Understanding Wedge Loft: Pitching vs Lob vs Gap vs Sand

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Wedges are the highest lofted club in a set of golf clubs and they are used for short approach shots into the green. In this guide, I will help you understand wedge loft and usage on the most common short-iron clubs: the pitching wedge (PW), approach wedge (AW), gap wedge (GW), and sand wedge (SW).

For each wedge, I’ll help you understand:

  • Club usage
  • Degrees of Loft
  • Bounce
  • Grind
  • Finishing

Below, I outline the primary short irons in the game of golf and the differences between them. I will also review golfers’ most common wedge setups in their 14-club bag. In the end, I’ll help you hit more greens in regulation.

If you want to share your strategy for picking your preferred wedge loft, comment down at the bottom of the guide.

What is a Pitching Wedge?

The Pitching Wedge is the most common wedge used in golf. The PW is the lowest lofted wedge you will hit, meaning it will travel the furthest and with the lowest trajectory. 

A pitching wedge will always come standard when you purchase a complete set of irons and is a club that every single golfer carries in their bag.

My favorite pitching wedge is the Titleist Vokey SM9:

Sale
Titleist Vokey SM8 Sand Wedge 56 * 08* (Tour Chrome, M Grind, Left) Golf
  • Titleist Vokey SM8 (Tour Chrome)
  • Your swing is unique and requires a unique wedge. Master Craftsman Bob Vokey has spent years crafting, developing, and improving his Tour-proven sole grinds to fit players of all levels.
  • SM8 grooves are cut to the edge to maximize spin and shot control. Each groove on every head is 100% inspected for conformity, and a localized heat treatment is applied to the impact area to double the durability of the groove.

Pitching Wedge Loft

Most standard pitching wedge loft comes between 44 to 48-degrees. As the club is very close to the loft of a 9-iron, a pitching wedge is generally just treated as if they were another numbered iron.

On the PW, the leading edge and trailing edge sit at a very similar angle. As I get into the other clubs below, this angle gets more and more aggressive.

When Do You Use a Pitching Wedge?

The Pitching Wedge is a very versatile golf club used in many different shots off the fairway and rough. You can use it in full swing as you would any other iron, and it will produce a high-trajectory shot that can carry anywhere from 80-150 yards. 

The carry will depend on many factors such as:

  • swing type
  • swing speed
  • loft
  • wind

Many PGA Tour Pros are starting to hit the modern pitching wedge over 160 yards, primarily due to their training regime and updated technology in golf clubs.

The word “pitching” in the name also relates to another type of shot that the pitching wedge can be used for: pitch and chip shots around the green. These shots can range from 20 to 50 yards depending on the swing type and where you want to land the ball. 

The PW club has enough standard loft that it can be used out of the rough and still get enough power on the golf ball to get it up into the air.

Lastly, the pitching wedge can be used for different bump and run shots around the fringe of the green. If you use a putting motion with the club, the loft will help lift the ball over the rough or the fringe and onto the putting green. The bump and run can also be performed with many of the other lower lofted numbered irons.

What is a Gap / Approach Wedge?

A gap wedge is also known as an approach wedge and  comes standard in most iron sets. It has the name “gap” because it is designed with a loft that bridges the gap between your PW and your SW. A GW/AW is a reasonably versatile golf club because you can use it for many different shots around the golf course.

In addition to “gap” and “approach”, this club is sometimes also called an attack wedge.

My favorite gap wedge is the Callaway MD5:

Callaway Mack Daddy 5 Jaws Wedge (Platinum Chrome, Right Hand, 56.0 degrees, S-Grind, 10* Bounce, Steel)
  • Due to unprecedented demand across the industry, causing a shortage of shafts and grip, we may need to substitute for an equivalent premium shaft/grip.
  • Precisely shaped by Callaway Chief Designer Roger Cleveland for a beautiful look and extraordinary feel from 8620 mild carbon steel.
  • The new tour-tested w and C grinds are both updated to make it easy to play a wider variety of greenside shots.
  • Head shaping progresses from traditional shaped lob and sand wedges to a compact player preferred design in the gap and pitching wedges for a seamless transition into an iron set.
  • Stock shaft options include true Temper Tour issue 115 (steel) and project x Catalyst 80 (graphite). Stock grip is lambkin's UTX in black/blue.

