Golf wedges are usually classified into four categories: pitching, gap, sand and lob. The main differences include the amount of loft each clubhead features, as well as the size of the bounce plate on the sole. All four clubs are used as part of a golfer's short game. Although this aspect of golf may not seem as glamorous as the long-distance shots, it's still a very important part of any player's game. Remember that most golf shots are taken from within 100 yards of the hole.
Sand Wedge History
The pitching wedge was once golf's only wedge and was the club of choice for hitting out of bunkers. Gene Sarazen built the first sand wedge in 1931, reportedly after being inspired by a discussion with aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, who compared an airplane's path through the air with a pitching wedge's battle with sand. Sarazen soldered some metal to a pitching wedge's sole to limit the distance the wedge would dig into the sand, creating the first bounce plate.
Gap Wedge History
For many years, pitching wedges contained about 48 to 50 degrees of loft, and sand wedge loft hovered in the mid-50s. Toward the end of the 20th century, however, the industry trend was to make clubs with less loft, and typical pitching wedge lofts dropped to about 46 or 47 degrees. This left a large gap between the lofts of the pitching and sand wedges. Gap wedges were created to literally fill the gap between the other two wedges.
Sand Wedge Use
The sand wedge is often a player's highest-lofted club, if the golfer doesn't carry a lob wedge with even greater loft. Therefore, the sand wedge may occasionally be used for a variety of very short shots outside of bunkers that require as much height as possible. But the sand wedge's primary responsibility is to help golfers escape from greenside bunkers. Thanks to the bounce plate, the sand wedge -- if swung correctly -- digs into the sand far enough to get under the ball, then glides forward to allow the player to make solid contact and hit a short, lofted shot.
Gap Wedge Use
A gap wedge is basically a more-lofted version of the pitching wedge. The gap wedge is typically lofted between 50 and 54 degrees and is used on shots of less than 100 yards. Some players prefer hitting a pitching wedge at about half speed -- what's known as the вЂњhalf wedgeвЂќ-- on shots that are too short to hit with a pitching wedge swung at full speed. Casual golfers, however, usually make more consistent contact by taking a full swing, making a gap wedge a good choice for short-range play. All else being equal, you'll hit the ball higher and shorter with a gap wedge than with a pitching wedge, because of the gap wedge's greater loft. You'll also hit the ball farther with a gap wedge than a sand wedge, because the sand wedge is a higher-lofted club.