A Quick Guide to Understanding Wedges

    We’ve all heard the cliché, drive for show – putt for dough. There’s no question a hot putter can carry a golfer to a tournament win. For some reason, there is a lot less attention paid to a golfer’s wedge play. But, there’s a reason they call wedges the “scoring” clubs. With today’s players hitting it farther than ever, having a great wedge game has never been more important.

    Zach Johnson won the 2007 Masters on the strength of his wedge play. He famously laid up to all the par 5’s that week at Augusta and kept hitting the ball inside of 10 feet, making birdies the old-fashioned way. Former PGA Champion Rich Beem wasn’t the best ball-striker or putter, but his father taught him how being lights out from 75-125 yards could make up for a lot of shortcomings in the other aspects of his game.

    In the old-days, golfers used to carry a single wedge in their bag – the pitching wedge (known at the time as a “jigger”) and then, Gene Sarazen designed the sand-wedge and it became pretty standard for touring professionals to carry two wedges in their bag.

    Around 50 years later, in the 1980’s, short-game guru Dave Pelz and a few other science-minded club makers (including Karsten Solheim, the creator of Ping) began experimenting with wedges that had more loft and less bounce than the sand wedge. 1992 U.S. Open Champion Tom Kite was one of the first professionals to begin using an extra wedge.

    Solheim called his most-lofted wedge, which today can have as much as 64 degrees of loft, the “L-Wedge” which is how almost everyone in golf refers to this club today.

    Sometimes the terminology becomes confusing and we thought it might be nice to match up the different labels with their corresponding lofts and the pluses and minuses of carrying multiple wedges beyond the traditional pitching wedge, sand wedge combination.

    Most of the time, the lofts between these various wedges vary by 4 to 6 degrees – for example, a typical bag could contain:

  • Pitching Wedge: 46-48 degrees of loft
  • Gap Wedge: 52-54 degrees +/- 2 degrees
  • Sand Wedge: 55 degrees +/- 2 degrees
  • Lob Wedge: 60 degrees +/- 2 degrees
  • It is worth noting that the gap wedge began being developed when pitching wedge lofts were reduced from a standard of 50 degrees down to the current norm of 46 degrees. The development of the gap wedge meant that players now have up to four wedges they can carry in their bag.

    Depending on the golf course, most touring pros carry only three wedges, but a fair number of players will carry all four. The choice to carry a 4th wedge means a player has to give up a fairway wood, long-iron or hybrid club to stay under the 14-club limit. The fact that so many players are willing to do this, especially on certain courses, reinforces how important wedge play is in modern golf.