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Everyone knows that the best way to shoot high scores is by having a lousy short game. Some of the most used clubs in the bag are wedges, so in this post, we’ll cover the different types of wedges, which ones you should have, and when you might want to use each of them.
I’m sure you know that wedges have different lofts, meaning they hit the ball different distances. What you might not know is that each of them has its purpose when chipping around the green. Not only that, but you might not need all five of them. Let’s get started.
The Pitching Wedge
Pretty much everyone has a pitching wedge. They usually come with your iron set and are one of the most used golf clubs in the bag. The reason is that they’re versatile and can be used across the course.
I think it’s a good idea to have a PW that’s the same as your other irons. Being the same will improve your consistency because the clubs will feel and perform similarly. If you don’t have one then I’d recommend it be your first or second wedge.
A PW will have a loft of between 43 and 46 degrees (custom clubs could be different). This means that the PW will hit the ball further than any other wedge.
We did a survey to see the average wedge distance for different golfers, and the average PW distance was 116 yards. The range was generally between 100 and 140 yards though.
When To Use A Pitching Wedge
A PW is a pretty versatile club because it can be used in a few different situations. This is why it’s the second most important wedge to have in your bag (behind the SW).
Here is when you could use a pitching wedge:
- For 100-140 yard shots from the fairway
- To chip out from under trees
- To hit bump and runs around the green
For me, my PW is the most consistent club in the bag. I think a lot of people are the same. I’ll hit it between 140 and 145 yards, so I always try to have my approach shots from that distance.
I also use my PW a lot when I’m chipping out from trouble. If my ball ends up in the trees after my tee shot, sometimes I’ll have to chip out with my PW.
It depends on how low the branches are (low branches might need a 7 or 8 iron), but it’s usually the perfect balance of loft and run out to get back to the fairway.
You can also use it to chip the ball onto the green. A lot of people use their SW or LW when they’re close to the green, but as you probably know, chunking or topping the ball is pretty common.
For most golfers, hitting a bump and run is the smarter play. It really comes down to how high you need to hit the ball. This is why you could use a PW or 6 iron to hit these shots.
When you want to hit a bump and run but have an obstacle in front of you (rough, small bunker, etc), a PW could be the right choice. There’s enough loft to pop the ball up, but it will also run out more than your other wedges.
The Gap Wedge
This is the third wedge you should add to your bag, but that said, beginners and high handicappers don’t need one yet. There is probably a big distance gap between your PW and SW, so this club fills the “gap.”
Some iron sets will also come with a GW but most of them don’t. This means it will most likely be different than your irons, but that’s fine with the shorter wedges.
A GW will be a 50 or 52 degree wedge. This means that you’ll get less distance than your PW, but you’ll hit higher shots with more spin (which helps you stop the ball on the green).
Our average wedge distance article shows that the average golfer hits their GW 103 yards. Most people will be somewhere between 90 and 120 yards.
When To Use A Gap Wedge
My GW is one of my favorite clubs to use around the green and is the highest lofted club that I feel comfortable hitting 100% (a full swing) from the fairway.
Here is when you could use a gap wedge:
- For 90-120 yard shots from the fairway
- To hit bump and run shots around the green
The first use of a gap wedge is for approach shots into the green. Anywhere between 90 and 120 yards out is where this club comes into play, but for most, it’s the go-to club for 100-105 yard shots.
What took me a while to realize is that you shouldn’t take full swings with your wedges. Anywhere between 1/2 and 3/4 speed is best for control and accuracy.
Sure, you might be able to hit your GW 120+ yards, but it won’t be as accurate. I like taking an extra club (longer club) and putting an easier swing on it.
In saying that, my GW is the shortest club I feel confident in taking full swings. I generally make solid contact, but when it comes to my SW and LW, I (and others) tend to hit behind the ball often.
The second use of a GW is for bump and runs into the green. It’s the highest lofted club I’d recommend for hitting this shot and is used for a specific scenario.
It’s pretty similar to hitting a bump and run with your PW but the main difference is the increased loft. This will help you hit the ball a bit higher, but with that, you’ll get less run out.
I like to use my GW when I have a lot of green to work with but need to chip over something. It could be long grass, bunker, pond, or whatever else you might run into.
If you use your PW or shorter iron to hit a bump and run, you might not get over the obstacle. It’s just something you need to play around with and see what works best for you.
The Sand Wedge
The sand wedge is one of the most used clubs in the bag and is the first or second wedge all golfers should have. The reason is that it can be used almost anywhere.
You can get a cavity back or a bladed SW but I don’t think it’s a huge deal which one you get. If your irons are cavity backs then I’d probably stick to that. The wedge above is a CB wedge but it’s still pretty compact.
RELATED: Cavity Back vs Muscle Back vs Blades
A SW will be a 54 or 56 degree wedge, and generally, have higher amounts of bounce. This helps the club glide through the sand and is also helpful for people who hit behind the ball.
Our average wedge distance article shows that the average golfer hits their SW 88 yards, while the range is somewhere between 70 and 110 yards. This all depends on the golfer and whether or not they take a 1/2 or 3/4 swing.
When To Use A Sand Wedge
A sand wedge is the highest lofted club beginners and high handicappers should carry in their bags. If you become consistent with it, you can hit almost any shot out there.
