Pitching, Gap & Sand Wedge Loft – Your Ultimate Guide

It is highly likely that your current wedge lofts are ideal for you, but this isn’t your fault. As manufacturers have strived to make their clubs hit the ball further than their competitors’ clubs many golfers are left with a wedge problem.

In this article, we’ll help you understand your current wedges and help you decide the optimal wedge set-up for your golf game.

Wedges & lofts explained

Below we’ll explain what each wedge is, what shots it is used for and the standard wedge lofts for a modern pitching wedge, gap wedge and sand wedge.

What is a Pitching Wedge?

A pitching wedge from behind, face on and side on.

A pitching wedge comes as standard with most iron sets. It is a great club for chipping around the green, hitting pitch shots with and hitting longer approach shots.

What degree is a Pitching Wedge?

A pitching wedge typically has a loft of 46º to 48º. Although some high handicap iron sets can have pitching wedges as strong as 44º. Golfers tend to hit a pitching wedge 90 – 120 yards.

What is a Gap Wedge?

A Gap Wedge from behind, face on and side on.

A gap wedge aims to fill the gap between your pitching wedge and sand wedge (we discuss why this issue came about below). A gap wedge is generally purchased separately from your full set as an optional extra. It has similar uses to a pitching wedge for chipping, pitching and approach shots, but tends to fly a little higher and shorter due to the additional loft.

What degree is a Gap Wedge?

A gap wedge has a loft of 50 – 52º. Golfers tend to hit a gap wedge 75 – 100 yards.

What is a Sand Wedge?

A Sand Wedge from behind, face on and side on.

A sand wedge is the most lofted club that comes in a regular set. It isn’t just for use out of bunkers, it is also used for chipping, pitching and hitting high approach shots into the green. What makes a sand wedge special is the sole of the club, it has more bounce – discussed later on in this article.

What degree is a Sand Wedge?

A standard sand wedge has a loft of 56º. However, you can also opt for a sand wedge with a loft of 58º. A wedge with more than 58º degrees of loft is usually called a lob wedge. Golfers tend to hit a sand wedge 60 – 80 yards.

What is a Lob Wedge?

A Lob Wedge from behind, face on and side on.

A lob wedge is the most lofted club a golfer can buy. They don’t come as standard but can be bought as an optional extra. They can be a very useful club for hitting high lofted chips and can also be used to hit out of bunkers.

What degree is a Lob Wedge?

A standard lob wedge has a loft of 60º. However, you can purchase lob wedges ranging from 60 – 64º of loft. I personally would not advise buying a lob wedge with more than 60º as this extra loft reduces the number of situations the club becomes useful.

What is an Approach Wedge?

An approach wedge is another name for a gap wedge. Again, these range in loft from 50 – 52º. Approach wedge is used more in the US, but you will hear ‘gap wedge’ and ‘approach wedge’ used interchangeably.

The typical wedge gapping problem for golfers

Historically, each iron in a set was separated by 4-5º of loft, with a sand wedge having 56º and each club having 4-5º less loft as you move down to a 3-iron. However, modern sets have pushed all their iron lofts down, resulting in longer distances but leaving a real problem when hitting shots from within 120 yards of the green.

A modern pitching wedge is just 45 – 48º (historically 50 – 51º) meaning most golfers now have a 2-3 club gap between their PW and SW. The result – manufacturers created a new club to sell golfers called a ‘gap wedge’…

Never fear, below we’ll show you how best to solve this problem and build a great wedge setup for your game.

What are the best wedges to have in your bag?

As you improve as a player you will want to consider creating a custom wedge set up to optimise your scoring. All golfers can keep their standard set of irons up to a pitching wedge. Some sets will also come with a sand wedge, however, these sand wedges are often bulky and lack the control required for chipping and pitching.

For this reason, most golfers will benefit from buying one of the following wedge setups as they look to master their short game and maximise scoring. Your wedges do not have to match your irons so can be bought individually. Your wedges don’t have to match each other, although if they do it does provide a little more consistency.

Below we’ll cover some options:

The players wedge setup – 52, 56, 60º wedges

This wedge setup restores the 4º difference between clubs that we, as golfers, are used to. It provides excellent coverage from 120 to 60 yards and gives you a variety of options for chipping, pitching and bunker play.

This is my go-to setup. You may need to drop another club out of your bag to make room, as legally you are allowed 14 clubs. If this is the case I would urge you to drop a 3 or 4-iron. A brilliant wedge setup far outweighs the usefulness of a long iron that you may hit once in a round.

Below are some further details of how to create this wedge setup.

Gap wedge

Loft: 52º

Bounce: 6-9º

Sand wedge

Loft: 56º

Bounce: 10 – 14º

Lob wedge

Loft: 60º

Bounce: 4-8º

Recommended wedges

Mizuno T20

Minzuo sand wedge with 56º of loft

Titleist Vokey SM 7

titleist spin mill 7 sand wedge with 56º of loft

The alternative approach – 52, 58º wedges

A second option is to opt for a 52º gap wedge and a 58º sand wedge. If you have a strong lofted pitching wedge (45 – 46º) you will then have an evenly distributed 6º gap between your wedges.

This setup still offers good coverage for shots ranging from 120 – 60 yards and gives you good flexibility when chipping and pitching. The 58º sand wedge also gives you additional loft over a standard sand wedge, which will come in useful for deep bunker shots and high-lofted chips.

