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Three or Four wedges? What the Top-10 Wedge Players on the PGA Tour Use

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With the development and innovation of golf equipment through the years, golfers have more options now than ever. But with more options come more decisions. In this article, I share my research on an oft-debated topic: should you use three wedges or four?

Early on, golfers did not have much choice in the wedge department. They essentially had a relatively weak-lofted pitching wedge of around 50 degrees and a sand wedge around 56 degrees. In more modern times, short game guru Dave Pelz developed a very lofted wedge to help pros attack difficult pins. He persuaded Tom Kite to the “lob wedge” in tournament play and many pros followed suit. In 1984, Karsten Solheim, the founder of Ping, brought the lob wedge to the mass market. In the quest for distance and spin control, the lofts of iron sets have slowly gotten stronger. This started in the ’90s when cavity-back irons offered newfound levels of spin and launch.

A standard pitching wedge is now normally around 45 degrees, with better players’ sets coming in at around 46-47 degrees. During the transition in the ’90s, there was an issue with club gapping, as in many cases the wedge setup was potentially 46-56-60. The 10 degrees between the pitching wedge and sand wedge is a big yardage gap, and requires lots of finesse to dial in those middle distances. As a result of this trend, the gap wedge was born to fill the void and the modern option of four wedges arrived.

Modern golf balls have also played a part, as they have further stretched the yardage gaps between clubs. With the reduced spin rates and groove restrictions, more loft is required to guarantee control and accuracy when compared directly to traditional balata balls.

Top-10 Wedge Players

Top10WedgePlayers

Above is a list of the top-10 wedge players on the PGA Tour in 2015 based on average proximity from the hole from 50-125 yards. Their wedge setups are varied, but interestingly it’s a 50:50 split between three wedges and four.

At the top level of the game, wedge setup is likely to do with a combination of preference and gapping. Gapping plays a big part, but it’s not the be-all and end-all for pros. These guys spend many hours on the range and short game area, have great feel and most have no problems with what are know as “in-between” distances. They use loft, bounce, trajectory and spin to vary their shots routinely.

Some longer hitters use three wedges, some shorter hitters use four, and vice-versa. They use what works for them and they’ve all got one thing in common; they’ve thought about what wedge/club combination helps their scoring the most and so should you.

What’s the Best Setup for You?

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Not everyone carries four wedges, and not everyone needs to. We all know the importance of wedge play: getting up-and-down results in birdies and par saves at many levels of the game. Find your yardage gaps, consider your weaknesses and then build your setup to fill in the blanks.

A good starting point is to look at the loft of your pitching wedge then choose the highest-lofted wedge that you are comfortable using. Aim to fill the space between these two clubs with Bob Vokey’s recommended 12-15 yards of gapping between the scoring clubs.

The Four-Wedge Setup

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Pros: Yardage gaps are easier to reproduce with stock swings. Extra bounce options in your setup can help with awkward lies or varied turf/sand.

Cons: Shorter hitters may have bunched yardages with more wedges. Loss of a longer club can result in a yardage gap at the long end of the bag.

The Three-Wedge Setup

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Pros: No gapping issues at the long end of the bag. Less confusion with wedge choice.

Cons: Larger yardage gaps, so more difficult “in-between” yardages to circumvent. Need to spend more time practicing to dial in the partial shots.

If you spend endless hours on the range and can gauge yardages with feel, then any setup will work for you. If you are a weekend warrior who doesn’t have much time to work on the “in-between” shots, then thinking about your yardage gaps and aiming for 12-15 yards of separation is a good start. The loss of a long iron, high-lofted fairway wood or hybrid and addition of a wedge isn’t always bad, as you’ll likely be hitting more wedges than long irons during a round.

One thing is for sure, however; properly gapping your wedges will help you to lower your scores by saving strokes.

