From those key scoring distances of 100 yards in your wedges can make all the difference.
On the days your wedge game is dialed in they can help cover up for all manner of shots that have come before and shave countless strokes off the numbers you end up writing on the scorecard.
But how do you choose the wedges which will give you the best chances of achieving this?
There are hundreds and hundreds of wedge options from 43° pitching wedges all the way up to 64° lob wedges so with all these loft options how does the average golfer go about choosing which loft of wedges they should carry?
Bob Vokey, the world’s foremost wedge designer, advises anywhere between 4 to 6 degrees ‘gap’ between the lofts of a golfer’s wedges which will equate to between 10 and 15 yards of distance for most men golfers, and 5 to 10 yards of distance gaps for women and junior golfers.
General rules of thumb, particularly when they come from master wedge technicians such as Vokey, are great but as anyone who has played golf for any length of time will tell you precision and, when it comes to wedge play sometimes a matter of only a few feet, can be the difference between a great shot and a lot of trouble.
Looking at the wedge set up of the top 100 PGA Tour pros also it is interesting to note that sometimes you can find them carrying 4 and even 5 wedges in their golf bags with only a degree or two of difference between them.
So how and why do they end up choosing wedges with such a small degree of loft difference.
That’s where the additional factors of your ability and where you play your golf come in. And if you consider those alongside the wedge loft ‘gaps’ which will give you good coverage of distance for those key shots from 100 yards in you will not go far wrong.
Gaps, Conditions & Ability are the Keys to Wedge Loft Decisions
Before golf technology really took off over the last couple of decades the decision of which wedge lofts to play didn’t really bother the average golfer.
Each set of irons came with a pitching wedge of about 46° and a sand wedge of 56° and off you went. In the modern game though the situation is very different.
While pitching and sand wedges are still very much around the advent of gap and lob wedges and hundreds of wedge options varying in loft from 43° all the way up to 64° has resulted in many amateur golfers today getting themselves into a tangle trying to decide which wedge lofts they should be carrying.
As with all such questions in golf the answer as to why loft of wedges you should carry is of course ‘it depends’ as every golfer swings the club differently and has different requirements but that is clearly not particularly helpful.
So to help you assess which loft of wedges you should carry we recommend you use the following three key factors to make your decision:
- DISTANCE ‘GAPS’ your wedges let you hit the ball
- WHERE you play most of your golf
- Your ABILITY.
The first of these – distance gaps – is the most important and fortunately the easiest to assess.
Your wedges need to enable you to cover as many distance options as possible from 100-120 yards in and given loft is obviously the key determinant of how far you hit the golf ball it’s therefore vital that the loft of wedges you choose let you cover those distances as effectively as possible.
Bob Vokey, the master wedge maker, says he likes to see anywhere 4 to 6 degrees between the lofts of a golfer’s wedges which will equate to anywhere between 10 and 15 yards of distance for most male golfers.
Female and junior golfers should aim to have 5 to 10-yard gaps by comparison.
But that again is just a rule of thumb. The important thing is what distances YOU hit with the loft of wedges YOU choose.
For every player that hits a 52° gap wedge 85 yards there will be another that hits theirs 71 yards and another that hits theirs 91 yards. There is no right answer and the only way to find out for sure what works best for you is to grab your own wedges or the ones you are trying out, check their lofts and see how far you hit them.
Test out how far different wedges with 4°-6° differences of loft carry and work it through to help you decide how many wedges you want to cover different distances. And if you find a 46° pitching wedge gives you a 10-15 yard ‘gap’ with a 48° wedge then that’s fine.
Always remember it’s the outcome not the loft numbers that matter!
“If your home course is on the longer side, maybe consider going with just three wedges because you’d probably benefit from another hybrid or fairway wood. The opposite would be the case for shorter courses where you’ll have more wedges in your hand.”Rory McIlroy
But the assessment of which wedge lofts you need shouldn’t stop with the distance gapping. Where you play your golf is also something you need to consider before making your final decision.
If for example you play most of your golf on a course which has lots of deep rough around the greens carrying a wedge with more loft, or even an extra lob wedge of around 60°, may be of more value to help you get the ball out of the thick deep grass you often find yourself in closer to the green.
