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What is an approach wedge

Fill the Gap: Why you Need an Approach Wedge

If you want to shave shots off your scorecard fast, you need to evaluate your wedges.

Most golfers mindlessly hit long irons on the range thinking it’s the key to lower scores. But even the best players in the world don’t hit a ton of greens from 150+ yards (or hit it close to the pin when they do). Working on long range shots isn’t the key to scoring lower.

Instead, you need to work on shots inside 125 yards. This is the scoring zone and statistically one of the fastest ways to improve. 

The problem for a lot of golfers though is that they don’t have the right equipment for these shots. Most players only have a few wedges and get stuck with distances that are in between a pitching wedge and sand wedge.

But instead of trying to hit an easy PW or hard SW, make golf easier by adding an approach wedge. An approach wedge can help you hit it closer from 100-125 yards and help with a ton of shots around the green too.

Keep reading to learn more about approach wedges, how to find the right one for your game, and more short game tips. 

Approach Wedge – What is it?

An approach wedge is a club that fills the gap between your pitching and sand wedge. Hence the term, gap wedge. It’s also called a utility wedge or attack wedge as well. 

Approach Wedge Lofts

An approach wedge loft ranges from 49-54 degrees, depending on club manufacturers. What’s great about approach wedges is that they are easy to hit, making them a no-brainer for almost every type of golfer.

Additionally, these clubs help eliminate large gaps in your distances on the golf course. They help with a full power swing where your PW is too much club and your SW isn’t enough.

But you can also use this additional wedge around the greens for all types of shots too. Unlike a LW, these clubs are easy to hit and come in handy on a variety of shots. 

Approach Wedge Distance

So, how far should you hit a gap wedge? 

According to Trackman Golf, PGA Tour professionals hit their pitching wedge about 136 yards. While LPGA players hit their pitching wedge 107 yards. Unfortunately, they do not provide an exact distance for gap wedge, sand wedge, or lob wedge.

But it’s safe to assume that PGA players hit it anywhere from 120-140 yards on average. While scratch golfers hit them 110-125 yards, and the average golfer from 80-100 yards.

Distance ultimately comes down to swing speed plus loft of the golf club. It’s not about how far you hit a gap wedge but instead, finding the perfect distance between your SW and PW. 

Read here to learn how to hit the delicate 50 to 75 yard wedge shot.

Should you carry an approach wedge

Approach Wedge vs. Pitching Wedge

You might be thinking, “What is the difference between an approach and pitching wedge?” 

A pitching wedge has less loft than an approach wedge.

A PW loft can range from 41-48 degrees depending on the manufacturer. But modern pitching wedges have much stronger lofts than they did in the past.

For example, more forgiving irons (cavity back and game improvement irons) have pitching wedges with less loft (43-45 degrees). While more advanced iron sets have more loft in the pitching wedge (46-48 degrees). 

Click here to read our full guide about pitching wedge loft now.  

Buying the Right Gap Wedge 

A gap wedge is unique in that a lot of iron sets don’t come with a gap wedge. Most irons sets are 4-PW or 5-PW and some sets include the option to add on a gap wedge. But you also have the ability to buy a gap wedge that matches your lob wedge and sand wedge.

For example, let’s say you play Callaway Rogue ST Max irons and JAWS wedges. You have two options:

  • Buy a GW that matches your iron set. This club will match the rest of your irons and have the perfect loft to compliment your pitching wedge. The shaft is the same weight and it tends to go further than a separate wedge due to the larger design. The loft is 46 degrees and the PW loft is 41 degrees. 
  • Buy a GW that matches your wedge set. Or, you can buy a JAWS gap wedge that matches your lob wedge and sand wedge. This club is less forgiving since it doesn’t have a cavity back design. The loft varies as you can choose from 48, 50, 52, or 54 degrees. 

In general, I think many golfers would benefit more from buying an approach wedge that matches your irons. This will ensure the shaft is the same as your irons and more forgiving too. While more advanced ball strikers can choose either option as it’s more personal preference. 

Check out the best wedges for high handicappers here

Approach Wedge Bounce 

Another thing to consider with approach wedges is the bounce of the club. Bounce is typically the second number you see stamped on wedges. For example, you might see 52.10 – which means the club has 52 degrees of loft and 10 degrees of bounce.

Gap wedges tend to have 10-12 degrees of bounce which is why they’re such versatile golf clubs. If you do bend your wedges to add or decrease loft, just know that your bounce will go up or down as well. 