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Nick grew up in Northern Ireland and now resides on the Isle of Man where he is a dentist in private practice. He is most likely to be found on the golf course or at the range working hard towards his ambition of becoming a scratch golfer. He is a serial club tinkerer and changes clubs and specs more often than a tour van. His golfing achievements include two hole-in-ones, a seventy-three and four-putting from fifteen feet.

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. kenneth

    Dec 27, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    PING ZING2 wedges — W/G/LS/L … set 6-9 irons… lots of hybrids and fairways. PING G2 15.5 degree driver with stock soft shaft 47″…. 😮

  2. Tim

    May 3, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    More than anything, the chart tells me that Roberto Castro needs to chat with Sneds about putting.

  3. Hawk

    Apr 19, 2016 at 8:40 am

    I think it boils down to if you plan to play a wedge past your Sand Wedge. Not everyone needs a 60* wedge, and reality is most probably don’t. I’ve even been told stay away from a 60* and if I wanted to play a higher lofted wedge use a 58* because they are more versatile. However; a 3 and 4 wedge setup can be the exact same with the only difference being is there a 58*/60* or not in the bag.

    An old pro once told me the wedges are simple, always have them evenly gapped. To go one step further look at the gap between your 9 iron and your PW and use that gap or 1* more to space out your wedges.

  4. BIG STU

    Apr 17, 2016 at 4:34 am

    Really it is a common sense approach as to what fits your game and works for you. Remember wedges are scoring clubs and not distance clubs. Personally I am a relic of the old school days when we only carried two wedges but I do carry 3 now and still use somewhat traditional lofts. I carry 48/52/57 and I have my bounces worked out for me. And yes I have seen some of these college and high school kids hit a PW 150 at sea level with a 43* PW and with delofting the face. I am a gambler but would not bet against that guy who says he hits a PW 160 or so. There are so any factors. LOL 150 for me now at sea level is my 38* 7 iron but that is ok 150 is 150

  5. Lol!

    Apr 15, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    It’s a longest pitching wedge competition…

  6. Ezra

    Apr 14, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Haha very good! That player plays 46, 52, 56 and 60. Btw, have u ever tried a XE1? Is it any good?

  7. Ezra

    Apr 14, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I play 46, 50, 56, 60. But I will soon change to 46, 52, 58. Because it’s less expensive, I like to keep it simple and to play with max 12 clubs in my bags.

    • :-p

      Apr 15, 2016 at 3:01 am

      Yeah so you can spend more money on an expensive hybrid or fairway wood that costs twice as much as the extra wedge. Yeah that makes so much sense :-ppppp

      • :-0

        Apr 15, 2016 at 8:21 am

        You’re not helping!

      • Ezra

        Apr 16, 2016 at 7:18 am

        Actually I prefer to have three different Scotty Cameron putters in my bags. Just to have more options depending on the grass length, color, smell…

        • RG

          Apr 24, 2016 at 3:21 am

          Exactly, wedges are for guys trying to save pars. knock it stiff and roll the rock I say. You need versatility in your putter for those stinky greens…

  8. Double Mocha Man

    Apr 14, 2016 at 10:58 am

    What about the Five – Wedge setup? I carry a 45-48-54-60-64. Almost perfect gaps from 70 yards to 130 yards. If needed, I tweak the gaps by gripping up. I prefer full swings (for consistency) to partial swings.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Apr 14, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Forgot to mention those are 15 yard gaps.

      • :-p

        Apr 15, 2016 at 3:04 am

        Those are pretty normal gaps, since your 45 is at 130, except that you have that extra 64 in it that most people wouldn’t have in this set up, they’ll do fine with the 60 and knocking it down. What do you have in the long end? Driver and 3w, then 4 hybrid? Obviously you’ve got enough distance from the looks of it

        • Double Mocha Man

          Apr 16, 2016 at 11:12 am

          I have driver, 3 wood and 21 degree hybrid. Irons start at the 5 iron. Jeez, I remember when I had 2 through 9 iron. And two wedges.

