Go to any golf course today, stand on the tee box, and you’ll be sure to hear the term “grip it and rip it.”
This term refers to hitting long bombs off the tee with the driver or ripping a two-iron from the middle of the fairway; in golf, like in many sports, most players tend to focus on power.
But the stark reality is those players who are experienced, and have an in-depth knowledge of the game, understand that the most crucial facet of the golf game is from 100 meters in.
Playing shots that demand soft touch and a superb amount of feel also require a specialized club or clubs. The wedge is one of the most feared clubs in the bag not because of its look, but by the shot, it requires you to play.
Much like putting, playing shots from this distance can be tricky and even daunting, but having the right wedges in your hands can alleviate much of that anxiety.
In this beginners guide to buying wedges, I’ll take you through the different types of wedges, what each of them does and share some of the most critical factors to consider when looking to purchase the right wedges for you.
What Is A Wedge?
Whether you’re a professional or a beginner to the game, most players will take a wedge out of the bag from 100 meters in. There are various wedges to choose from, and the distance you play will affect the type of wedge you select.
Understanding what each wedge does and how it interacts with the ball is crucial in getting the ball closer to the pin.
As mentioned, there are various types of wedges, and each of them is precisely designed to perform a specific task or help you get out of difficult situations. Probably the most common wedge you’ll find is the pitching wedge.
Other wedges that are available are the gap wedge, the sand wedge, and the lob wedge; all of these play separate roles, and I’ll take a deeper look at that later on.
The wedge really came of age when the legendary short game coach and former NASA Physicists Dave Pelz designed the first-ever lob wedge. Dave created the lob wedge to combat the rise of the modern greens, which tend to be raised and somewhat undulating.
The first traditional pitching wedge is credited to Karsten Solheim, the founder of Ping Golf and one of the most influential names in the sport.
Wedges, in some ways, resemble the other irons in your bag, but on the whole, they play a vastly different role in your game. How many of you know that most of the shots played in golf are played from 150 meters in? This is why having the right wedges in your bag is so crucial.
The main difference between irons and wedges is the bounce. The bounce is the angle on the sole of the club or wedge.
Wedge lofts also come in varying degrees but traditionally range between 46° and 62° with the pitching wedge at the lower range while the lob wedge sits at the higher degree. Depending on the maker, different materials are used to manufacture wedges, and the feel from one maker to another can vary drastically.
Hence, it’s best to test-play as many wedges as you can before choosing.
Compared to every other club in the bag, when hit with a full swing, the wedge generates a much higher ball flight and allows the ball to settle quickly on the greens; this is particularly noteworthy when playing on greens that are fast and undulating.
The variety and type of shot you play with the wedge is only limited by your imagination; with the correct technique, the right wedge and a heap of practice, you can make the ball skip, spin, and roll forward.
How Many Wedges Do You Need?
The level of your game and your current handicap will probably dictate how many wedges you actually need. On the PGA Tour, most players opt for all four of the wedges:
- The Pitching Wedge
- Sand Wedge
- Gap Wedge and the
- Lob Wedge
But to be honest, if you’re a beginner to the game, then a pitching wedge and sand wedge should be all you’ll need.
In particular, the sand wedge is helpful for beginners because, as the old golf saying goes, “he’s seen more sand than David Hasselhoff.”
Getting out on the practice range and calculating exactly how far you hit each wedge will also help you determine whether or not you need to carry a gap or lob wedge. Remember, though; you can only legally carry 14 clubs in your bag, making club selection paramount.
The type of golf course you’re playing also affects how many wedges you might decide to put in the bag, so do some research before heading out on your round.
Types Of Wedges
There are four common types of wedges, and each of them has its own unique characteristics and specifications. Knowing how and when to play each shot and which wedge to play takes a lot of practice and some sound coaching.
The Pitching Wedge
The pitching wedge is the most common in the bag whether you’re a professional, beginner, or low handicapper. The average male golfer can hit the pitching wedge 135-140 yards, give or take, and it’s one of the most used clubs in the bag.
Generally, the loft of the pitching wedge is 45° to 48° and is played from further out from the green. The pitching wedge is also ideal for pitch and run shots around the green; these shots are perfect when you’re just off the green, but the pin is still a reasonable distance away.
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The Gap Wedge
The name is a giveaway with the gap wedge; it was designed to “fill” the gap in distance between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge.
