Opinion & Analysis
Three or Four wedges? What the Top-10 Wedge Players on the PGA Tour Use
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
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?
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
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
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.
Leave a Reply
Opinion & Analysis
2023 PGA Championship: Interview with Jeff Corcoran, MGCG
As ticket-holders exit their shuttles and enter the main gate to Oak Hill Country Club this May, their eyes will be attracted to so many sights. The 100-year old, Tudor-style clubhouse, designed by Thompson, Holmes, and Converse (of New Tammany Hall fame in New York City) catches and holds many glances. The market boardwalk will feature emporia of food, drink, and memories, all featuring the designs and flair of marketing teams. It’s a lot to take in.
Most attendees won’t enter the clubhouse, and their time along the merchandise promenade will be restricted to acquisition of souvenirs and sustenance. The majority of their time will be spent in the rough, adjacent to tees, greens, and fairways. Their eyes will roll across the hills of Pittsford’s jewel, but they might be forgiven if they don’t consider exactly how the course and surrounds came to reach this pinnacle of preparation.
Fortunately for them, we’ve tracked down the gentleman who knows more about Oak Hill’s preparation than any other. Mr. Jeff Corcoran is the Manager of Golf Courses and Grounds at the venerated New York state club.
GolfWRX: Tell us a bit about the re-invention of the fifth hole. What sort of hole did it replace, and how does it join itself to the course’s Donald Ross roots?
Corcoran: Our game plan doesn’t really change at all based upon the temperature. There are inherent agronomic aspects that need to happen to be successful, and some of that depends on the temperature and some of it doesn’t. Our focus is to plan for those aspects that we can control, and have a plan to react to any variables that are throw at us as we prepare.
GolfWRX: What question haven’t I asked, that you would love to answer? Please ask it and answer it. Thank you for your time.
The Wedge Guy: What really needs fixing in your game?
I always find it interesting to watch how golfers interact with the practice range, if they do so at all. I certainly can figure out how to understand that some golfers just do not really want to get better — at least not enough to spend time on the practice range trying to improve.
What is most puzzling to me is how many golfers completely ignore the rationale for going to the range to at least warm up before they head to the first tee. Why anyone would set aside 4-6 hours of their day for a round of golf, and then not even give themselves a chance to do their best is beyond me. But today, I’m writing for those of you who really do want to improve your golf scores and your enjoyment of the game.
I’ve seen tons of research for my entire 40 years in this industry that consistently shows the number one goal of all golfers, of any skill level, from 100-shooter to tour professional, is simply to hit better golf shots more often. And while our definition of “better” is certainly different based on our respective skill level, the game is just more fun when your best shots happen more often and your worst shots are always getting better.
Today’s article is triggered by what we saw happen at the Valspar tour event this past Sunday. While Taylor Moore certainly had some big moments in a great final round, both Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk threw away their chances to win with big misses down the stretch, both of them with driver. Spieth’s wayward drive into the water on the 16th and Schenk’s big miss left on the 18th spelled doom for both of them.
It amazes me how the best players on the planet routinely hit the most God-awful shots with such regularity, given the amazing talents they all have. But those guys are not what I’m talking about this week. In keeping with the path of the past few posts, I’m encouraging each and every one of you to think about your most recent rounds (if you are playing already this year), or recall the rounds you finished the season with last year. What you are looking for are you own “big misses” that kept you from scoring better.
Was it a few wayward drives that put you in trouble or even out of bounds? Or maybe loose approach shots that made birdie impossible and par super challenging? Might your issue have been some missed short putts or bad long putts that led to a three-putt? Most likely for any of you, you can recall a number of times where you just did not give yourself a good chance to save par or bogey from what was a not-too-difficult greenside recovery.
The point is, in order to get consistently better, you need to make an honest assessment of where you are losing strokes and then commit to improving that part of your game. If it isn’t your driving that causes problems, contain that part of practice or pre-round warm-ups to just a half dozen swings or so, for the fun of “the big stick”. If your challenges seem to be centered around greenside recoveries, spend a lot more time practicing both your technique and imagination – seeing the shot in your mind and then trying to execute the exact distance and trajectory of the shot required. Time on the putting green will almost always pay off on the course.