  9. Loser Smizzle

    Apr 14, 2016 at 3:32 am

    It’s the Indian and not the arrows! Thank you for this article!

  10. 11thatoneguy

    Apr 14, 2016 at 2:10 am

    “Other Paul” I have a 1000$ dollar challenge that says, you could not hit a PW 160 yards in carry distance and in real conditions. This I would assume would be carry distance, No one cares about roll with irons. I take it you play at a higher elevation than most, I play in Montana at elevation a lot and I get a significant increase in club distances. But those numbers are hard to fathom.

    • Other Paul

      Apr 14, 2016 at 8:54 am

      I suppose i could try and make a youtube video for you next i play golf and link it here. Don’t have a round planned at the moment…

      • Other Paul

        Apr 14, 2016 at 9:09 am

        Oops. Missed a word in my reply. Ha ha. I could hit some shots at a local performance center with my phone camera. And then go out doors and stand 10 yards back from a 150 yard marker and hit shots into the center of a green. But i have no idea if i can line my phone camera up to my laser for extra evidence.

    • David Ober

      Apr 14, 2016 at 10:36 am

      You would lose that bet to soooo many people. The amount of golfers with 120+ driver swings is ridiculous nowadays. Many college teams have two or three guys that can carry driver 290 – 310. Add that kind of clubhead speed to someone who has some decent shaft lean and turns down their irons through impact, and you have a 160 carry PW. There’s a kid on my college golf team (I’m a coach) that can do that under “normal” conditions (75-85 degrees, 1000 feet above sea level), no problem.

      But if by “normal conditions,” you mean “sea level at 50 degrees,” then the number of guys who can carry it 160 is much smaller! LOL!

      Seriously, though, you need to watch out with bets like that on the internet nowadays….

      • Other Paul

        Apr 14, 2016 at 2:07 pm

        Shhhh. His $1000 could buy me a knew G series driver and pay for my golf for a month. I do deloft a fair bit…

    • Other Paul

      Apr 14, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      I got a little flightscope time tonight. Averaged 158 carry and 159 total with no warm up. Longest was 175 (Broke a few balls to, they ruin my average because they only go 120-130). I made a little video, and i will probably be done work early tomorrow and might get in 9 holes after work. I will take my clubs with and make a second video on the course. It appears i can line up my phone camera with my laser so i can get you some solid evidence. Cheers.

    • RG

      Apr 24, 2016 at 3:27 am

      Ill take that challenge. And I’ll give ya 2 to 1 odds. I’ll even use my putter if you like

  11. Matto

    Apr 13, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    46.52.58 at the bottom….Driver, Mini Driver, 5 Wood, 2 iron at the top. Works for me.

  12. mhendon

    Apr 13, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    Hmmmm I wonder who that could have been…………..?

  13. Mike

    Apr 13, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Good article. It does come down to knowing your yardages and knowing your short game skills.

    Nick, do people still use the Manx language?

    • Nick

      Apr 14, 2016 at 4:00 am

      Hi Mike, thanks for the positive comment. Manx is not widely spoken at all save for people using some old Manx sayings day to day. There is one school on the Island that teaches in Manx but think its only 2% of the population claim to be able to speak and write Manx Gaelic. You should visit, great golf and motor sport.

  14. markhd

    Apr 13, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    For those of us who don’t have the luxury of tons of practice, I would suggest consistent gaps and serious attention to bounce are the best guide from PW on up. 2 degrees one way or ‘tother don’t mean diddly. And, as we get older (like me), the long end of the bag gets less important as the short game becomes more critical. Find wedges that you really love and hold them dear. FYI, mine are the (modern) traditional 46/52/56/60. (The 46 is basically a 10 iron, which I seldom use around the greens.) Other clubs and creativity come in to play from there. Thanks for reading.

  15. golfraven

    Apr 13, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I am surprised not to see any of the top 10 world ranked players on above list. Are those players without a GW really at a disadvantage? I would say that most amateurs should have a 50ish wedge to close the big gap between PW and SW unless you are skilled player and enjoy those 3/4 swings with your PW.

