use the same stance and grip that you would use when chipping with a pitching wedge, for example, and then use the same mechanics to hit the shot. You will need to swing harder to carry the same distance since there is more loft on the club, but the underlying technique remains constant. With some practice, you should quickly become comfortable with using your lob wedge to chip the ball right up next to the hole.
When you want to hit a flop shot, however, things begin to change a little bit. A flop shot is a short game shot which sends the ball directly up into the air, only to bring it straight down – hopefully near the hole. Flop shots are inherently risky, so they should only be used when no other good option exists. Even the world's best golfers would rather hit something other than a flop shot, simply due to the degree of difficulty associated with this method.
To hit a flop, you need to address the ball with an open stance and the face of the wedge laying open on the ground. Don't get shy about opening the face, either – if you are going to hit the ball up into the air, the face of the wedge needs to be laying wide open. With your stance taken, the only thing left to do is swing hard and send the head of the wedge cutting right under the ball. Think of this shot as being somewhat like a bunker shot – you want to throw the club head under the ball and just barely clip the bottom of it on the way by. When done correctly, the ball will pop straight up into the air and only travel a short distance forward before landing softly on the green.
The risks involved with hitting a flop shot include going right under the ball, or hitting it thin and sending it flying over the green. Therefore, before attempting this play, you will need to look at the course around you and decide if the risk is worth the reward. If you aren't confident that you can pull the shot off successfully, the best choice is to play a safer shot and avoid major damage to your card.
Fall in Love
It is great to have one club in your bag that you just love to use whenever possible, and making that club your lob wedge could help you save strokes in each and every round. You want to have a club that you can turn to when you find your ball in a bad spot, and those bad spots are usually somewhere around the green.
While it is great to have confidence in your driver, the driver actually isn't going to help your scoring nearly as much as a lob wedge, when used correctly. Too many players focus on their driver as their main weapon of choice on the course, but the driver will never set up birdie opportunities the way a lob wedge can. In a golf match between a player with a great driver and a player who has mastered their lob wedge, pick the wedge player every single time.
The only way to 'fall in love' with your lob wedge is to use it as much as possible, both in practice and on the course. As you gain experience with this club, you will likely find more and more ways in which you can put it to use. In fact, you may be able to discover new shots that you can produce with your lob wedge that you didn't even know were possible before.
Take the time to develop a trusting relationship with your lob wedge and there is a great chance that your scores will start falling in the very near future.