It is widely recognized that the most dominant and important part of a golfer’s arsenal is the long game, and this has only become more important as golf balls and drivers have advanced in recent years.
Even amateur golfers are able to routinely achieve distances and accuracy previously well beyond the reach of professionals just a few decades ago, as the technology used in golf balls and clubs has continually improved overall performance.
This has placed an increasing emphasis on strong tee shots, and a discernible waning in the importance of the short game and its subtlety.
However, the short game is still an absolutely critical part of the game, and any golfer who neglects this aspect of their own game will find themselves dropping strokes and struggling to improve, especially in difficult conditions and situations.
A big part of the game of golf is being able to reliably determine which club is right for the current situation, however, this can be difficult for many reasons.
Some golfers are unaware of their own capabilities with different clubs, while others may not have access to all the different clubs required in certain situations.
When it comes to approach play and getting on the green, no club is more important than the wedge, and in this guide, we’re going to help you determine which type of wedge you should carry, as well as the differences between them and when you should make use of them.
Wedges often look a lot alike, and it’s easy to get confused about which one to use, particularly for beginners or those unsure of their capabilities.
So let’s clear up what a wedge is, before moving on to what wedges you should carry and some specifics about each type of club.
What Is A Wedge?
A wedge is a club that technically falls into the ‘iron’ category of clubs but is distinct from most numbered irons as it is used in specific situations and has a few distinguishing features that set it apart from most numbered irons.
First and foremost, wedges are the clubs with the highest amount of loft, which means they can get the most height on the ball of any club in a golf set.
Additionally, they tend to have shorter shafts than most other irons and clubs, aside from the putter, and will generally have the heaviest clubhead, as well as the highest amount of loft angle (which is what allows them to provide loft).
These clubs are used in approach play as they afford golfers a very accurate club that gives maximum control over the spin of the ball as well as where it gets hit.
Wedges are so useful in providing control over the ball that there are subsets of wedges designed for extremely difficult situations such as landing in heavy rough, a sand trap, or other difficult scenarios.
But which ones are essential and which are just nice to have?
What Wedges Should I Carry?
As an absolute minimum, every golfer should always carry a pitching wedge and a sand wedge.
Even the most sparse and basic golf set should include these two wedges, and they should never be left behind as they provide a very unique and specific utility that no other club in a golf set can offer.
The pitching wedge is the most important club in approach play, and gives maximum control over the ball due to its loft angle as well as its short length and weight.
What it lacks in distance, it makes up for in height, so it’s able to help golfers clear obstacles like water, sand, or rough, and can carry enough distance to help you onto the green if you’ve fallen short with your other clubs.
The sand wedge is even more specialized and is essentially purpose-built to help golfers escape the sand, should their ball be claimed by a bunker.
Sand traps and bunkers are notoriously difficult to escape from, particularly for inexperienced or poorly skilled golfers, and this is the case even when using a sand wedge.
Trying to escape with any other club is almost totally futile, as the sand wedge has the loft angle and dimensions to generate the force and lift required to get out of these particularly difficult situations.
Being able to salvage your round if you end up in a difficult situation relies on your sand wedge and knowing how to use it effectively.
There are several other types of wedges that have become resurgent in recent years, and while they may not always be included in standard golf sets, they can make a welcome addition to the avid golfer’s arsenal and fill some awkward niches that other clubs struggle to fill.
Some examples of these other wedges are…
The Lob Wedge
The lob wedge, also known as an L-wedge or lofted wedge, is a club that’s known for its very short range but extremely high loft and arc of trajectory, which is where it derives its name.
The club is dedicated to clearing awkward obstacles such as trees, rough or traps, and is designed almost exclusively for this purpose, as it lacks the distance of a pitching wedge or the weight and stability of a sand wedge.
The lob wedge is definitely a great addition if you have the space and money for it, but it’s by no means essential and most golfers will be able to make use of the sand wedge or pitching wedge in lieu of a lob wedge, should the need arise.
The Gap Wedge
Another type of wedge in golf is the gap wedge, which fills another very specific niche in the short game.
This wedge is used to hit shots that require a higher and shorter trajectory than a pitching wedge is capable of, but a longer and lower shot than a sand wedge is capable of.
The club is named the gap wedge as it is designed to fill the small niche or gap in performance between the pitching wedge and sand wedge, and for players who want to extract the most out of their equipment or who pride themselves on their precise and quality short game will want to make use of a gap wedge to improve their approach play even more.
When it comes to choosing the clubs you use, there are a lot of factors to consider, from your style as a player, to your physical attributes, the course you intend to play on, weather conditions as well as your budget.
For most beginners and high handicap players, a sand wedge and pitching wedge will be perfectly sufficient to develop and hone your short game skills.
However as players begin to become more skilled and their short game becomes more refined, the extra flexibility and precision afforded by a gap wedge or lob wedge can help massively improve your game.
If you’re at a course with a lot of traps and difficult approach areas, then you may find yourself wanting to add these extra wedges, however on simpler courses you may decide to leave them behind.
Being able to assess what equipment you need accurately is the true mark of a confident golfer, and as you become more experienced you will find yourself becoming more sure of yourself and setting yourself up for success by getting your equipment choice exactly right, from shot to shot and hole to hole.
Hopefully, this guide has helped expedite this process, but make sure to get some practice in with these wedges especially if you’ve never used them before, as they may look similar but they have surprisingly different performance characteristics that can take some getting used to.