Wedges are an important set of clubs in any golfer’s bag. They help get us out of trouble and play precise and accurate shots to get the ball close to the flag from the greens or the bunker.
Professional golfers have a variety of wedges with different lofts and bounces in their bags. Some pro players have three wedges, and some have four, depending on their style of play. Not only that, but they may have wedge sets that are a different brand from their playing irons.
Which wedges and lofts do the pros use and which brands? Let’s investigate below, and then we can look at what wedges you should have in your bag.
Golf Technology And The Emergence Of Specialised Clubs
As the understanding of golf club dynamics has advanced over the years, the club manufacturing and design technology have advanced equally, and the advent of specially designed and milled club faces has come into play.
This is especially true concerning wedges. These lofty clubs play a very important role in the professional game as short game skills are often the difference between winning or losing.
Having the best possible wedges with various lofts and bounces allows the professional golfer to manufacture miracle shots, sand saves, and impossible chips and pitches that leave the mortal golfer gasping in astonishment.
But what wedges do these players use, and how many do they have in their bag?
There are more than 70 various wedge models used on the PGA tour made by 15 different manufacturers. 80% of players have four wedges in their bag ranging from 46° to 64° in loft and average a 10° bounce.
The most common wedge configuration is where 51% of players use a pitching wedge that matches their irons and then three specialist wedges. The gap wedges in their bag have lofts between 50° and 52°, then the sand wedge with a loft from 54° to 58° and finally the lob wedge with a loft from 58° to 63°.
Some players like Phil Mickelson will even have a fifth wedge to give him an additional option for shots from around 125 yards. However, this is a rare occurrence.
A more likely scenario and one that is finding increasing favor with tour players is that they will pick a specialty wedge over the standard pitching wedge that is part of their standard set.
A specialty wedge was not part of the original iron set and replaced the standard pitching wedge supplied with that set. By doing this, the pro golfer gives themselves a greater variety and more specialized wedge configuration than having the standard loft on the PW and then fine-tune the other three.
Some of the players opting for this are Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas, and Cam Smith, and the specialty wedges are the likes of the Titleist Vokey range, RTX Wedges from Cleveland, and the Mack Daddy’s from Callaway.
Using specialty wedges at this level of the game is becoming a trend, especially with the younger tour players. They find that the deeper and narrower milling on the grooves delivers a more consistent spin along with a more penetrating ball flight.
These players can also find more shot creativity with the increased bounce and grind that specialty wedges provide.
Which Wedge Loses Out On The 3 Wedge Setup?
More often than not, the sand wedge lost its place in the bag, where the player opted for the three wedge configuration-considering that only 20% of the players use this three wedge system and the other 80% use four wedges.
While top-ranked players like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy were in the three-wedge setup group, this is not the majority at all.
As the sand wedge gave way, players opted for this setup instead, using a gap wedge with a loft between 51° and 54° with a lob wedge of 60° or above. There is one exception in this group, and that is Lee Westwood.
He is the only one in the top 100 players with only ONE specialty wedge: the 60 degree Ping Glide Forged Lob Wedge. His i20 pitching wedge and utility wedge are all matched to his irons.
Considering Lee’s performance over the last year and that he is still knocking on the Top 20 door, it’s clear that you don’t have to have the specialty wedges to keep up your performance.
What Brand Of Wedges Do Most Of The Pro’s Use?
In the Top 100 players on the PGA tour, there are some 380 wedges used, and out of those, 44% are made by Titleist. Second in this race is Ping with 17%, and third is Callaway with 15% of wedges used.
The Titleist Vokey SM8 is the most popular individual combination of pitching, gap, sand, and lob wedge. While the dominance of Titleist is clear, there is a big variance in the specs of wedges used by players.
Over the four different wedge types -pitching, gap, sand, and lob- there are almost 70 different configurations in use. Some even have a specific grind like TaylorMade’s Milled Grind 2 wedges can be done with Tiger’s grind and Callaway’s Mack Daddy PM us the grind designed by Phil Mickelson.
When it comes to loft, finish, and bounce, each player has unique requirements based on their type of game.
Wedge Distances Have Changed and Here’s Why
If you watch a lot of golf, you’ll notice that the pros seem to hit their wedges a lot further than you do. Of course, part of that is their swing technique, but there is another factor at play here: the loft.
Nowadays, some gap wedge lofts are the same as a standard pitching wedge loft. Big hitter Bryson De Chambeau for example, has a gap wedge with 47 degrees of loft. For most players, that’s the same as their pitching wedge!
Looking at the average configurations and lofts, around 60% of pro players use a pitching wedge with 46 degrees of loft, with 48 degrees being the second most common loft option.
With gap wedges, the 52-degree loft is used by 42% of players, with 33% opting for the 50-degree model.