Here is when you could use a sand wedge:
- For 70-110 yards shots from the fairway
- When you’re in the sand
- For chipping around the green
The first situation you’d hit your SW is when you’re 70-110 yards out in the fairway. The number depends on how far you hit the club. With a 3/4 swing, I hit my SW 100 yards.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I try a full swing with my SW, I hit a lot of fat shots (behind the ball). A lot of golfers do the same thing, which is why I prefer to hit my GW with a lighter swing.
Since this wedge has more loft than a PW/GW, it’ll put more spin on the ball. This makes it better for hitting the ball close to the pin and having it stop fairly quickly. The previous wedges will land on the green and roll out a bit more.
This club is called a sand wedge for a reason, which is why you’d probably want to use it for bunker shots. You could use one of the other wedges, but 9/10 times I’ll use my SW.
The reason this wedge works well in the sand is that they normally have higher degrees of bounce. More bounce helps the club glide through the sand or dirt. Less bounce digs deeper into the sand and dirt.
Unless you’re a low handicapper, you’ll probably have a tough time hitting consistent bunker shots with a low bounce wedge (unless the sand is very firm). It’ll just end up digging in, and the ball won’t pop out.
The final use of a SW is for chipping around the green. We talked a bit about how the PW and GW can be used for bump and runs. That’s really not the case with your SW.
More loft means more height, which also means less run out. If there’s any sort of obstacle in front of you (rough, bunker, pond, etc), this could be the club to use to make sure the ball gets up and over.
You could also use this wedge when the ball is close to the green and you have a lot of green to work with (the pin is at the other end). You could hit a bump and run, but sometimes it’s just easier to chip the ball halfway and let it roll out less.
The Lob Wedge
The lob wedge is the last club you should add to your bag and is mainly recommended for better players who need to hit more complex shots. Once you’re close to breaking 80 is when I might consider adding this wedge.
A LW will be a 58 or 60 degree wedge (sometimes more). The choice comes down to what your other wedges are, but I’m somewhat against the 60 degree option. So is Hank:
The average golfer shouldn’t use anything with more than 58 degrees of loft.Hank Haney
The reason is that, in the wedges, too much loft is harder to use. Most people struggle to make consistent contact, especially with shots from the fairway.
You also have a variety of different bounce and grind options to pick from, which depend on your swing and the courses you’re playing at. It’s a bit too complex for this article.
Our average wedge distance article shows that the average player hits their LW 73 yards, while the range is between 60 and 90 yards.
When To Use A Lob Wedge
Since the lob wedge has the most loft and a bunch of customization options (bounce & grind), it’s one of the best clubs for better players who want to be creative around the greens.
Here is when you could use a lob wedge:
- For 60-90 yards shots from the fairway
- When you’re in the bunker
- For hitting high chips around the green
Being 50-75 yards out from the green is a bit of an awkward spot for a lot of people to be in. Their SW might go too far, but it’s still not close enough to chip the ball.
Better players will probably use their LW when they’re between 60 and 90 yards out. This wedge will put the most spin on the ball, which is nice because you can really control your distances and have the ball stop quickly.
The downside is that a LW can be tough to hit with a 3/4 to full swing. For me, I have much better results when I put a lighter swing on my SW. You might be the same or you might be different. You’ll have to see for yourself.
You could also use your LW when you’re in the sand and need to get the ball in the air as quickly as possible. I’d only recommend this if your wedge has at least 8-10 degrees of bounce.
The most common use of a LW is when you’re chipping around the green. The ideal situation is when you need to hit the ball high and have it stop quickly. An example is hitting over a bunker with not much green to work with (the flag is close to the bunker).
This is also the club used to hit flop shots. I don’t know if I’d recommend this shot, but if you’re good and have practiced it, all the power to you.
The Chipper Wedge
This is the final wedge you might consider adding to the bag. They’ve become super popular over the past couple of years and are made for hitting bump-and-run shots within 30-40 yards of the green.
What’s unique about these wedges is that they have around 38-39 degrees of loft (same as a 9 iron) and are roughly 35 inches long (similar to a putter). They also have more of an upright lie to them.
The whole idea is that it’s like a 9 iron but you can get closer to the ball. This should help you make solid contact and have a more consistent short game. It’s essentially a wedge that you hit like a putter.
I didn’t really believe it myself, but I just recently got the Ping ChipR and it works surprisingly well. It’s not something that you can use on every hole, but if you like hitting bump-and-run shots it might be worth checking out.
When To Use A Chipper Wedge
The good news about these clubs is that they work surprisingly well in certain situations. The bad news is that they don’t work in most situations.
Here is when you could use a chipper wedge:
- Hitting chips less than 40 yards with no obstacles in front of you
- That’s it
The only time you could use this wedge is when you’re close to the green and don’t have any rough, bunkers, ponds, or anything else in front of you.
You won’t be able to get much height (or spin) on the ball, which means it probably won’t get over many obstacles.
The first time I’ll use my Ping ChipR is when I’m right beside the green and want to bump it on and let it run out a bit. It’s more consistent at this than any other club in my bag (other than my putter).
The second is when I’m in the fairway and don’t have anything in front of me. All I have to do is chip the ball through fairway grass and it’ll roll up to the green. It’s essentially when I’m able to putt the ball, but need a bit more speed/bounce.
Note. This article is part of our series on how to pick the right wedges. If you’d like to know more about wedge design and which ones you should carry, be sure to check that out.
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