But, if you are genuinely interested in improving your overall ball-striking consistency, you would be well-served to examine your fundamentals, starting with the grip and posture/setup. It is near impossible to build a repeating golf swing if those two fundamentals are not just right. And if those two things are fundamentally sound, the creation of a repeating golf swing is much easier.
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: It’s not all about distance
- The Wedge Guy: Are you really willing to get better at golf?
- The Wedge Guy: Anatomy of a wedge head
Golf's Perfect Imperfections
Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Great debut for Savannah at the WLD opener + Hideki’s driver grip
A great start for Savvy in her second season competing in the World Long Drive Organization! We talk about the whole experience and we also take a look at the Katalyst suit and how our training sessions are going. Plus we speculate why Hideki is experimenting with a putter grip on a driver, thanks to GolfWRX’s Ben and Brian help.
Morning 9: PGA Tour’s designated event revamp | PIP changes | LIV and pros react | Bay Hill photos
Tiger Woods WITB 2023 (February)
Ian Poulter opens up on “tough times” that followed LIV Golf announcement
Tom Kim WITB 2023 (February)
Tom Doak brings High Pointe back in 2024
Jason Dufner WITB 2023 (March)
Darius Rucker WITB 2023 (February)
Stewart Cink WITB 2023 (March)
Chez Reavie WITB 2023 (February)
Andrew Putnam WITB 2023 (March)
Troy Merritt WITB 2023 (March)
Troy Merritt what’s in the bag accurate as of the WM Phoenix Open. More photos from the event here. Driver:...
Sam Burns’ winning WITB: 2023 WGC-Dell Match Play
Driver: Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond S (9 degrees @10.3) Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 7 TX (45 inches, tipped .5) 3-wood:...
Garrick Higgo WITB 2023 (March)
Garrick Higgo what’s in the bag accurate as of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. More photos from the event here. Driver:...
Mackenzie Hughes WITB 2023 (March)
Mackenzie Hughes what’s in the bag accurate as of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. More photos from the event here. Driver:...
Whats in the Bag3 weeks ago
Stewart Cink WITB 2023 (March)
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Andrew Putnam WITB 2023 (March)
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Jordan Spieth WITB 2023 (March)
Equipment2 weeks ago
Miura announces mid-size cavity back CB-302 forged irons
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Brett White WITB 2023 (February)
19th Hole4 days ago
Ex-Golf Channel host Holly Sonders returns to sports in new NSFW venture
Whats in the Bag1 week ago
William McGirt WITB 2023 (March)
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Joel Dahmen WITB 2023 (March)
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″…. 😮
May 3, 2016 at 12:46 pm
More than anything, the chart tells me that Roberto Castro needs to chat with Sneds about putting.
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.
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
Apr 15, 2016 at 8:06 pm
It’s a longest pitching wedge competition…
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?
Apr 24, 2016 at 3:31 am
I got one…its a great pooper scooper.
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.
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
Apr 15, 2016 at 8:21 am
You’re not helping!
Apr 15, 2016 at 10:42 pm
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…
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…
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.
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.
Apr 14, 2016 at 3:32 am
It’s the Indian and not the arrows! Thank you for this article!
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.
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…
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.
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….
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…
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.
Dec 16, 2018 at 4:26 pm
Please do .
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
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.
Apr 13, 2016 at 8:42 pm
Hmmmm I wonder who that could have been…………..?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
56 ° 130
Apr 13, 2016 at 1:17 pm
Man, you should be on tour with thise numbers.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Apr 13, 2016 at 1:21 pm
You must have insane CH speed!!! Out of interest what’s your CH speed with driver??
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.
Apr 13, 2016 at 7:30 pm
117 average but i can reach 125 on a hot day.
Apr 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm
just wanted to let you know that i hit low 64 135 and would definitely recommend it.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.