If you want to play better golf, then you have to get good with your wedge game. It all starts with understanding what wedges you need in your bag and what wedge loft you should be playing with each one. Knowing the distance you hit each club, and understanding the gaps you need to fill, is a critical factor in determining your wedge loft needs.
The majority of golf shots are played from within 125 yards, whether an approach shot or around the green. Because of that, you must have the right wedge loft to execute your intended shot. The best wedge players know how far they hit each club and have made sure they have no distance gaps between their wedges. This article will discuss different golf wedges and their lofts and guide how you can choose the best wedge loft configuration for your game.
Different Types of Golf Wedges & Lofts
There are four different golf wedges (Pitching Wedge, Gap Wedge, Sand Wedge, and Lob Wedge), each with different lofts and a unique purpose. Wedges come with different loft options, grind, and bounce, all of which are important; however, this article will focus specifically on wedge loft.
The first thing to understand is that there is no standard loft for any particular wedge. There are general loft ranges, but wedges can be customized to the loft you need. Not all golfers are alike, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” configuration. There’s a wide range of iron set loft configurations, and some golfers hit the ball longer than others. Because of that, wedge lofts are flexible to fit a player’s specific need. Lofts can also be bent by a degree or two for even further customization.
Let’s look at each one.
Pitching Wedge (Loft: 43°-48°)
Pitching wedges come stock in most iron sets with standard lofts of 43°-48°. More and more golf club manufacturers are decreasing the loft on standard pitching wedges. Years ago, 47°-48° was pretty standard, but now 43°-46° is much more common. This means that golfers are hitting pitching wedges much farther than they were in the past, increasing the need for more customization in the lower lofted wedges (e.g., gap, sand, and lob).
Gap Wedge (Loft: 48°-52°)
Gap wedges, well, fill the gap in between the sand wedge and pitching wedge. Some iron sets come with approach wedges (A-wedge), which is the same as a gap wedge.
With the lofts of pitching wedges going down over the years, this has created an even larger distance spread from pitching wedge to the sand wedge. If you have more than 20-25 yards between your PW and SW, a gap wedge is a perfect club to fill this gap.
Sand Wedge (Loft: 52°-58°)
Sand wedges are the second-highest lofted club in many golfer’s bags unless you don’t carry a lob wedge. This is a versatile wedge, from bunker shots, chips around the green, full swing approach shots, and everything in between. Standard sand wedge lofts range from 52°-58° and generally have more bounce than lower lofted clubs. This added bounce provides versatility and forgiveness as the sole glides a bit easier when interacting with the turf. My sand wedge is my go-to wedge in my bag for so many different reasons.
“The sand wedge used to be the highest lofted club in a player’s bag. Most players would benefit from using their sand wedge more often around the green.”Bob Vokey
Lob Wedge (Loft: 58°-60°)
Lob wedges are the highest lofted club for most players, usually between 58°-60°. Some manufacturers are making higher lofted lob wedges (as much as 64°). I wouldn’t advise playing anything more than 60 unless you really know what you’re doing.
Lob wedges are most commonly used for flop shots where you need the ball to get up in the air quickly and land softly around your target. Skilled golfers make great use of their lob wedge with chips and pitches around the green, as the loft/grind combination can create a lot of spin and provide more control of the golf ball.
Amateur golfers beware of these high-risk, high-reward shots. Most higher-handicap golfers should play a lob wedge only in certain situations, as a lot can go wrong when trying to pull off a miraculous shot.
That said, I still recommend that most golfers carry a lob wedge. It’s a tough club to learn, but once you do, it can really make a positive impact on your golf game.
Gap Testing & Knowing Your Distances
To choose the right lofts for your wedges, you first need to know how far you hit all clubs in your bag, particularly your pitching wedge. It’s important that you know precisely how far you hit each club, not how far you think you do. If you don’t know your distances, or if you’re looking to fine-tune your setup, going through a proper gap test is a beneficial step.
Golf club gap testing is a process where you go through your entire bag hitting shots to determine how far you hit each club. It becomes clear where the large yardage gaps are that need to be filled.
In determining your ideal wedge lofts, what you’re trying to do is gap your distances evenly inside your pitching wedge. Once you know your distances, then you’ll be able to determine your wedge loft needs.
There are a few ways to do this:
- Schedule an appointment with a club-fitter to perform a proper gap test. Working with a professional fitter is what I recommend, as their expertise will guide you in the right direction. Club-fitting is definitely worth it, and most club fitting fees are waived if you buy the clubs, so if you plan on making a purchase, take full advantage of it.
- Get access to a launch monitor that measures your shots’ distances, either at your local range or your own device. Personal launch monitors have become more affordable in recent years. Surely some are very expensive (in the thousands of dollars), but there are several great options under $500
- Invest in a shot tracking device such as Arccos or Shot Scope that measures your shots’ distances as you play golf. There is a noticeable difference in yardage between hitting practice balls off a mat versus an actual round of golf in real golf situations.
If you’re in the market for some new wedges, check out my guide on the best golf wedges.
My Wedge Lofts & Distances
Let’s take an example from my own setup and how I arrived at my decisions. These are my current wedge lofts and full swing distances.
- Pitching Wedge: 47°, 135 yards
- Gap Wedge: 52°, 120 yards
- Sand Wedge: 56°, 110 yards
- Lob Wedge: 60°, 90 yards
Bob Vokey recommends 4° – 6° of loft separation between your wedges, resulting in 10-15 yards.
As I searched for wedges to fit my game, I knew that I hit my pitching wedge 135 yards and my lob wedge 90 yards, a difference of 45 yards. That told me that I need two additional wedges to close that gap to have a club for each distance.
I decided on a 52° gap wedge and 56° sand wedge, keeping my gaps at 4° (with the exception of my pitching wedge).
I’m highly considering getting fit for new irons this year. If and when I do, I may need to adjust my gap and sand wedge lofts. I’m going to be using Arccos and Shot Scope this year, so I’ll really be able to dial in my distances during real course play. Hitting off a mat and gathering distances from a simulator is very insightful. However, nothing is as exact as when you’re playing an actual round of golf.
Example Wedge Loft Arrangements (Wedge Loft Chart)
The following are some typical wedge loft arrangements. The gapping starts with the loft of your pitching wedge. Work up by 4°-6° to fill each gap.
How Many Wedges Should you Carry?
I recommend that every golfer consider carrying all four wedges (pitching, sand, gap, and lob). At a minimum, you should carry three (pitching, sand, and lob). If you have a large distance gap to fill in between your pitching wedge and sand wedge, you need to add a gap wedge to your bag.