With the way that lofts have changed in golf clubs, players carry more wedges than ever. It’s hard to find a golfer without a sand wedge and a pitching wedge in their bag. However, some golfers have no idea how to use these wedges.
Have you ever stood over a golf ball and had no idea whether to use your sand wedge or pitching wedge? If you have, we have all the answers you need.
As much as I love my sand wedge, I’ve been using my pitching wedge more and more. From the right situation and lie, there is nothing quite like the simplicity of a pitching wedge shot.
Overview of a Sand Wedge and Pitching Wedge
The pitching wedge is the club that bridges the gap between the wedge and irons in the bag. With the loft of a pitching wedge, it’s easy to get a golf ball up in the air, and it happens to be one of the most forgiving irons in the bag.
Sand wedges are often considered the club to use to get out of the bunker. But the sand wedge is more than this. With a sand wedge, you can hit high lofted approach shots, get plenty of spin on your chips and pitches and become a very accurate short game player.
Differences Between a Sand Wedge and Pitching Wedge
The basic concept of a pitching wedge and a sand wedge is the same. The idea is to use these clubs to get the ball close to the hole and ensure lower scores. However, there are some clear differences in the way that these clubs are designed, and it will impact overall playability.
The standard loft on a pitching wedge will vary depending on the manufacturer. Expect to see that the loft can range from around 43 degrees to 47 degrees on the pitching wedge. Golf iron sets designed for lower handicap players will have a higher loft, less forgiveness, and a bit more workability.
For the higher handicappers, expect the loft to be lower to help promote total distance. In addition, the club will probably be more forgiving, have a lower center of gravity, and be easy to hit straight.
Most of the time, the pitching wedge is slightly longer than the sand wedge. A pitching wedge encourages a bit of extra distance; it could be as much as 20 yards difference between the sand wedge and the pitching wedge, depending on the club’s specifications.
Many pitching wedges have a shaft that matches the iron sets. The sand wedge often has a wedge flex shaft that is not a match to the rest of the clubs in the bag. This is why it’s important to get custom fittings done and understand what goes into getting your clubs to have consistent performance.
Grooves & Spin
A pitching wedge and sand wedge have grooves designed to help a golf ball stop where you want it.
The sand wedges tend to have a tighter groove structure, and many times the grooves themselves are deeper. With deep grooves, more debris can be channeled away from the face making it easier to stop the ball on the green when hitting out of the rough.
Club Head Shaping
The pitching wedge is more likely to match the irons that you have in your set. The sand wedge usually looks a bit more like a blade style.
I like the blade-style sand wedges, and I don’t mind that they look different than the irons in the set. With the blade style, I can be a bit more aggressive on certain shots, and it gives me some confidence in my short game.
The sand wedge style helps improve overall trajectory on short shots and eliminates chunking, digging, or thinning of shots.
Pros and Cons of a Sand Wedge
Now that you have a better idea of what a sand wedge is and how it differs from a pitching wedge let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of the sand wedge.
- Great for short shots around the green
- One of the highest-lofted clubs in the bag
- Clean leading edge
- High levels of spin, even without taking a full swing
- It can be one of the most accurate golf clubs in the bag
- Not the most forgiving golf club in the bag
- Distance capabilities are not great
- It can be tough to hit clean if course conditions and grass are tight
Pros and Cons of a Pitching Wedge
The pitching wedge has been and always will be one of my favorite golf clubs in my bag. The pitching wedge is one of the first clubs I teach golfers to use because you can do so much with it. Pitching wedges can get you out of trouble, improve overall consistency, and can be a great tool around the greens.
- Very easy to hit
- High-lofted club for getting players out of trouble
- Enough backspin to stop a golf ball on the green
- A great option for bump and run type golf shots
- Can match your irons or your wedges for versatility
- Depending on the irons you have, it can be a bit bulky
- The pitching wedge loft is often not high enough for a bunker shot
- Won’t have as much backspin as the highest-lofted clubs
When to Use Each Club
As you can see, the pitching wedge and the sand wedge are both important golf clubs. I would go as far as to say that a golf set without both clubs is not a complete set. However, knowing when to use each club can be tricky.
Golfers tend to get comfortable with one club over another, then overuse it. Here are some of the best ways to use a pitching and sand wedge.
Bunker shots require the ball to get a bit higher in the air, which is why I would only use the sand wedge from a bunker. Sand wedges make it considerably easier to get a ball out of sand because of the wider sole.
The bounce on the sand wedge cuts through the turf quite well and encourages a higher ball flight and the ability to get the ball to stop on the green.
An elevated golf green requires a club with more loft. When I’m hitting a chip or a pitch to a hole higher than me, I’m more likely to use a sand wedge.
Of course, I recommend analyzing the lie as well as the confidence in the shot that needs to be hit, but to an elevated green, the extra loft is certainly a bit of a better choice.
Sometimes if you use the pitching wedge in this situation, the ball won’t make it up to the green, and it could even roll back down and further from the hole.
Pin in The Back – Ball at The Approach
When a pin is in the back of the green, you will have the room to hit a lower shot that rolls a bit more than it flies. In this situation, it makes more sense to hit a pitching wedge. It’s much easier to control the shot, keep it rolling along the ground, and get the result closer to the hole.
When I hit this type of shot, I tend to keep the stroke very simple, almost like a putting stroke, choke up on the club, and hit it close.
Longer Greenside Bunker Shots
Although the sand wedge tends to be the club of choice for shots out of the sand, this is really for the bunkers closest to the green. The pitching wedge could be a better shot if you are a bit further away from the hole.
You can take a smaller swing and get a slightly better trajectory with the pitching wedge. Be careful that the lip of the bunker is not incredibly high; this can cause issues with using the pitching wedge.
It’s very difficult to get the proper spin launch and control from golf wedges when you are hitting out of the rough. Rough is difficult; it grabs the club, gets in the way of the grooves and dimples on the ball,, and ends up causing you to lose accuracy.
However, with the way golf wedges are designed, the sand wedge does a better job of managing the rough than the pitching wedge.
In fact, sometimes, even when I’m hitting out of the rough, I can still get a ball to stop on the green when I use the sand wedge. I may have to plan for a little more rollout, but it’s still possible to stop it.
Thick rough causes issues with club head rotation as well, and the sand wedge tends to hold up better in this situation.
The sand wedge and pitching wedge can both work in approach shots. I tend to look at how far I have into the hole and then choose a golf club accordingly. For longer approaches, I use the pitching wedge, shorter, I use the sand wedge.
Keep in mind that it generally makes more sense when you can keep the ball lower. If there is no trouble between me and the pin, I will often use a half swing on the pitching wedge instead of a full swing on the sand wedge.