The Ultimate (Buying) Guide to Golf Wedges

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Whether you are new to golf or have been playing for a long time you may have some questions about all the intricacies of the different wedges that can be used in golf. Well, you are in luck, we are going to try to answer those questions you have. We are going to start with the basics for the beginners and go into more detail about the differences in the various types of clubs. This includes things like the angle of loft, distances they hit, and even the finishes on the club head. Read on to learn more and figure out which one is going to be your new go to club.

What is a Golf Wedge?

To start off, for those who don’t know, a golf wedge is a club that is used by golfers when they play short-distance shots. Usually within 130 yards from the hole. Golf wedges allow players to play their shots accurately. Golf wedges can even be used on sand, mud or thick grass. When compared to a driver or even an iron, their outcome is must more precise. These specialized clubs have made things easy for golfers throughout the years. However, it is important to know which one suits which shot the best.

Features of a Golf Wedge

Before we go into exploring the different types of golf wedges, it is essential to understand about the different features of them. Below are several important features of wedges.

Loft

The loft of a golf wedge is generally the angle between the face of the particular wedge and the imaginary vertical line that it creates. These typically range anywhere from 46 degrees up to 60 degrees.

If a wedge has more loft, you will be able to hit a more elevated shot, which eventually produces a higher trajectory ball flight while reducing the distance the ball travels. As you might know from your high school physics class, the higher the angle the ball comes in from, the less it will roll. So that means, if you know you hit the ball 50 yards, and the hole is 50 yards away, the ball will land right where you hit it and not roll too far if you come in with a high trajectory (or high with a higher loft club). Lower angles roll more, think of how much your drives with a (low loft) roll vs your wedges (high loft).

When selecting a club with the proper loft, you need to know what other clubs you have in your bag so you can get a new club that fills in the gap or range you need.

Bounce

Bounce of a wedge is often meant the bounce angle, which is the angle between the leading edge and the point which touches the ground (see image).

The ‘bounce’ of a wedge is the part of the club that touches the turf, which when hit, ‘bounces’ the wedge through the surface under the ball. The bounce feature is added to a wedge to prevent the wedge from digging into the ground when a shot is hit. Therefore, with the help of the bounce feature, golfers will be able to provide the ball directly with maximum force, instead of being stopped by the sand or turf beneath the ball.

A good way to picture this is by using the sand trap as an example. When you hit in the sand you hit the sand behind the ball, much like hitting the grass behind your ball when hitting a wedge. Now let’s compare a sand wedge (higher bounce angle) to a pitching wedge (lower bounce angle). If you use a sand wedge (SW) the club will hit the sand and get a little more bounce and lift out of the sand (in this case pushing the sand and ball out with it. See the post about How To Hit Out Of The Sand for more info on bunker shots). However, with a pitching wedge (PW), your club will not ‘bounce’ out as much and will get stuck in the sand and thus not make the shot you want.

So now you are probably wondering…

How much bounce or what bounce angle do I want in my club?

Well, that depends on how you hit your shots. If you analyze your previous wedge shots you can look at how you normally hit the ball. If you are usually hitting the grass behind the ball and leaving a big divot, then you will want a club with a higher bounce angle so you hit more shots flush. Clearly, if you are the opposite, and hitting the ball full or even ‘skulling’ the ball, then you will want a lower bounce angle so you stay under the ball and thus staying under the ball more and getting better shots.

Low bounce wedges – 4-6 degrees
Medium bounce wedges – 7-10 degrees
High bounce wedges – Greater than 10 degrees

Sole Grinds

What is sole grind and why do I care?

Typically, a sole grind on a golf wedge is the shaping of a small part at the sole of the wedge that is literally ground off. Manufacturers grind the sole of a wedge so that the particular wedge suits a specific shot or turf condition. This is usually done around the heel or toe of the club. What this does is change the width of the base of the club. This changes the way the club enters the earth. To visualize this, imagine you are swing an axe like a golf club. If you hit the ground with the sharp side (a highly ground club) you will dig really far into the ground. Yet, if you turn the axe and hit it with the back end (like a non-grinded club), you won’t get into the ground nearly as far.

So why would you care how far into the ground your club goes? The answer here is consistency in your shots on different courses. As you know by comparing your lawn to your neighbours (like comparing different courses), some ground is harder than others, or the grass may be different lengths. So what you want is to choose a club that is appropriate for the hardness of the ground. You want a club that can dig in more (more sole grind) on harder courses, and one that doesn’t dig in as much on softer courses.

