The Pitching Wedge Is Not The Last Iron
48 degree Eidolon Golf pitching wedge

 It isn't the last iron, it's the first wedge.

When I was learning golf in the 1960's, our sets of irons were 2- or 3-PW, with the typical "pitching wedge" having 50-51 degrees of loft and a sole that was wider and had a little more bounce to facilitate versatile shotmaking.

It was our primary scoring club, with the sand wedge used seldom from anywhere but the bunker. Through the 70's and 80's, the pitching wedge was strengthened to 48-49 degrees and the sole became much more like the 9-iron than a true wedge sole. The sand wedge was refined and became more of a "go to" scoring club around the greens.

But now, we're seeing sets of irons with jacked up "pitching wedges" with the same loft that our 8-irons used to have, but the 3-iron is the same as it always was.

So, for all intent, the "pitching wedge" has been completely stripped of its identity - the iron in your set that is marked with a "P" or "W" really isn't a "wedge" at all, but nothing more than a #10 iron.

In fact, with many of the newer "game improvement" sets of irons, it's really a 9- or even 8-iron, but has a "P" or "W" on the bottom nonetheless. Sure, it goes further than ever, but it's ill suited to partial shots for scoring, because it doesn't have enough loft or a true wedge sole.

I believe that if you want to really improve your scoring, you'll carry more wedges and learn how to use them, and the first step is to make sure you have a true pitching wedge -you'll find those in the wedge display, not at the end of your set of irons.

The pitching wedge is the "first wedge", NOT the "last iron".

Almost all the major wedge line-ups offer selections from 48 degrees of loft on up. Even the worst of these would be better for scoring than whatever came with your set of irons. If your set of irons has more conventional lofts, you'll be better off replacing that "P-club" with a true wedge from a reputable wedge maker. If you are playing a set with a jacked up "P" or "W" iron, you should add a "real" pitching wedge of 48 degrees to your bag.

A "true" pitching wedge has to have at least 48 degrees of loft to allow you to get the proper height for pitching and chips.

It has to have a sole that is designed to provide some bounce to prevent it from digging into the turf.

That sole should be versatile enough to allow you to use your pitching wedge for long bunker shots and it should glide cleanly through the rough.

The grooves should be machined, not stamped or cast in place, so that you can put optimum spin on the ball.

And the pitching wedge should be 1/4" longer than your gap wedge, which is 1/4" longer than your sand wedge, which is 1/4" longer than your lob wedge if you carry one.

Whether you are replacing a club or adding one, I strongly recommend that you carry at least three "true" wedges - with 48, 52, and 56 degrees of loft. (And if you will work with it, a 60 can be a valuable scoring tool.)

Having even those three true wedges in your bag will give you consistent scoring options from probably 115 yards down to 85 or so, with consistent gaps in between.

Your wedges should all have a slightly softer shaft than your irons, because most of the time you'll be hitting something less than a full swing shot, and you don't want to "go after" a wedge like you would a middle or even short iron anyway.

And finally, if you take a tip from the tour professionals, you'll have your pro or clubmaker tweak the lie angles to make your wedges 1-2 degrees flatter than your irons.

That allows you to flex your legs a little more, drop your hands at address and "get closer to your work," when you are working on delicate scoring shots around the greens.

Now, I realize that adding these wedges might put you over the 14-club limit imposed by the Rules of Golf, so here's the solution.  Let's work on your set make-up from both ends:

  • First, you have to have a putter, so that leaves 13.

  • Then, you want to carry at least 3 wedges (48, 52, and 56 degrees of loft), so you're down to 10.

  • Skip to the long end of the set and you need a driver, so that leaves 9 clubs to handle the 8-15 shots from 200+ yards down to 115 or so.

  • If you are more comfortable with fairway woods and hybrids, I suggest you carry 3 or 4 of them to cover distances down to your first long or middle iron.

  • That leaves you with 5-6 irons to cover the gap between the shortest hitting hybrid or fairway wood and your "true" pitching wedge. 

