What Is A Gap Wedge? (The Ultimate Guide)

For most golfers, the gap wedge should be the third one added to the bag. It’s a pretty versatile club that can be used all over the course, and in this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the GW and which option will be right for you.

A gap wedge, also called an approach wedge, comes with 50-52 degrees of loft and will fit between a pitching and sand wedge. It’s a useful club because of its versatility since it can be used for full shots as well as bump-and-run chips around the green.

That said, you’ll need to consider more than just loft when it comes to buying a new wedge. The loft you decide to go with will depend on your other clubs. You also need to think about the amount of bounce, the sole grind, and the shaft that will be the best for you. We’ll cover all of that next.

The Gap Wedge

The majority of iron sets come with clubs up to the pitching wedge. That means you’ll probably have to buy a gap wedge that’s different than the rest of your clubs.

In case you don’t know, a GW is one that fits between your PW and your SW. It’s sometimes called an approach (or “A”) wedge. I’d only recommend adding a GW to your bag once you’re consistently shooting in the 80s. If not, stick with a PW and SW for now.

RELATED: How Many Wedges You Should Be Using

I’d stick with a PW and SW if you’re a beginner because it’s cheaper and you can also hit 90% of shots with those clubs. The only reason to add a GW is to fill the “gapping” distance between them.

Gap Wedge Degree

In most cases, a gap wedge will have either 50 or 52 degrees of loft. The number you decide to go with will depend on the loft of your pitching and sand wedges, with your gap wedge going in the middle.

Your wedges should have 4-6 degrees of loft between them for optimal distance gapping.

Bob Vokey

If your PW is 48 degrees, having a 50 degree GW makes no sense. On the other hand, if your SW is 54 degrees, a 52 degree GW won’t give you enough of a distance gap.

The average PW has between 43-44 degrees of loft these days. If that’s the case for you, that means your next wedge should be 47-50 degrees.

The problem I see often is that wedge sets like the Kirkland Signature or Stix wedges, even though they’re good clubs, come with 52/56/60 degrees of loft. That was fine when pitching wedges had more loft, but these days, the loft is much lower.

If you want the simple answer, pick the loft that’s equally between your PW and SW. If you want a bit more info, check out our article on whether you should use a 50 or 52 degree gap wedge.

Gap Wedge Bounce

The majority of gap wedges on the market come with between 8 and 12 degrees of bounce. 8-10 degrees would be considered mid bounce while anything over 10 would be considered high bounce.

The reason you won’t find many low bounce gap wedges is that they’re used often for full shots. A low bounce wedge is designed to dig into the ground, which would make it hard for most people to hit.

Bounce is your friend.

Bob Vokey

The number you decide to go with will depend on your swing and what courses you play. We have an in-depth guide on wedge bounce, but if you want the simple answer, here is a general guideline:

  • Steep swing + soft course = high bounce wedge
  • Shallow swing + firm course = mid bounce wedge

If you fall into category #1, going with something around 12 degrees would be ideal. If you’re in category #2, close to 8 degrees will be better.

If you’re somewhere in the middle (steep swing and firm course, for example), I’d probably go with a GW that has 10-11 degrees of loft.

To take things a step further, you can also think about what grind you should be using on your wedges. I’d only recommend this if you’re a good golfer and want to really optimize your game.

What Is A Gap Wedge Used For?

A gap wedge is used to hit full shots from the fairway and to hit bump-and-run shots around the green. For a lot of golfers, it’s actually one of the most consistent clubs for chipping around the green.

We did a test to see which club people should chip with and one of the best options was the gap wedge. It wasn’t the best option in all situations, but as long as you don’t have any obstacles in front of you, it’s a solid choice.

The two main uses of a gap wedge are:

  • Hitting full-length shots from the fairway
  • Chipping bump and runs around the green

For me personally (and I think a lot of others), my gap wedge is the shortest club I feel comfortable hitting 100%. I’ll only ever hit my lob wedge at 1/2 speed and then my sand wedge at 3/4 speed.

The reason is that, more often than not, something bad happens if I try to go all out with my SW/LW. In my case, I’ll either hit behind the ball and it won’t go very far or I’ll pull it way left.

I don’t seem to have that problem with my GW. Wedges are scoring clubs, not distance clubs, so most people will have better accuracy when they ease up on their swing.

The second use of a GW is hitting bump and runs around the green. I think a lot of people overlook this shot because it’s not as sexy as the high-flop shot that stops next to the pin.

I’d highly recommend playing this shot more often.

The idea is to get the ball on the green as quickly as possible and let it run out to the hole. This is only going to work if you have no obstacles in front of you (water, bunker, long grass, etc).

Sometimes I’ll use my 7 iron for this and sometimes I’ll use my GW. It all depends on how high I need the ball to go and how far it needs to roll.

I’ll use my GW when there’s a decent amount of grass in front of me that I need to get over. It takes a bit of practice to fine-tune your strategy and see what works best for you.

How Far Should A Gap Wedge Go?

