Ultimate Wedge Buying Guide
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The most lofted clubs in a set are known as wedges.
Usually available in lofts from 44° to 60° they are designed to perform slightly different jobs on the course.
Let’s find out what each club is capable of and what you should be looking for in your wedges.
Types of Wedges
Until relatively recently sets of golf clubs would be sold with just two wedges, the pitching wedge and the sand wedge.
The majority of golfers would use the pitching wedge for shots within about a hundred yards of the green. The sand wedge would usually be relegated to just bunker shots because of its design.
Over the past 30 to 40 years manufacturers decreased the lofts of irons to make people believe that they were hitting the ball further.
This meant a large gap appeared between the loft of a pitching wedge and sand wedge. While sand wedge lofts tended to remain around 56°, pitching wedges strengthened from around 52° down to 48° or even lower.
Manufacturers, in particular those producing specialty wedges, now had an opportunity to produce a club to fill the gap. So was born the gap wedge with the loft around 52°.
The other relatively recent addition to golfer’s bags is the lob wedge. They tend to have lofts of 60° but you can get models offering 64 or even 68°.
What to Consider When Buying a Wedge
The loft on the club will determine the launch angle of your ball. Since wedges will usually come with shafts of the same length this means the loft of the club will effectively determine the distance you can hit it.
A 52° gap wedge will hit the ball further than a 56° sand wedge and in turn both would hit the ball further than your 60° lob wedge.
Ideally, you want to have consistent gaps between the lofts of your irons. This should mean the distance you hit each club will increase by roughly the same amount as you go through your bag.
In the professional game, some players will have the lofts of their clubs bent to achieve this. For example, Colin Montgomerie had a 5° difference with his irons rather than the more traditional 4°.
Using more loft will generally mean the ball will stop quicker. If you are faced with a short shot over a bunker or other obstacle then you might reach for your sand wedge or lob wedge. These higher lofted clubs will give you that extra height on such a short shot, allowing you to keep the ball close to the pin.
Interestingly, data from launch monitors would suggest that the apex height of your shots is actually not that different. This is particularly true for players with faster swing speeds.
To give you a rough guide here are the typical lofts for each wedge and the sort of distances that a typical male golfer might hit them along with Brooks Koepka as an example for a tour player. Note that these are just for guidance your wedges and distances may be quite different.
|Name||Typical Loft||Typical Amateur Distance||Brooks Koepka|
The lie or lie angle of the club will determine whether you are able to sit the club squarely on the ground at address. If you are a particularly tall player you might need a more upright lie angle than standard. A shorter player is likely to need a shallower lie angle than standard.
It’s important to get clubs with the correct lie angle as it could mean you hitting the ground with either the toe or the heel of the club. This is likely to cause you to pull or push your shots.
Bounce is probably not that well understood by the average player and particularly by beginners.
The bounce is merely a measurement of the angle between the leading edge of the club and the sole.
Sand wedges for example will tend to have quite a large bounce angle as they are designed to glide through the sand. The larger bounce angle encourages this type of shot.
Conversely, if you are playing from a firm links fairway then the last thing you want is a lot of bounce. It will make the correct strike much more difficult to achieve.
The rise of specialty wedges has also seen greater customization of the clubhead. One area that manufacturers might offer different options is the sole grind.
In the past, tour players might have removed some of the sole of the club to allow them to open up the clubface to add more loft for certain shots.
Some of the larger manufacturers now offer a variety of sole grinds in their wedge range to give you greater flexibility with the club.
As with the bounce angle of the club, particular sole grinds will suit certain swing types or course conditions.
The biggest manufacturers have slightly different names for their sole grinds. They are all designed to suit one or more of three basic swing types: steep, normal and shallow.
Callaway Golf currently has five different grinds available on its Jaws series of wedges:
C-Grind – designed for firm course conditions and players who sweep the golf ball.
Low Bounce W-Grind – designed for soft or medium course conditions and players who sweep the golf ball.
S-Grind – suitable for all swing types and course conditions – available in the most loft options.
X-Grind – designed for soft or medium course conditions and players who have a steep angle of attack.
W-Grind – designed for soft course conditions and players who have a steep angle of attack.
Not to be outdone Vokey now offer six different sole grinds:
F-Grind – An all-purpose grind designed to work in any course conditions for a variety of swing types.
M-Grind – designed for firm course conditions and players who sweep the golf ball.
S-Grind – designed for medium to firm course conditions and players who control loft with their hands.
D-Grind – designed for soft course conditions and players who have a steep angle of attack.
K-Grind – designed for soft course conditions and players who have a steep angle of attack.
TaylorMade also offers a number of grind options depending on the model including:
Standard Sole – all-purpose grind designed for medium to soft course conditions.
4-way sole – cambered 4-ways and ideal for medium turf or soft sand for players with average to steep swings.
ATV Grind – available on high lofted wedges with 12° bounce – better suited to softer conditions or steeper swings.
Tiger Grind – If you think you have a short game to match Tiger Woods then you can use wedges bearing his specific grind.
Over the years certain manufacturers have dabbled with different types of markings on the face of their clubs.
They always seem to come back to grooves as they seem to work best.
While most manufacturers will proclaim their groove configuration and design to be the best I doubt if your average club golfer will notice much of a difference in performance.
The most important thing with grooves is keeping them clean. If you do that then they will work to their maximum benefit.
The other thing to consider is that over time grooves will wear. A study by Titleist showed that after 125 rounds you are likely to see more than double the rollout on an approach shot to the green.
So if you play twice a week that would suggest you need a whole new set of wedges every year. Given the cost of wedges these days that could mean $600 to $800 per year just for those clubs!
