Used properly, the lob wedge can be the most effective of the golf wedges, a deadly scoring tool for chipping, pitching, bunker shots and green side recoveries. The lob wedge typically has a lower bounce than the sand wedge, making it more effective from tighter turf and when the face is opened. Unfortunately, most golfers do not spend the time with their lob wedge to really understand its function or become proficient in its use. Lob wedges generally define those short range scoring clubs of 59-64 degrees inloft, with a few in the marketplace even higher.
HISTORY OF THE LOB WEDGE
While the lob wedge is becoming more and more common in golfer’s bags, it is a relatively new entry into the golf wedge marketplace. In the early days of golf, the highest lofted club golfers typically had in their bags was the niblick, a thin-soled club of 44-46 degrees of loft. The game then was played more on the ground and chip and run approaches were the norm, as clubs and balls that could deliver high ball flights with lots of spin did not exist. As a result, courses were mostly designed to allow this “on the ground” game.
The first big change in golf wedges was when modified niblicks of 47-51 degrees came onto the scene. They had a wider sole and a feature called bounce that made them more versatile for scoring. They were given the name “pitching wedge” and quickly became popular. Along about this same time tour professional Gene Sarazen, inspired by the lift of an airplane’s wings, welded some metal onto the bottom of a niblick or pitching wedge to give it bounce and invented the sand wedge, which also quickly found its way into almost every golfer’s bag.
In the 1980s, golf wedges were again modernized when a modified approach to a sand wedge found its way onto the golf scene. This first lob wedge had 60 degrees of loft and a very large, rounded sole, but one that had very little bounce. Tour professional Tom Kite was among the first to put such a golf wedge into play and quickly began to turn heads with his amazing prowess with this new tool. His ability to hit high soft shots with extreme backspin allowed him to attack pin placements that were considered treacherous and save pars from green side that were theretofore unthinkable. It didn’t take long before every wedge company in golf had an offering of similar lob wedges.
Since that time, the lob wedge has been refined to bear more resemblance to the sand wedge in appearance and sole design or bounce, and 60 degrees became the more standard loft. Some companies have offered wedge lofts of 62- 64 degrees, and there have been some with lofts over 70 degrees, but these have never caught on. Bounce options make the lob wedge landscape rather confusing, but one company, SCOR Golf, claims to have solved that dilemma with their patented V-SOLE, which has both high and low bounce in each club. They also offer every loft lob wedge from 58-61 degrees so that golfers can get the exact golf wedges they want.
GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR LOB WEDGE
The lob wedge is not an easy club to learn to master, but golfers who invest the time to learn how and practice are pretty hard to beat around the greens when chipping and pitching. Understand that with its extreme loft of 60 degrees or more, the ball is always struck with a rather glancing blow, so impact consistency is key. The ball will almost always pop up quickly and with a lot of backspin, so most golfers do not realize how aggressive they can be hitting an approach shot with the lob wedge, even when the distance is short.
On longer approach shots with the lob wedge, it is imperative that you swing well within what you would consider a “full swing”. A swing of 80-85% power will allow you to be more precise with your technique and get the most of your lob wedge. You want to set up to the ball with your weight favoring your left/lead side, and you want to keep your left/lead side in firm control of the whole swing. The hands should remain very “quiet”, which means containing your wrist break at the top of the swing and ensuring that the left hand passes through the impact zone before the clubhead reaches the ball.
On chip shots and other shorter green side saves, the lob wedge’s sole is your friend. You want to slow your swing speed down even more and feel the sole of the club and it bounce making contact with the turf. This requires an easy release of the club through impact so that the leading edge does not dig – the sole and bounce do the work. With this technique, the ball will pop up off the club softly, with a higher ball flight than your sand wedge would deliver, and more backspin.
The lob wedge can be an excellent golf wedge for those short range delicate shots from bunkers or sand traps to close-cut pins. Again, the sole of the club is your friend, so let the bounce engage the sand just below or behind the ball. Open the face by rotating the club in your hands slightly before taking your grip, and be sure to finish your swing. The key to hitting lob wedge shots from the sand is to let the club do the work, and select this club only when you have a short sand shot to execute. Longer bunker shots require the sand wedge, or even the gap wedge or pitching wedge.
KNOW YOUR LOB WEDGE LOFT
With today’s wide range of lofts in golf wedges from various manufacturers and different models within any manufacturer’s range, the key to putting together a correct set of short range scoring clubs is to know your lofts. Regardless of what the club might say on the bottom, all lob wedges are not created equal, nor or sand wedges, gap wedges or pitching wedges. Begin to build your set of golf wedges by knowing the loft of your iron set-matching pitching wedge, then precisely selecting the other golf wedges by keeping 4- or 5-degree loft gaps between them. A precision set of golf wedges built in this way will make any golfer’s short game better.