At one point, I didn’t have a gap wedge in my golf bag. I just carried a pitching wedge and a sand wedge.
It was a great option for me because there wasn’t a really large gap between the pitching wedge and sand wedge at the time.
However, with new modern lofting, this is no longer the case. It is incredibly important to have a gap wedge in your arsenal, and even more important to know when to use this wedge versus your others.
I’ve broken down what a gap and pitching wedge is and how you can tell them apart.
Overview of a Gap Wedge and Pitching Wedge
The pitching wedge is typically the last iron in your golf set. Just after the 9 iron, you will find a pitching wedge with a loft of anywhere from around 41 degrees up to 47 or 48 degrees. The pitching wedge can be used for approach shots to the green, but it is also used for shorter shots around the green.
A gap wedge is slightly higher in the loft than a pitching wedge. The gap wedge helps with the distance gap created by a modern pitching wedge and a modern sand wedge. Sometimes this gap is 12 degrees or more, and a club needs to fit into that space.
Gap wedges usually have a loft of anywhere from 48 to 54 degrees.
Differences Between a Gap Wedge and Pitching Wedge
Now that you have a general idea of both wedges, let’s take a look at the differences between the two and how this can impact your performance on the golf course.
The gap wedge tends to have a higher rate of spin than the pitching wedge. Since a gap wedge is often more of a blade style and has tighter grooves, you may notice that it has the ability to stop on the green quickly.
The spin from the pitching wedge is not as high, although you should notice it on an approach shot. Getting an approach shot to stop quickly with the pitching wedge is usually not that difficult.
The pitching wedge has, on average, 4 to 8 degrees less of loft as compared to a gap wedge. Most golfers want to keep this four degrees of loft gap between the clubs to help improve overall distance control in their golf bag.
If your pitching wedge loft and your gap wedge loft are too close, the trajectory of the shots will be similar, and you may find yourself struggling to find the right club to hit, depending on the shot you are hitting.
The higher loft in the gap wedge can make it a good choice out of some greenside bunkers.
Distance from your pitching wedge is going to be considerably higher than it is from the gap wedge. This really just comes down to the loft and the general design of the club. Overall, when it comes to wedges, you should not be all that concerned with the total distance of the shot and instead more concerned with distance control.
It doesn’t matter if you hit your pitching wedge 110 or 120 as long as you are well aware of how far the ball travels.
Most average golfers expect to get around 110 yards out of a pitching wedge, and the gap wedge should fall into place in the 100-yard range.
The forgiveness of your pitching wedge and gap wedge will depend on what type of wedges you purchase. If you are playing game improvement irons and you keep the pitching wedge and gap wedge to match, chances are your forgiveness levels will be quite high.
If instead you’re going with more of a blade style wedge, then your forgiveness levels will be considerably lower. The blade style wedges are more about feel and precision than forgiveness.
Keep this in mind depending on your skill and ability to ensure that you get the performance you need on the course.
Pros and Cons of a Gap Wedge
The gap wedge is a great club to have in the bag. It will end up being pretty close to a 100 yard golf club for many players. This makes it a good choice, as that is a yardage that comes up quite often for golfers.
In addition, the gap wedge is versatile. It can be used from the fairway as an approach shot, but it is just as effective in the short game with shorter chips and pitches. Gap wedges are great for longer greenside bunker shots as well. There is enough loft to get the ball up out of the sand, but you can also get it to stop on the green.
- Great for shorter approach shots
- It can be good for longer greenside bunkers
- Fills the gap between the pitching wedge and sand wedge
- Helps players worry less about distance control and focus more on accuracy
- Won’t be quite as forgiving out of tight lies
- Blade style gap wedges offer a smaller sweet spot
- Not as soft landing as a sand or lob wedge (you have to be prepared for a little roll)
Pros and Cons of a Pitching Wedge
The pitching wedge is probably one of my favorite all-time golf clubs. I just feel comfortable with a pitching wedge in my hand, and I have full confidence in my swing when I’m playing with it.
The pitching wedge loft is great for approach shots to the green, but it also makes for great bump and runs around the greens. When I’m just off the green and on the fringe, the pitching wedge is my go-to golf club; I know exactly what to expect.
- A confidence-inducing club for golfers
- A trajectory that you can control
- Great for bump and run type shots
- Forgiving out of the rough
- Won’t spin as much around the green as you may expect or need it to
When to Use Each Club
Now that you have some ideas as to how the gap and pitching wedge differ, it’s time to determine when to use each one.
Out of The Bunker
When you find yourself in a bunker, either wedge could be a solution. However, I’d have to say I like the gap wedge much better out of the greenside bunker. From a fairway bunker with a lip you’re worried about, the pitching wedge is often a great choice.
The reason the gap wedge is so much better on the shorter shots is simply that it has a higher loft.
With full-swing approach shots to the green, the pitching wedge and gap wedge will have the same effectiveness. The key here is to fully understand how far you hit each of your wedges. It’s more important to be able to control your distance than it is to hit it far.
I find myself taking full pitching wedge swings often, while I use the gap wedge for shorter approach shots that may only require a half or ¾ type golf swing.
Chip shots are the shorter ones around the green that require a little more finesse. It’s important to know that gap wedges will spin harder than pitching wedges, and this impacts control and finesse with the clubs in your hands.
With a pitching wedge, chip shots hit the ball about halfway to the hole and expect it to roll the other half of the way. The gap wedge won’t roll out as much, so you can play it a little closer to the hole.
When the pin is in the back of the green, go with the pitching wedge to give it a little more roll toward the pin.
Getting Out of Trouble
Finally, golfers need to consider using their wedges to get them out of trouble. Some golf courses have tremendously thick rough or areas of bare grass that make long irons or hybrids difficult to use.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, the pitching wedge can be a great go-to club. It’s a great length, highly maneuverable, and can get the ball back in play.
Of course, getting the ball on the green may take an extra shot, but playing smart like this eliminates the chance of putting a big number on the scorecard. The gap wedge can also be good for getting out of trouble, but luckily the extra distance in the pitching wedge will ultimately get you closer to your target.