Two special clubs that reward special attention
Golf Digest Teaching Professional, with Ed Weathers
Most irons in your bag today have stronger lofts than they used to, so they hit the ball farther.
This has changed the nature of wedge play.
The pitching wedge, once 52 degrees, now has only 48 degrees of loft. But the sand wedge has stayed at about 56 degrees. That means there is now a big distance gap between these two clubs. If you hit your pitching wedge 115 to 120 yards and your sand wedge only 85 to 90 yards, what happens if you have a 100-yard shot? That’s where the gap wedge, at 52 to 53 degrees, comes in.
For most players, the gap wedge is a must. I recommend you take the 2- or 3-iron out of your bag to make room for it-especially since the new 4-irons hit the ball as far as the old 3-irons, anyway.
Today’s golfer also faces more tucked pins, superfast greens, deep bunkers and high greenside rough on the best courses. That’s where the lob wedge, at 60 to 62 degrees, comes in. It can hit the ball high and stop it short, and it’s one of the reasons you see so many low scores in tournament golf today.
Here’s more on these special wedges.
The lob wedge: Just square it up
When you’re faced with a short shot to a tight pin or a green that runs away, the lob wedge lets you square your stance, your swing and your clubface to the target and still hit a high, soft shot.
Note how the clubface and the feet both line up toward the target in the photo to the left. From any lie, you can square the clubface, take a relatively full swing and the ball will still float up.
The open sand wedge: Risky business
To hit a high, soft shot without a lob wedge, you’ll have to open the clubface of your sand wedge. Note how in the photo at left the feet aim one way and the club another. This means tricky swing adjustments (such as an intentionally out-to-in swing) and less backspin on the ball. Unless you’re an exceptional shotmaker, forget this shot. Instead, put a lob wedge in your bag.
The gap wedge: Easy
When you’re faced with a shot that falls in the distance range between your pitching wedge and your sand wedge, a gap wedge lets you simply square up your clubface (below) and take a normal swing. The alternative is to cut, choke down on or throttle back on your pitching wedge, or try to hit an extra long sand wedge-all difficult options.
Hooded SW: Tricky
If you don’t carry a gap wedge and you have to hit a shot that falls between your sand wedge and pitching wedge, one alternative is to “hood” or “burn” your sand wedge to hit it farther. That means closing your stance and shutting your clubface (above). This is another tricky shot, which can be tough to land softly. The gap wedge is a lot easier.
Pinch the ball for solid contact
The advantage of a wedge with the right loft for the shot at hand is that you don’t have to jerry-rig a swing. Instead, simply set the face square to the target and hit down on or “pinch” the ball. Feel as if you’re pressing it into the ground. Don’t worry, it will come out high. You should leave a divot beyond the ball, like the one here.
A square clubface and a pinching swing will give you the solid contact and crisp backspin you want from any wedge.
COPYRIGHT 1998 New York Times Company Magazine Group, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group