To generalize things, there are usually 3 different types of grinds that manufacturers use. More or less they are for soft, medium, and hard courses. The complication is that each manufacturer almost all use different naming or labelling systems. We created a chart for the different sole grinds nomenclature or naming system per company below to help you out. *A couple companies were vague on which grind is good for which ground condition. Some (Titleist) had even more options. We have done our best to simplify this for you but it is wise to look at the specs on their official website before making a final decision.*

Manufacturer

Soft Ground

Regular Ground

Hard Ground

All Ground Conditions

Titleist (Vokey SM8)

S Grind/K Grind

M Grind

F Grind/L Grind

--

Ping (Glide)

WS

SS

TS

ES

Cleveland (RTX)

3 Dot

2 Dot

1 Dot

--

Callaway

W-Grind

S-Grind

C-Grind

S-Grind

Cobra

--

--

--

K-Grind

Wilson Staff

Traditional Sole

--

Tour Sole

--

Grooves

Golf wedges have grooves on them. These grooves create frictions between the wedge and the ball, similar to the friction the tread on a tire creates. This friction allows the wedge to grab and spin the ball when hit, eventually producing a good flight. The differences between the many companies out there are very subtle and hard to define the variances. For now, know that that grooves create spin, and some clubs even have laser etching on the face to add extra friction and spin. If you are wondering which grooves are best for you, this comes down to personal feel and taste.

Finishes

Every golf wedge comes with its own finishing once they are made. The finishes on golf wedges give the wedges a distinct color and look. The general types of finishes include chrome finishes, nickel finishes, dark paint finishes and unplated finishes (raw finishes). There are even blue ones if that interests you. Basically these different finishes are more for cosmetic appeal than anything else. There is an argument that the chrome ones can create a glare from the sun, but this is stretching it a bit to me.

Relatively, the color and appearance of chrome and nickel finishes on a wedge last longer. Dark paint finishes on the other hand look great at first, but will wear or peel off sooner, giving the wedge wear marks. Unplated or raw finishes allow wedges to rust, which improves the friction on the particular wedge, which translates into more spin on your shot. This process takes time, and by the time you get the extra little rust your club may be worn out or you may have used all the luck out of it already!

Shafts

The shaft of a wedge (or any club for that matter) is the long part that is connected to the head of the club. Generally, almost all wedges come with steel shafts. However, there are graphite shafts as well. Shafts made from steel are cheaper compared to the graphite ones. Although less expensive, steel shafts tend to be stronger and more durable. Besides, shafts made from steel provide more accuracy compared to graphite shafts.

Graphite shafts are lighter in weight, and therefore they provide better swing speed. However, golfers will have less control over the graphite shafts because they generate flex when hit, unlike steel shafts. Graphite shafts tend to be more popular due to their variations in flexes and colors. They are also favored by women and senior golfers because of their light weight.

Unless you are a really good golfer, and know exactly which flex works best for you, stick with steel shafts. As mentioned graphite shafts are for more swing speed and distance, which isn’t the golf of hitting chip shots with your wedges.

Types of Golf Wedges

Ok, now that we have covered the basics of what makes up a wedge, we can move on to the different types of wedges.

There is a wide variety of golf wedges in the market today. They come in many shapes and sizes, but don’t let that intimidate you, we will help you find the club you need. Each type of wedges has its own unique designs based on each one’s purpose. The four main types of golf wedges include:

Pitching Wedges (P or PW)

Pitching wedges are the only wedges usually included in most golf club sets. In fact, they used to be called the 10 iron, and not considered a wedge at all. The PW is best used as a full swing, but these are typically the most versatile and most common club. Beginner golfers and even more experienced players will typically stick with this club and adjust their swing strength according to how far or what type of shot they need to hit. This type of wedge is suitable for shots from fairways or rough. They can be used to hit and lift a ball over trees too.

How much loft does (or what degree is) a pitching wedge have?

Generally, pitching wedges have a loft of approximately 44 to 50 degrees, which is the least amount compared to all wedges.

How far (what distance) does a pitching wedge hit?

At a full swing, a pitching wedge is a wedge that allows golfers to produce quite good altitude shots that can carry a ball between 80 - 130 yards.

Gap Wedges (G or GW) also known as an Approach Wedge (A or AW)

The gap wedge, also known as the approach wedge is a wedge with a loft between 50 to 54 degree (between that of a pitching wedge and a sand wedge). Hence it gets its name by being used by golfers in a place where a pitching wedge would be too little and a sand or lob wedge would be too much or filling that gap. When selecting a proper GW or AW, you should compare it to the Sand and Pitching wedges you already have and buy one with a loft in between these two. Other name for this club can be the Attack Wedge (AW) or the Utility Wedge (UW).

How much loft does (or what degree is) a gap or approach wedge have?

Generally they have a loft between 50 – 54 degrees.

How far (what distance) does a gap or approach wedge hit (52 degree wedge distance)?

The average golfer will hit a gap or approach wedge 90 – 110 yards.

Sand Wedges (S or SW)

Most golf courses have small areas filled with sand, called bunkers. As the name suggests a sand wedge will come handy when you face bunkers. A sand wedge is a wedge used by golfers to hit a ball that is on, or under the surface of the sand. A sand wedge has an average loft of between 54 to 58 degree.

