A sand wedge is one of the first clubs people should add to their bags. The reason is that it’s one of the most versatile options around the course, and in this post, we’ll be talking about everything you need to know about sand wedges.
A sand wedge is a club with 54-56 degrees of loft and will fit between a gap and a lob wedge. It typically comes with the highest degree of bounce, which helps to not dig into the sand or dirt. Sand wedges are used to hit out of the sand, chip around the green, and shoot from the fairway.
Even though there are only two options for a SW (54 & 56), there are a lot of other factors to consider. You need to look at the bounce and grind of the club, which depends on your swing and the type of courses you play. We’ll cover all of that in the next section.
I want to hear from you. In the comments below, let me know what type of sand wedge you use and why you use it.
The Sand Wedge
The majority of iron sets come with a number of irons and then a pitching wedge. This means that you’ll probably have to buy a sand wedge that’s different than your irons.
Other than your driver and putter, your sand wedge is probably going to be the most used club in your bag. The reason is that it’s a lot more useful than the other wedges, which is why it should be the first wedge you add to your bag.
If you’re a beginner or tend to shoot in the mid to high 90s (or higher), you only really need a pitching and sand wedge. Once you start getting a bit better, you can add a gap wedge to fill the “gap” between your PW and SW.
The last wedge you’ll want to add to your bag is a lob wedge. I’d only recommend this club for better players because of how limited its use is and how hard it can be to hit consistently. For more on this, you can read our article on how many wedges the average golfer should have.
Sand Wedge Degree
In most cases, a sand wedge will come with either 54 or 56 degrees of loft. The right loft for you will depend on the loft of your pitching wedge as well as how many wedges you want to carry.
The first thing you need to think about is how many clubs you want in the bag. If you want to keep things simple and only have two wedges, a 56 degree SW and a PW will be the way to go.
If you want to add a third wedge, a GW should be your next pick. Having your PW, a 56 degree SW, and a GW that’s equally between them will be your best setup.
If you want to carry a wedge for all situations, you might consider adding a LW. If that’s the case, you’ll want to have a 58 degree LW, a 54 degree SW, and then a GW that’s between your SW and PW.
If you want the full strategy that goes behind it, check out our article on the 54 vs 56 degree sand wedge. It’ll explain the reasoning more in-depth and will probably give you a clearer picture of what you should be using.
Sand Wedge Bounce
Sand wedges will normally have between 8 and 14 degrees of bounce. Wedges with 8-10 degrees of bounce are considered to be mid bounce while anything over 10 would be considered high bounce.
Your SW will probably have more bounce than your other wedges because it’s used a lot more for bunker shots. More bounce will help the club glide through the sand and not dig in as much. Less bounce will dig into the dirt and sand a lot deeper.
The amount of bounce you should use depends on two things (mainly):
- How steep or shallow your swing is
- Whether you’re playing on soft or firm courses
If your swing is steep and you take large divots, you should have a high bounce SW. If your swing is shallow and you don’t take a divot, you should have a mid bounce SW.
If you play on courses that are very soft, you’ll probably want more bounce to stop the club from digging in. If you play on courses that are very firm, having less bounce might help you get cleaner contact.
So, as a general rule for picking a sand wedge:
- Steep swing + soft course = 14 degrees of bounce
- Shallow swing + firm course = 8 degrees of bounce
- Steep swing + firm course = 12 degrees of bounce
- Shallow swing + soft course = 10 degrees of bounce
This isn’t going to be the perfect answer for everyone, but it should give you a better idea of where to start. If you want to learn more, you can read our wedge bounce explained article.
When To Use A Sand Wedge?
A sand wedge is mainly used for shots into the green from a distance of 70 to 110 yards. It can also be used for greenside chipping and for shorter chip shots out of a bunker.
The reason I recommend that people get a SW before a GW/LW is that it can be used from anywhere (and to do almost everything). Other wedges are a bit limited in what they can do, but you can learn to do it all with a SW.
Here are the main uses of a sand wedge:
- To hit full-length shots from the fairway
- Hitting from greenside bunkers
- Chipping around the green when you need height
I don’t know about you, but my SW is the highest lofted club I feel confident taking a full swing with. Anything with more than 56 degrees of loft is just too tough to do consistently.
We’ll get into this more in the next section, but the majority of people will use their SW when they have less than 100 yards to the green but are still too far to hit a chip shot.
As the name suggests, the second use is from greenside bunkers. The reason it’s called a “sand” wedge is that it typically has a wider sole with more bounce. This helps glide through the sand and pop the ball out of the bunker.
