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What is An Approach Wedge & Do I need One?

Certain golf clubs have a guaranteed spot in every golfer’s bag. Things like the 7 iron, driver, and putter are difficult to go without… However, other clubs, such as an approach wedge, are not something that all golfers think about including.

More and more golfers these days are switching to four wedges, and that includes the approach wedge (we’ll explain why). Let’s look at what an approach wedge is and, most importantly, whether or not you need one in your golf bag.

What is an approach wedge?

An approach wedge is a club that fits between the pitching wedge and sand wedge, with approximately 48-54 degrees of loft. The approach wedge is used to fill what is becoming a very large gap in lofts for golfers. A gap wedge is another way of describing the approach wedge, as it fills the gap between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge.

With pitching wedges being made much stronger in loft (some pitching wedges are now as strong as 41-43º) and sand wedges still requiring a certain amount of higher loft to get out of bunkers, the approach wedge has become much more necessary. The pitching and sand wedge loft gap has increased to closer to 10 or even 12 degrees in many golfers’ bags.

Keep in mind that some companies will call their approach wedge a gap wedge, utility wedge, or even an attack wedge. The key is to check the loft of any wedge you put in your bag. Ideally, you’ll have 4 to 6 degrees of loft between your clubs – this will cover all distances and make sure you don’t have two clubs performing the same role.

What degree is an approach wedge?

The approach wedge will have a loft between 48 and 54 degrees. Every golf manufacturer has different lofts for their approach wedges.

For instance, a game-improvement set of irons like the Callaway Rogue ST Max has a loft of 41º for the pitching wedge. With this loft being so low, they included an approach wedge in this setup that has 46º of loft and then added in an additional gap wedge with 51º – no wonder golfers become confused!

This is a bit extreme as most golf sets have enough room for only one wedge between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge.

For instance, the Callaway Rogue ST Pro has a pitching wedge of 43º and an approach wedge of 48º. As you can see, the approach wedge lofts will depend on the other golf clubs in the set and how strong the pitching wedge loft is.

We go back to our key point – always check the lofts of your clubs, not the number/name of the club.

Do I need an approach wedge?

Approach wedges are great for longer bunker shots, a more controlled approach to the green, pitching, and chipping, and to fill that gap between the pitching wedge and sand wedge for fuller wedge shots. For some players, a full pitching wedge shot is maybe 110 yards; the next club in the bag is the sand wedge with a distance of around 80 yards.

This distance gap is too large.

Putting the approach wedge in the bag makes sure that you have all of the yardages you need to be covered. Years ago, we might have said you could get away with a sand wedge and pitching wedge only. However, the golf industry has changed, with modern pitching wedges being as strong as they are, and the average golfer must have an approach wedge in the bag.

When Would You Use An Approach Wedge?

The approach wedge can be used for full swing shots into the green, pitches, and chips around the green, as well as bunker play. The great thing about the approach wedge is that it has a little less loft than other clubs in the bag. Using something like this will help control ball flight a bit more than when working with a lob wedge.

Pitch Shots and Chip Shots

The pitch shots with an approach wedge loft should remain slightly lower yet still have plenty of spin. This golf club is a little shorter than the pitching wedge so expect somewhat less distance but more control.

Longer Bunker Shots

Longer bunker shots are one of my favorite places to use gap wedges or approach wedges. The key here is that you don’t have to try and kill the ball to get it out of the bunker and near the hole. Open the face a little, take the typical bunker shot you would with your sand wedge and notice it becomes far easier to get the ball near the hole.

Full Swing Approaches

Some golfers have an approach wedge that matches the irons in their set. Where you may find that lob wedges and sand wedges are more of a blade style tool, the approach wedge usually matches your irons. This makes it an easy transition to hit a full-swing shot into the hole with this club in your hands.

You don’t have to match your approach wedge to the rest of your set, as long as you get the correct loft to plug the gap.

Out Of The Rough

Hitting golf shots out of a bad lie takes a club with a bit of built-in forgiveness. Whether it is a chip shot or one of your approach shots to the green, this wedge does an excellent job of getting the ball out and helping it land softly on the green. Use this, especially when you have a bit of green in front of your to work with.

Approach Wedge vs. Gap Wedge: What’s the Difference?

For most golf manufacturers, the approach wedge and the gap wedge are the same things. However, as we see game improvement, irons get even stronger lofts, and some have to add a few wedges to the lineup.

The approach wedge and gap wedge typically have between 48 and 54 degrees of loft and therefore function as the same club. However, you must check the loft of your golf clubs in the iron set to compare one wedge to another. There is certainly a range here, and nothing is stated in the rules of golf that a wedge needs to be a certain loft degree.

Final Thoughts

Although I’ve always loved a lob wedge, it took me a little time to make a move to the approach wedge. I just wasn’t sure this extra wedge was necessary. However, with the new golf clubs coming to market and the lofts getting even lower, there is no avoiding it anymore. Golfers need to fill the gap between the pitching and sand wedge.

If you want to shop the best types of approach wedges for beginners check out this guide, and this link for high-handicap wedge options.

Happy golfing.

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Britt Olizarowicz

Britt Olizarowicz is a former teaching and Class A PGA professional with more than 25 years spent with a golf club in her hand. Britt is a small business owner, author, and freelance golf expert that knows this game inside and out. She lives in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children.

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