Wedges are your Scoring Clubs
25 APR 2017
By Peter Mumford
The Rules of Golf allow you a maximum of 14 clubs but most pros and elite amateurs would gratefully exceed that number if they could.
With a typical set of clubs, you can hit full shots in 10 yard increments so your hybrids and irons usually cover a range of distances from 130 yards to 200 yards. Over 200 yards your fairway metals and driver kick in, while under 130 yards, you have to configure a set of wedges to let you hit precise distances.
These days, players sacrifice some of the precision on longer shots for more accuracy on short approaches. Therefore a typical set includes four wedges as follows: pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge. But, in addition to dialing in the yardage you want, your wedges also perform double and triple duty chipping and pitching around the green, extracting your ball from sand and deep rough, and occasionally, even putting.
The wedges are your scoring clubs.
In 2003, Mike Weir won the Masters primarily because of his wedge play. The course was soaking wet and the ball wasn’t getting much, if any, roll. Weir was one of the shortest hitters in the field and had to rely on his wedges to stick it close to save par on a number of holes. On the par 5 15th hole on Sunday, Mike couldn’t reach the green in two but hit a spectacular wedge shot to a few feet for his third and went on to make the putt for a much needed birdie.
It was the biggest win of his life but one of the things that allowed him to thrive on the PGA Tour at all, when he was often being out-driven by 50-60 yards, was his outstanding wedge play.
Depending on the age of your clubs and the manufacturer, your pitching wedge has a loft between 45 and 49 degrees; gap wedge will be 50-53 degrees; sand wedge 54-58 degrees; and lob wedge 60-64. The numbers by themselves aren’t important but the gap between each loft is critical. Those are the numbers that will determine how far you hit a full shot with each club. You don’t want a large gap that leaves you with awkward half shots and if the lofts are too close together then you’re not getting full value for both clubs.
Lofts of 47, 52, 56 and 60 are fairly normal if you’re carrying four wedges.
This might be the most misunderstood aspect of golf clubs ever. Bounce is the angle between the leading edge of the club and the ground when the club is in address position and the shaft is vertical. It’s expressed in degrees and the more bounce there is, the higher the leading edge is off the ground when in address position.
Pitching wedge, gap wedge and lob wedge usually have between 6 and 10 degrees of bounce while a sand wedge has 12-14 degrees. You need more bounce in the bunker so the leading edge doesn’t dig into the sand. Instead, a properly hit sand shot produces a thump as the sole impacts the sand and not the leading edge.
Many pros will adjust the wedges in their bag depending on the conditions. If it’s wet and sloppy like the 2003 Masters, a lot of bounce is a good thing to avoid gouging the wet ground and hitting it fat. If conditions are firm and dry, then you have less fear of hitting a chili-dip and can get away with less bounce.
Sand too varies from course to course. Firm hard packed sand will let you get away with a sand wedge with less bounce while the light, fluffy stuff demands all the bounce you can find. It’s not uncommon to have two or three sand wedges to use at various courses depending on the sand.
One of the most exciting things about wedge design is the option of creating custom grinds – that is shaping the leading edge of the club and the sole to conform precisely to your swing. The leading edge of your wedge is the part of the club that first impacts the ball and the ground. It has a gentle curve called a radius. In the old days, most clubs had a pretty straight leading edge but modern design has created more of a rounded shape to make the club perform better in deep rough and sand.
The camber of your wedge is the curve of the sole from leading edge to trailing edge. Most wedges have a relatively flat camber but pros will often grind the leading and trailing edges to reduce drag and bounce.
Much of the advertising you hear on TV or read about often refers to custom grinds and the wedge masters like Titleist’s Bob Vokey or Callaway’s Roger Cleveland are experts at making a wedge that can perform exactly as a player needs. That produces confidence and ultimately victories.
Remember, your wedges are your scoring clubs. Apart from your putter, they’re the clubs you’ll use most in a round, so it makes sense to get a set of wedges that fits your game and fits your swing. Talk to your pro and try lots of options to find wedges that give you the best results.
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag