What is an AW Golf Club (or an “A-Wedge”)?

female golfer hitting approach wedge

Being around golf, you’ve likely seen AW on a club and thought, what is an AW golf club? The AW stands for approach wedge, but this club is sometimes called a gap wedge.

An approach wedge and a gap wedge are the same things. The two terms are used interchangeably, but don’t let that confuse you because they’re the same club.

Why AW Golf Clubs (“A-Wedges”) Have Become Popular

AW golf clubs have become more prevalent in recent times because they fit into your set between a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. The approach wedge fills the gap in loft between the pitching wedge and sand wedge. That’s why it’s sometimes called a gap wedge.

The approach became necessary when manufacturers lowered the loft of the pitching wedge. Some pitching wedges have a loft of 43 degrees.

However, the loft of sand wedges stayed relatively the same. That created a bigger gap in the loft between pitching wedges and sand wedges.

Sometimes the gap in the loft can be as much as 10 degrees, which is a lot between clubs. The result in that gap is a bigger yardage difference between the pitching wedge and sand wedge.

But you don’t want a big yardage gap in clubs that sit beside each other in the set. So golf club manufacturers designed the approach wedge (gap wedge) to fill that gap.

It sits between the pitching wedge and sand wedge. So, you get a more uniform yardage separation between each club, giving you better accuracy on the course.

What Loft is an “A-Wedge”?

An “A-wedge” has a loft between 47 and 52 degrees. That loft range fits perfectly between the pitching wedge and sand wedge.

Pitching wedge loft ranges from 42 to 46 degrees. The loft of a sand wedge is between 53 and 58 degrees.

WedgeLoft Range in Degrees
Pitching42-46
Approach (A-wedge)47-52
Sand53-58
Lob58-64
Standard Wedge Lofts

If your pitching wedge has a loft at the lower end of the range, you’ll also want your approach wedge loft to be on the lower end. That’ll affect the optimal loft of your sand wedge as well.

For example, let’s say your pitching wedge has a loft of 46 degrees. You’ll want a 50-degree approach wedge and a 54-degree sand wedge.

That gapping in the loft gives you the optimal difference in yardage for each wedge. It’s always better to have regular distances between each wedge as opposed to irregular ones.

For instance, a uniform 10-yard gap between each wedge is ideal. A difference of five yards between your pitching wedge and approach wedge and 15 yards between your approach wedge and sand wedge would be far from ideal.

Pitching Wedge LoftApproach Wedge LoftSand Wedge LoftLob Wedge Loft
44485258
45505460
46525864
48525660
Example Wedge Gapping

You should know your golf club distances to get the correct gapping for your wedges.

What Loft of Approach Wedge Should You Use?

You should use an approach wedge with a loft that fits optimally between your pitching wedge and sand wedge. That’ll give you the proper distance spacing for the best results on the course.

You should space the loft of each wedge in your bag by 4-5 degrees, giving you 8-10 yards of distance between each wedge. That’s because each one-degree increase in loft gives you around two yards extra distance.

OK, so you check your pitching wedge loft and see it’s 46 degrees. Your sand wedge has a higher loft at 54 degrees.

Therefore, an approach wedge with a loft of 50 degrees would fit perfectly. That’ll give you a four-degree difference between each wedge and about an eight-yard difference in distance.

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

How Far Does an “A-Wedge” Go?

The average male golfer hits an AW golf club about 90 yards. For the average female golfer, the distance is about 55 yards.

Of course, these distances will vary depending on the player. Some pro male golfers can hit an approach wedge about 135 yards, while some pro female golfers can hit it about 105 yards.

For amateur male golfers, the distance for an approach wedge ranges from about 70 yards to 110 yards. Amateur female golfers have a range of about 45 yards to 75 yards.

ClubLoft in DegreesDistance in Yards
Pitching Wedge45105
Gap Wedge5090
Sand Wedge5580
Lob Wedge6070
Average Male Golfer Wedge Distances

Related: Average Golf Club Distances (Woods, Irons & Wedges)

When to Use an AW Golf Club

Each player will use an approach wedge a little differently. So, it’s up to you when to use an approach wedge.