The gap wedge hasn’t been around for that long, and most amateur golfers or high handicappers probably don’t have or need one. The loft of the gap wedge generally sits between 50° and 54°, and the distance you can hit it depends on the quality of your game.
The gap wedge travels further than the standard pitching wedge, and sand wedge and the more substantial loft also makes it an ideal choice for chipping around the greens.
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The Sand Wedge
If you’re a beginner, you’ve probably spent quite a bit of time in and out of the bunkers; this is where the sand wedge comes in handy.
The traditional range of loft for a sand wedge varies from 54° to 58°, which means your sand wedge won’t travel as far as your gap and pitching wedges. You’ll notice the base of the sand wedge is quite broad, which makes the club “bounce” when hitting from the fairway.
The base is designed in a rounder shape, making it easier to get the ball up and out of the bunker. Most beginners struggle in the bunkers, but the truth is, after a bit of practice and understanding how the club is designed, you can improve your sandtrap game in a hurry..
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The Lob Wedge
The lob wedge has the highest amount of loft of any of the wedges and ranges between 58° and 62°.
The lob wedge is perfect for:
- Shorter shots around the green
- Stopping the ball quickly
- Hitting the ball with backspin and
- Getting over an obstacle like a tree or bunker that might be impeding your ball flight to the green
Because the lob wedge is lofted so high, it makes it easier to get the ball airborne, but the major downside is it also increases your chance of blading or “skulling” the ball.
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When looking to purchase your wedge, the very first specification to consider is the club’s loft. The loft refers to the angle of the clubface, which corresponds to a vertical line.
The loft of all clubs is measured in degrees, and as we’ve seen, the loft of a club plays a significant role in how the ball reacts. In fact, the variation of loft is quite considerable and ranges from 8°-12° with your driver up to 64° with your lob wedge.
For beginners, the easiest way to remember this is the higher the loft, the higher your ball will travel, while the lower the loft, the further your ball will travel. A club with high lofts, such as the lob wedge, will impart more spin on the ball than the driver, which makes the ball run.
Understanding the role loft plays dramatically impacts your game and makes shot selection straightforward.
If you’re looking to flop the ball up and over a bunker and land it softly, then your best option is the lob wedge, whereas if you want to play a little bump and run, the pitching wedge or even seven iron will do the job.
The bounce of your wedge is the area on the club that contacts the grass and stops it from digging in, especially in and around the green.
The bounce is actually made up of several different components:
- The Sole
- The Sole angle and
- The leading edge
One of the most critical factors to consider when choosing your wedge is your swing. If you’re a player who tends to take huge divots, you need to look for a wedge with more bounce; on the other hand, if you take little to no divot, you can opt for a shallower bounce.
To the newcomers to the sport of golf, you might be mistaken for thinking the lines of the clubface are just a styling feature, but in actual fact, those “grooves” play a pivotal function in how the ball reacts when hit.
Back in the early days of golf, the grooves in the clubface were cut quite deep; however, in recent years, the games governing body, the R&A, changed the rules and deemed deep-cut grooves unsportsmanlike.
Like the string bed of a tennis racquet that grips the ball, the grooves on the clubface do the same thing. Manufacturers laser cut the grooves into the club’s face, but as mentioned, they must conform to the rules and regulations.
Ever wondered why professional caddies are constantly cleaning the clubs? Well, the grooves’ primary role is imparting spin on the ball; the more spin, the more control, which is why it’s imperative to clean your clubs after every round.
Style and Design
No doubt you’ve probably seen several different styles or “finishes” on various wedges and wondered if it’s just style or practicality; the answer is both.
As with any type of design, the quality comes back to personal preference, but if you’re going to spend 100’s of dollars on a wedge, you might as well get one you think looks cool.
Types of finishes of wedges:
- Chrome or Nickel: This type of finish is well known for being durable and pleasant on the eye.
- Black Finish: A modern-looking wedge that is generally dark or black in its finish; it also cuts sun glare when addressing the ball
- Rust Look: My personal favorite; these wedges rust over time, which in turn imparts more spin on the ball, and I love the old-school look of these clubs.
Well there you have it; a detailed and comprehensive beginner’s guide on how to buy the right wedge for you.
If you follow the steps above, take your time and do your research, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a short game legend.