As a general rule, firmer conditions need less bounce and wetter conditions need more bounce. The leading edge plays a big role in making good turf contact. Click here to learn more about wedge bounce

Wedge Bounce

FAQs About Gap Wedges

Do you have more questions about approach wedges and what wedges you need in your bag? Keep scrolling to learn more and make sure your wedges are helping your short game.

What is an approach wedge good for?

A gap wedge is good for all kinds of shots including:

  • Full swing shots: If you’re in between a sand wedge distance or pitching wedge, a gap wedge is the perfect solution.
  • Long bunker shots: If you have a tough bunker shot that is 15-30 yards long, a gap wedge can help you out. Since it has less loft than a sand wedge, it should go further and roll out more once it lands on the green. This is a good time to play a chunk and run where the ball hits on the green and then rolls like a putt. 
  • Chip shots: A GW can also work great for simple bump and run type shots around the green. You can use it from the short grass or the rough to help with shots that have plenty of room between the flag and the edge of the green. 

Overall, it’s a very versatile club that is used by all types of golfers. 

What is an approach wedge equivalent to?

An approach wedge is typically between 49-54 degrees of loft. It has higher loft than a pitching wedge and less loft than a sand wedge.  

Do pros carry gap wedges?

Yes, a lot of PGA Tour players carry gap wedges.

Most professionals carry three, if not four wedges and their club setup can change based on the course they’re playing at. It’s not uncommon for players to have wedges with different loft and bounce based on the playing conditions. 

According to Golf.com, roughly 80% of players in the 10 top in the Official World Golf Ranking play this club setup:

  • Pitching wedge 
  • 50-52 degree gap wedge
  • 56 degree sand wedge 
  • 60 degree lob wedge

The article points out that players at this level need four wedges since they hit them so much more than irons. Due to their insane distance off the tee, they need more wedges (not hybrids, fairway woods, or long irons) to take advantage of shorter shots. 

If you’re a longer hitter as well, you should definitely add a fourth wedge so you don’t have any distance gaps. 

Is an approach wedge the same as a gap wedge?

Yes, an AW is the same as a GW. The names are used interchangeably but both serve the same purpose. It acts as the club between your pitching and sand wedge. 

How do I know which wedge to use?

This is a great question as it’s easy for new players to get confused on which club to hit for which shot. Here are some things beginner golfers should consider:

  • Distance. If it’s a longer shot, you want to base your decision off of total distance based on how far you carry each wedge.
  • Lie. Is the ball in the rough or the fairway? By determining the lie you can figure out if the ball will jump from a flier lie or if it’s nestled down and need to club up. 
  • Green to work with. If you’re evaluating shots around the green, you want to consider how much room is between the edge of the green and the pin. If you’re short sided, you will need more loft (likely a sand wedge or lob wedge) to help the ball up and land quickly. For longer shots you can use a GW or PW and play a bump and run type of shot. 

The more advanced you become, the easier this process will be in the future. Eventually you might even factor in wind, firmness of the greens, grain, and other criteria to pick the right wedge. 

Learn more about chipping vs. pitching here

Should I carry a gap wedge? 

Yes, I firmly believe that every player should carry a gap wedge. Having an extra wedge will make life easier on the golf course and hopefully lead to lower scores.

For higher handicap golfers it would make more sense to have a GW instead of a lob wedge if you only carry three wedges. While a lob wedge is a great club, it’s not ideal for high handicap golfers. 

But an approach wedge is easy to hit, great for full shots, knockdown shots, long bunker shots, and scrambling around the green. 

What does G Stand for on a golf club?

A “G” tends to stand for gap wedge (also GW). Other abbreviations include AW or UW as well. 

Final Thoughts on Adding an Approach Wedge

An approach wedge (aka gap wedge) is an invaluable club from advanced players to beginners. Having the right tools and plenty of wedge options in your scoring clubs makes the game easier.

This lower loft wedge can help with:

  • Pitch shots
  • Bunker play
  • Greater consistency
  • Greater distance control (with half shots and full swings)

If you don’t have an approach wedge yet, find one as soon as possible as it can help with so many shots. Whether you’re a 9 or 29 handicap, you can benefit from a gap wedge. 

If you do already have an approach wedge, make sure it has the right loft between your SW and PW. Having it spaced out will ensure you have no distance gaps and hopefully swing with more confidence on the golf course. If you do bend your wedges just remember that it will affect the bounce too. 

Finally, I think most golfers (besides low handicappers) would benefit from an AW that matches your iron set vs. buying a Titleist Vokey or other more advanced wedge. 

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