You might always use your approach wedge for full shots. It comes in handy when you know your exact distances, and if you’re that far away from the flag, you can hit the approach wedge with a full swing.

Alternatively, you might be one of those players who rarely (if ever) takes a full swing with an approach wedge. Sometimes players like to use an approach wedge for ‘knockdown’ shots instead of hitting a sand wedge or a lob wedge.

golfer pitching the golf ball

That type of shot can be easier to control than a full swing with the higher lofted clubs. Also, hitting an approach wedge in that situation can take some spin off the ball, which might be needed to prevent the ball from spinning away from the pin.

Better players will usually attempt the knockdown shot with an approach wedge. For less skilled players, it’s a good idea to hit your approach wedge with a full swing.

The approach wedge can also be helpful for pitch shots around the greens. Sometimes you want the ball to run out a little more on a pitch shot, and a sand wedge or a lob wedge wouldn’t work the best in that scenario.

An approach wedge is a versatile golf club for those who know how to use it. But it can also be essential for those players who always hit it with a full swing.

If you’ve got your yardages dialed in with your approach wedge, it works wonders when you’re between distances for a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. The approach wedge allows you to hit an accurate shot in that situation.

Who Makes the Best Approach Wedges?

TaylorMade, Titleist, and Callaway make the best approach wedges. These companies make approach wedges with various combinations of bounce and grind for you to choose from.

Cleveland also makes excellent wedges. Their wedges are slightly cheaper too, so you can find a good one if you want to pay less.

Check out our best gap wedges buyer’s guide for some fantastic options.

How Does an Approach Wedge Compare to Other Wedges?

The comparison between an approach wedge and other wedges comes from loft and distance. Each wedge has a different loft and goes a different distance.

However, bounce is another factor we must consider when comparing wedges. Bounce is the angle created between the leading edge of the clubface and the sole that sits on the ground.

Approach Wedge vs. Pitching Wedge

An approach wedge has more loft than a pitching wedge, so it goes less distance. But an approach wedge has more bounce than a pitching wedge.

The higher loft and bounce in an approach wedge make it easier to hit pitch shots with this club. The higher bounce stops the club’s sole from digging into the ground and causing chunked shots, while the higher loft makes it easier to get the ball into the air.

Approach Wedge vs. Sand Wedge

We know that an approach wedge has less loft than a sand wedge. However, it also has less bounce than a sand wedge.

The higher loft and bounce in a sand wedge make it perfect for bunker shots. With the higher bounce, the clubface glides through the sand instead of digging in.

That makes the sand wedge much better than the approach wedge for bunker shots. A sand wedge will also work better if you must pitch the ball high and get it to stop quickly.

However, an approach wedge is a better option if you want the ball to run more on the green.

Approach Wedge vs. Lob Wedge

There can be a huge difference in loft between an approach wedge and a lob wedge. Some players might carry a 50-degree approach wedge and a 64-degree lob wedge.

Therefore, the distance gap will be significant in that setup. The large difference also makes a comparison a little harder.

You should use the lob wedge when you must get the ball high into the air quickly. Maybe you need to hit the ball over a tree or a hazard and get the ball to stop quickly.

An approach wedge wouldn’t be the best club for that shot.

Conclusion

The AW golf club is essential to have in the bag these days. It fills the gap between a lower-lofted pitching wedge and a sand wedge.

The approach wedge allows you to have optimal yardages between these clubs. So, you won’t need to hit a pitching wedge with a half swing or try to hit your sand wedge super hard.

You can take a controlled full swing with your approach wedge when you’re between pitching-wedge and sand-wedge distances. That gives you more accuracy and control hitting into greens.

 Also, an approach wedge is easier to use than a pitching wedge for pitch shots. Choosing the right time to use an approach wedge can help you improve your game.

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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.