This is an article introducing the 5 types of golf wedges.
Golf is a game of 150 yards, particularly within 100 yards. Truth is, everyone can hit a driver when you’ve reached a certain level, it’s your chipping and putting that truly sets apart the good from the great golfers.
There’s a reason why Tiger Woods is so dominant in the sport, his putting and short game are hands down second the none on the Tour.
Knowing that the best golfers are the best wedge-users, we strongly encourage every golfer to learn about their shorter clubs, particularly how you should customize your set of wedges to optimize your playstyle.
So, let’s start with the 5 types of wedges available on the market, starting from the lowest loft to the highest (we’ll cover what loft is in a bit):
- The Pitching Wedge (PW)
- The Gap/ Approach Wedge (AW)
- The Sand Wedge (SW)
- The Lob Wedge (LW)
- The Golf Chipper (relatively new ‘wedge’)
Of course, we’re not just going to tell you what they are and end there! We’ll break down what each of these wedges does, their features, their build types, shaft, and all other features you need to know about a golf wedge.
Table of Contents
5 Type of Golf Wedges – A Golf Wedge Buying Guide
To assist you in the content below, here’s a sketch of the trajectory, height, and distance for the pitching wedge, the gap/approach wedge, the sand wedge, the lob wedge, and the golf chipper.
1. Pitching Wedge (PW)
Play Range: 100 to 120 yards
The pitching wedge is the most common wedge in a golf set, mainly because they come with every golf set or iron set you purchase.
It comes with a loft range of 44 to 48 degrees and is the farthest-hitting, least-spin-generating wedge you can get. This means shots with the PW will be lower and roll much more on the green, hence harder to control.
As a result, the PW is the least used wedge by golfers. In most cases, it’s often taken out of the bag or used specifically for the bump and run.
2. Gap/Approach Wedge (AW)
Play Range: 80 to 100 yards
The role of the gap wedge is to fill the traditional 8-degrees loft gap between the pitching wedge and sand wedge. The result of this is a well-controlled wedge that can hit beyond 100 yards.
The gap wedge has a loft range between 50 to 53 degrees. This allows golfers to take more aggressive approach shots from beyond 100 yards onto the green without worrying too much about the golf ball rolling out of the green.
The AW is also a good chipper if you’re looking for slightly more spin on the greens compared to chipping with a more backspin chipper like the Sand Wedge.
3. Sand Wedge (SW)
Play Range: 70 to 90 yards
The sand wedge is by far the most important wedge. It is the ideal golf club for the bunkers, for control on the greens, for green-side chipping, and pitching, you name it.
The sand wedge has a loft range between 54 to 58 degrees. This loft range makes the sand wedge easy to get the ball out of steep bunkers and is good for almost any bunker condition you can think of. Plus, the sand wedge gives enough roll (on the lesser side) which has been one of the ideal amounts for most golfers on their approaches to the green. Why they’re great for the sand is because they tend to have a fatter sole with a 10 to 12-degree bounce, making it for it to go through the sand without getting stuck.
4. Lob Wedge (LW)
Play Range: 60 to 70 yards
The lob wedge is like a double-edged sword, if you’re good with it, it can give you the most amount of control out of the bunkers or in chipping as it generates a ton of backspin. However, if you’re not consistent with your striking, and don’t understand your golf swing well, then you might hit more thin shots and flopped shots than any other golf club in your bag.
The lob wedge has a loft range between 60 to 64 degrees and is the only wedge that you likely will never see being included in a set of golf clubs.
5. Golf Chipper
Play Range: Greenside Chipping or within 30 yards
The golf chipper is technically a ‘wedge’. It’s a new style of wedges at least. Golf chippers have a lower loft range from 30 to 37 degrees and are used for the bump-and-run on greenside chips.
The bump-and-run sounds exactly like what it is, you take a short swing to bump the ball and have it run along the green to the hole. This is a rather simple chipping technique and that’s why so many beginners and elderly golfers love it, the only thing to be careful of is that the amount of roll from chippers will be relatively high. So, expect the golf ball to roll forward by quite a bit.
Which Wedge Should You Use?
It really depends on how far you are from the green and the type of shot you want to create as the ball lands on the green.
For example, if you’re 60 yards away from the hole and you’re hitting against the slope, then a lower loft Pitching Wedge may be more suitable than a Sand Wedge. Though a Pitching Wedge can hit far beyond 60 yards, in this situation, a half swing or even a ‘bump-and-run’ pitching wedge may be ideal.
