Learn About the Approach Wedge: Filling the Gap in Your Golf Bag

approach wedge

If you’re looking to improve your short game and lower your scores, it may be time to add an approach wedge to your golf bag. But what exactly is an approach wedge, and how is it different from other wedges like the pitching wedge and sand wedge?

This article will explain everything you need to know about approach wedges – from loft and yardage gaps, to their common uses around the green and how to choose the right one for your set. After reading, you’ll understand why having an properly gapped approach wedge can shave strokes off your scorecard.

Filling the Yardage Gap Between Your Pitching Wedge and Sand Wedge

The approach wedge is also known as a gap wedge because it fits in the distance gap between your pitching wedge (PW) and sand wedge (SW). As golf club technology has advanced, iron lofts have gotten stronger. This means the pitching wedge loft is lower than older club sets, which leads to a wider distance gap before your sand wedge.

Here are some typical lofts and yardages for an approach wedge versus other wedges:

  • Pitching Wedge: 46-48 degrees of loft, carries 115-135 yards
  • Approach Wedge: 50-52 degrees of loft, carries 100-115 yards
  • Sand Wedge: 54-56 degrees of loft, carries 90-100 yards

As you can see, the approach wedge slides nicely between the PW and SW, providing an additional option when you need more distance and height than the SW, but less than the PW. Having an evenly spaced gapping of wedges is crucial for dialing in precise yardages around the green.

A Versatile Club for Various Shots

The approach wedge is extremely versatile club. While the pitching wedge is primarily used for full swings from fairway or rough, and the sand wedge is mostly for bunker shots and short pitches, the approach wedge can be used for:

  • Full swings from 75-115 yards out
  • Short pitches from 30-50 yards
  • Chip shots and finesse shots around the green
  • Certain bunker shots that require less loft than the SW

Having an approach wedge gives you greater precision and shot versatility when attacking pins on long par 3’s, going for par 5’s in two, or hitting to elevated greens. It’s also handy whenever you’re just outside SW range or need a higher, softer shot than the PW provides.

![Man hitting pitch shot with approach wedge][]

An approach wedge can precisely cover distances too long for the sand wedge but shorter than an ideal pitching wedge shot. It’s perfect for pitches from 30-50 yards.

Key Differences Between Approach, Pitching, and Sand Wedges

While approach wedges fill an important yardage gap, they differ from pitching and sand wedges in some key ways:

  • Loft: Approach wedge loft sits between PW and SW, normally 50-52 degrees. Pitching wedges are 46-48 degrees, and sand wedges 54-56 degrees typically.
  • Club Length: Approach wedges are the same length as irons, while sand wedges are an inch or two shorter for control.
  • Best Uses: PW is best for full swings, SW excels from bunkers and tight lies, approach wedges are most versatile around the green.
  • Bounce: Approach wedges have less bounce than sand wedges, allowing crisper contact from tight lies.
Wedge TypeTypical LoftBest Use CasesClub LengthBounce
Pitching Wedge46-48°Full swings from fairways & roughSame as ironsMedium
Approach Wedge50-52°Versatile around greensSame as ironsLow to medium
Sand Wedge54-56°Sand shots & finesse pitches1-2″ shorterHigh

As you can see, the approach wedge fills a crucial gap in your short game arsenal. It’s extremely handy whenever you have a shot just outside your sand wedge range but need more precision than the pitching wedge allows.

Dialing in Specialty Shots Around the Green

Beyond yardage gapping benefits, the approach wedge really shines on finesse shots around the greens. Having an approach wedge gives you far more versatility to stick shots close and save strokes. Here are some of the specialty shots it allows:

Precise Pitch Shots

When faced with a pitch shot from 30-50 yards away, the extra loft and precision of an approach wedge makes it easier to land the ball softly on the green and spin it back towards the hole. The lower trajectory keeps the ball under trees but gets it high enough to hold the green.![Golfer hitting short pitch with approach wedge][]

For pitch shots of 30-50 yards, an approach wedge allows for a controlled, high shot that lands softly and spins.

Tight Lie Chip Shots

Chipping with an approach wedge is great for getting the ball airborne quickly when your ball is nestled down in thicker grass. The narrower sole and lower bounce make it easier to contact the ball cleanly compared to a sand wedge.

High Greenside Chips

When chipping to elevated greens or pins cut near the back, the extra loft of the approach wedge helps get under the ball for optimum trajectory and spin. This makes it easier to stick tight greenside chips close to the hole.

Bunker Shots from Tight Lies

On bunker shots where the sand is very compacted and your ball is sitting down, an approach wedge can dig under the ball better than a sand wedge due to less bounce. The extra loft still gets the ball out fast.![Woman hitting greenside bunker shot with approach wedge][]

For bunker shots from challenging lies, an approach wedge can get under the ball better than a sand wedge.

As you can see, having an approach wedge in your bag provides far more shot options around the green. You can fine tune trajectories and dial in short game shots with greater precision.

Choosing the Right Approach Wedge For Your Bag

If you’ve decided to add an approach wedge, here are some factors to consider when choosing the right one:

Loft

Ideally, your approach wedge loft should evenly gap between your pitching wedge and sand wedge. Most players benefit from 50-52 degrees of loft. Check your PW and SW lofts and shop accordingly.

Bounce

The bounce of an approach wedge should be low to medium to allow versatility from tighter lies. Too much bounce makes clean contact from firm ground difficult.

Grind

A mid or heel grind provides flexibility for different shots. Avoid wedges with excessive camber if you want to use your approach wedge for more than just full swings.

Matching vs Aftermarket

You can get an approach wedge with matching specs to your iron set, or shop for a standalone wedge from companies like Cleveland, Vokey, etc. Matching can be easier, but aftermarket provides more grind options.

Shaft Length & Flex

Stick to standard steel wedge shaft lengths. Regular vs stiff flex depends on your swing speed. Play around with wedge shaft flexes to find what gives you the most control.

Conclusion – Approach Wedges Are a Key Addition For Shaving Strokes

If you’re struggling with consistently hitting greens from 75-125 yards out or dialing in finesse pitches, chips, and bunker shots, then an approach wedge can be a difference maker. The additional loft and versatility fills a crucial yardage and shot gap compared to pitching and sand wedges alone.

With evenly gapped wedges and the ability to shape a wider variety of short game shots, you’ll be able to attack pins more aggressively and fire darts into greens with precision. Your scoring and confidence around the green will improve dramatically.

Visit your local pro shop and get fitted for the right approach wedge model, loft, bounce, and grind to match your game. Once you’ve plugged this gap in your bag, you’ll wish you filled it sooner!

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