Complete Buyer's Guide to Golf Wedges

By Todd Mrowice

TaylorMade Milled Grind 3 Chrome wedges

Golf wedges are referred to by many as your "scoring clubs." That should tell you all you need to know about how important your wedges are. Yet golfers too often overlook their wedges in the sea of drivers, irons, and putters. 

With varying lofts, bounces, grinds, uses and names, wedges are some of the most difficult clubs to understand. To help you make a smart wedge purchase, here is the complete buyer's guide to golf wedges.

The 4 Types of Wedges

Every wedge has a purpose, and understanding each wedge's specific purpose helps you put the optimal wedge setup in your bag. The four golf wedges are the Pitching Wedge, Gap Wedge (also known as the Approach Wedge), Sand Wedge and Lob Wedge.

Wedge Loft Range (degrees) Average Length (inches)
Pitching Wedge 44-49 35.75
Gap Wedge 47-52 35.5
Sand Wedge 54-58 35.25
Lob Wedge 58-65 35

Pitching Wedge

A pitching wedge is the lowest lofted wedge and bridges the gap from your irons to your wedges. More than likely, your pitching wedge is an extension of your iron set.

The average loft of a pitching wedge is between 44 and 49 degrees. Pitching wedge loft has gone down in recent years as more club manufacturers have begun making strong-lofted iron sets that produce more distance.

You can choose to purchase the pitching wedge that's a continuation of your iron set, or you can find a wedge with the ideal loft to fill that spot.

Types of shots you can hit with a pitching wedge include:

  • Full-swing
  • Knockdown
  • Bump-and-run

Pitching wedge tip:

  • A pitching wedge is a great club choice to start your warmup session. You can easily transition from hitting half shots to full-swing shots as you get loose.

Gap Wedge

The gap wedge didn't exist until relatively recently. Sets went straight from the pitching wedge to the sand wedge, and that was all. As club-makers began de-lofting irons, that created a domino effect that extended all the way to the pitching wedge. That trend created massive void in many players' golf bags between a typical 45-degree pitching wedge and a 56-degree sand wedge.

That's when manufacturers began filling the loft gap with the appropriately-named gap wedge. A gap wedge is also known as an approach wedge and is typically stamped with a "G" or an "A" when it's a continuation of an iron set. If the gap wedge is sold individually or as part of a separate wedge set, it's more likely to be stamped with its loft.

The industry standard for gap wedge loft, at one point, was 52 degrees but that has become much stronger in recent years. Today, you'll find manufacturers such as Titleist and Callaway going as low as 47 or 48 degrees with their gap wedges, depending on the particular iron set. In any case, your gap wedge should bridge the gap between your pitching wedge and sand wedge.

Types of shots you can hit with a gap wedge include:

  • Full-swing
  • Half-swing
  • Higher bump-and-run

Gap wedge tip:

  • A solid understanding of how far you hit a full gap wedge shot will pay dividends every round.

Sand Wedge

The sand wedge was invented to, surprisingly, get you out of the sand. Golfers began to realize that a higher lofted club was required to shovel golf balls out of sand traps. Today, sand wedges are more versatile, allowing players to hit a wide variety of shots, including full shots into greens and precision shot-game shots.

The average loft of a sand wedge is between 54 and 58 degrees, depending on the manufacturer. It's always a wise decision to properly gap this loft evenly from your gap wedge.

Types of shots you can hit with a sand wedge:

  • Full-swing
  • Half-swing
  • Bunker shots
  • Flop shots
  • Pitch and chip shots around the green

Sand wedge tip:

If you learn how to open the face of your sand wedge to manipulate your trajectory, spin and stopping power, you can eliminate the need for a lob wedge from your wedge set makeup.

Lob Wedge

The lob wedge's usefulness is the most debated of all the wedges. As mentioned above, if you're able to play precision shots by opening the face of your sand wedge, you can eliminate the need for a lob wedge. Others content that a lob wedge is too difficult for the average amateur player to use every round.

The lob wedge is the highest lofted wedge available, spanning from 58 to 65 degrees of loft, and 60-degree lob wedges are the most popular.

Types of shots you can hit with a lob wedge:

  • Full-shots
  • Bunker shots
  • Flop shots
  • Getting over obstacles. Example: a bunker between you and the hole.

Lob wedge tip:

Always let the natural loft setting do the work for you.

Assembling Your Wedge Makeup

To determine how you should assemble your wedge set, you should first figure out the loft of your irons, including any pitching wedge or gap wedges that are included in your iron set. The next item of business is to determine how many wedges you want. Would you rather have all four wedges available, or opt for only three, which might allow you an extra distance club like a 7-wood or hybrid at the other end of your bag.

Then the fun begins. It's time to start shopping.

Start With Your Iron Set

Let's start by looking at your iron set. If you're not sure the loft of your irons, type the exact brand and model with "lofts" into a Google search. Note the loft gap between each short iron and any wedges included in your set. Your pitching wedge should transition evenly into your gap wedge.

For example, a set of Titleist 620 CB irons has four degrees of loft difference between every iron from the 27-degree 5-iron to the 47-degree pitching wedge. If you wanted to complete a four-piece wedge set with these irons  you might consider a 52-degree gap wedge, 56-degree sand wedge, and a 60-degree lob wedge. 