Sand wedges have a wider sole (and usually more weight) compared to the other wedges, giving them the highest amount of bounce. This gives them the ability to glide through the sand smoothly instead of digging in. The SW usually has a very short shaft length, which can help to create spin.

How much loft does (or what degree does) a sand wedge have?

A sand wedge has an average loft of between 54 to 58 degree.

How far (what distance) does a sand wedge hit (56 degree wedge distance)?

With a full swing, a typical golfer will be able to hit a sand wedge up to 100 yards.

Lob Wedges (L or LW) also known as a Loft Wedge

The lob wedge is considered one of the newest addition to the golf club set. A lob wedge is a wedge with a loft of between 60 to 64 degrees. The lob wedge can take a ball up to an average of 70 yards.

It provides golfers with the highest loft while allowing golfers to hit shorter distances. They give golfers the liberty of getting the ball into the air very quickly. This type of wedge is quite often used to hit shots over hazards or other obstacles, as they tend to produce quite high arcs and very little roll. This club will have the shortest shaft length, helping produce the most amount of spin and even help with backspin.

How much loft does (or what degree is) a lob wedge have?

A lob wedge is a wedge with a loft of between 60 to 64 degrees.

How far (what distance) does a lob wedge hit (60 degree wedge distance)?

The lob wedge can take a ball up to an average of 70 yards.

Golf Club Loft Degree and Loft Chart

Club or WedgeLoftAverage Yardage
Pitching Wedge (PW)44-50 Degrees80-130 Yards
Gap/Approach Wedge (G/AW)50-54 Degrees90-110 Yards
Sand Wedge (SW)54-58 Degrees100 Yards
Lob Wedge (LW)60-64 Degrees70 Yards


We made a little wedge loft chart to help you visualize them. 

Golf Wedge Loft Chart

Most Popular Brands

There is a wide variety of golf wedges out there. Each with its own specifications and subtleties. We will discuss a few of them here, we will review them on a different post and let you know which ones are best. As you will see, all the manufactures mentioned have a variety of options for every anything you may need. Here are some of the most popular brands of golf wedges:

Titleist Wedges

One of the best known brands for golf wedges are the Titleist Vokey wedges. The Vokey line wedges are specially made by a master club maker, Bob Vokey. According to Titleist, they claim that these wedges are designed with good grooves to provide a great amount of backspin. Golfers who intend to buy a wedge from this brand will have a wide range of products, thanks to the wide combination of lofts and bounce angles offered by Titleist Vokey.

Cleveland Wedges

The Cleveland golf wedges are equipped with innovative grooves and club face structure, thus making them the most highly vaunted golf wedges. Just like the Titleist Vokey, the Cleveland wedges come in a wide variety of loft and bounce combinations. Hence, golfers would not face problems finding a perfect customized set for themselves.

TaylorMade Wedges

Similar to the Titleist Vokey and Cleveland, TaylorMade wedges also come in a great variety of loft and bounce combinations. This gives golfers the opportunity to purchase wedges that are tailored to every golfer’s specific needs. In addition, Taylor Made makes wedges that come with replaceable face inserts. With this feature, golfers will be able to acquire sharp grooves without the need of changing or buying an entirely new wedge.

Callaway Wedges

Again there are plenty of options here for every golfer looking for something specific. Callaway wedges have 3 different grinds and 3 different groove options for every shot or ground type. These clubs have a unique look to them, which, oddly enough, is what might make the difference on the club you choose.

Buying the Perfect Golf Wedge

Looking for the best golf wedges that suit your needs can be overwhelming at times, in view of the fact that the market is jam packed with a variety of wedges. Hence, it is important to identify the purpose of each golf wedge based on its own distinct features to make the choosing and buying process easier. It is also advisable that you go directly to the store and grab hold of the wedge you intend to buy, so that you get a feel of it.

Pay attention to the weight of the wedge, making sure you feel comfortable holding it. In fact, you could even hit a ball or two with the particular wedge, to see how it fits you. Spending some time surveying on different brands and types of golf wedges too. One club may just feel way nicer than the rest and you will have no idea why. The confidence that that brings may be all the difference in the world in improving your game!

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of different variables to take into consideration when choosing the best wedge to buy or use. Hopefully this guide pointed you in the right direction, but a good thing to remember is that your local golf shop  usually has club fitters that can analyze your swing and give you the proper recommendation on what to get. Plus, you get the benefit of getting the feel for each club. The distances listed for how far a club can hit are based on averages so keep in mind your yardage may vary.

We are putting together a buying guide for the different wedges, so look for that soon. Also remember that the actual course you are playing on can make a big difference on the club you choose that day, so might as well buy a few clubs just to be safe! 😀

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