With so many situations that may arise at the golf course, having at least 3 wedges in your bag is necessary. In fact, if you can fit 4 wedges, go for it. You want to make your short game as dynamic and flexible as possible, with no yardage gaps.
That said, if you’re a beginner, maybe just a Pitching Wedge and a Sand Wedge will do as having so many wedges in the bag is not practical if you don’t practice with all 4 of these wedges regularly. Get good with the Sand Wedge first and move on one at a time.
Is the Golf Chipper a Golf Wedge? Should You Have One?
Whether a chipper is a wedge or not doesn’t really matter, to us it is. What’s more important is whether you should be using one.
We mentioned earlier that having 4 wedges in your bag is reasonable. Since you can have a total of 14 clubs in your bag at a time, having 4 wedges should be your limit. If you want to use a chipper, we suggest you to replace your Pitching Wedge with it. Replacing your Pitching Wedge, however, may put you at risk at 120 yards. If you often find yourself 120 yards from the green and want to have a chipper in your bag for the bump-and-run, then consider learning to hit 120 yards with a 9-iron.
As long as you can make up for the 120 yards, then rest assured a golf chipper can be beneficial to your game when you’re approaching any green side chipping.
Cavity-back vs. Blade (Muscle-back) Wedges
There are two types of golf wedge builts, those are the cavity-back and the blade/ muscle-back styles.
Cavity- Backed Wedges
Cavity-backed wedges are wedges where the back of the club head has been hollowed intentionally to allow for more forgiveness.
With cavity-backs, golf manufacturers are able to distribute the weight of the club around the edges of the club face, a process also known as perimeter weighting. Doing so allows mishits off the toe or heel to allow the club to still remain relatively squared while delivering enough power to produce a relatively straight golf shot.
The downside to this design is that it offers less feedback and shot-shaping abilities. However, as a beginner, these features are not as important as forgiveness from mishits is what beginners and high handicappers often need more.
Blade Wedges (Muscle-Backs)
We’ve all heard of the ‘blades’ before. They’re the sexiest and most desirable golf clubs on the market.
That said, beginners and high handicappers should avoid buying these clubs as they demand consistency and don’t offer much forgiveness.
Unlike cavity-backed wedges, most of the weight of the club face is distributed at the center of the club face on bladed clubs. Therefore, shots off-center will result in poor-quality shots and the club face twisting on impact.
For professional golfers and lower handicappers, hitting the ball consistently dead-center is not really an issue. What matters more is a club’s shot-shaping versatility and feedback accuracy, which is what blade clubs offer.
Golf Wedge Buying Guide: Features You NEED to Know About Your Wedges
The most popular feature of a wedge is its loft, but what the heck is it?
Loft is the amount of tilt (in degrees) between a club face and an imaginary vertical line that’s positioned straight toward the ground. Essentially, the less loft a club has the steeper the club face relative to the ground.
For reference, the driver has the most loft when we’re excluding the putter. Additionally, the general rule is that the longer the club the less loft it has. At the same time, the more loft you get the easier it is to hit a ball and the more height you’ll get with it. Plus, more loft produces more backspin on the golf ball, allowing less roll which can be particularly beneficial for wedges where the objective is to get the ball as accurately on the green. However, all these benefits with more loft make a club lack distance. That’s why the driver and longer irons focus more on distance rather than accuracy.
Wedges have the most loft out of all the clubs in your golf bag. The reason for this is that wedges are used mostly during your short game (within 120 yards) where consistent and accurate golf shots are key. Hence, the easier it is the launch the golf ball and more spin on a high lofted club like a wedge is ideal.
We’ve outlined the lofts and relative distances for each of the 5 types of golf wedges above, but here it is again:
|Pitching Wedge (PW)||44 to 48 degrees||100-120 yards|
|Gap Wedge (AW)||50 to 53 degrees||80 to 100 yards|
|Sand Wedge (SW)||54 to 58 degrees||70 to 90 yards|
|Lob Wedge (LW)||60 to 64 degrees||60 to 70 yards|
|Golf Chipper||30 to 37 degrees||Greenside Chipping or within 30 yards|
Noticing a pattern? That’s where we’re going next.
Wedge Distance Gapping
If you looked at the table above, you should have noticed a pattern. That pattern shows that each of the 4 types of golf wedges (when excluding the chipper) has approximately a 4-degree difference between each of them. Why? To ensure that there is no yardage gap within 120 yards of your game, which can be the biggest factor when it comes to lowering your golf handicap.