By comparison if your home course doesn’t have many bunkers and requires very few if any high flop shots you could decide lower lofted wedges work best as you don’t really need any high lofted wedges in your bag.
In short, and in addition to distance gaps, it is key you think about the ‘variety’ of wedge shots the course where you play most of your golf is going to demand you play and then make sure the lofts of wedges that you choose will let you play those as easily as possible.
And the last of key factors when it comes to choosing the wedge lofts which will work best for you is your own ability.
Different golfers find different wedge shots easier to play than others and it’s vital therefore that you choose the lofts of wedge that maximise your strengths and also help you with the shots that you have most trouble with.
If you struggle out of bunkers for example a sand wedge with a bit more loft than the standard 56° could be the answer or if short wedge shots over water are your nemesis carrying a very high lob wedge may help more.
Every player is different though and therefore the key is clearly that you choose the lofts of wedges that take into account these 3 key factors and therefore give you the best chance of covering as much of the variety and distance of wedge shots that you will be faced with on the course.
So lets turn now to some more specific questions which we’ve seen asked about wedge lofts to try and give some more practical tips on how you can use these these 3 elements to help you choose the best loft of wedge for your game.
Because let’s face it with some specialist wedges these days costing close to $200 it’s not a decision many of us can afford to get wrong if we’re buying a new wedge!
[Editor’s note – ‘Grind’ and ‘bounce’ are other important aspects of wedges in addition to loft which allow you to hit different varieties of wedge shots. To help you choose what bounce and grind your wedges you should have check out the article we’ve written on this here.]
Should I Get a 52 or 54 Degree Wedge?
Lofts in golf clubs are getting ever stronger these days but when it comes to gap wedges it’s still safe to say they generally range from around 50 to 54 degrees of loft.
So any golfer considering the question of whether they should get a 52 or 54 degree wedge is most likely wrestling with the decision of which loft of gap wedge they should be choosing to fill the gap between their pitching and sand wedges.
But which one should they select?
Golfers choosing between a 52° and 54° wedge should decide based on which club hits the ball the distance halfway between the nearest lower and higher lofted clubs in their bag. Factors such as the type of wedge shots the player needs to play most often and which wedge is easier to hit should also be considered.
Looking at the wedges used by the top 100 pros on the PGA Tour it is interesting to note that the most used gap wedge loft in that group – used by 41% of them – is a gap wedge of 52° with 50° gap wedges being the next most common with 1/3 using them.
These facts should not influence the average golfer choosing between a 52 and a 54 degree wedge however as it is vital they make their own assessment based on distance gapping, where they play most of their golf and their own ability.
[In another article we took a detailed look at all the wedges the top 100 pros on the PGA Tour are playing including all the wedge lofts they use. Check it out here.]
Should I Get a 54 or 56 Degree Wedge?
Gap wedge lofts today range from between 50 and 54 degrees while sand wedge lofts typically cover 55 to 59 degrees.
A golfer therefore looking at whether they should add a 54 or 56 degree lofted wedge to their bag is therefore in theory facing a choice between a gap wedge and sand wedge.
While we still give wedges names such as ‘pitching’, ‘gap’, ‘sand’ and lob wedge those distinctions are becoming increasingly less relevant as the loft and other variant options (e.g. bounce, grind, lie angle etc) available in wedges today continue to increase and increase.
The loft choice rather than the name of wedge is therefore more important when it comes to choosing your wedges.
As a general rule golfers should choose between a 54 and 56 degree wedge by assessing which of those wedges give them the best distance gap with their other clubs. A 10-15 yardage gap between wedges is recommended for men golfers with a 5-10 yard gap advised for women and junior golfers.
While distance gapping is the most important factor in wedge loft decisions when it comes to choosing between wedges with only 2 degrees of loft between them golfers can often find they hit those clubs pretty much the same distance and so they need to consider other factors to help them make the decision.
One of those should simply be where they play most of their golf and the ‘type’ of wedge shot they need to play most often.
For example while they find both wedge lofts go the same distance they may find the ball flight is much lower than with the lower lofted 54 degree wedge than the 56 degree version. And if they regularly play on a course with. a lot of wind that low ball flight may come in very handy.