On the sand wedge models, 59% of players pick the 56-degree model, and on the lob wedge, a staggering 80% of the top 100 players use the 60-degree model.
What Is A Good Wedge ‘Gap’ Between Clubs
While some players may have smaller or larger gaps between pitching, gap, sand, and lob, one of the world’s foremost wedge designers, Bob Vokey, advocates for a 4 degree to 6-degree gap between wedges.
As the designer of Titleists dominant Vokey range, the man knows his wedges! This degree gap will average around 10-15 yards of distance for the average male golfer and around 5 to 10 yards for ladies and juniors.
Professional players need to be more precise and, as such, can change down their lofts in half-degree or even quarter-degree increments to be more dialed in on the precision shots.
What Bounce Do The Pros Use On Their Wedges?
What is bounce? The bounce of a club is the term given to the angle between the leading edge and the lowest point of the trailing sole. The club’s bounce determines how well the club penetrates the ground from the steep angle of attack seen in wedge shots.
The higher the wedge bounce is, the higher the leading edge of the wedge is off the hitting surface at address. To get optimal contact, control, and spin, you need the proper wedge bounce and grind.
According to Bob Vokey, “Bounce is your friend as it provides forgiveness on all wedges shots and allows you to strike the ball properly even if you make mistakes.”
When it comes to the pitching wedge, the ten bounce was the preferred option; in gap wedges, the 10 and 12 bounce models are preferred. While various bounces are found in sand and lob wedges, the 10 and 8 are the most commonly used bounces.
How Many Wedges Should You Have In Your Bag?
For the average golfer, three wedges should be more than sufficient. To get an idea of what wedges you’d need and the lofts, take Bob Vokey’s advice and look at a 4-degree loft change between each wedge.
Firstly, count how many clubs you have up to your 9-iron and include your putter. If you have 11, there is only space for three wedges; if you have 10, there is space for four wedges.
It is probably better to have the wedge between your pitching and sand wedges than to have a big loft gap and have the lob wedge.
Most players have the pitching, sand, and lob wedge, and the gap becomes an option if you need to dial in the distance a bit more accurately or that three-quarter swing int quite there yet.
Since not everyone wants or needs a lob wedge, you may be able to save this one and hold that 14th place for a hybrid that’s going to help you get to the green or get off the tee.
How You Play Determines What Wedges You’d Need
The first question to answer before determining the loft is to know how far you need to hit your wedges in your game? In other words, what’s the average distance I would use my pitching/gap/sand/lob from and remember that every 4-6 degrees of loft would increase/ decrease distance by around 12-15 yards for the average male player.
If you can hit the green on approach most of the time and occasionally end up short and need to chip or pitch it, then that would be a very different requirement if you have a shorter distance game and use wedges more often from that 120 yards and closer mark.
Again, the loft requirements are based on distance control and accuracy. The first thing to do would be to take your existing set to a range with accurate distance markers. If that isn’t possible, use a range finder.
Take all three or four wedges and hit ten shots, each measuring the distance achieved on the average swing. This will dial you into the consistent distance on each of your wedges.
How Many Wedges Do I Need And What Loft Should I Use?
Once you have a solid idea of your distance with each wedge, you can now determine how many and what loft you would need to cover all the yardages of your game.
Start with your pitching wedge loft and work up in the loft from there. Based on this formula, if you have a 48-degree pitching wedge, the next would be a 52-degree gap wedge and a 56-degree sand wedge.
Making this decision would be based on where you struggle and need the most help. So if you find yourself in-between distances and clubs on approach, then a three wedge set up with an extra-long club would be better.
If your tee and approach are ok, but you are in between around the green or on the sub-120-yard shots, then perhaps an extra wedge would be advisable.
So, if you want some guidelines on what your wedge configuration should be, consider using this four wedge group. Pitching wedge at 46-48 degrees; gap wedge at 52 degrees, sand wedge at 56 degrees, and lob wedge at 60 degrees.
This would give you a pretty solid wedge edge on the course. If you need to sacrifice one of them to have an extra long club, consider losing the lob wedge and increasing the lofts on the gap and sand wedge to cover the shortfall.
Wedges Are Adjustable
Remember that an average wedge has about 2 degrees of adjustable wiggle room on the bend, so if you only have room for three, then you can always have your golf pro bend the others to increase loft as you’d need to.
Plus, you can always lay the face a bit more open to giving you the option on those extra high spinning shots as and when you need them.
But, if you aren’t 100% comfortable with the ‘half shots’ or improvised open face angles, then it would be a good idea to look at getting a set of wedges that gives you steeper loft angles from pitching through sand wedge.
While most of the pros have the four wedge setup, remember that they are pros and are more accurate and concise with the wedge than the average player. This doesn’t mean that you can’t boost your short game and start making low scores.
Take the time to play through your wedges properly, see what the best options will be in terms of loft and distance, and then decide to achieve the best result for your game.