In every golfer’s bag is a selection of higher lofted clubs called golf wedges. Wedges for golf are not unlike the concept of a wedge for any industrial purpose. The clubhead is designed to “wedge” between the ball and the ground to loft the ball into the air while not digging into the turf. Golf wedges generally fall into four categories – pitching wedges for full-swing approach shots and chipping, pitching and other greenside scoring shots; gap wedges of 4-5 degrees higher loft, also known as an approach wedge; sand wedges of 54-57 degrees of loft and generally used from sand traps or bunkers, and lob wedges, which have over 58 degrees of loft and are used for high soft shots around the greens.
Pitching wedges are generally made with a loft of 44-47 degrees, and typically are purchased with the set of irons, though it is argued that applying the same design to these higher-lofted clubs as is found in the lower lofts does not optimize performance. Historically, pitching wedges had lofts of 49-51 degrees, which made them favorites for chipping andpitching the ball from shorter distances. In typical modern sets, the pitching wedge only has 44-45 degrees of loft, which does not facilitate this kind of use as well.
This gradual strengthening of the pitching wedge gave rise to the advent of the gap wedge or approach wedge in order to return this valuable chipping club to the bag, and to give golfers a full-swing club that delivered a distance that was shorter than the new loft-strengthened pitching wedge. The gap wedge or approach wedge is typically built ¼” shorter than the pitching wedge, and has a different sole design utilizing a feature called bounce (discussed later in this article).
In the 1930s, tour professional Gene Sarazen is generally credited with the invention of the sand wedge. What Mr. Sarazen did was weld some metal onto the bottom of a high-lofted golf wedge to create a feature called “bounce” that helped extract the club from softer turf and sand. It totally revolutionized the way golfers played from bunkers and sand traps, and stands as one of the most innovative golf wedge developments ever. Golfers using modern sand wedges can much more easily escape these hazards, and the utility of the modern sand wedge has made it a favorite for many golfers for most of their chipping and pitching shots around the greens.
The most recent entry into the golf wedge category is the very high lofted golf wedge known as the lob wedge. Generally having loft between 58-62 degrees, these specialized lob wedges were invented to give golfers the ability to hit higher softer pitch shots and lob shots around the greens, in order to contend with modern golf course architecture which features closer-cut bunkers, firmer and faster greens and deeper rough. The early lob wedges were very specialized golf wedges with wide soles and minimal bounce, whereas more modern lob wedges have more versatile utility.
The most misunderstood term regarding golf wedges is “bounce”. Very simply, this refers to the downward angle of thegolf wedge sole away from the leading edge of the golf wedge to the trailing edge of the sole. High-bounce wedges are those with 10 degrees of bounce or more, with low bounce wedges being those with less than 10 degrees of bounce.
It is generally accepted that golfers should choose higher bounce wedges when playing from sand traps or softer turf, and lower bounce wedges when playing shots from firmer turf or tight lies. This advice is confused by the fact that all golf courses have all kinds of lies to challenge the golfer. It is also the recommendation of some golf wedge makers to suggest that the golfer’s swing path or type dictate the bounce of his or her wedges. But more accomplished players vary their swing path to fit different shots, and less skilled players have inconsistencies in their swing path that makes such fitting impossible.
One company, SCOR Golf, has patented a golf wedge sole with both a high- and low bounce angle built in, claiming that this innovation make their golf wedges more versatile to handle any kind of lie and swing path. The company has earned a loyal following for its technology.
One of the less heralded of the golf wedge options is the shaft in the club. The vast majority of golf wedges are sold through golf retail stores from an in-store selection, all fitted with the same stiff flex steel shaft. A few companies offer limited variations to that stock offering. It is suggested, however, that golfers can improve the feel and performance of theirgolf wedges by having their wedges built or retrofit with shafts that more closely approximate the material, weight and flex of the shafts in their irons. Generally speaking, the golf wedge shaft should be slightly more flexible to deliver improved feel and control of shorter chipping and pitching shots around the greens, but with a firmer tip section to ensure trajectory control on full swing approach shots.
CUSTOM GOLF WEDGES
In recent years, some golf wedge companies have begun to offer custom built wedges or custom fit wedges to theirgolf wedge offering. The major golf brands who dominate the retail store displays only offer limited custom wedgealterations, but a number of specialty custom golf wedge companies can give the golfer expansive options to make theirgolf wedges as personalized as they wish. If the golfer is interested in custom golf wedges, he or she should investigate all the companies in this field to learn which can most effectively meet their needs for custom shafts, alterations to length, lie angle and grip size and will back their products with some kind of guarantee.