Gap (Approach) Wedge Loft

Gap wedges typically carry a loft anywhere between 50 and 54 degrees, with a standard loft of 52. Most golfers will use approach wedge shots right in the middle of their pitching and sand wedge to ensure the best distance with each club.

When Do You Use a Gap Wedge?

Gap wedges can hit higher and shorter trajectory shots than an PW and lower but longer shots than an SW. As the name suggests, it bridges the gap between the two clubs to ensure there isn’t a gap in your distance. Most amateur golfers can hit this club around 100-125 yards.

The gap can be used for many different approach shots, chipping, and pitching around the green. Like the sand wedge, whatever you are most comfortable hitting around the green is okay. The name of the game is to get the ball near the hole!

If you have a gap and a sand, take some time to practice and see which wedge for chipping you like better.

What is a Sand Wedge?

The Sand Wedge is the other most common wedge in a golfer’s bag. An SW was originally designed for bunker shots, hitting the ball out of sand traps. 

An SW has more loft than a pitching wedge does. This higher loft allows the club face to get underneath the golf ball in the sand and provide enough pop to get it out of there and safely onto the green.

My favorite sand wedge is the Cleveland Zipcore:

Sale
Cleveland RTX Zipcore TS 54 Mid RH, Silver
  • ZipCore - It shifts the CG while raising MOI, adding spin, enhancing control, and boosting consistency on all your shots.
  • UltiZip Grooves - These grooves are sharper, deeper, and narrower. They bite harder, channel more debris, and they’re closer together for more groove contact per shot.
  • Heat Treatment - A blast of heat can do wonders for a wedge’s durability. Ultimately, it means you’ll love your RTX ZipCore, round after round.
  • Sole Grinds - With 3 versatile sole grinds—developed on tour by the game’s best—RTX ZipCore delivers all the finesse you’ll need to execute your greatest greenside feats.
  • True Temper Dynamic Gold Spinner Tour Issue - gives you everything you love in a Tour Issue wedge shaft—stability, control, and consistency—with a similar profile to Dynamic Gold S200 but specifically designed for wedge play.

Sand Wedge Loft

An SW loft is generally around 54 to 58 degrees of loft. It used to be standard for golfers only to carry a pitching wedge and a sand wedge in their bag. Now with updated technology, there are a few more options.

When Do You Use a Sand Wedge?

You mostly use a sand wedge on bunker shots to get your ball out of a sand trap. It has enough loft to get underneath the ball/sand and get it onto the green safely.

However, you may also be comfortable with your SW enough to use it for other shots. It can be used for pitch and chip shots around the green, similar to the PW. 

You can get the ball up high into the air and towards the hole with its loft. These higher lofted irons usually have good grooves on them as well, which allows you to put some spin on the ball. 

Use whatever iron you are most comfortable hitting around the green!

What is a Lob Wedge?

A lob wedge is the shortest golf club in your bag (outside the putter) and it will have the highest loft on it. It is called a lob wedge because it is used to “lob” your golf ball high into the air and over top of hazards or other obstacles directly in front of you.

My favorite lob wedge is the Titleist SM9:

Sale
Titleist Vokey SM8 Sand Wedge 56 * 08* (Tour Chrome, M Grind, Left) Golf
  • Titleist Vokey SM8 (Tour Chrome)
  • Your swing is unique and requires a unique wedge. Master Craftsman Bob Vokey has spent years crafting, developing, and improving his Tour-proven sole grinds to fit players of all levels.
  • SM8 grooves are cut to the edge to maximize spin and shot control. Each groove on every head is 100% inspected for conformity, and a localized heat treatment is applied to the impact area to double the durability of the groove.

Lob Wedge Loft

The loft on an LW is usually between 58-64 degrees. Again, it depends on what type of distance control you are looking for from your approach wedge. The most common LW is a 60-degree club.

A lob wedge will give you the most aggressive bounce angle and will be the easiest to hit a flop shot with and to apply backspin.

When Do You Use a Lob Wedge?

A lob wedge can be helpful in many different situations out on the golf course. You will mainly use a lob if you need to get the ball high into the air quickly and over top of a hazard or obstacle. An LW has high amounts of loft to do this. Putting the ball high into the air will allow it to land softer on the green and stop faster.