Finally, make sure you know exactly how far you hit your pitching wedge, and keep that distance at the top of your mind as you test additional wedges. If you hit your current 47-degree pitching wedge 125 yards and can only hit a 52-degree gap wedge 100 yards, you may need a stronger gap wedge in order to ensure you have a club you can hit reliably from 110-115 yards out. 

Individual wedges usually come on even lofts, but you can easily have a wedge bent 1-degree to perfectly align with your gapping needs if desired. We recommend you have your lofts checked by a certified club fitter to be sure it hasn't changed due to regular play.

Extra Wood or Extra Wedge?

The number of wedges you carry in your bag depends on the number of woods you decide to carry. It's you to you to determine which is a better use of your 14th club. 

Depending on your set makeup, your skill set, and the demands of the course you typically play, most players choose between a gap wedge and an extra wood or hybrid. One determining factor can make this decision easier is distance.

  • Longer hitters: You normally have short irons in your hands when hitting your approach shots. Take the extra wedge to add versatility into and around the greens.
  • Shorter hitters: You normally have longer irons on approach shots. Tkae the extra fiarway wood or hybrid instead of the wedge to allow yourself more options to get closer to the green on your approaches.

Determine Your Brand(s)

As we mentioned earlier, most stock wedges come in even-numbered lofts from 50 to 60 degrees, and a club technician can easily bend your wedges a degree if your needs call for it. Therefore, you should have no problem building a set of wedges that compliment your irons, regardless of the brand. If you're the type of person who wants every club in the bag to match, you may be eliminating some very high quality wedges from consideration.

If you choose to mix and match golf club brands, just be sure you've done your research so you know all of your lofts are properly gapped.

Different Aspects of Wedges

We already went over loft, but there are several other aspects of wedges that you should consider when constructing your perfect wedge set. Did you know that the course conditions where you typically play can influence which grind, bounce, and head design is ideal for you? That might sound really granular, but here's how it makes a difference.

Bounce

TaylorMade Milled Grind 3 Black sole

The leading edge of a wedge and the lowest point of the sole create an angle, which is referred to as a wedge's bounce. When you strike the golf ball, the bounce is the area that interacts with the turf or sand. Wedge bounce is determined by how high that leading edge is off of the ground.

  • Low-Mid bounce wedges: Wedges between 4 and 10-degrees or less of bounce. Low-mid bound wedges reduce the chance of thin shots and typically work better on tighter turf and sand. Players with steeper attack angles who take bigger divots should look to a low bounce.
  • High bounce wedges: Any wedge with over 10-degrees of bounce. High bound wedges are designed to pop through more lush grass and sand that's deep and soft. Players with more shallow attack angles who take smaller divots should consider a high bounce wedge.

Grind

TaylorMade wedge with Grind 3

A wedge's "grind" is the shape of its sole. Custom grind options vary from each manufacturer. Grind affects the way the sole of the wedge interacts with the turf. By removing material from the sole, it allows the wedge to further work in tandem with the bounce.

Using Titleist and its Vokey wedges as an example, the company offers six different grind options for players to choose from depending on their own bounce preferences and typical turf conditions. Be sure to consult the manufacturer's suggestions before determining which grind is best for you, given your attack angle, turf conditions and the types of shots you want to hit with your wedges.

Head Design

The head design on wedges have changed a lot in recent years. There are three main types for you to choose from.

Traditional: This is a standard wedge clubhead. Traditional wedges appear the most similar to your irons but are slightly smaller and more compact.

Game Improvement: There are several wedge lines available today which have wider soles and cater to players who need additional help getting the ball in the air or out of a bunker. These wedges are likely larger in size than traditional wedges.

High Toe: Manufacturers such as TaylorMade, Wilson, and PING have brought back wedge designs with full-face of grooves that extend all the way up to the toe of the clubhead.

Where You Play

Depending on what region you play most of your golf in, your wedges should match those course conditions.

Firm conditions: Areas of the country that don't get as much rain such as the desert of the southwest should consider wedges with less bounce.

Soft conditions: Places like the midwest and northeast U.S. have softer conditions due to heavier rainfall. A wedge with higher bounce would be most useful in thhose regions.

When is it Time to Replace Your Wedges?

Wedges are designed to be precision clubs, but you can't be precise with your wedges once the grooves are worn. So how often should you replace your wedges, and how do you know when it's time?

The main thing to keep an eye out for is the condition of the grooves on your wedges. Over time, those softer, more vulnerable grooves deteriorate, and inconsistencies arise. Having sharp grooves that are in good condition always leads to optimal spin and performance around the green. If your wedge grooves are damaged, aged, or just plain worn down from how much you play, it's time to replace them.

Conclusion

Wedges, in many instances, are your saviors on the golf course. You can hit bombs off of the tee and have a smooth putting stroke, but being able to chip, flop, and splash it close to the pin is as valuable as anything. It starts with having the right tools to do the job. We hope this guide helps you construct the best wedge set for your playing style.

About the Author

Todd Mrowice is a Staff Writer for GolfLink. He has been writing about golf for over 10 years including a long tenure at GOLFChicago Magazine. Todd has covered all aspects of the game including travel, products, business, and professional tours.