The saying goes: "drive for show, putt for dough." But what about wedges? Where do they fit into the picture in respect to your golf game?
The fact is, most amateur golfers do not spend enough time on their wedge game. But professional golfers sure do! When Phil Mickelson made a "comeback" of sorts a few years ago and started winning majors, he attributed much of his success to working on his wedge game. That says quite a bit, especially since Lefty was already considered a pretty darn good wedge player.
You too, can benefit from improving your wedge game, and it might just start with getting a new clone golf wedge or even a matched set of clone golf wedges.
Many golf iron sets come with a pitching wedge as a standard part of the set. Some manufacturers will throw in a sand wedge too. Other companies will allow you to add different wedges to the set - including an "A" wedge, sometimes called a "gap wedge," and a "lob wedge" which is usually 60° or 62° wedge.
If you are a beginning golfer, someone who doesn't hit the ball very far, or a very high handicapper, you probably don't need to worry too much about different wedges at this point. I suggest just working on the basics of the game.
But once you get past the basics, you will benefit from adding at least a third wedge, and you might even benefit from having 4 wedges in your bag (of course you have to balance this out with the fact that you can only have 14 clubs in your bag to be 'legal'). Personally, I use 3 wedges: a 46° PW, a 51° Gap Wedge and a 56° Sand Wedge. I used to have a 62° lob wedge but took it out when I added a 7 wood to my arsenal.
The most obvious place where different wedges will help your game is on approach shots from the fairway. Most amateurs find themselves with plenty of shots during a round of golf from 100 yards in. Sometimes it is because you had a great drive and are within wedge range. What a shame to waste such a good drive by flubbing your wedge shot or hitting it too short or too long. Most times, though, the inside 100 yard shot is the 3rd shot on a par 4 or the 4th shot on a par 5. Getting those shots close will definitely improve your game. Your goal in those situations is to walk away with nothing worse than a bogey or maybe even a par. The approach shot with your wedge is a critical component to getting that mission accomplished.
If you only have 2 wedges, it means that you have to alter your swing quite a bit to vary the distance on shots from different yardages. A better method is to use the same full swing and just change clubs. If, for instance, you hit your sand wedge 80 yards and your pitching wedge 110 yards, what do you do with a 95 yard shot? You have the choice of hitting the sand wedge hard or the pitching wedge soft. Both can be recipes for disaster without a lot of practice. A better solution is to add a "gap wedge" with a loft halfway between the two. This A wedge shot will allow you to hit a full shot that will probably go about 95 yards.
If you find yourself with a lot of approach shots under 60 yards, a lob wedge could improve your golf score too. A lob wedge will allow you to hit a full shot into the green from those shorter distances rather than trying to guess how much to take off a sand wedge.
Another benefit you can get from having multiple golf wedges is a variety of recovery shots from trouble areas off the fairway or around the green. When you get stymied in a bad spot off the tee and it seems like the only play is over a small tree in front of you, a lob wedge in your hand may be the thing you need to have the confidence to hit the ball over that tree and back into the fairway.
Around the green, you may find yourself in really thick rough, on a shaved lie. Having different wedges at your disposal to make the right shot can give you a big confidence boost. A lob wedge will also allow you to hit the ball high and land soft, even without any spin, which is perfect for pitch shots out of thick rough around the green.
And how many times haven't you hit into a bunker only to find that the lie was less than ideal? Maybe you got a fried egg lie with the ball halfway buried in soft sand. Maybe you find your ball sitting high on hard, wet sand. Having different wedges in your bag may be the difference between getting onto the green or facing another shot out of the beach.
A new wedge in your bag may not get the oohs and ahhs from your playing partners like a new driver might get. But it may actually lower your score more, considering how often a wedge comes into play during a round of golf. The golf wedge is definitely a specialty item, and getting a custom wedge set is a great way to go. But if you prefer to have a completely matched set, make sure you order that "A wedge" or "lob wedge" when you are buying your next set of golf irons. You will be happy you did. And most important, you'll have a lot more fun playing golf!
Joel Thomas is an avid golfer, gardener and fisherman who lives in S. Arizona with his lovely wife and children.
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Oil Can Wedges
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