A yardage gap is when there exists a certain yardage where you don’t have a club to hit for and varies for every golfer.
From our experience, this gap occurs mostly with a golfer’s wedges. That’s why ensuring a 4-degree difference between your wedges is a good idea to ensure you don’t have a gap in your pitching range.
If you don’t want 4 wedges, however, that’s fine. Just make sure you can somehow use your irons to make up for that missing wedge. This idea tends to be more practical for taller golfers or those who can hit the ball farther. How far? Far enough that you’re able to substitute an AW for the distance gap created by a missing PW. Or, take out the PW and learn to hit 110-120 yard chips with your 9-iron.
To make things simple, here’s how we’d layout our wedge composition:
- 48-degree PW
- 52-degree AW
- 56-degree SW
- 60-degree LW
- Golf Chipper
- 50-degree AW
- 54-degree SW
- 58-degree LW
- 48-degree PW
- 52-degree AW
- 56-degree SW
- Golf Chipper
- 50-degree AW
- 54-degree SW
- 58-degree LW
- 48-degree PW
- 52-degree AW
- 56-degree SW
Every combination has its own pros and cons. The first is our go-to option and a good benchmark to start with as it will help you understand which wedges you need. Compositions with a golf chipper are either you can hit far with an AW and prefer a chipper when you’re on the side of the green, and the second chipper option is to replace a LW for a chipper if you prefer a more forward roll on the greens. A three-wedge composition is fine too, just make sure you’re able to make up the yardage gaps and chip comfortably with the wedges you’ve got.
2. Bounce on Wedges
The ‘bounce’ of a wedge is kind of what it sounds like, specifically, it is the part of the wedge that makes contact with the turf and ‘bounces’ the club through the surface below the ball at impact.
How bounce on a golf club is measured is the angle between the sole of the club and the club face. The larger that angle, the more bounce that wedge has. However, don’t confuse this with the loft of the club which is the angle between the club face and the shaft.
The big picture is that a certain amount of bounce on a wedge is more suitable for different turf types (i.e. softness and material) and the type of turf can be affected by humidity, turf material, you name it. The goal is to have the right amount of bounce to prevent your wedges from digging into sand or turf to the point that it prevents the momentum of the club head from hitting through the golf ball.
And, how much bounce is best for a golfer depends on A) the turf you’re playing with and B) how you tend to hit the golf ball.
Bounce is generally categorized into three categories for wedges:
- Bounce angle between 4 to 6 degrees
- Best suited for Golfers who: take a shallower divot
- Turf Type: Firm and drier conditions
- Sand Type: Coarse and larger sand, heavier bunker
- Bounce angle between 7 to 10 degrees
- Best suited for Golfers who: prefer an all-rounded bounce setting
- Turf Type: Average in every condition
- Sand Type: Average in any bunker condition
- Bounce angle that’s more than 10 degrees
- Best suited for Golfers who: take deeper divots
- Turf Type: Best in softer/ more humid turf conditions
- Sand Type: Softer, fluffier bunkers are ideal for high-bounce wedges
3. Sole Grind for Wedges
Keeping up so far? Good! That said, if you’re a beginner or a high handicap golfer, you can skip this section as sole grind is a topic that is more for higher-skilled golfers.
Sole grind is the additional shaping of the heel or toe of the wedge. That’s the part that flat part that is in contact with the floor when you’re on your set-up. To do this, golf manufacturers literally grind the soles with a machine to change the shape of the sole of the wedge in order to suit specific players’ feel and shot, and the type of turf they tend to play with.
For instance, many golfers like grinding the heel of the wedge. In that case, golf manufacturers take a grinding machine to reduce material on the heel of that wedge. This helps the face of the wedge to sit lower to the ground, making it easier to stay open on your address.
Sole grind has a significant impact on the bounce of the wedge, it’s a complicated process. That may be for another article, but if you’re looking to change the sole grind of your wedge, then go to a fitting professional. And remember, once you grind your wedges, there’s no going back!
4. Shaft Guide for Wedges
Most stock shafts that you get from wedges come as the standard medium to heavy steel shaft and it is this stock shaft that also happens to be the ‘wedge’ flex of a wedge shaft. For amateur golfers, we’d say to just stick with the stock shaft.
