Well over 50 percent of the average player's shots are taken less than 100 yards from the green. In some cases that may be as high as 67 percent, so you need to be able to hit the ball the correct distance from 100 yards and in. That means knowing how far you hit your wedges and has spawned a mini industry within the wedge department.
Back in the old days, players carried a pitching wedge (loft around 48 degrees) and a sand wedge (56 degrees). Players needed to make swing changes to hit different distances. In today’s market you can buy wedges individually labeled from 48 degrees to 64 degrees and almost every number is covered. Want a 58 degree wedge? No problem. 51 degrees? What make do you want? The secret is knowing what loft(s) to buy. Here is how I work with my students.
Firstly, we will hit about 10 pitching wedge shots and measure how far they go. Let’s say they fly 100 yards. Next we will hit some sand wedge shots (off the grass). They may fly 75 yards. After that we will probably hit some lob wedge (60 degrees) shots and they may fly 60 yards. Statistically speaking, most greens are at least 20 yards long, so it is possible that the player will hit a sand wedge short and a pitching wedge over the green.
Enter the newly named “gap wedge” that has a loft of about 52 degrees. We will then hit some gap wedge shots, and they should fly between 80 and 90 yards. If this is what happens, I will suggest buying a gap wedge and usually we can leave it at that.
The lob wedge is an optional wedge, and if the player has sufficient skill I will suggest adding a lob wedge to his or her set. The main reason for the required skill level is that players of lesser ability tend to have trouble with a lob wedge. Most shots tend to be hit thin or too high resulting in a shot that flies over the green or doesn’t get there. Lob wedges can also be extremely useful from rough lies close to the green, so that may be another reason to get one anyway.
To sum up, this is the ideal setup for most players:
Pitching wedge – 90 to 130 yard shots
Gap wedge – 75 to 120 yard shots
Sand wedge – 60 to 100 yard shots
Lob wedge – 45 to 85 yard shots
You should have all distances covered with no more than a 10 yard gap between wedges. Once you have this dialed in you will make lower scores. Good luck!
Next week – school is out, it’s junior golf time.
Ian Grant is a PGA teaching professional and a member of the teaching faculty of the PGA of America. He can be contacted at Oak Brook Golf Club 630-990-3032 in the summer and White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville 630-422-1060 in the winter. You can contact Ian directly at 708-917-8951, or at Iansgolf@aol.com.