By comparison if bunker play is a struggle for another player they will most likely find the extra loft of the 56 degree wedge gives them more room for error in the sand.
Should I get a 56 or 58 or 60 Degree Wedge? A Pro Weighs in
As the lofts of wedges get higher and higher the specialism of the wedge continues to increase.
And so, particularly when it comes to higher lofted sand wedges and lob wedges it’s vital that any golfer starts to think honestly about their ability when it comes to making their final wedge decision.
High lofted wedges, and by that we mean anything from 56° and up are hard clubs to hit with a full swing.
Whatever the bounce or grind option there is on the wedge you will find sometimes even the best players struggle to hit a full shot with such a high lofted wedge simply because the ball tends to go straight up and down and not very far because there is so much loft.
As a result the number of shots higher lofted wedges can be used for reduces and reduces as the loft increases and so if you go for a very high lofted wedge you may find it is only useful for one-shot per round if that.
And that’s a key decision to make if you are effectively making one of your 14 clubs a luxury speciality club.
The average golfer should have a 56 degree sand wedge in their bag in preference to higher lofted sand wedges or 58 or even 60 degrees. High lofted wedges are increasingly difficult to hit full shots with and require more skill to use effectively. Over 50% of the top 100 PGA Tour pros use a 56° sand wedge.
Now I know we said before that you should not make your decisions based solely on what wedges the pros are using however it is interesting to note that for all the changes which have occurred in wedges over the years the majority of the best pros in the world have stuck with choosing the tried and tested standard 56° sand wedge.
That surely says something although you should always of course ensure your final choice gives you the distance gapping you need when combined with your other wedges.
The consensus when it comes to sand wedges however seems to be clear and this was confirmed when we talked to some professionals about this.
One who worked at Sephlin for example, said to us that especially for amateurs who do not have a lot of experience with different wedges and how it affects the ball, a 56-degree wedge is recommended. He said it is sharp enough to hit your ball up, but still not too sharp to negatively affect the distance the ball will travel forward.
Another pro we talked to at Wide World of Golf again suggested a 56 degree wedge for the majority of amateur golfers noting that the standard sand wedge has been around for a long time and is still one of the most common wedges sold.
Every player is different of course and we would always recommend going through the 3 key factors – distance gaps, where you play and your ability – before you make your final wedge decisions but it seems clear that not having a 56° wedge in the bag will make you one of the minority.
Should I get a 60 or 64 Degree Wedge?
As we have already discussed high lofted wedges become ever more difficult to hit full shots with and when you are considering lob wedges of between 60 and 64 degrees you are getting to the highest lofted clubs it is possible to buy.
The additional issue with high lofted lob wedges also is that they are really only good for one type of shot – the high lob shot which goes straight up and down – so if you don’t have any of those to play in your round you are pretty much deciding to play with 13 clubs rather than 14.
Average golfers should therefore be wary when it comes to looking at including a lob wedge in their bag.
As a general rule average golfers should opt for lower lofted lob wedges of 60° in preference to higher lofted versions up to 64°. The higher the wedge loft the more skill required to use it effectively and the less variety of wedge shots it can be used for.
Taking a look at the best 100 players on the PGA Tour it’s again interesting to note that only one player uses a 64° lob wedge, only 2 use one of 63 degrees loft while a mere 6 use a 62 degree club. The vast majority of that elite group, 76%, use a 60° lob wedge.
These stats again however should not hide the fact of how much skill is required to use a lob wedge effectively and your average amateur golfer is likely to be much better served choosing lower degree wedges and to learn how to ‘open the face’ of the club to get extra loft when they need to play high lob wedge shots.
Other great articles realted to this topic:
- How Far Should You Hit Your Wedges? Be Sure to Fill the Gaps!
- Do Expensive Wedges Make a Difference? Not for Everyone!
- What are the Best Wedges for Spin? You Need to Get Into the Grooves
- Should All Your Wedges be the Same? Focus on Gaps & Variety
- What Wedges Do the Pros Use? Top 100 PGA Tour Player Analysis (2021)