Research shows that around a quarter of all shots are played using a wedge so clearly they are a vital part of every golfer’s game.
They can create birdies or save pars, but can also cause problems for golfers who struggle around the greens if they are not using the right type of wedge for the shot. It is essential that the wedges you carry add to your game and assist scoring.
Wedges may appear as basic clubs that are not as advanced in terms of technology as a driver or irons, but this is untrue. Different types of wedges along with varying specifications mean you should research and find a wedge that is suits to your swing and needs.
Types of Wedges
Wedges can be divided into four main types:
Pitching Wedges (PW)
The first and most common wedge is the pitching wedge. Typically with a loft between 44-48 degrees it is used primarily for full shots into greens and some longer chip shots. Most modern sets tend towards a lower lofted or stronger pitching wedge to blend in with longer-hitting iron designs, whilst also creating a need or gap for the, aptly named, gap wedge.
Gap Wedges (GW)
As the name suggests these wedges fill the ‘gap’ between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge. Occasionally referred to as an attack (AW) or utility wedge (UW), these wedges tend to carry a loft of around 50 to and 53 degrees. Largely suited to fuller shots, they are typically added to player’s bag to bridge a distance gap and offer more variety near the green for pitches that don’t involve a full swing and longer chips.
Sand Wedges (SW)
Usually in the range of 54 to 58 degrees, the sand wedge was originally designed, as the name suggests, to escape from green side bunkers thanks to the heavier and wider design of its sole. For a long time it was the go-to shot for chips and bunker shots around the green, because it was the highest lofted club in a player's bag until the lob wedge came along.
Lob Wedges (LW)
Lob wedges are the newest of the wedge designs. As its name suggests it has a high loft of around 60 to 64 degrees, allowing golfers to produce more height and spin with shots near the green. It tends to be used more to hit chips, flop shots and bunker shots than full shots.
The loft of a wedge is simply the angle created between the face of the wedge and an imaginary vertical line. The more loft on a wedge, the more elevation on your shot, resulting in a higher ball flight with less distance, as seen below:
Most professional carry three or four wedges, to offer variation and selection to their short games. They key in choosing a set of wedges is to make sure that there are no big gaps in loft between the lowest lofted iron in your set and the first wedge and then also between edge wedge. Try to keep the lofts gaps to around 4 degrees between each club.
The ‘bounce’ of a wedge is the area of the club that hits the turf, hence ‘bounces’ the club through the surface under the ball at impact. Bounce is the group name for the elements involved in sole design: the bounce angle, sole width, leading edge, rocker and camber of a wedge.
Most discussions on bounce refer more specifically to bounce angle. The bounce angle is the angle from the leading edge to the point where the sole actually meets the ground. Whilst many people think wedges sit flat on the ground, this is not true.
Bounce, and specifically the bounce angle, is added to prevent a wedge from digging into sand or turf, stopping the momentum of the club through the ball.
Low Bounce Wedges
Wedges with a bounce angle of 4 to 6 degrees are considered low-bounce. Wedges with minimal bounce will be better suited to players who sweep the ball, taking a shallower divot, firmer turf conditions (i.e. links courses) and heavy, coarse sand in bunkers or bunkers with little sand.
Mid Bounce Wedges
Any wedge with 7 to 10 degrees of bounce is considered to be a mid-bounce wedge. It will be the most versatile option, suited to a wider range of conditions and swing types.
High Bounce Wedges
High bounce wedges have more than 10 degrees of bounce, meaning the leading edge sits higher when the sole is rested on the ground. High-bounce wedges are best suited to players who dig at impact, taking deep divots, softer conditions (i.e. parkland courses) and bunkers with deep fine sand.
As you are busy grinding away on the course, trying to save par, manufacturers are busy grinding wedges in a way to help players hit better shots. So what is a sole grind?
In basic terms, the sole grind refers to the additional shaping of the sole of the wedge usually around the heel or the toe. More wedge manufacturers are now offering offer a range of sole grinds in addition to the standard wedge sole. They literally grind the soles with a machine to suit specific turf conditions or shots.
For instance a heel grind will remove material from the heel of the sole to allow the face to sit lower to the ground so it is easier to open the face at address. However sole grinds also change the bounce of the sole so it is important to receive advice from a teaching professional on the types of grinds that will suit your game.
Once a wedge has been made, it is given a finish to offer a distinct look and colour. This is purely down to personal preference and taste as different finishes will have almost identical levels of feel. However it is important to know how each finish will wear over time.
Finishes such as Chrome or Nickel will maintain their colour and appearance longer.
Unplated or raw finishes are designed to wear or rust more over time, which can improve friction and lead to improved spin.
Darker finishes look great initially but over time the paint will wear off on the sole and face to give some nice wear marks if you like that sort of thing.
Virtually all wedges come with steel shafts unless the wedges are part of a graphite set of clubs.
Most steel shafted wedges also come with a standard 'wedge' flex. This is actually more like a stiff shafted steel shaft in flex, but designed specifically for the shorter club. It provides maximum feel and accuracy and in such a short club, the flex is less important.
For more information on shafts, go to the Golf Shafts Buying Guide
Golfalot.TV: How To Choose Your Wedge