The Ultimate Pitching Wedge Guide – Everything You Need To Know
The pitching wedge is one of golf’s great all-rounders. It feels like an iron in your hands but can also be used to get you out of some tricky spots from a distance. It’s one of the best clubs for around the greens too.
In short, it’s one of the most important clubs in the bag yet we probably don’t give it the attention we should. The pitching wedge started life as a 10-iron before it changed its name, it’s a diva of a club. Seriously though, this is now often the only wedge that comes standard in a set and looks the same as your irons.
As the lofts of irons, and subsequently wedges, grows ever stronger, we need to think about what we carry in our bags. You need to take time to carefully select the lofts of the wedges you carry, something I have been through and it makes a huge difference.
Should you opt for a specialised pitching wedge or are the standards ones good enough? You don’t need to just go with the flow anymore and accept what manufacturers give you, you can you’re your wedges your own. Today we’ll look into this special club and give you some answers into what you should be looking for.
The Anatomy of a Pitching Wedge
Like any golf club these days, the options available to you to customise the club is like never before. First things first, you need to decide if you want a wedge that is part of your iron set or do you want a specialised wedge? The latter of the two options there are where you can really turn this club into a birdie-making machine.
One of the things you will want to decide first is the bounce of the wedge, the pitching wedge has the least amount of bounce. This is a feature of wedges that many are aware of but many still aren’t. The bounce is the sole of the wedge which helps prevent your club from digging into the turf too much through impact.
Pitching Wedge Lofts
Like all irons and wedges, lofts have become significantly stronger in recent years. This has made it more important than ever for golfers to properly choose the lofts of their wedges. The first and arguably most important part of this decision is the loft of your pitching wedge, from here the rest of your scoring clubs should be decided.
Usually, a pitching wedge has a loft of between 45-48 degrees. However, depending on your set-up they can be even stronger than 45. At this lower level of loft, golfers should be looking to add three more wedges to their bag to make sure that distances are covered efficiently.
How Far Should You Be Hitting A Pitching Wedge
Of course, this is down to each golfer and how well they swing a club. However, to give you some clues, on the PGA TOUR the average distance of a pitching wedge shot is between 130 and 135 yards. On the LPGA tour it is around 110 yards.
This is a distance that many golfers should be looking to lay-up to on long par-five holes. The pitching wedge is one of the easiest clubs in the bag to hit so you should be aiming to give yourself a full shot with it when you have that option.
Becoming a Sharp Shooter: How many wedges should I carry?
Well, as said in a previous section, your pitching wedge loft can help decide this for you. Short game guru, Dave Pelz, believes that everyone should carry four wedges. He says that having an extra wood or long iron is far less important than an extra wedge because you use them less.
He has a point. You use your longer clubs on some holes but you use your wedges on most holes. Which would you rather have most options for?
I would say that you should carry at least three wedges. If you have a weaker pitching wedge then you can carry a sand wedge and a lob wedge. If you have a stronger wedge then you probably want a gap wedge and a sand wedge.
Learn the Craft: Use your wedges like Seve
One of the major problems with modern golf is the loss of the creativity it once had. If you look at short game greats like Seve Ballesteros, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, the one thing you will notice is how versatile they were with their wedges.
They were able to open up the clubface to increase the loft or close it down and decrease it depending on what the shot required. This means that you can train yourself to use different wedges to create a huge repertoire of shots in your bag. Learn to play your pitching wedge like a sand wedge or an 8-iron, you’ll never be stuck again.
Make the Pitching Wedge your Friend
This is a club that you should be practicing with more than most in your bag. It can become your attack club and the one you rely on when things get nervy during an important round. If you can properly dial in your wedge distances then you will be tough to beat.
No matter how far you hit a ball, you will be using your wedge to approach greens a lot. By getting very confident with this club then you will set-up plenty more birdie chances. If you also start to leave yourself pitching wedge distances on holes where you’re scrambling for par, you can keep the blobs from your card.
Often Referred To As Just The Wedge – Should Every Golfer Carry A Pitching Wedge?
It is worth noting here that the pitching wedge is such an integral part of the golf bag that it is often just referred to as a wedge. Whilst other wedges exist, the pitching wedge, like Cher or Ronaldo has been able to become known to the world on a single name basis.