Shafts and Shaft Flex
Aside from those supplied as part of a set you are unlikely to find many graphite shafted wedges.
Since you aren’t usually trying to make a full swing with a wedge you often find they are fitted with slightly stiffer shafts.
This shouldn’t cause too many problems though even if you are used to regular flex shafts.
Long gone are the days where the only option you would have is chrome.
Some manufacturers offer black, bronze, brushed steel or raw finishes.
The raw finish may be favored by tour players as it rusts over time and gives even more spin in certain conditions.
Top manufacturers such as Vokey, Callaway and TaylorMade are now charging as much as $200 for a single wedge. This makes it difficult for many people to afford their wedges.
Add in the fact that manufacturers are suggesting wedges need to be replaced every year and you are looking at $600 or more.
If you’re in the position that you can spend whatever you like then great but for the rest of us, we need to look at ways of reducing the cost.
If you really have your heart set on the topline club such as Mizuno then you only have one option really. Wait for a new model range to come out and hope that the previous models get discounted.
That’s what I tend to do with most of my clubs. You will probably save between ⅓ to ½ of the original price.
The other option would be to investigate cheaper brands. I have had some success with this in the past, buying wedges from MD Golf.
They served me very well and offered very good performance for a fraction of the price of the top manufacturers.
Their Superstrong series received very positive reviews from the golfing press and I also had one of their Norman Drew wedges.
Another option might be Caley Golf who produces a nice set of three wedges for about half the normal price of a Vokey, Mizuno et cetera.
What looks like an even better deal is the set of 3 wedges from Lazrus. Available as 52, 56 and 60 degrees this set will cost less than one premium wedge. The downside seems to be that the lofts and lies aren’t quite right and they have very little bounce.
You may also find a deal on eBay although I would suggest it’s not worth buying used wedges as that sort of defeats the object. You really need brand-new grooves to get optimum performance.
The big advantage of the larger manufacturers is they offer a greater range of loft and bounce combinations. They also tend to offer lots of different finishes. If you are left-handed then you also may have to go to the more expensive end to find the clubs you want.
Ultimate Wedge Buying Guide: Conclusion
You should now have a better understanding of the various options available when buying a new wedge.
Having a better understanding of your game and thinking about the types of courses you play the most will help you choose the right wedges.
Improving your short game is the quickest way to lower your handicap. Having the right tools is a big part of that along with the right sort of practice.
Best Golf Wedges
If you consider tour usage as the primary yardstick then Vokey wedges are the best. Since 2004 Vokey has led the wedge count on the PGA Tour taking over from Ping and Cleveland.
It is quite telling that those players who currently do not have a club contract invariably play Vokey wedges.
Of the wedges that I’ve personally used I would also add Mizuno and in terms of value for money MD Golf.
It comes down to personal choice these days as most of the large manufacturers will be producing top-quality equipment.
How do I Know What Wedges to Buy?
Ideally, you want to avoid having large or different gaps in the lofts of your wedges. I’m a bit of a cheapskate so tend to look for closeout deals on older models. You could pick up a 50, 54 or 56 degree model if you are in the market for a Callaway Mack Daddy Wedge JAWS wedge.
Consistency and accuracy are much more important than total distance. Having consistent gaps between the lofts of your wedges should mean you have consistent gaps in the distances you hit each club.
If you have clubs made in the last 20 to 30 years then it is likely you will need a gap wedge. The pitching wedge and sand wedge in your set could be 8° to 10° apart.
The type of courses you play will also have an effect on the wedges you buy.
If you play on courses that tend to be quite soft and lush you will probably need to go with high bounce wedges. If your swing tends to be steep (divots are deep) then that is another reason to favor high bounce wedges.
Conversely, if the courses you play tend to be firm then you will need to look at low bounce wedges. The same applies if you have a shallow swing.
This probably gets more complicated if you play a lot of different courses with a variety of ground conditions. In an ideal world, you would have a set of low bounce wedges and high bounce wedges and mix-and-match to suit the conditions.
You could do this with some of the 14 different loft and bounce combinations available from TaylorMade with their MG2 Wedge.
There aren’t many people who can afford to do this though!
How Far Should I Hit My Wedges?
There is no right or wrong answer.
Everyone’s game is different. What you need to do is concentrate on consistency and accuracy. Those are both much more important to improving your game than the total distance you hit.
I’ve explored this topic in greater detail: How Far Should I Hit My Wedges
What Wedge Combination is Best?
I would probably answer this slightly differently if you are a beginner compared with someone who has more experience.
For a beginner, I would suggest getting comfortable with the pitching wedge and sand wedge that came with the set of clubs you purchased.
Beginners tend to have issues with bunkers that are primarily down to their technique. Concentrate on learning how to escape bunkers at the first attempt.
Once you’ve built up a bit more confidence in your short game then you could think about adding a gap wedge and/or a lob wedge.
The lofts and bounces on the clubs will be dependent on the course conditions, your type of swing and the lofts of the clubs you already own.
I would suggest either a three wedge setup of 50°, 55° and 60° or four wedge setup of 48°, 52°, 56° and 60°.
I find it useful to have a variety of bounces on my wedges so that I can choose the right club for particular types of lie.
For example, I would normally use my 56° sand wedge with 14° of bounce in bunkers with soft sand. If I happen to be playing somewhere with coarse sand then I might decide to use my lob wedge which has 6° of bounce.
Vokey Wedges: Bob Vokey is renowned for his wedges and quite rightly so.
Mizuno Wedges: High quality Japanese club manufacturer
Cleveland Wedges: One of the most popular on tour for a long time.