The only time you’d use a lower lofted wedge in the sand is if you’re in a fairway bunker and your SW won’t get to the green. You could also use something with more loft if you’re in a deep bunker and really need to get some height on the ball.
The final use of a SW is to chip around the green. More specifically, when you need to hit the ball a bit higher. This will be a lot of people’s highest lofted club, which you’ll want to use when you need to chip over an obstacle (bunker, pond, etc).
We actually did a test to see what the best club to chip with is. Anytime the ball is somewhere close to the green, most people grab their highest lofted wedge (sand or lob wedge). That can work for some, but most people struggle with consistency.
I’m sure you’ve hit your fair share of thin and fat shots with your lofted wedge (I know I have). That’s why I’d only use my SW when I need more height and less rollout. Most of the time I’ll use my GW or PW and just bump the ball on the green and let it run to the hole.
How Far Can You Hit A Sand Wedge?
Most golfers will hit their sand wedge between 70 and 110 yards. We asked a number of different golfers in different age and skill groups and the average number was 88 yards.
This is obviously for full-swing shots. Most people don’t take a full swing with their SW, so these numbers could be a bit lower on the course. You can see how far people hit their wedges here.
It wasn’t always the case, but more often than not, better golfers in their 20s were the ones that hit their SW the farthest. Older golfers were usually the ones who hit the ball shorter, but that doesn’t mean their scores were worse.
Since wedges are scoring clubs and not distance clubs, you will probably get better results taking a 3/4 swing. Focus on control and accuracy instead of max distance.
Which Shaft To Use On Your Sand Wedge?
If you were to look in most people’s bags you’d probably notice that their wedge shafts were the stock ones that came out of their local golf shop. While that’s fine for some people, it’s not ideal for most.
The reason is that it’s probably a lot different than the shafts you have in your irons. A lot of iron shafts are 80-90 grams while wedge shafts can be 110-120 grams. It may not seem like a lot, but it can make a difference.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a good idea to play similar shafts in your irons and wedges.
If your iron shafts are steel, your wedge shafts should be steel. The opposite is the case if you play with graphite shafts. This just gives you a consistent feel throughout the bag.
In a professionals bag, you’ll usually see one of two things:
- The same shafts in their irons and wedges
- A slightly softer shaft in their wedges (but similar weight)
I think the easiest thing to do is to just play the same shafts. Having the same flex and weight throughout the bag should help you with consistency.
On the other hand, if you want to get a bit more short game spin with your wedges, you could add a slightly softer shaft. The weight difference should only be +/- 10 grams though.
More Info: What Shafts To Use In Your Wedges?
Shaft Length For Your Sand Wedge
The standard sand wedge is 35.25 inches long and will be the correct length for people between 5’9″ and 6’0″ tall. If you’re out of this range, simply add or subtract 0.5 inches.
That’s just a general recommendation and might not be perfect for everyone. Some people have longer or shorter arms compared to others, which could throw things off a bit.
Obviously, the best thing to do is get fitted and find the best length and lie combination.
If you don’t want to do that, you can just buy a standard sand wedge from wherever. It should do the job for 90% of golfers out there. If you’re well over 6’0″ or are under 5’8″ tall, your local shop will be able to lengthen or shorten the club.
I recently tested out a different type of wedge, one that’s “one length.” I bought a set of one length irons, which are all 7 iron length (4 iron to pitching wedge).
Overall, I liked the irons, but you can also buy wedges that are the same length. Long story short, I just couldn’t get the hang of them. It just felt weird having a high lofted club that’s so long. That’s why I’d recommend standard length to most.
Ball Position For Sand Wedges
For standard sand wedge shots, the ball should be equally between your feet when you take a stance that’s slightly less than shoulder width apart. You can then move the ball forward or backward to hit different types of shots.
I’ve done quite a bit of experimenting over the years with ball position. It’s been in the middle of my stance, it’s been slightly forward, and it’s even been near my back foot.
For me, I feel the most comfortable when my stance is slightly narrower than shoulder width with my wedges. This makes the low point of my swing in the center of my stance, which is why I place the ball there.
If you want to get the ball higher or hit a fade, you can move the ball more towards the target. If you want the ball to go lower or hit a big draw, you can move the ball towards your back foot.
In saying that, everyones swing is different and this might not work for you. The easiest way to tell is to take a swing without a ball and see where you hit the ground. Where you hit the ground is the low point of your swing and is where the ball should be.
NOTE. This article is part of our series on the different kinds of golf wedges. If you want to know more about each of them and what they can be used for, be sure to check that out.
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