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
  • Typical loft on each golf wedge

Below, I outline the primary short irons in the golf game and their differences. 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:

Pitching Wedge Loft

Most standard typical 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 and trailing edges sit at a similar angle. This angle gets increasingly aggressive as I get to the other clubs below.

When Do You Use a Pitching Wedge?

The Pitching Wedge is a versatile golf club used in many shots off the fairway and rough. You can use it in full swing like any other iron, producing 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 for which the pitching wedge can be used: 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 to be used out of the rough and still get enough power on the golf ball to get it 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 or 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 called an attack wedge.

My favorite gap wedge is the Callaway MD5:

Gap (Approach) Wedge Loft

The typical gap wedge loft is between 50 and 54 degrees, with a standard loft of 52. Most golfers will use approach wedge shots 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 no gap in your distance. Most amateur golfers can hit this club around 100-125 yards.

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

If you have a gap and sand wedges, 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 SW is the Cleveland Zipcore. This is a great sand wedge for beginners.

Sand Wedge Loft

The typical sand wedge loft is between 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 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 will have the highest loft. A lob wedge 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:

Lob Wedge Loft

The typical lob wedge loft is between 58-64 degrees. Again, it depends on what type of distance control you seek from your approach wedge. The most standard lob wedge loft 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 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 angles, 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 each club’s loft.

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. This is because 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 before 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. You should carry no set number 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. 

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:

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. 

These four clubs allow you many other shots around the course, and each offers 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 your yardage gaps and help keep your golf bag light.

There is no correct wedge loft setup for every golfer. Many 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. The club area 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, allowing for 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 recommend trying 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. Many 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, allowing for pure contact from the grooves to the ball. Raw clubs tend to rust easier and must be maintained better, but are becoming popular.

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. Knowing how to hit your short irons properly is even more important than what you have. They have a higher angle of loft which is easier to hit, but also offer a ton of versatility too.

I recommend starting 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Golf Wedge Loft (FAQs)

What is a Wedge Loft in Golf?

A wedge loft refers to the angle created between the clubface and an imaginary vertical line. This angle plays a significant role in determining how high and far the ball will travel when struck. The concept of wedge loft is crucial for golfers as it impacts the trajectory and control of their shots.

Does higher golf wedge loft generate higher shots?

Yes, higher loft angles generate higher, shorter shots, while lower loft angles result in lower, longer shots.

How does wedge loft affect your golf game?

The degree of wedge loft greatly influences your game by dictating ball trajectory and distance. Depending on your shot’s required trajectory, you may choose a wedge with a specific loft. For example, higher lofted wedges, like the lob wedge (58-64 degrees), are perfect for higher, shorter shots over obstacles. In contrast, lower lofted wedges, such as the pitching wedge (44-48 degrees), offer lower trajectory, making them ideal for longer shots.

What are the Different Types of Golf Wedge Lofts?

The four most common types of wedge loft on a golf club are the pitching wedge (48-degrees), approach wedge (52-degrees), sand wedge (56-degrees), and lob wedge (60-degrees).

Can you adjust the loft on your golf wedges?

Yes, professional club fitters can adjust your golf wedge’s loft. However, it’s crucial to remember that adjusting the loft can also affect the club’s bounce – a key feature that helps prevent the club from digging too much into the ground.

Why is a 60-degree golf wedge so hard to hit?

Since there is so much loft on a 60-degree lob wedge, it is hard to hit because only a portion of the club makes contact with the golf ball.

Can a high handicapper use a 60 degree wedge?

Yes, a high handicap golfer can use any golf wedge, however, they should be aware that a 60-degree lob wedge is the hardest golf club to hit. You will gain more confidence by hitting lower lofted wedges better first.

Do you hit a wedge like an iron?

Wedges require a slower and more methodical swing in order to fine-tune the distance you hit with them.

What is the easiest wedge to chip with?

Typically, a pitching wedge or an approach wedge is the easiest club to chip with. These wedges have enough loft to lift the ball up into the air, but still allow you to make solid contact with the golf ball.

Ryan William
Ryan William

With over 25 years hands-on experience in the golfing world, Ryan is not just an avid golfer but a topical authority. His journey has had him delve deep into the nuances of the sport, from mastering the swing to understanding new golf technology. As an entrepreneur, Ryan is at the forefront of the latest golf trends, reviewing all new clubs, accessories, and training aids. His insights and expertise are backed by a prolific writing career, with over 1000 articles published across various platforms. Ryan's commitment is clear: to guide and inform the golf community with unparalleled knowledge and passion.

Last update on 2024-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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