  16. Other Paul

    Apr 13, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    So i hit it pretty far and use my wedges for these distances below. Should i add a 64° to have a club that doesnt go so far or would that be dumb? I could drop a 2 hybrid, that goes 275.

    Pw full swing 160
    52° 145
    56 ° 130
    60° 115-120

    • golfraven

      Apr 13, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Man, you should be on tour with thise numbers.

      • Brian

        Apr 13, 2016 at 3:39 pm

        I’m skeptical of anyone that claims to hit a 60* 120 yards. Tour players only hit their lob wedge around 95 yards on a full swing…

        • Other Paul

          Apr 13, 2016 at 7:25 pm

          Flightscope says i can do it. I average 117 MPH (can get to 125). Average drive is 306. Verified with a laser. I play a draw and i do struggle with a driver. I shoot in the low 80s. If i dont lose a ball of the tee then i have a 70% chance of making par or better. Im getting into stat tracking a little. I also only pulled out my 2 hybrid once in the last 18 holes. And i used every wedge.

          • Philip

            Apr 14, 2016 at 1:27 am

            With those yardages what is your effective loft with your 60 degree? Are you using the FlightScope off of grass? Sure, I can hit my 48 degree wedge almost 200 yards, but why would I if I can also do it with a my 6i. Nothing special with the yardages – just a question of whether it makes sense from a score point of view.

            • Other Paul

              Apr 15, 2016 at 7:58 pm

              They wont let me take the flightscope outside. I have about 8° forward shaft lean. So my pw is almost an 8i.

    • Jack

      Apr 13, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      You must have insane CH speed!!! Out of interest what’s your CH speed with driver??

      • Big Kid

        Apr 13, 2016 at 6:42 pm

        I have very similar numbers. My driver CH speed is upper 120’s. Working on feeling comfortable dialing that back to lower 120’s to pick up some accuracy.

      • Other Paul

        Apr 13, 2016 at 7:30 pm

        117 average but i can reach 125 on a hot day.

    • michael johnson

      Apr 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      just wanted to let you know that i hit low 64 135 and would definitely recommend it.

    • Deano Bravo

      Apr 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Hitting it that distance once doesn’t mean you do all the time. Its about consistent repeatable shots. I hit my PW 120m(132yds) but can hit it up to 130m(143yds) which i never do as i have no control or repeatability.

      Carry distance and total distance are different numbers as well

      • Other Paul

        Apr 13, 2016 at 7:28 pm

        I have hooked my 56° SW 175. And a 9I i had to hit under a tree and i crushed it and delofted the crap out of it for a gps verified 220 to the edge of a lake. It took one bounce and then in.

      • Other Paul

        Apr 13, 2016 at 7:34 pm

        I paced 5 yards forwards of a 150 yard marker last fall and hit 10 shots with my gap wedge. I figured they would land at the front of the green. It was getting dark so i couldnt see the balls land. So i hit 10 shots. I walked up to see the results and stood in the middle with my gps. It said 144 +/- 3 yards. 8/10 were with in 3 paces. That was pretty good for me.

    • Teaj

      Apr 14, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      figure out how hard you have to swing your PW to carry 110 and repeat swing with 52, 56 and 60 and it should step down your yardages nicely. I tried the 62 for this reason but could never get convertible hitting it on full shots unless I wanted to take a beaver tail which if you de-loft as much as you say you do then I can only assume you would do the same.

  17. Bob Jones

    Apr 13, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I play an old set of Hogan irons (Apex Red Line) so my wedges set up very neatly at 48-52-56-60.

    • Philip

      Apr 13, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      I’m the same – I’ve debated going to three, but I prefer my 52 for chipping, my 56 for pitches, and my 60 for lobs. Plus, my 56 with the greater bounce compliments my lower bounce 60 when holes go from hardpan to swampland approaches during the same round.

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