What is a golf wedge? A guide to loft, bounce & finish

Thomas Tanner
Feb 15, 2021
10 minutes
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A wedge is a wedge, right? Well, not so hasty! Do you have a steep or shallow attack into the ball, is the sand at your local golf course soft or hard, are the fairways rock hard – or does it always rain where you live; is the rough long or short, what sort of grass is it, do you prefer to run the ball up, or throw it up high?

Good wedge play is crucial to posting low scores. With drivers now hitting the ball so far, you'll find that the vast majority of shots during a round are from within 120 yards. The top players realise this and it's not unusual to see them carrying 3 or even 4 different wedges, practising with them religiously for hours each day so they know precisely how far each one hits in different conditions and from different lies.

Many sets are now sold only up until the pitching wedge (eg 3-PW), as the manufacturers know you may want to choose your own sand, gap and lob wedges - so there is a huge array to choose from.

Here are some factors worth considering when choosing a wedge:

  • The loft of your wedges: this will determine how far you can hit each one
  • The bounce angle of your wedges: this will determine how each one reacts with the turf (or sand at impact)
  • The finish of your wedges: this is personal preference but can alter spin in a subtle way

The loft of your wedges

If you’re new to the game, you might be a little confused about the different lofts available, so we’ll start with the basics: When we talk about wedges, we really mean any iron in the set which has a loft over 45 degrees – in other words, pitching wedge and above.

Pitching Wedge (PW)

This will usually come with any set of irons you purchase – although some players do replace them anyway. It is the next most lofted club after the 9 iron. Typically has a loft of 46-50 degrees. Mainly used for longer shots into the green – tournament players will hit a pitching wedge around 120 yards.

Gap or Approach Wedge (GW) or (AW)

On Golfbidder you’ll see them listed as Approach Wedges (AW). Slightly more lofted than the pitching wedge, and filling the ‘Gap’ between the pitching wedge and sand wedge with a loft of between 50-55 degree.

Sand Wedge (SW)

Typically 54-58 degrees. Mainly used for bunker play due to the high bounce (see later). A tour player will hit a full a full bloodied sand wedge from the fairway around 100 yards.

Lob Wedge (LW)

60 degrees and above – sometimes as high as 64 degrees. For throwing the ball up very high from short distances - Phil Mickelson is, of course, the expert at this.

The lofts most golfers opt for – are 56 degree and 60 degree. This is the most popular combination to complement the pitching wedge which you’ll already have in your set.

The bounce angle of your wedges

As the name implies, the 'bounce' (in layman's terms, the curvy bit on the sole of the wedge) enables the head to 'bounce' out of the sand or rough without snagging. On a sand wedge, for example, you'll see that the trailing edge hangs below the leading edge. Take a club and put in the address position and you’ll see a space between the ground and the leading edge of the wedge.

High space = High Bounce angle. The most bounce you'll ever see on a wedge is about 18 degrees - but it can be as low as 2. Doesn't amount to a hill of beans we hear you say. But there you'd be wrong. Using a wedge with the right combination of bounce and loft for the sort of course you play and the sort of swing you have can make a big difference to your short game. So how do you decide what’s best? Here’s a quick guide – with thanks to Cleveland golf for the imagery.

Low Bounce Wedges

Low Bounce Wedges are ideal for shots from tight lies and firm turf conditions. The combination of less bounce and narrower sole-width lowers the leading edge of the blade to promote a clean contact. Perfect for players who like to be creative around the greens and in the bunkers and who have shallow attack angles through impact. Less bounce and narrower sole width make it easier to open the face and hit high, soft landing flop shots. Low bounce wedges are typically in the lower loft range – eg pitching and gap wedges which are used for longer approach shots.

A lot of bounce would be undesirable because it would make it more difficult to get the leading edge under the ball, causing you to ‘thin’ it. Golfers who strike down at a sharp angle can put a lot of back spin on the ball – and may benefit using wedges with very little bounce (less than 8 degrees), but they are a minority of golfers. As a rule, most golfers are better off with more bounce (10 to 14 degrees), not less.

Standard Bounce Wedges

Standard Bounce is the best all-around wedge for playability in all types of conditions for all types of players. It is very versatile for players who like to be creative around the greens. The Standard Bounce is also an excellent choice for players who like to play an open or square face out of the bunker, and who have an average to slightly steeper attack angle.

High Bounce Wedges

High Bounce wedges are designed for play out of soft turf and sand. The combination of the wider flange and higher bounce angle prevent digging and create a smoother gliding action of the sole along the ground. Works exceptionally well out of (soft) sand for players who prefer to keep a square face through impact.

High Bounce wedges are also a good choice for players with steep attack angles. High bounce wedges tend to be associated with higher lofts – but this certainly isn’t always the case. For example, lob wedges (60-64 degree) which throw the ball very high for soft-landing ‘pop-up’ shots around the green (Phil Mickelson's speciality) tend to have low bounce because even the smallest error can make the club ‘bounce’ off the ground and cause a ‘thinned’ shot.

You know the sort well – instead of gently throwing the ball 10 feet in the air and plopping it by the pin – it travels at warp speed a few inches above the ground, lodging deep into thick bushes 50 yards behind the green. Lob wedges tend to have less sole width and a sharp leading edge.

Determining the Bounce of a Wedge

Most of the specialist wedge manufacturers like Cleveland and Titleist will actually state on the club what the bounce is (eg a Titleist Vokey 248.06 model indicates 48 degrees loft, 6 degrees bounce). Otherwise, the options are to (a) refer to the manufacturer’s website or (b) as us here at Golfbidder – we’d be happy to advise.

The finish of your wedges

Apart from numerous different wedge models, you’ll also see them offered in different finishes such as those below – examples include black nickel, chrome, beryllium copper, rusty – or ‘raw’, oil can etc. The different the finish makes on most wedges is mainly cosmetic – a case of which one do you most like the look of. The only real practical exceptions are that (a) the duller-looking finishes don’t reflect as much light in the sun which can occasionally be off-putting and – (b) those with a ‘raw’ or ‘oil can’ finish are specifically manufactured to rust over time; The more abrasive surface which results can claim to impart slightly more spin on the ball.

To Conclude

We hope this brief guide has helped you understand a bit more about the wide range of wedges on offer. There’s no substitute for trying a few out and seeing what suits you best. All Golfbidder’s clubs comes with a No Risk Trial Period. Try one that seems to fit the bill, if it’s not an improvement on your current wedge, simply send it back for a full refund – or try something else.

Further reading

Although golf clubs are lumps of metal on a shaft, every millimetre of the clubhead is sculpted to the tightest of manufacturing tolerance to make sure they perform as expected, when required.

Wedges are the clubs used for the shorter and more accurate shots in golf. Approach shots, chip shots, pitch shots, bunker shots, lob shots to mention just a few. There are different types of wedges generally defined by the lofts they have.