Unlike most, we’d say that it’s not necessarily the case to have the same shaft as what you would have with your irons. Not to say that that idea isn’t viable, it is. But if you’re noticing that the same shaft type on your wedges is not working out for you, then it’s perfectly fine to shift to something different from the shaft you use on your irons.
If you have a faster golf swing, that tends to go out of control, siding with a heavier steel shaft is a good option on your wedges to slow your swing down and give you more control over your shots. If you want more speed on your golf swing so you can get your sand wedges farther then try a lighter shaft like a graphite shaft. If forgiveness is what you’re looking for, graphite shafts tend to be the better options, however, work it out a little on your own based on what we just said above.
5. Wedge Finishes
Wedges tend to come in different colors based on how it’s finished. Though I can’t tell you what the best finish is (as this is all based on your preference), the reason we brought up a wedge’s finish is that it plays a role in the wedge’s wear.
Chrome or Nickel finishes give a slightly gold-like color and maintain its coloration longer.
While raw/ default finishes (pure steel-like finish) wear quicker and tend to rust over time. Some say that this rust actually increases the spin of the golf ball. That’s where some people intentionally rust their wedges for this reason. However, this is more like a myth to be verified. A placebo? We don’t know.
Darker finishes come in a sexy black color. The downside to darker finishes is that it’s quite noticeable when it wears and loses its black coat over time.
That said, regardless of the wear, they all feel the same and play the same out of the bag. Just maybe not overtime for some.
Grooves on a golf club are the etched lines that run along your club face. A good comparison to what grooves do to a golf club is similar to what treads do on a tire. Essentially, grooves provide ‘grip’ to your golf clubs, allowing spin to be created on the golf ball and thus providing more control and consistency.
Due to the new USGA rule of eliminating deep grooves in wedges to obtain an unfair advantage by creating more backspin, there are now two types of grooves on wedges to restrict the volume of grooves and the edge radius on wedges. Those two groove styles are the vintage finish and the laser-etching.
- Vintage finishes on a wedge have grooves that rust in a way that compliments the sound and feel of the club as it ages.
- Laser-etching grooves on a wedge optimize the ball-to-face friction to create maximum spin and won’t adjust to your striking tendencies like the vintage finish.
Golf Wedge FAQ
What’s the best wedge every golfer should have?
If you were to ask me which wedge every golfer should have, then hands down it would be the sand wedge.
The sand wedge is the most versatile wedge you can get, it’s great for pitching, chipping, and is one of the only wedges that are most effective in the bunkers. Simply put, it can do everything.
How many wedges should I carry?
Though we said that the sand wedge is the best wedge there is, having just a sand wedge in your golf bag just ain’t going to cut it. You’re going to need more than a sand wedge, in fact, it’s best if you have at least 3 wedges in your bag. We listed what are the best wedge compositions above.
Can I sharpen my own grooves on my golf wedge?
Of course you can! In fact, people do it all the time! Golf club groove sharpeners help maintain your wedges and keep them effective on the golf course. It’s very damaging to leave uncleaned soil on the face of your wedge as it just erodes the face over time.
Cleaning your golf clubs should be a routine! However, make sure you don’t make the grooves wider than it was when you bought them!
Can I play the pitching wedge in a bunker?
How about no? You can, no one’s going to stop you, but there’s almost never a case where a pitching wedge would come in handy in a bunker unless it’s a bunker 100+ yards from the green.
For greenside bunkers, I advise you to stick with a sand wedge or a lob wedge. You need higher-lofted golf clubs to do the job effectively in the sands.
Are wedges included in a golf set?
Only the pitching wedge will always be included in a golf set. The sand wedge and gap wedge will be provided in some. Whereas the lob wedge is always bought separately.
Golf wedges are a key element in your game, and having at least 3 of them in your bag is a standard. If there’s one wedge that you must have, it has to be the sand wedge as it offers all the versatility you want in your short game. Second, I’d say get a gap wedge, then the pitching wedge, and finally the lob wedge. Regardless, finding the right golf wedge that can help you get the ball as close to the hole as possible from anywhere within 120 yards is key. If that means you need 4 wedges to do it, then so be it.
Good luck practicing! And don’t miss out on practicing with your wedges at the range. That’s what most beginners do, and is one of the main reasons why they can’t drop their score below 100 or 90.
Feel free to shoot us your questions and I hope you enjoyed this read.
If you’re looking to buy a good wedge, check out our article on the best golf wedges we’d recommend for most golfers.
OR check out our other reads here:
May the course be with you, feel free to contact us if you need any help!