I am somewhat confused about the proper use of the four golf wedges: pitch,gap, lob and sand. Recommendations?
H.S. - USA
Thank you for such a great question regarding the different scoring clubs and how/when to play them. This is a very important question as the more effective you are with the wedges the better you will score. It really is that simple. They are called the 'scoring clubs' for a reason.
This answer will have to be broken down into a few parts: the clubs, the swing and shot selection.
The Golf Wedges
The first thing to do is to determine which golf wedges you are going to carry in your bag. The key differences between the wedges are in their loft and their bounce angles. Irons are designed to have 4 degrees of loft between each club. If you have a pitching wedge that is 48 degrees then your 9 iron will likely have 44 degrees. The bounce angle is the amount the trailing edge of the club is lower than the leading edge when the club is on the ground. Bounce is great for soft sand but is tough when you on a firm tight lie.
There are several wedges that a player can add to their bag. As listed in the question there is a pitching, sand, gap and lob wege. There are many players out there that are still playing all their short game shots with one wedge (pitching). I would certainly recommend that the first wedge they add is a sand wedge. It truly is one of the most versatile clubs you can have. It is the golf wedge that is designed with the most bounce and therefore is typically the most effective for sand shots. It also has 55-56 degrees of loft and therefore has two clubs more loft than your pitching wedge. This will help you hit shots higher and softer around the green. Now the gap wedge was invented to fill the loft gap between the pitching wedge and sand wedge. It usually has 52 degrees of loft and helps with distance control shots into the green. It is a useful club because it allows players to make a full swing when they might have had cut down a pitching wedge or swing too hard with a sand wedge. The last wedge is the lob wedge. It typically has 60 degrees of loft and is brilliant for shots around the green where you don't have a lot of green to work with and you need to hit the ball high and land it really softly.
So what do you carry considering that you can only carry 14 clubs in your bag? Personally I carry three golf wedges; a pitching, sand and lob wedge. I prefer to have the extra loft around the green. I don't often find myself in an awkward yardage where I would need the gap wedge. I would rather carry something else. Another thing to consider is the type of course you are playing. I was an assistant pro at a course where every single green was elevated. This meant that if you missed the green there was no simple chip shots. It was imperative to have high lofted wedges in order to hit all the shots around those greens. If you are adding or removing clubs, consider what types of short games shots you will need to play to get around our course.
Golf Wedges Shot Selection
Simply put this is practice, practice, practice. Every player who wants to be effective with their wedges has to know what they can do with each of those clubs. Here are a few drills and concepts that may help you with your shot selection.
Toss the Ball Drill
This is a great concept to use when you are practicing and more importantly when you are choosing your shot during your round. When facing a shot simply think of how you would toss the ball from your hand to get it close to the hole. Once you figure that out try and choose the golf wedges and swing that will match that trajectory. If you tossed it like a 10 pin bowler then choose a club with low loft and using the chipping technique found at Chip Shot Technique.
If you need to throw it high and land soft then take out your highest lofted wedge and use the high pitch technique found here Pitch Shot Trajectories.
Spot Wedges Drill
Pick a spot at your short game practice area and grab all of your wedges and even a 9 or 8 iron. Depending on your set make up you could have up to 5-6 clubs with you. Start with the lowest lofted club you brought and choose the type of shot that you think will be the most effective to get the ball close to the hole. After hitting a couple of shots move up to the second lowest loft, and so on until you have tried the shot with each of the clubs. Be mindful to use the same shot technique so that you can make a true comparison between the clubs. The goal of this drill is to help you determine which is the best club to use in a given situation.
One Club Drill
This is opposite of the previous drill as you find a spot around the green but only take one club with you. The key to this drill is to try and hit shots with as many different trajectories as possible. Hit a chip, pitch, cut lob, and everything in between in order to determine what would be the best style of shot to get the ball close to the hole. Please check out the chipping and pitching sections if you need help with the technique for the different shots around the green. They can be found at...
Personally I select my club based on the situation at hand, however I do have detain tendencies. Here is what club I will typically use for each type of shot.Chipping - pitching wedgePitching - sand and lob wedgeSand - soft sand - sand wedge - wet/hard sand - lob wedge
In order to get the most out of your practice sessions it is important to learn from each shot you hit. For each shot I suggest you hold your finish until the ball comes to rest. That will allow your brain to match up he shot result to the swing and club you used. This will give yo the most amount of feedback and learning. The more you learn and experience from each practice session and game the better wedge player you will become.
Distance Control Wedges
This the area of the game that sets the winners of the PGA Tour events apart from the rest of the field. It is vital for players to be able to control the distance of their shots when hitting approaches into the greens with any of the wedges. When they are in command of these shots then they give themselves chances to get up and down from up to 150 yards away. That is a powerful scoring weapon and gives them a great chance to win each week.
Now, not many of us think of hitting a control wedge from...say...138 yards, but what if you had great contrl from 60 or 70 or even 30 yards. Imagine you knew you had a great schance to up and down from these distances with regularity! How much would that change your score card? Next time you play add up all the shots you hit from inside 100 yards that are not on the green.
Thank you for your great question regarding golf wedges. I hope you found this answer helpful. If you have anymore questions please send them in by clicking below.
Kris at free-golf-lessons.com