The Keys to Proper Wedge Gapping

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If you’re like most golfers, you go into a store while thinking “I’m gonna get a new wedge!” without even thinking about anything else.

Guess what… YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.  You do not just go in, pretty as you please, looking for the current “it” wedge.

“Why”, you ask?

You have to think about the differences between each of your wedges.

What good is buying a 54* wedge when you already own a 56* wedge?  Two degrees of loft isn’t enough of a difference to notice any appreciable playability differences.  

In Layman’s terms, they’re basically the same club.

That’s what the keys to Wedge Gapping is all about.  You don’t just look at one in the store, think it’s cool and buy it.  If you do, without any thought to its specs and how it fits into your current set makeup, it won’t perform as well as it possibly could for you.  You have to find the right wedge(s) that allow for consistency in not just the long game, but the short game, as well.

Ever stop to think about your irons lofts?  

If you haven’t, for the most part, they’re 4° apart.  Yes, some companies offer 3° spacing in the long irons, and some offer 5° spacing in the short irons, but the average iron set will have its lofts set 4° apart.  That, along with the half-inch length increments, is designed to produce a 12-15 yard variation between each iron.  Ideally, your wedges should have the same spacing.

Take a look at this graphic, from Nick Bayly of Golf Magic:

mywedge1

Notice how his distances aren’t very consistent.  This is the same golfer, with Cleveland Golf’s wedge recommendations:

mywedge2

Notice how they’re much more consistent?  That’s predictability, and having that sets you up for better results.  It doesn’t just stop with full shots; that same consistency will work for pitches and chips, as well.

So… how do you do it?  First, it’s important that you find the loft of your PW.  That’s where wedge gapping all starts.  Ideally, we want 4° of loft between each wedge, just like the irons.  So…

If PW is 47° and we want a normal set of GW, SW and LW, it’d be:

GW: 51; SW: 55; LW: 59 (degrees)

If PW is 46° and we want the normal wedge set, it’d be:

GW: 50; SW: 54; LW: 58

If the PW is 44°, it’d be:

GW: 48, SW: 52, LW: 56.

Let’s stop here for a second.  Do you see the lofts of the last example?

If I haven’t talked about what Tom Wishon calls “the vanishing loft disease”, here is where we start to see the dangers of it as it pertains to our games.  

“VLD” is when OEMs strengthen, or lower, the lofts of all their irons.  The PW used to be 52°, but nowadays its in the 44-47° area!  It’s almost two whole clubs (7°) different!  In some extreme cases, it really IS two clubs different.  Un-fricking-real…

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OEMs use VLD to validate their claims that their new irons are longer than your older ones.  

Well, of course, they are… your current PW is the same as an older 8 or 9 iron!  So take some solace in that, dear reader: the next time someone with a shiny new set of irons boasts about how much longer than they are compared to you when hitting the same numbered iron, it’s probably not based on ability.  It’s because they’re using, from a specs point of view, a club that’s technically longer than what you’re using (you = 9i, them = technically a 7 or 8i).

But how does that fit in with the wedges, and creating the right about of space between them?  

Look at the 44° PW example: you basically have two GW’s in your set, with no LW.  Is this OK?

 

 

It really depends on you.  For some, they don’t like to carry a LW anyway, so no harm no foul.  But if you want a LW, what do you do?  

Most likely, your “SW” (that’s 52°) can be a SW, provided the bounce angle is high enough (10° or more) that it can do what it needs to do when you’re in the bunker.  The “LW” can still be a LW, so long as the bounce angle is low enough (8° or less) to provide enough versatility to allow for finesse shots on tightly-mowed fairways.

Bear in mind, if you really want a LW, you’ll have to sacrifice a longer club, like the 3 iron, 5 wood, a hybrid… but that’s up to you.  If you want five wedges, that’s fine; the Rules of Golf have no restrictions on what clubs you carry- only that you carry no more than 14.  If you follow the Rules, that is…

Of course, the easier way to do it is to keep the 52° as a true GW, while the 56° is more of a traditional SW.  It might be a little tougher to hit the really high, soft lob shots with the thicker-soled, higher-bounce angled SW, so we might (emphasis on “might”) be throwing out one option for attacking pins.

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RIP, bub.  I still think of you every time I buy a bottle of OxiClean.

We don’t have to do the “ideal” 4* spacing. 

What matters when we talk about wedge gapping is if they’re consistent.  

We can go to 5°, or maybe even 6°.  So…

If we use 5° spacing and the PW is 44°:

GW: 49; SW: 54; LW: 60.  A little more “conventional”… or at least, easier to find in stores.

 

Some golfers just don’t want to carry three extra wedges.  That’s OK; knowing your game, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, goes a long way to making better scores.  

If you’re the type that just wants two extra wedges, or is uncomfortable with a 60° wedge, maybe consider 6° loft spacing.  It’s something Sergio Garcia does, and I’m currently experimenting with it.  The wedge set is a 46° PW. a 52° and a 58°, with the 58 doing double-duty as an SW and LW.

Don’t forget about the lengths of your wedges- that affects the distances, as well!

Remember also, we need to make sure that the lengths of your wedges are inline with the rest of your set.  If your PW is 36″, we don’t want a SW that’s longer than that.  Some experts, like Ralph Maltby, want an even half-inch spacing between all wedges until you get to the LW.  It’d look something like this:

  • PW = 36″
  • GW = 35.5″
  • SW = 35″
  • LW = 34.75″ (the difference being only a .25″ difference between the SW and LW)

That’s OK, and it definitely works for many golfers… but I prefer a half-inch between my PW and GW, and the GW, SW, and LW to be the same.  

There’s no right or wrong answer, so long as the yardage gaps are consistent.

Next time you’re in the store looking at your wedges, take your current set with you.  You have to ensure that what you’re getting is going to actually benefit you.  Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say “GO GET FITTED”.  Getting fitted for a driver can be fun, and it may be cool to gain a few extra yards off the tee… but tightening up your short game can go a long way to actually lowering your scores.

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Want interactive spreadsheets that will help you discover how far you really hit each iron and wedge?

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