Most golfers hit their gap wedge between 90 and 120 yards. On average, the number was 103 yards after asking a number of different golfers, but obviously, it’ll depend on whether they’re taking half or full swings.

The two main factors in distance were age and skill level. In a lot of cases, golfers in their 20s hit the ball the longest. Part of the reason is that younger golfers tend to swing all out with their clubs rather than aiming for control.

It also seemed to be that better golfers hit the ball longer as well. That said, I’ve seen scratch golfers hit their GW 80 yards and I’ve also seen high handicaps hitting over 130 yards.

If you’re curious about how far people hit their wedges, you can read our article that goes through each club. Our numbers are based on polling a number of different golfers (with different skill levels).

Gap Wedge Shaft (Flex & Weight)

For most golfers, having the same shaft in your wedges and irons will be the best option. When your shaft flex and weight are the same, it’ll give you a consistent feel throughout your bag.

Just think about if you had light graphite shafts in your irons and heavy steel shafts in your wedges. It’s going to feel very different when you swing them and will probably take a lot of practice to dial them in.

This is why it makes sense to keep things simple and use the same shaft. It might not be the absolute perfect option for you, but for 90% of weekend hackers, it’s the way to go.

A lot of professional golfers even use the same shafts in their irons and wedges. Jon Rahm is just one example (at the time of writing this). If it’s good enough for him, it’s probably good enough for you.

On the other hand, a lot of professionals use different shafts in their irons and wedges. What’s interesting though is that it’s kind of the opposite of what you’ll see at your local course.

Most recreational players will use regular or stiff shafts that weigh 85-100 grams. If you were to buy a wedge off the rack, it’ll probably have a stiff shaft that weighs 115-120 grams, which is quite a bit heavier.

On the other hand, what you’ll usually see in a professional bag is:

  • The same shaft in their irons and wedges
  • The same shaft in their irons and pitching wedge, but softer shafts in their gap-lob wedge

If their iron and wedge shafts are the same, that means the flex and weight are the same. This makes things really simple and will make each of your clubs somewhat similar, in terms of feel.

If their iron and wedge shafts are different, their GW, SW, and LW shafts will have more flex (Jordan Spieth & Justin Thomas, for example). The weight will be 10 grams more or less, depending on personal preference.

The reason for the softer shaft is that it’ll help you get a bit more spin on your shots. If you could use that, it might be worth trying. Just don’t go too soft or you could lose some control.

More Info: What Shafts To Use In Your Wedges?

Gap Wedge Shaft Length

The majority of gap wedges will come with a 35.50 inch shaft. This is the ideal length for people between 5’9″ and 6′ tall. If you’re out of this range, simply add or subtract 0.5 inches.

The reason you want to have your wedges shorter than your irons is that they’re scoring clubs, and in most cases, having a shorter club will help you control the ball better.

So, I’d say that most people have the right length gap wedge. I’d also say that most people play a driver, wood, hybrid, and long iron that’s too long.

I’m 5’11” and I had standard-length clubs. I actually shortened my driver, wood, and hybrid by 0.5 inches and it helped me hit the ball a lot straighter.

RELATED: What Happens If Your Clubs Are Too Long Or Short?

I also wanted to try one-length wedges, since I use one-length irons. If you don’t know, it simply means that all your irons and wedges are the same length (37.25 inches, which is 7 iron length).

What I noticed was that it worked completely fine for full-length shots, but it didn’t seem to work as well for short chips around the green when I had to choke up on the club.

If you don’t use one-length irons then I wouldn’t even worry about this. If you do use them, it might be worth trying them out because some people do love them.

Gap Wedge Ball Position

For a standard shot, you should place the ball a clubhead inside your front heel. When you take your normal stance, narrower than shoulder width, the ball will be in the middle of your stance.

What I see most people do is play the ball in the middle of their stance. That’s fine, but in a lot of cases, their stance is too wide, which can cause problems.

I found it to be much easier to place the ball a clubhead length inside my front heel and then adjust my back foot so the ball is in the center of my stance.

This is actually what I do for all my clubs, not just my wedges. Anytime the ball is on the ground (wood, hybrid, irons, wedges), the ball will be placed a clubhead inside my front heel. I’ll then adjust the length of my back foot based on what club I’m hitting:

  • Wedge & Short Irons: Narrower than shoulder width
  • Mid Irons: Shoulder width
  • Long Irons, Hybrid & Wood: Wider than shoulder width

Here is a short video that explains the concept:

YouTube video player

Just because that works for me doesn’t always mean it’ll work for you. What you need to do is find the low point of your swing. If you shift your weight a lot, your low point could be behind center.

The easiest way to tell is by taking a swing without a ball. Look to see where you made the divot and then place the ball just behind that.

NOTE. This article is part of our series on the different golf wedges on the market. If you want to know more about them and what they’re used for, be sure to check that out.

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Hey, I'm Jon. I started Out Of Bounds Golf to share my findings after testing golf gear for the past 10+ years. My goal is to make the game a little easier to understand, whether that's with finding the right product or answering common questions. I currently live in the Pacific Northwest.

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