Let's forget the numbers on the bottom, but if you arrange your lofts to be approximately 44, 40, 36, 32, 28 (and 24 degrees if you are left with 6), and lengths incrementally increasing 1/2" per club from your pitching wedge, you will create pretty consistent distance gaps all the way through your set.  If you are opting for the lob wedge, you can drop one of these irons at the long end, or one of the fairway woods or hybrids.

Here's where you should consider a visit to a qualified custom clubfitter or clubmaker, or your golf professional if they have and know how to use a loft and lie machine.  They can measure the specs of your clubs and help you tweak them to yield the results you are seeking.  And your game will begin to improve immediately.

As always, I invite and encourage your feedback and questions, and your challenges to my logic.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
Mike says:
I'm personally going to print out these suggestions and take them to Mike Hawkins at Caliber Golf in Louisville and have him optimize my set for me.

Thanks for the advice.
nocurling says:
great ideas! i'd add one more for those who play the same course regularly. play with 8, or at most 9, clubs for 3-4 rounds and see which clubs you're actually 'missing'. take a driver, 3wood or long iron, a couple of in-between irons, 3 wedges, and a putter. (this is my standard set - D, 3i, 6i, 8i, 48deg, 52deg, 56deg, putter.) not only will you get a feel for what clubs you need, you'll play a lot faster - there's no decision-making if you're in the fairway with 165 yards left.

garrett says:
I just had this same conversation with my teacher about a month ago. We talked about the shame in the fact that most guys feel obligated to boast about how far they can hit their pitching wedges. He really opened my eyes to the concept of scoring clubs and pretty much used the exact words you did in your title.

Both you and he have really opened my eyes to the possibilities in terms of scoring clubs. Thanks for your thoughts. They are much appreciated.
Tom says:
I am in agreeance with you Terry. So many partners I play with attempt to hit the same club as a better player in the group but for all they know there could be a difference of 2 or 3 degrees between their 9 iron's for example.

My irons have a PW with 47 degrees but when I upgrade I will certainly heed the Wedge Guy's advice and seek out a professional who is willing and open to this line of thinking. I agree that the wedges should be considered separate, much like the woods in a set.
wedgeguy says:
You guys are all on target -- congratulations! Almost every golfer would help their game by doing a review of their set make-up regularly. Just like a coach has to review his starting line-up, so should we.
wedgeguy says:
Tom, speaking specifically to your comment, I was reading the other day a pro's comments that you should always have 15-20 yards "in reserve" with each iron. In other words, your "normal" distance should be that much less than your maximum distance. I would bet dollars to donuts that every amateur golfer, regardless of handicap, would improve his/her scoring dramatically if they would learn how to throttle back their irons 10 yard at least. I read in the new Golf Digest that the average tour player hits 6-iron 174 yards "normally". If the average amateur would consider that distance a "normal" five or even four, his shotmaking consistency would improve by leaps and bounds, and his/her handicap would go down proportionately.
garrett says:
That's really interesting. I've never heard that before. I've been really concentrating on slowing down and keeping a nice tempo with my irons lately, but losing distance has kind of been eating at me. Reading about keeping a reserve is kind of comforting.
wedgeguy says:
Garrett, Sorry for the delay, but I wanted to offer this to you. In his 1949 book, Power Golf, Ben Hogan listed his yardages. For each iron, he showed "maximum", "average" and "minimum" distance. There were 20 yards in between. In other words, his maximum 9-iron was 20 yards longer than his "average" 9-iron. Do you have 20 yards in reserve with each iron? Few golfers would. But if you did, you would be so much more accurate with your irons than you would ever imagine. Just a thought.
John Richardson says:
This is an outstanding post and pretty much covers exactly what I discovered in my challenge (although you put it much better than I)

At almost every line I'm sitting my seat going "exactly!!!!"

