Wedges are without a doubt the most versatile clubs in a player’s bag.
Players use them for full swings off the fairway, to pitch, to chip, and to get out of the sand or thick rough.
As a beginner or high handicapper, you’ll need to understand the “wedge” before you can decide which one(s) you need.
Contrary to most beginners logic, finding the right wedges can improve your scores more than that nice new driver.
This short primer will get you up to speed and help you make an informed decision on your next wedge purchase.
More importantly, however, it will allow you to irritate your golf mates with questions like “what bounce is that lob wedge,” or “what grind is that sand wedge?”
Don't want to wait? Here's the Best Wedges for Beginners and High Handicappers for 2018:
- 1Cleveland CBX Wedges
- 2Callaway Sure Out Wedges
- 3Cleveland Smart Sole 3.0 Wedges
- 4Ping Glide 2.0 Wedges
- 5Titleist Vokey SM7 Wedges
- 6Cleveland RTX 3.0 Wedges
- 7Callaway Mack Daddy 4 Wedges
- 8Cobra PUR Wedges
To see a side by side comparison, head straight to our comparison table of the best wedges for beginners and high handicaps.
Golf Wedges 101
Golf wedges come in four types – pitching (PW), gap or approach (AW), sand (SW), and lob (LW). Here’s a rundown on each:
Types of Wedges
Golfers think of the pitching wedge as more of an iron than a wedge. Despite its name, players rarely pitch the ball with a pitching wedge. Manufacturers almost always include a PW as part of an iron set, and golfers rarely buy them individually.
The gap wedge comes in handy when a full swing with a sand wedge won’t reach but, a pitching wedge would be too much. Its loft falls right in the middle of the two and fills the traditional 8-degree gap between the sand and pitching wedges, thus the name "gap wedge."
If you carry only one wedge, it should be a sand wedge. Sand wedges were explicitly created to help players get their ball out of the sand and onto the green. They have a more substantial head which provides the necessary momentum to power through the sand and lift the ball out.
For the same reason, they're also helpful from the rough. On a full swing, expect to get more height and about ten to twenty yards less than the gap wedge.
With even more loft than the sand wedge, the lob wedge works great for short shots that require extra height. Most lob wedges work reasonably well out of the sand as well. They also come in handy for a quick stop on fast greens.
Now that you know the different types of wedges let’s move on to the properties that differentiate one club from the next such as:
Loft is the angle of the clubface in relation to the shaft. The higher a club’s loft angle, the higher it will launch the ball. Not long ago standard lofts (in degrees) were – PW (48), AW (52), SW (56), and LW (60).
Nowadays, however, manufacturers have strayed from these numbers for a variety of reasons. Some produce lob wedges as lofted as sixty-four degrees.
Bounce is the angle between the club-face and the sole of the club. A club's bounce can help it glide through the sand, or keep it from digging into the turf.
Wedges with a bounce angle between 4 and 6 degrees are best for players who tend to sweep the ball. They also fare better on firmer grass and bunkers with hard sand.
Mid bounce wedges have angles between 7 and 10 degrees. They're the most versatile option and accommodate a broader range of conditions and swing types.
Wedges with a bounce angle over 10 degrees are considered high bounce. These wedges work best in fine sand and softer fairways.
To learn more about wedge bounce, check out our detailed article on wedge bounce.
Many new wedges have another property called grind which refers to the shape of the club’s sole. Years ago, players would customize their wedges by grinding down sections of the sole - thus the term “grind.”
The modified sole allowed them to open or close the clubface without affecting its bounce property. For most golfers, finding the right wedge ranks much higher on the list than worrying about its grind.
According to Cleveland Golf – eighty percent of golfers should use cavity back wedges. The cavity-back design allows manufacturers to push weight to the periphery of the head which makes the club more forgiving and provides better launch, even on mishits.
Blades are forged from blocks of carbon steel. They’re then shaped by machine, or by hand, and plated with chrome. Blades are also known as “muscle-backs” because they have a solid back of the club head, as opposed to a hollowed cavity back.
Low handicappers and tour pros use blade style wedges (and irons too), as they provide better control than the more forgiving cavity backs.
How Many Wedges Should a Beginner or High Handicapper Carry?
Why not carry them all?
Tournament golfers have a 14 club limit, but you can and should carry whatever helps your game.
You probably already have a pitching wedge that came with the set. If you don’t have a gap wedge, try to get one in the same model as the clubs you’re now playing. This will give you consistency and fill the distance “gap” that this wedge was designed for.
Everyone needs a sand wedge. No other club does what it does out of the sand or around the green. The sand wedge is also the club that most players use to pitch the ball.
Many players, especially beginners and high handicappers, shun the lob wedge. It can be challenging to master and requires a good hack to make the ball go anywhere.
But, nothing beats a lob wedge to get out of, or over, a steep bunker, or getting the ball to stop on a slick green.
What loft of wedges should I carry?
That depends on your irons. Many clubmakers nowadays strengthen lofts to give players more distance.
Ideally, you’ll want lofts spaced four to five degrees apart.
If you add a lob wedge, opt for the sixty-degree. The sixty-four-degree wedge can be extremely difficult to hit, without a lot of practice.
What is the best degree for a sand wedge?
If you use your sand wedge off the fairway and to pitch, as well as getting out of the sand, then go four degrees higher than your gap wedge, or eight degrees higher than your pitching wedge.
If, however, you will only use the sand wedge to get out of the sand, then go with the loftier fifty-eight degrees. Fifty-eight degrees will give you a better chance at popping the ball out of the sand, and onto the green, on the first try.
