Gap Wedge vs. Approach Wedge: Is There a Difference?

golfer pitching using a wedge

You’ve probably heard the terms gap wedge and approach wedge and wondered if there’s a difference. These terms are responsible for a lot of confusion in golf, especially for beginners.

In short, there’s no difference between a gap wedge and an approach wedge. These terms are two different names for the same club.

Some manufacturers call this club a gap wedge because it fills the gap between your pitching wedge and sand wedge. Others call it an approach wedge because you use it for shorter approach shots to the greens.

The crucial thing to remember is that they’re the same club. Don’t let the different names confuse you anymore.

Let’s look at what a gap wedge (approach wedge) is and what golfers use it for.

What is a Gap Wedge or Approach Wedge?

A gap wedge or approach wedge fills the gap between your pitching and sand wedges. It has more loft than a pitching wedge and less loft than a sand wedge.

Golf manufacturers started to lower the loft of pitching wedges. However, the loft of sand wedges stayed relatively the same.

That left a wide gap in the loft between pitching wedges and sand wedges. Some pitching wedges can be 43 degrees, while sand wedges generally stay around 54 degrees.

The gap in the loft is too much. It leaves golfers with a massive disparity in distance between pitching wedges and sand wedges.

Related: Pitching, Gap, Sand, and Lob Wedge Lofts: A Complete Guide

A gap wedge or approach wedge plugs that gap in the loft between these wedges. It means your distances are closer together and more uniform.

Let’s say you hit your pitching wedge 100 yards and your sand wedge 80 yards. If you have a 90-yard shot, you’re stuck between clubs.

However, a gap wedge or approach wedge fits in between the two. You can use it for the 90-yard shot because its loft fills the gap between the other wedges.

What is a Gap Wedge or Approach Wedge Used For?

A gap wedge or approach wedge is a versatile club. Golfers use it for full shots, pitches, and chips around the greens.

Full Shots

Our previous example showed how a gap wedge comes in handy for a full shot. It means you don’t have to ‘choke down’ on a pitching wedge or try to swing like a maniac with a sand wedge to get the right distance.

So, a gap wedge gives you more control over that distance. It’s much easier to take a full, smooth swing than trying to ‘choke down’ or hit the ball super hard.

Pitch Shots

golf pitch

You can also use a gap wedge or an approach wedge for certain pitch shots. It often gives you better control over a pitching wedge or sand wedge.

Let’s say you’re playing in windy conditions and have a pitch shot to a tight pin. So, you need to keep the ball low but get it to stop quickly on the green.

Reach for your gap wedge or approach wedge, friends. It allows you to get a lower ball flight with the desired spin.

A pitching wedge gives you an even lower ball flight but won’t give you enough spin. The sand wedge gives you more spin, but the ball flies too high and gets caught in the wind.

Chip Shots

A gap wedge or approach wedge gives you control for chip shots around the greens. Use it when you want the ball to run out a little but not too much.

Your ball might run too far along the green with a pitching wedge. However, it might stop too quickly with a sand wedge.

Again, a gap wedge or approach wedge offers the middle ground. The ball will run less than the pitching wedge but more than the sand wedge.

What Degree is a Gap or Approach Wedge?

A gap wedge or approach wedge has between 48 and 52 degrees of loft. That loft range sits perfectly between a pitching wedge and a sand wedge.

Gapping Your Wedges

Maybe you have a 43-degree pitching wedge and a 53-degree sand wedge. A 48-degree gap or approach wedge would be your best option.

Some players might have a 46-degree pitching wedge and a 54-degree sand wedge. A 50-degree gap or approach wedge fits perfectly in that setup.

We recommend not going any lower than a 4-degree gap between wedges. Also, it’s best not to go higher than a 6-degree difference.

That gapping gives you optimal yardage between each club.

It’s crucial to keep the gapping as uniform as possible. For instance, you don’t want a 2-degree gap followed by an 8-degree gap. But a small difference is Ok.

Your distances between each club will be all over the place. That makes things much harder for you.

The table below gives you some of the best gapping options.

Pitch Wedge LoftGap Wedge LoftSand Wedge LoftLob Wedge Loft
44485258
45505460
46525864
48525660

Different Types of Wedges

The different types of wedges are pitching wedges, gap or approach wedges, sand wedges, and lob wedges. Understanding the other wedges helps us with the gap or approach wedge.

Pitching Wedge

A pitching wedge generally has a loft range between 43 and 48 degrees. The loft has gotten stronger over the years, creating the need for a gap or approach wedge.

That’s because players are hitting pitching wedges further than they used to. The difference in distance means you need to gap your wedges for optimal performance.

Average male golfers hit a pitching wedge between about 95 and 115 yards. The distance you hit your pitching wedge determines the gapping you need.

Gap or Approach Wedge

As we now know, the gap or approach wedge sits between the pitching and sand wedges. The loft range is between 48 and 52 degrees.

Average male golfers hit a gap or approach wedge between about 90 and 110 yards.

Sand Wedge

Traditionally, a sand wedge used to be the highest lofted club in the bag. However, lob wedges became more popular and took their place.

Sand wedges have a loft range of 52 to 58 degrees. The average male golfer hits a sand wedge between about 80 and 100 yards.

As the name suggests, golfers use sand wedges to hit out of the sand in bunkers. But they’re versatile clubs, and players use them for full shots, flop shots, and chip shots around the greens.

Lob Wedge

The lob wedge is the highest lofted club in the bag. Golfers usually use 60-degree lob wedges, especially amateur players.

Lob wedges have a loft range of 58 to 64 degrees. However, only the best golfers should use a 64-degree lob wedge because they’re much harder to use.

You can launch the ball high and get it to stop quickly with a lob wedge. It’s the best club for playing flop shots.

Golfers also use the lob wedge to hit full shots, hitting the ball high and landing it softly. The average male player hits it about 70 to 90 yards with a lob wedge.

Wedge Lofts: Gapping and Distances

We now know more about the different types of wedges, gapping them, and the distances you can expect. Let’s put it together in a table to give you an even clearer picture.

ClubLoft in DegreesDistance in Yards
Pitching Wedge46112
Gap Wedge52100
Sand Wedge5888
Lob Wedge6476

In our example, a 6-degree difference in loft gives a 12-yard difference in distance. That’s a nice uniform yardage progression between your wedges.

It’s unlikely your distances will match this example. However, you get the idea.

We want that consistent gapping because it helps tremendously on the golf course. Knowing you’ve got a full gap or approach wedge when you’re 100 yards out gives you the confidence to execute the shot.

You don’t need to worry about hitting it easier or harder. Just step up and take your normal swing.

You’ll be surprised how much more consistent that makes your golf game.

Conclusion

When it comes to a gap wedge vs. an approach wedge, remember that they’re the same thing. Some manufacturers call them a gap wedge while others call them an approach wedge.

You can use a gap wedge or approach wedge for various shots. It’s excellent for full shots when your distance sits between a pitching wedge and a sand wedge.

Also, you can use it for pitch shots and chip shots around the greens. It depends on what type of shot you want to play.

However, not everyone likes using a gap or approach wedge for these shots. So, it’s always best to practice these shots with different types of wedges to see what suits your game the best.

There’s no doubt that a gap or approach wedge is a necessary addition to your bag, especially if you’re a serious golfer. Just make sure you practice different shots with it to get the best results.

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Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli is the founder of TopRankGolf, a passionate golfer with 25 years of experience playing and coaching golfers around the world. He's dedicated to helping golfers learn and enjoy the game of golf.