With the way golf club lofts have changed in the last few years, it’s important to consider what wedges you have in your bag and if they are the right fit for your game. A sand wedge is important not just for getting out of the sand trap but also for chips and pitches around the green.
I love my sand wedge and would never take it out of the bag, but not all golfers feel this way. Let’s take a look at some reasons why you may want to keep your sand wedge and some reasons you may want to let it go.
The Case FOR Carrying a Sand Wedge in Your Bag
I’ll let you know right from the start that my case for carrying a sand wedge will be stronger than my case against carrying a sand wedge. I think it’s an important club. There are three reasons I would recommend carrying a sand wedge in your bag: control, versatility, and loft.
The sand wedge is one of the easiest clubs in the bag for an amateur golfer to be able to put backspin on. If you are chipping shots around the green, the ability to stop them is essential. Whether you are working on short approach shots or something out of a greenside bunker, control is paramount.
In addition to the ability to spin the ball and stop it on the green, the sand wedge is also good for distance control. Once you learn how your sand wedge works, you can hit shorter shots like 20, 30, 40, and 50 yard shots that help you become more accurate.
The sand wedge is versatile. Although many beginners think this is a club to hit out of the sand traps, it is much more than that. A 56-degree sand wedge should be one of your best friends when you get close to the green.
The bounce angle, clean leading edge, and trajectory of the sand wedge make it a perfect selection for various shots. If you open the face of the sand wedge, it’s possible to hit a flop shot. If you close it a little, you can have a lower ball flight with a bit more roll.
Golf manufacturers are making clubs with less and less loft. The reason behind this is distance. If you need distance, then you want these lower-lofted clubs. With the center of gravity advancements and repositioning, golfers can still hit the ball high, even with the lower lofted clubs in their hands.
I love having the sand wedge in my bag because it’s a little more loft than the gap wedge and a little less than the lob wedge; it fills a gap in my bag that I need to fill.
The Case AGAINST Carrying a Sand Wedge in Your Bag
Now that you have a better idea as to why a sand wedge is so important, we have to address the elephant in the room here, the golfers that can’t stand the club and don’t keep it in the bag. Most of the time, this is a beginner golfer or high handicapper that struggles with the short game.
If you take the sand wedge out of the bag each time and it results in a shot that is chunked or skulled across the green, then chances are it is not helping you to keep the club in the bag.
As a golf professional, I have always felt that any player can learn how to use any club that is fitted to their game. I also understand that there are some mental hangups around certain clubs, like the sand wedge.
Sometimes the way the sand wedge sets up is not very confidence-inducing. It makes players think that they have to scoop the ball up off the ground to get it into the air. Of course, that isn’t the case, but it can take some time to figure this concept out.
In addition, when you are struggling with the sand wedge, it is not always a club that offers much forgiveness. In fact, it’s pretty unforgiving, especially in the blade style wedge. If you need to simplify your short game, there are alternatives to the sand wedge that could be a good fit.
The Types of Players Who SHOULD Carry a Sand Wedge
Golfers who should carry a sand wedge include mid to low handicappers and even some high handicappers confident in their chipping strokes. In addition, golfers that want more loft, easy launch out of sand traps, and more workability in their shots should also consider using the sand wedge.
Professional golfers and those that shoot low have an incredible ability to control what the ball does around the green. The reason they can do this is partially because of feel but also because of the equipment they play with.
Something like a Titleist Vokey SM9 wedge is designed for this type of player, and it has lots of greenside spin to help keep the ball from rolling off the green or past the pin.
The mid handicappers or average golfers find the sand wedge can help them get out of trouble and get up and down from a variety of places on the golf course. Depending on the type of courses you play, there could be trouble around the greens, and the sand wedge can save you.
Mid handicappers often have enough confidence in their swing to take a full swing with a sand wedge and use it as an approach shot into the green.
Most mid handicappers play with some type of game-improvement iron with a lower lofted pitching wedge. Adding the sand wedge into the game helps with an extra loft on bunker shots and greater versatility.
You may have assumed that high handicappers and beginners are the players that should not carry a sand wedge. I don’t think this is true. However, as a high handicapper or beginner, you do have to have a general understanding of what it takes to hit a solid chip shot with a sand wedge.
If you can get a general idea of what a great shot with this club feels like, you can decrease your score and get up and down.
Some beginner sets do not include a sand wedge because it takes a bit of time to learn how to use one. However, you can absolutely learn the skills if you dedicate a little time.
The Types of Players Who SHOULDN’T Carry a Sand Wedge
Golfers that should not carry a sand wedge include those that skull, chunk, or even shank a sand wedge each time they take it out of the bag. After having taught thousands of golf lessons in my career, I can tell you that this player exists.
Sometimes the higher lofted wedge is just not a good fit for a player, and they struggle too much each time the club comes out of the bag. There is good and bad news here.
The good news here is that most of the chipping you need to do around the green can be done with other clubs and slight adjustments to your stance and setup. The bad news is you still need a golf club with a high loft somewhere in the bag.
Sand Wedge Alternatives
There are a few clubs you will want to have in place if the sand wedge throws you off. Remember that if you choose not to have anything higher in loft than the pitching wedge, there will be certain greenside shots that are nearly impossible to pull off.
The pitching wedge is the wedge that most golfers use if they are reluctant to take out the sand wedge. Pitching wedges can help you take a more compact swing and still see results in your golf game.
Pitching wedges have less loft than sand wedges, so the ball will roll a bit more when it does hit the green.
A chipper is essentially like a mix between a putter and a wedge. With the chipper, you have a shorter club (about putter length) that allows you to take a miniature version of a bigger chipping stroke.
It’s almost like taking a putt with a club with a bit more loft and standard wedge grooves. The loft of a chipper is low, and it’s best for bump-and-run shots.
Forgiveness from a chipper is impressive, and the chance of skulling or chunking this shot is slim.
Lob Wedge (Bunker Rescue Club)
As I mentioned, if you don’t have the sand wedge in the bag, you still need something that provides a higher launch. A high launch club gets you out of a bunker or on the green when you have short-sided yourself.
Some golf clubs are made for golfers that struggle with the traditional sand wedge. They are high-lofted wedges like the xE1 designed specifically to get you out of the bunker in one shot.
If you take the sand wedge out because it brings in too much inconsistency, make sure you still have a plan for yourself when the golf ball ends up in the bunker.