Players can also use LW for deep bunker shots, as the lob will carry quite a bit more loft than your sand wedge. Lastly, if your golf ball has landed in thick rough, you may opt for a lob wedge to get underneath the ball and put it into the air.

Golf Wedge Degree Chart

If you want a quick chart to help you understand wedge loft, use the one below:

ClubAbbreviationLoft Range
Pitching WedgePW44 – 48 degrees
Gap/Approach WedgeGW/AW50 – 52 degrees
Sand WedgeSW54 – 58 degrees
Lob WedgeLW58 – 64 degrees

Here’s a good visual representation of the loft on each of these clubs.

gold wedge angles credit to Golf Bidder
Golf Lofts – Credit to Golf Bidder

Now that you know the different types of wedges, I’ll give you some tips for how to hit your shorter approach shots better.

How to Hit Your Wedges Better

Knowing Your Distances

One way to hit better out on the golf course is to know how far you can hit each short iron in your bag. Understanding how far you can hit each will allow you to plan how you want to hit each approach shot into the green. 

You should ensure no distance gaps between clubs in your golf bag. Each wedge should be able to hit certain distances all the way down to simple 10-yard pitch shots. This way, you don’t have to over or under swing, which will decrease your impact on the sweet spot of the wedge. 

Go out and practice with each: a quarter, half, and full swings, to see what distance looks like for each.

Half Swing

If you watch a lot of PGA Tour golfers, you will notice that they slow their swing down quite a bit when using their short distance hardware. The reason for this is that it gives you much more control of the club and more control over the distance in which the ball travels. 

Half swinging allows way more control over a full swing. You may swing too fast with a full swing and ultimately lose control over your shot and the ball. Beginner golfers should practice and master the half swing.

Weight Shift

Make sure that you are shifting your weight correctly throughout your swing. If you keep your weight on the back leg, the club won’t make solid contact with the ball and will end up off target. You will slice it and else thin it well past the mark. 

Make sure you shift your weight to your front foot to ensure perfect contact. This also means committing to the downswing. If you have a strong takeaway but don’t commit to the downswing, it will cause the face of your club to go offline. 

Committing to your downswing ensures clean contact on the ball. If you have a high angle of attack, this weight shift will allow you to add extra spin to the ball and even an average golfer will have more workability around the green.

Here a great video to understand weight shift:

Weight Shift For Wedges

Pick Which Wedges Work for You

Don’t hit a lob wedge just because you see Phil Mickelson using a 62-degree club and spinning the ball a foot away from the cup. Most mid to high handicap golfers cannot control higher lofted golf clubs as much as the pros can. You will take a huge divot and hit the ball 5 feet in front of you, or you will thin the ball 60 yards past your target.

Practice with your wedges and make sure that you can hit each one. There is no set number you should carry in your bag, so if you are only good with 2, you should only take 2. Carrying more will only entice you to try out different shots that will likely not work out and only blow your scorecard up.

Clean the Grooves

Lastly, you want to ensure that your club grooves are clean for every shot. Most golfers don’t think this is a huge deal, but even the slightest amount of dirt in the grooves can throw your shot off big time. 

Grooves also affect the spin on the ball. I suggest investing in a small brush or groove sharpener to ensure your clubs are ready for any shot.

Here is my favorite groove sharpener that you can buy today:

HIFROM Groove Sharpener with 6 Heads - Golf Club Groove Sharpener Re-Grooving Tool and Cleaner for All Irons Pitching Sand Lob Gap and Approach Wedges and Utility Clubs Red Color
  • 1. A MUST HAVE 6 HEAD GOLF CLUB GROOVE SHARPENER - BEST ON THE MARKET. Perfect for Improving your Backspin and Ball Control just like the PGA Tour Professionals. Fantastic results on both V and U (square) grooves. Convenient and simple to use and carry.Save money to spend another set of irons and wedges. Easy to regroove the clubs without any trouble.
  • 2. FITS YOUR CLUBS: 6 Heads with two different cutting ends, one U shaped, the other V shaped, you choose which one to use. Lichi texture on the shaft surface for firm grippng when cleaning the golf club head, avoiding sliding in the hand. Perfect for Adams, Callaway, Cobra, Cleveland, Nike, Ping, TaylorMade, Wilson, and other Leading Irons, including Sand Wedges, Lob Wedges, Gap Wedges, Approach Wedges, and other Golf Utility Clubs.
  • 3. DURABLE, COMFORTABLE TO USE: This metal golf tool is designed for long wear and enduring performance; the comfortable grip ensures it is easy to use whilst the precision engineering and highest quality metals make it extremely durable. The texture on the shaft surface for firm grippng when cleaning the golf club head, avoiding sliding in the hand.
  • 4. Highest Quality metal construction. Made from high grade precision tool Vacuum Heat Treated Steel with a maximum hardness of 65 Rockwell for maximum durability and effectiveness. Groove sharpener is precision ground and engineered to exacting tolerances to ensure that it does not compromise USGA rules regarding width and depth.
  • 5. For men or women golfers. Packaged in clear safety tube for ultimate protection. Package Include: 1x red sharpener, 1x PVC container

Most Common Wedge Setups on the PGA Tour

The most common setup you will find in a golfers bag is a pitching wedge, 52-degree (sand), 56-degree (gap), and a 60-degree (lob). Each of these offers something a little different and helps bridge any distance gaps you may have. 

These four clubs allow you many other shots around the course, and each offers a little something different in terms of the loft.

Beginners

Beginner amateur golfers can stick to a PW and either a sand or gap wedge. Until you can hit further, these two clubs will fill all of your yardage gaps and help keep your golf bag light.

There is no correct wedge loft setup for every golfers. A lot of casual golfers are fine using the clubs that come in their set. You can always add an extra wedge to your bag later on.

Other Wedge Terms to Know About

Wedge Bounce Angle

Bounce is the angle between the leading edge and the sole’s lowest point, called the trailing edge. This is the club area that strikes the ground as the club face hits the ball. 

The higher the bounce, the higher the leading edge is off the surface.

Most PGA players will opt for a low-bounce wedge as it offers them more flexibility and versatility in their shots. The downside to low-bounce golf clubs is that margin for error is quite a bit higher. That is why for mid to high handicappers, I recommend high-bounce options.

wedge bounce credit to TGW
Wedge Bounce – Credit to TGW

Wedge Grind

Grind is the process of grinding or removing material from the sole to improve contact with the ground at impact. Many club manufacturers will come out with different grinds for different wedges, which allow for a lot more creativity around the greens. 

Grinding the sole will enable you to play around with other things, such as the spin on the ball and the ball’s flight in the air. 

I always recommend trying out different clubs to see what works best for you and your swing.

wedge grind exmplanation credit to dallas golf comopany
Wedge Grind – Credit to Dallas Golf Company

Wedge Finish

Just like the depth and angle of grooves can impact how much spin you put on a golf ball, the finish of your club also has a big impact. A lot of clubs are powder coated or finished in chrome or titanium, which adds durability for amateur golfers.

Raw wedge finishes have become more popular in recent years. These clubs don’t have any finish at all, allowing for pure contact from the grooves to the ball. Raw clubs tend to rust easier and must be maintained better, but are becoming a popular option.

Video Information

Prefer to watch some videos to understand wedge loft instead? Here is a selection of top content I recommend taking a look at:

Which loft wedges should you be using?
Which Golf Wedges Should You Be Using? | THE WEDGE BUYING GUIDE

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when purchasing a new wedge. There is no right answer here. It really depends on how much money you’re willing to spend, what type of player you are, and what type of shots you like to hit.

Even accomplished players often switch out golf wedges (both clubs and bounce or grind styles) to see what works better. Even more important than what you have is knowing how to hit your short irons properly. They have a higher angle of loft which are easier to hit, but also offer a ton of versatility too.

My recommendation would be to start by testing out some clubs and seeing how they feel in your hand. Then come back here, read this article again, and understand wedge loft more.

Ryan William
Ryan William

Ryan has been an avid golfer for over 25 years. Now an entrepreneur, Ryan spends his time keeping up with the latest golf trends and trying out the latest golf clubs, accessories, and training aids. Ryan has published over 1000 articles on various websites on the internet.

Last update on 2022-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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