This option gives you additional room for an extra fairway wood or hybrid which can be particularly useful if you find yourself having many long second shots into par 4s.

Gap wedge

Loft: 52º

Bounce: 6-9º

Sand wedge

Loft: 58º

Bounce: 10 – 14º

Recommended wedges

Mizuno T20

Minzuo sand wedge with 56º of loft

Titleist Vokey SM 7

titleist spin mill 7 sand wedge with 56º of loft

Which wedge setup is right for me?

I personally have used both options outlined above, however, I now favour the 52, 56, 60º setup. Both will work well for almost any player, but If you’re unsure here are a few tips to help you decide.

If you hit the ball 270+ yards off the tee and/or play courses with lots of short par fours I would opt for the players’ setup (52, 56, 60º wedges). You’ll find these wedges really help your ability to score.

If you hit the ball less than 240 yards off the tee and/or play lots of long par fours opt for the alternative wedge setup (52, 58º). Use the extra space to find a hybrid or fairway wood that you love hitting off the fairway.

Last point, if you fall into either category but love practising your short game then opt for the players’ setup (52, 56, 60º wedges). I feel these three clubs just give you the ability to create so many different shots inside 50 yards.

What is bounce on a wedge?

Wedge bounce refers to the angle created between the leading edge of the club and the lowest point of the sole or trailing edge. You’ll notice in the pictures above, the lead wedge is raised on all wedges.

Bounce does what it says on the tin – it helps the club bounce, rather than dig as it strikes the ground.

Low bounce wedges (4 – 6º) are ideal for firm turf, tight lies and compact sand in bunkers. They also raise the leading edge less when opening the face, making it easier to hit higher lofted shots and flop shots.

High bounce wedges (10º+) are ideal for soft turf, fluffy lies and bunkers with lots of sand. The high bounce prevents the leading edge from digging into the turf/sand. They can also be beneficial for golfers who create a steep angle of attack and take large divots.

What bounce should I have on my wedges?

A perfect wedge setup offers you a blend of bounces, meaning you’ll have options throughout the year and on different golf courses. The two setups listed above provide that in the best form.

The players’ setup gives you a low/med bounce gap wedge, a high bounce sand wedge and a low bounce lob wedge. This setup covers all your needs. The alternative setup is a little trickier, you’ll notice I’ve suggested a medium bounce gap wedge and high bounce sand wedge.

The high bounce sand wedge does make it slightly trickier to hit shots with a wide-open face, but this is accounted for by the higher loft sand wedge (58º opposed to 56º). Again, this setup of bounces provides you with some really great options for playing golf on a variety of courses and conditions.

What shafts should I have in my wedges

Because wedges are rarely swung at full speed shaft flex is less important than in other clubs. As a general rule match your wedge shafts to your irons, regular or stiff steel shafts.

If you have graphite shafted irons you may wish to match your wedges or opt for steel shafts. Either will work well, I personally prefer the feel of a wedge with a steel shaft.

Can I customise my wedges?

Yes, if you buy a good quality wedge a club-fitter can alter the loft and lie by 1 – 3º. This means you can tweak the loft of wedges after purchasing if needed and also alter the lie angle if required.

Summary

Many golfers overlook their wedge setup, however, this is one area of the game where buying the correct equipment can really save you some shots. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the basics of wedges and provides you with a couple of great solutions for optimising your wedge set.

If you have any further questions just leave a message below and I will get back to you. If you would like articles like this one emailed to you come join the Golf Insider weekly post – it is free and always will be.

Happy golfing, Will @ Golf Insider UK

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A PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. I currently spend my time lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and working with elite athletes. In my spare time I build Golf Insider UK.

4 thoughts on “Pitching, Gap & Sand Wedge Loft – Your Ultimate Guide”

  1. Excellent advice. Wedges are your scoring clubs.
    I have 46’ PW, 50’ GW, 54’ and 58’ wedges. Well gapped, hit the distances, usually! Considering moving to 56’ to replace 54/58 and add hybrid/7wood.

    Reply
    • Thanks Matt,

      You seem to never miss a new article do you? 😉 I’ll be back with the weekly emails on Monday. I think that sounds like a sound plan – a 56º with 12-ish degrees of bounce is very versatile and a hybrid/7-wood is a great club through most of the year in the UK.

      Thanks again for the chat last week.

      Will

      Reply
  2. This is the information I have been looking for. I just got fitted for a new set of irons ( Tour Edge )
    KBS Tour Graphite. The set came with a PW, SW, and a GW. I originally had a 52, 56, 58 set of Cutter wedges that now my girlfriend has. I could open or close those wedges for any shots I needed. Would it be a wise choice to replace my wedges except for the PW?

    Reply
    • Hi Bill,

      Sorry for the belated reply, I’ve been away with other work. Yes, so check your lofts, but I’d imagine you’ll have a PW 47º, your GW will be 50-52º and your SW will be 55-56º. So if you want to revert back to your old set up it sounds like you’re looking for a 58 or 60º wedge and then you can drop a 3-iron.

      Depending on if the wedges are cast or forged, you can also have the lofts adjusted, just take them to any good pro who does custom fitting.

      I hope that helps.

      Will

      Reply

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