How Many Wedges is Right...For You!?
Terry "The Wedge Guy" Koehler is in New Zealand this week speaking at a PGA Seminar. While he's out, we're going to feature a "Best of The Wedge Guy" article from the past. This article was originally published March 3, 2011. Enjoy!
As you might imagine, this is one of the most common questions we get at SCOR Golf, as we talk with dozens of players a week about this very subject. And the answer is always different, as it depends on many factors. I chose this topic this morning in response to a question from Charles, who asked:
It seems like there are two schools of thought about just how many wedges the average amateur should carry. One school suggests that 3-4 wedges (PW, GW, SW, LW, for example) is just too many for most amateurs, who should limit their wedges to 2 or 3 at the most. This simplifies the options for the golfer, and in theory, forces the golfer to develop more touch in the short game. The converse, of course, is to have as many wedges as you are comfortable carrying, whether that's 3, 4, or even 5. What do you recommend, Wedge Guy?Well, Charles, that's a question that has as different answer for every golfer, and the key is to find the right solution for you. It's a multi-step Q&A process.
First, you need to determine each end of your wedge selection. On the lower end, know what the true loft is of your set-match "P club". If you've read much "WedgeGuy", you know that I refuse to call these 43-46 degree, renamed 9- and even 8-irons "pitching wedges", because they are not. So unless you are playing a more traditional blade iron "P club" with a loft of at least 48 degrees, don't count it as one of your "wedges".
Secondly, determine the highest loft wedge you are comfortable playing. For some, it's a wedge of 64 degrees or more. For others, it's in the 57-58 range. As I watch the weekly "what's in the bag" reports from the tours, it seems more and more of these guys are carrying a 58 as their highest lofted club, and getting away from the 60. That's probably due to the performance difference with the new grooves, but I'll save that for another column.
Once you determine the two ends of the spectrum you are trying to fill, then you should build a matched set of scoring tools to fill that big gap. If you are a long hitter, or if you do not want to have to manipulate too many shots with each club, I believe loft differences between wedges should be three degrees. That will give you tighter full swing distance intervals, and more options around the greens. A set makeup of 48/51/54/57, with a 60 if you'd like, could be perfect.
On the other hand, if you are shorter in distance, and don't mind gripping down and monitoring swing speed and backswing length, then you can get away with fewer scoring clubs. In this case, you probably have one of these stronger "P clubs" and so your wedge make-up might be 47/52/57, with possibly a 61...or something similar.
Whichever route you take, I am a firm believer that the shafts on the wedges "on the rack" are too heavy and too stiff for nearly all players. For optimum performance, your wedge shafts should be designed just for wedges, and they should match your iron shafts in material, weight and overall flex.
Either buy wedges from a company that will give you the option to do that (like SCOR Golf maybe???), or have major brand wedges rebuilt with new shafts that will give you the performance you seek.
I hope that answers your questions, and I feel certain the readers are going to chime in with lots of additional advice. Guys???
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[ comments ]
Duke of Hazards says:
3 (48* pitch, 54* sand, 60* lob). before switching to a higher lofted pitching wedge, I did carry a 52*, but I think it was defective or something, didn't seem to have a sweet spot (dead inside) and I could never hit it a consistent distance. Yes, I know that i have 6* gaps now between my wedges, but I personally prefer to adjust choke and backswing length to adjust in the gaps. I've not played nearly as many rounds as most oobers, but I don't find myself with that many situations requiring 110 yards and 90 yard full swings that would warrant an additional wedge (or 2) vs. just practicing those distances with the other wedges. Now about that practice part....
not that I am really good or anything (I'm not), but if I could carry another wedge along with my PW 44*, GW 50*, SW 55*, and LW 60*, say a 64 *, I would (just can't seem to choose what to leave out of the bag at the moment). I think the more options you have in the short game will probably translate into better scoring (I've heard, and noticed in my game that most of your shots come from within 100 yards, thus, the more options, the closer you should be able to get to the pin if you know your wedge distances). While I do adjust my swing speed, I find that most of the time, it is inconsistent (of course practice here would help), thus, it would seem to me that if you could swing full most of the time, which you do anyway, you might be better served, especially if your 1-2 time a week golfer.
I think it depends on the course and what irons I'm playing. If my PW in the iron set is 45* I'll carry a 50, 54, 58 & 64 if there are a lot of elevated greens and deep lipped bunkers. For relatively flat courses and I playing my old blades I'll carry a 48, 52, 56, & 60. I agree with re-shafting wedges to fit the iron set. I shafted both sets of wedges with graphite shafts matching the weight and flex of the complimentary irons sets. Wedges are my scoring tools. The more I have the more options I get.
I'm a 4 wedger - 47, 50, 54, 58. i'm currently in the process of putting a new sole grind on the 58 and 54, just slightly lowering the bounce angles and rounding the heel.
I've got 4- 48, 52, 56, 60. It's just what I'm comfortable with. I can make the same swing with all 4 clubs and get 4 different distances. I don't have the time to spend working to get those same distances with just 1 or 2 clubs. Some can. It depends on how much you play/practice, and what you are comfortable with.
I'm still calling my PW a wedge, despite Terry's explanation above. I understand his theory, but I utilize my PW in so many different ways it would be unfair to dismiss it. PW - 44 degrees, and then 52 (G), 56 (s) and 60 (L) Adams Tom Watson wedges.
I often use my PW at less than standard length, gripping down to take off distance to cover that long gap between 44 and 52. Or sometimes, if the lie dictates it, I'll hood the 52 shut a little bit to add a little extra to it. I'd rather do this than over-swing the 52.
And I only, and I mean ONLY use the 60 degree wedge when there is no other play. So this club is typically only used for extremely short sided bunker shots, or cases where there is water or sand between my ball and the green, and very little room to work with. I've found only using the 60 degree when I HAVE TO increases my success with it, because when I use it otherwise, I often find myself wondering if there is a "smarter" shot which usually leads to a non-confident (i.e. bad) swing.
One more item about my PW - some folks might say a 44 degree club, with a wider sole and perimeter weighting is not a true "wedge". I get that. But playing devil's advocate - you can also use those design aspects to your advantage once you learn the different lie, feel, roll and trajectory they give you.
Scott Shields says:
I'm a four wedger myself ... 46 pw, 50 gap, 54 sand, 58 lob. I score much better having having that gaping (135,125,115,105), then I do having an extra club at the other end of my set (aka 5 wood).
Three wedges here, 47 PW, 50 GW, 54 SW. The Gap and Sand wedges were bought before my new irons, the old PW was 46, giving me 4 degree gaps. I may have them bent to 51 and 55 at the end of the year. Tried a LW years back and never got the hang of it.
So I have a short question for anyone who would like to answer. Im looking into be wedges but have no idea where to start..I am looking to buy fairly cheap wedges. I want them to be good wedges that will last me a while. Any feedback would be awesome. Thanks.
Webster - Adams sells a three wedge set called the "Tom Watson Classic" that goes around $110 online. They are probably the best "deal" out there. If you want to start cheaper than hat, you can find Ram wedges for about $20 each online or at Sports Authority, but they are not the same quality (I started with the Rams).
Matt F says:
3 wedges here. Eidolon 48 PW, 52 GW and 56 SW. One day I might learn how to use them effectively!
I play 49* PW, 52* GW and 56* SW. Having a LW in the bag usually ends up adding to my score rather than subtracting, so I don't carry it. My 9i is lofted more like the PW's of those commenting, at 44.5*.
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