Wedges are generally divided into four separate categories. They begin with the pitching wedge, typically part of any basic golf set, then progress to the gap wedge, the sand wedge and finally the lob wedge. These wedges are equipped with the shortest shafts and the highest lofts. Generally, the four types of wedges are categorized specifically by loft, ranging from 48 to 60 degrees. Within these four categories, there are definitive features that also vary, including variations in length and the bottom surface or sole of the club, a feature that is referred to as bounce (the angle of the sole measured against a horizontal line).
The Two Standards
As noted, most standard golf sets come equipped with a pitching wedge. Generally speaking, the pitching wedge will offer a loft of 45 to 48 degrees with the most common being 48 degrees. The first added club for most players is the sand wedge. The sole and design may vary from club to club, but the sand wedge typically is equipped with a loft of 56 degrees. Because of the discrepancy in loft between these two clubs, most players find the distance variations of these clubs to be twice that of the difference between the nine-iron and the pitching wedge.
Two Additional Options
Given that many players prefer to execute a full swing over a half- or three-quarter effort, the next wedge purchase tends to be the gap wedge. The name comes from the simple fact that this club splits the difference between the pitching and sand wedge lofts. Filling that gap with a wedge with a 52-degree loft eliminates the two-club difference that most players experience between their pitching and sand wedges. In addition, players can opt to vary the bounce, or base angle of the sole of the club, from that of a sand wedge, depending on their preferences. For those looking to execute the flop shot, made famous by Phil Mickelson, the lob wedge is the next item of interest. Generally offered at 60 degrees, this club provides incredible loft, allowing golfers to use a nearly full swing right up near the green, with the ball going high in the air and thus landing softly.
While the pitching wedge is generally part of the basic golf set, players often purchase these additional wedges individually or in certain combinations. Today, many players opt for a three-wedge packet that includes matching gap, sand and lob wedges. Remember your club limit. If you do decide to include both a gap and lob wedge, you will need to take a look at which other clubs you are going to remove from your bag.