Let’s Talk Sand Wedges
Golfers hit wedges more often during a round than any other club in the bag, other than the putter and driver. As a result, it is important that golfers have an understanding of wedge design, function, and playability. And, the better a golfer’s wedge game, the fewer amount of putts that are needed. As an instructor, I am always suprised when a golfer comes to take a lesson and does not carry a sand wedge in his or her bag. The excuses range from, “I can not hit a sand wedge,” “a sand wedge did not come with the set,” or “the sand wedge scares me,” to “when I learn to hit the pitching wedge I am going to buy a sand wedge.”
The design of a sand wedges is to make bunker shots easier, regardless of golfing proficiency. And particularly so if a golfer knows how the sand wedge works. The sand wedge is designed with an inverted or “bounce” sole to keep the club from digging deeply into the sand and stopping the clubhead dead in its tracks, resulting in a fat shot. The sand wedge is also four to eight swing weights heavier than the other irons, and the width of the sole is the widest. The combination of the inverted, wider sole and heavier weight enables golfers to hit bunker shots with greater ease.
When picking the right sand wedge for your game, you need to analyze the conditions of the course(s) you regularly play. If you play sand conditions that are normally shallow and more packed, then generally you will need a slightly narrower sole, a slight to moderate bounce (7 to 11 degrees), and a normal swing weight of D-5 to D-8. This type of sand wedge also works well from the fairway and tighter lies, but this would not be a good choice in powdery sand. If you play in sand that is loose, but grainy and has a heavier weight (similar to a gravel), then I recommend a sand wedge that has a wider sole, more moderate bounce (12 to 15 degrees) and a little heavier swing weight of D-5 to E-0. This club will perform well from the fairways unless the fairways are hard with tighter lies. If you play in powdery, fine-textured sand where buried lies are not uncommon, then a wider sole with more bounce (16 – 20 degrees) and a heavier weight of D-8 to E-2 is probably the best choice. But, these wedges do not perform well on the fairway unless the lie is very plush. The best overall sand wedge that works for most types of sand is one with a medium to wide sole, with a moderate bounce (12 to 15 degrees) and slightly heavier weight of D-5 to E-0. This composition performs well from most fairway conditions, but requires a higher skill level from tighter lies.
One other element to consider when choosing the right sand wedge is the loft of the club. Typical sand wedge lofts range from 54 to 60 degrees of loft. Also many of the more lofted lob wedges will even go to 64 degrees. Choosing the loft for your sand wedge and lob wedge really depends on the lofts of other wedges you may carry. You do not want to create too big of gap in the lofts between all your wedges. The options as to brands and specifications can be very overwhelming. Also keep in mind that what works for on golfer may not work for another. Many golfers have different angle of attacks on the ball with their swing and require different bounces than others.When purchasing new wedges, I recommend you talk to an experienced golf instructor to advise you on the specifications that would suit your game for the type of course you play most often. Good luck!Play Well-Brech Spradley, PGA Director of Instruction