Just as with drivers, woods, and irons, major golf manufacturers put a lot of effort and technology into their wedges. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a poor performer on the shelf nowadays.
But, just as with their other clubs, today's manufacturers make different wedges for different levels of player. Here’s a rundown on eight of this year’s best options, and who they’re most suited for:
Titleist Vokey SM7 Wedges
The Vokey SM7s are some of the best wedges on the market. They feature top-notch feel and feedback and offer excellent distance control with grooves that dig in and create plenty of spin.
There’s a grind for every shot and style of play. These are serious clubs for serious players. Not the best choice, however, for beginners and high handicappers.
Callaway Sure Out Wedge Review
Callaway engineers and world famous golf instructor Hank Haney put their heads together to create the new “Sure Out” wedge.
Callaway promises that the Sure Out gets the ball up and out of trouble, and makes greenside shots exceptionally easy to play, even from the sand and thick rough.
The "Sure Out" comes in SW configurations of fifty-six and fifty-eight degrees of loft, and LW configurations of sixty and sixty-four degrees.
The Sure Out works as advertised. It’s an excellent club for beginners and high handicappers, and everyone else as well.
Callaway Mack Daddy 4 Wedges
Most people think Big Bertha when they hear the name Callaway. But, since hiring Master clubmaker Roger Cleveland in 1996, Callaway has also produced some of the best wedges out there.
With available lofts from 46 to 64 degrees, three different bounce angles of 8, 10, and12 degrees, and four distinct grinds - including the new “X” grind – the MD4s offer buyers twenty-one different loft/bounce/grind configurations to choose from.
This year’s Mack Daddy’s also come in polished chrome or matte black finish. The Mack Daddy 4s are one of the best lines of wedges out there for players that have the skill to take advantage of them.
If you are interested in more, check out our detail review of the Mack Daddy 4 Wedges. However, for beginners and high handicappers, there are better options.
Cleveland CBX Wedge
According to Cleveland Golf, their new CBX wedges - “look, feel, and forgive like your cavity back irons, plus spin the ball like a tour wedge.”
Manufacturers usually don’t think “forgiveness” when it comes to a wedge, but Cleveland Golf did.
The CBX line may just be the best wedges for beginners and high handicappers as well, on the market today. If you fall into this class of player and you don't already have a couple of these in your golf bag or checkout cart, go to our full review of the CBX Wedges and let me further tell you why you must get these wedges.
Ping Glide 2.0 Review
The original Ping Glide was one of the best cavity backed wedges on the market. After a few tweaks, the Ping Glide 2.0 plays even better.
They’re excellent wedges for low and mid handicappers. High handicappers will find better choices.
Cleveland Smart Sole 3.0 Wedge Review
Cleveland engineers put all of their knowledge into designing a game improvement wedge that will get you off the beach and onto the green, every time.
You won’t be backing up the ball with this club (you probably won’t be doing that with any club anyway) but, you will be getting out of the sand a lot more often. The Smart Sole 3.0 is a definite game-changer for players who struggle with the sand.
Cleveland RTX 3 Wedge Review
Wedges have always been Cleveland Golf’s “claim to fame.”
Even with some stiff competition from their former founder Roger Cleveland and his Mack Daddy 4s, or master wedge designer Bob Vokey with the Titleist SM7s, the RTX 3s still stand out as an excellent choice for accomplished players.
But, beginners and high handicappers will do much better with one of Cleveland’s other offerings – the CBX or Smart Sole 3.
Cobra King PUR Wedge Review
They’re a great all-around club but, not necessarily for beginners and high handicappers.
By now you may have drawn your own conclusions, or you may be even more confused than when you started reading. Here's what we have found:
Best Wedge for Beginners and High Handicappers Comparison Chart
Best All-Round Wedge for Beginners & High Handicaps
Best Wedge for Chipping
Best Wedge Out of the Sand
Best Wedge for Better Players
Best Wedge for Mid-Handicaps
As you can see above, some of the wedges have strengths that make them good for certain shots or skill levels but not for all. Let's break that down just a little further.
What is the Best Wedge for Beginners in 2018?
If you only carry one wedge, you should have a sand wedge.
A good sand wedge will save you strokes every time your ball lands in one of those big sandy craters, with incredibly magnetic powers, that seem to cover about ninety percent of the course.
Of all the sand wedges looked at today, the Cleveland Smart Sole 3.0 will save you from the dreaded snowman, more times than not.
What is the Best Sand Wedge for High Handicappers?
The Smart Sole 3.0 is a great club out of the sand.
Unlike beginners though, High handicappers use a sand wedge for a variety of shots and would do better with either the Callaway Sure Out or the Cleveland CBX, with the CBX having an edge off the fairway.
What is the Best Lob Wedge for High Handicappers?
A lob wedge can be hard to hit.
Players tend to either blade them and send the ball zooming across the green, or baby them and wind up five yards from where they started.
Thanks to “Feel Balancing Technology,” the Cleveland sixty degree CBX Lob Wedge feels and swings just like a cavity-backed iron.
It will give you the confidence needed to take a good hack at the ball, and the forgiveness required when you miss.
2018 is off to a great start when it comes to golf equipment. Manufacturers now make a wedge for every situation and style of swing, and for every level of player from a tour-pro to a “first–time-out” beginner.
And the Winner is...
Going back to the original question, however, who makes the best wedges for high handicappers in 2018?
The cavity-backed design, together with Cleveland’s “Feel Balancing Technology,” makes them feel and forgive like a game improvement iron.
They play well off the fairway, out of the sand, and everywhere in between. Feel, forgiveness, and playability make the Cleveland CBX this year's best wedge for high handicappers, mid handicappers, and beginners as well.