This is a club that every single golfer should have in his or her bag. To sort of quote “Full Metal Jacket”:
“This is my wedge. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My wedge is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.”
Pitching Wedge vs 9-iron
As you move through your bag from the short-irons to the pitching wedge, you won’t feel a great deal of difference. The 9-iron and the wedge are very similar as you would expect two adjacent clubs in the bag to be. The wedge should be slightly easier to hit, and of course go a little less distance.
The wedge and the 9-iron are both attacking clubs and should be used for going at easy to access flags. Your wedge will give you more spin and fly a little higher. Be bolder with the wedge.
Pitching Wedge vs Gap Wedge
For most people, the wedge looks the same as their irons. It is part of the set and this is reflected in its design. The gap wedge tends to be the first ‘specialised’ wedge in the bag.
By that I mean that the gap wedge is probably the first wedge in the sequence of the bag that you bought on its own. This means that it probably has a smaller head and looks very different behind the ball. This club will fly almost as far as your pitching wedge but not quite, it will also fly higher and with more spin.
Your wedge may instil you with more confidence behind the ball. Personally, I feel the wedge is more forgiving than a gap wedge and I know I need to be swinging well to hit a full gap wedge on a given day.
Pitching Wedge vs Sand Wedge
As the name suggests, the sand wedge is a specialised club for getting you out of bunkers. This club has extra bounce on the sole to help make sure that it doesn’t dig into the sand on those shots. That’s not to say that it can’t be used from the turf though.
The sand wedge will fly a good 20 yards or so less than the pitching wedge and will impart an incredible amount of spin on the ball. Most tour players will rarely hit a full sand wedge into a green and would rather manufacture a soft wedge or gap wedge to control the back spin.
Pitching Wedge vs Lob Wedge
The lob wedge is the most lofted club in the bag and is another more specialised wedge. This is a club that is made for helping you lift the ball high quickly and to bring the ball down softly. It is perfect for shots around the greens when you need to get the ball over a bunker or a similar hazard.
As you may expect, and as the lob wedge is three clubs away from a pitching wedge, this club is as similar to a wedge as a 7-iron. These clubs are very different in terms of how far they travel and how the ball reacts to a shot from it.
Chipping with a Pitching Wedge
Like I have said, this is an incredibly versatile club and so it can be used in many ways. One of the best uses of the club is to play the classic links chip and run with it. Traditionally, the chip and run would be played with something like a 7-iron.
However, the use of this club is definitely more suited to the fringe and sometimes you’ll need to fly the ball over something before the green. For this shot, the pitching wedge is a great option for a chip and run. Given the increased loft, you will want to fly the ball around halfway toward the flag then let it run out.
Play this shot as you would normally, feet close together, ball at the back of the stance and hands pressed forward throughout the swing. Relax, keep it smooth and watch the ball nestle-up beside the hole.
Who makes the best wedges?
It all depends what you are after. However, if you would like to buy a wedge out-with your iron set then there are some places to look first. The usual strong wedge manufacturers are a great place to start.
Titleist and their Vokey range are some of the best wedges available on the market. The new SM8 has the best looks out there right now, in my opinion and the range of finishes will be sure to have an option you love. With an incredible array of grinds, you will be able to be fitted for the perfect wedge.
Callway Mack Daddy wedges have been consistently recognised as among the best of all time. Developed in conjunction with Phil Mickelson, these clubs have real pedigree and will help your game.
Vega are a high-end golf club producer and the wedges I use personally. These are hand-made wedges of the best Japanese materials and craftsmanship. They feel softer and better than any wedge I have every tried.
The pitching wedge is a much underrated club in the golf bag and hopefully you now see that there is more to it than just another iron in the set. This is a club that can create birdie chances for you and get you out of tough spots. It is a club you need to get to know better.
You may be happy with the pitching wedge that is in your iron set, this is no problem. One recommendation though is that you get the loft on it checked along with all of your other clubs. You should then balance your bag by the choices you make in other wedges.
Take time to learn how far you hit your pitching wedge and lear the other shots you can play using it. This is a club that is easy to get comfortable with and to rely on in the heat of the battle. It is a trusted club of many of the world’s best golfers.
The pitching wedge is a club for the creative golfers as much as it is one for the mathematician-type golfers. It is your friend and by picking the right one, or getting to know what you have, you will benefit greatly.