If you want to lower your scores, then you have to be able to execute with a wedge in your hand. In this article I want to explore why choosing the correct wedge loft is a part of that process.
If you can't get the ball on the green more often than not with a wedge in your hand, then your game is going to struggle. I believe this is the key to avoiding double bogeys and lowering your handicap.
Wedge loft is important in this area of the game because you want more options. I strongly recommend that every golfer should visit a knowledgeable fitter at some point, and make sure that you have the proper gapping with your wedge lofts.
Knowing Your Distances
The first step to making the right decision with your wedge loft is knowing how far you actually hit the ball. Not how far you think you hit it.
I will run through an example in my game to give you an idea of how I arrived at the different wedge lofts in my bag.
Here are my current distances on full swings with each wedge:
Pitching Wedge (45 Degrees): 125 Yards, Gap Wedge (51 Degrees): 115 Yards, Sand Wedge (56 Degrees): 100 Yards, Lob Wedge (60 Degrees): 90 Yards
I chose the lofts on these wedges because of the various distances I hit the ball, but you can see that I have pretty much every yardage covered inside of 130 yards. I strongly believe that most golfers should carry a gap wedge to avoid the large "gap" between their pitching and sand wedge.
If you can work with a teaching professional or club fitter using a launch monitor, then you can arrive at your yardage for each wedge. This will make it easier to decide what lofts you need in order to properly gap yourself.
The main key is to choose a collection of lofts that don't leave any large holes in distance between clubs. You want to have a wedge for each yardage.
There Are No Standards
It is important to understand that there are no standards in the golf industry for pitching wedge loft. This could greatly affect how many wedges you carry in your bag, and what loft they should be.
The trend has been for lofts to go stronger and stronger, which is increasing the distance each player will hit their pitching wedge. Pitching wedges that used to be 48 degrees are now in the 44-45 region. This is exactly why having a gap wedge has become more important.
For example, a Callaway Steelhead XR pitching wedge has 44 degrees of loft.
If you had a sand wedge that was 56 degrees of loft, that would leave an enormous gap in yardage between the two clubs. Having something in between the two, maybe at around 50 degrees would be more appropriate. Most players are going to execute better with a full swing rather than try to hit a pitching wedge at 80% of its normal yardage.
Each manufacturer has their own lofts, and it is important to know what you are playing with so that you can make the right decision.
Three or Four Wedges?
I believe you should have three wedges in your bag (including your PW), at minimum.
Let's say your pitching wedge loft is 46 degrees. You could possibly get away with having a gap wedge at 51 degrees, and then a sand wedge at 56 degrees. Usually, wedges can be bent a degree stronger or weaker to accommodate your preferences as well.
I carry four wedges because I want more options around the green. Adding a lob wedge is a great idea for many golfers because it allows you to get the ball in the air quickly without having to manipulate the clubface.
The majority of golfers who play this game are missing more than 70-75% of greens in regulation during a round. That means on most holes they are going to have a wedge in their hand inside of 100-125 yards. In my opinion, if you carry more wedges in your bag it gives you a larger arsenal of distances and trajectories you can play.
Each player's game is unique though, and it is best to analyze the kinds of situations you usually find yourself in during a round. Perhaps it might make more sense to carry four wedges based on the kinds of shots you like to play.
Final Thoughts on Wedge Loft
I believe that in order to choose the right mix of wedge loft you should clear up two things. You should know the loft of your pitching wedge, and also figure out how far you actually hit different lofts on full swings.
Your main goal is to avoid any major gaps between your wedge loft and make sure you can accommodate the different kinds of shots you are faced with on the course. If you can get the optimal mix for your game you will have a better chance at success.
I strongly recommend seeing a knowledgeable club fitter in your area to make sure you get everything right.