Wedges collectively form the "scoring clubs" in our golf bags. While we like to think of scoring as setting up birdie chances, there is more to it than that.
Scoring is also about hitting a recovery shot with a golf wedge close after finding trouble on a hole. Scoring can also mean the frequency of "up and downs" made during a round.
So our wedges mean a lot and are used more often than we might think over a round, but it's one department of the game that can be overlooked and under-analysed. A good wedge game comes down to practising and working on technique, but having the right custom golf wedge set up in the bag is also crucial to success.
If you are in the market for new wedges, we'll help you make the right decisions by covering the following:
- The Importance of a Good Wedge Game - 2 Case Studies
- The Different Types of Golf Wedges
- Gapping Your Wedges Correctly
- Maintenance of Your Wedges
The Importance of a Good Wedge Game - 2 Case Studies
We expect the best in the world to have great wedge games and make a high percentage of up and downs. Two well-documented examples of where top professionals have worked hard on mastering the scoring clubs with positive results are:
- Victor Hovland
- Dustin Johnson
Hovland is a rising star in the game, and his strength is in his consistency from tee to green. If there was a weakness, it was Hovland's short game. Hovland looked nervous when faced with a pitch or chip; there is evidence of many a duffed chip shot on social media. His pitching and chipping were that poor; he ranked 191st on tour in strokes gained around the greens going into last season.
Hovland started to work on his technique, and gradually, improvements could be seen. After the PGA Championship in May 2023, Hovland improved to 170th and by the time the season ended, he ranked 20th.
With a newfound confidence in his short game adding to his already impressive long game, Hovland won twice in the playoffs, capturing the BMW and Tour Championships to claim his first Fed Ex Cup title.
Johnson was known as a long hitter from his earliest days on the PGA Tour. Johnson could win consistently but couldn't take full advantage of his power because he had a mediocre wedge game. His technique wasn't so much the problem. He didn't have a good feel for the numbers he needed to hit.
Using Trackman and working with his coach - Claude Harmon III, they developed a system where Harmon would call out a yardage for Johnson to hit, improving his feel and shot variety.
In 2013, when Johnson started to focus more on his wedge game, he ranked 113th on tour for approach shots between 50 and 125 yards. With his wedge game improving, Johnson made the breakthrough in his career by claiming his first major - the U.S. Open in 2016. He finished that season ranked 4th on tour for shots between 50 and 125 yards.
The Different Types of Golf Wedges
Four different wedges make up the scoring end of your bag:
- Pitching Wedge
- Gap Wedge
- Sand Wedge
- Lob Wedge
Pitching wedges fall into two camps. They can be part of the set that makes up the rest of the irons in your bag, or they can be a specialist pitching wedge.
There are pros and cons to whatever option you go with. The wedge that matches the rest of your irons can keep the continuity of feel and looks with the other irons but may have a strong loft.
Specialist golf wedges offer different levels of forgiveness. They will have a different feel and look to the rest of your irons. Pitching wedge lofts typically range from 44 to 48 degrees.
As lofts have become stronger over the years, this has created a bigger distancing between how far a pitching wedge and a sand wedge goes. The aptly named gap wedge is designed to cover that gap.
Lofts on gap wedges range from 48 to 53 degrees and help ensure that a golfer doesn't have to comprise by hitting their pitching wedge too softly or trying to hit their sand iron hard to cover a specific distance.
The Sand Wedge is one of the most versatile and essential clubs in the bag. It's one of the most used clubs in our bag, from full shots to chips, pitches and bunker shots. Sand wedges come in between 54 and 56 degrees of loft.
The lob wedge also provides versatility for players looking to execute delicate lob shots and bunker shots. As greens get faster, the higher levels of spin and trajectory generated from lob wedges offer precision shots that, with the added loft, can get the ball closer to the hole. Lob wedges will generally be lofted between 58 and 62 degrees.
Gapping Your Wedges Correctly
Wedges are generally tasked with covering distances that can be as much as 130 yards or as little as 50 yards. Gapping wedges correctly ensures no significant distance discrepancies between each wedge in our bag.
Ideally, the gapping should be 10 yards between each wedge, with an acceptable tolerance up to a maximum of 15 yards, giving a 4 to 6-degree gap in lofts.
Taking this on board, a player might have a wedge setup in their bag of:
- 46-degree pitching wedge
- 50-degree gap wedge
- 54-degree sand wedge
- 58-degree lob wedge
Another essential factor when looking at wedges is bounce angle. What we mean by that is the angle created between the leading edge and the trailing edge of the wedge's sole. The greater the angle, the more bounce on the golf wedge.
Understanding bounce is essential in making contact with the ball with our wedges. If we have a steep angle of attack into the ball and take a deep divot, we are better suited to wedges with more bounce.
The opposite can be true for players with a shallower angle of attack - less bounce might help them get to the back of the ball more easily. The types of courses you regularly play can also play a part in the decision-making process.
Playing on hard, links-style turf, having less bounce might aid better ball/turf interaction. Again, the opposite could be true if you play courses with softer underfoot conditions. More bounce on the wedge could prevent the leading edge from digging too deep into the turf.
Maintenance of Your Wedges
As mentioned earlier, we use our wedges a lot during a round of golf. To maintain consistent spin standards, the grooves of your golf wedge must be kept clean as much as possible. You can purchase many tools to help you achieve this, and you can use these even during a round of golf.
If the grooves feel very worn even after cleaning, it could spell the end of the practical life of your wedges. Getting the lofts checked occasionally will also help maintain the consistent gapping of each wedge for distance.
A good wedge player will be as effective around a golf course as somebody who hits the ball a long way. Wedges not only provide the opportunity to set up birdies, but they can help us recover if we have got into trouble and help us make more up and downs around the green.
We saw from the examples of Victor Hovland and Dustin Johnson how spending more time working on this crucial part of the game can make a big difference in performance.
Going for a custom fitting session can help educate you on how far you hit each wedge in your bag and see if there are distance gaps. You can also understand which loft and bounce setting will benefit your game through the fitting process.
At Golf Tech U.K., we have helped many golfers optimise their wedge setup, allowing them to shoot better scores.
Book a fitting session with us, or look at the fully customisable wedge options available on the website from brands such as TaylorMade, PXG, Cleveland, Mizuno and Miura.