Great stuff and a great blog. In fact I'm going to stick a link right now on mine!
Bob says:
Interesting post - and I have to admit my bag makeup mirrors these recommendations pretty closely. Carrying D, 2H, 4H, 5-9, PW, SW1, SW2, AW, GW, putter. Before: consistent high-90's, after: consistent high-80's. Practice and play time remains about the same...I just get the ball closer to the hole from inside 125 yards now.
Will says:

I read this article about a month or so ago and have been working on the points you covered. When I trust the shot, its far more accurate in terms of distance and line. I am now adjusting my practice routine to two thirds scoring clubs and one third longer clubs. Your logic seems infallible at this point.

wedgeguy says:
It pleases me to get this kind of feedback, as my whole reason for this blog is to help golfers score better. I think all of you are on the right track. Thanks.

Manny says:
Thanks for the great tip. I have recently started golfing about 2 years ago and still working on this fun but fustrating game. It is fustrating that I can get to about 50-100 yards of the green No problem usually in two - three strokes. But then it gets ugly. I recently broke my "P" wedge and was going to get another one. Now I learned the p is for "Punked" not for chipping probably explains why gets ugly under 100 yards. Thanks for the tip.

Dave Shaffer says:

If 44* is the standard for a 9-iron, what happens if an individual has a Fusion where the loft is 41* and then you use a 48* PW? The gap is then 7*.

I have the MP-32 PW. Does it meet your criteria for a PW? If not, can you explain the difference more succinctly?
Larry Luczak says:
I know I can hit a sand wedge 100 yards, i would like to know what degree a sand wedge is so I don't duplicate this club.
wedgeguy says:
For Larry, the typical sand wedge is 56*. For Dave, it's a little more complex. The problem is that lofts are but one measure of how far a club is going to hit the ball. The matrix includes the shaft and distribution of weight on the clubhead. My suggestion is to go through a measured analysis of just how far you hit each iron, and see where your gaps are inconsistent. I've written a book called "The SCoR Method" that outlines this procedure for you, and we now include that book with each EIDOLON wedge. It is also avaiable for purchae on our website, along with our new SCoR grips. You can read about it at
Jeff Brewster says:
Hey Terry,

I am a 13 handicap. I used to have a 52* gap wedge that I took out of my bag cause I was having trouble hitting it. I have a 47* PW, a 56* SW and a 60* LW.

I'm finding that when I get in the 100-125 yard range, I struggle. On a full swing, I can hit my PW between 125 and 135 yards, depending on the wind/lie/etc. I can barely hit my SW 100 yards.

Any tips on how to control hitting a non-full PW to cover that gap? I try choking down and taking less of a swing, and when I do I usually will pull the ball left or hit it thin. I am doing a lot more math and golf IQ when setting up my approach shots, to try to avoid that distance, but sometimes I can't help it.

wedgeguy says:
Jeff, with that gap in your yardages, I think you need to put a 52 back in the bag. If it's the right one (you know my suggestion!), you'll find it to fill that gap perfectly.

As for the "in between" shots, with each EIDOLON wedge, we include a copy of our new book, "The SCoR Method", which guides you to a simple way to hit these "less than full" shots. The book is also available for purchase on our website --

Finally, if I might offer this, that's pretty darn far to hit a pitching wedge and sand wedge. You might work with "throttling down" your swing speed on the short irons . . . I'm confident you'll see your trajectories get much more controlled and your distance get more consistent. One of my favorite rules of thumb is that you should have 10-15 yards in reserve between your normal and maximum distance with all irons. All the best players do.
scott miller says:
What do you think of the latest
Ping irons?
wedgeguy says:

I don't have the chance to hit all the new clubs on the market, and don't like to comment on the competition's products for the most part. Ping is a good company and has a stellar reputation for quality. I strongly suggest playing a round or two of golf with any club you are considering purchasing, as that let's you get a true feel for what the clubs will really do for your game.

Wantabe says:
Great..........................I had just bought all three wedges you suggested. My 48 has a 6 degree bounce, my 52 I chose 8, and my 56 has 11 degree bounce......I also have ordered 5-9 new irons. i carry a 10.5 driver, with a 3,& 7 fairway wood, and a 22 degree hybrid. leaving room for one more club. If I so desire I'll replace the 22 hybrid, with a 23, and add a 17 Degree hybrid......your thoughts, Bob
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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