For most golfers, the answer is at least 3 wedges. However, when you include pitching wedge in the discussion, carrying 4 wedges is probably the most common setup with professionals, elite amateurs, and even beginner golfers.
Why does a 4 wedge setup work so well?
1. A 4 Wedge setup makes distance control from 140 yards and in considerably easier
When you hit your irons with a full swing, they will typically travel pretty close to the expected distance, provided you make good contact and the wind isn’t a factor on the day.
However, the moment you move inside the 140-yard mark, the loft of your irons is no longer the primary determinant of how far the ball goes. Instead, it is the combination of wedge loft and the length of swing that will determine how far the ball goes.
With a 4 wedge setup, you can potentially unlock 12 stock distances, if you measure how far half swing and three-quarter swings travel with each club. The bullet points below help to clarify this point.
- Lob Wedge Full Swing
- Lob Wedge 3/4 Swing
- Lob Wedge 1/2 Swing
- Sand Wedge Full Swing
- Sand Wedge 3/4 Swing
- Sand Wedge 1/2 Swing
- Gap Wedge Full Swing
- Gap Wedge 3/4 Swing
- Gap Wedge 1/2 Swing
- Pitching Wedge Full Swing
- Pitching Wedge 3/4 Swing
- Pitching Wedge 1/2 Swing
You don’t necessarily have to practice half swings and 3/4 swings with each wedge. However, the bullet points above demonstrate how many choices you have, once you move inside 140 yards if you use a 4 Wedge setup.
2. As Iron Lofts Have Decreased, The Need For A Gap Wedge Has Increased
Simply put, modern irons have significantly stronger lofts than their outdated counterparts. You could say that a modern pitching wedge is the equivalent of an old school 9 iron in terms of loft. So, instead of being 48 degrees, a modern pitching wedge is closer to 46 degrees (and lower in some case). This automatically creates a massive gap between your pitching wedge (46 degrees) and your sand wedge (56 degrees).As a result, the need for gap wedge has never been greater.
For golfers who play modern irons, a club somewhere in the region of 50-52 degrees is a fundamental necessity. It solves the gapping issue between a pitching wedge and a sand wedge.
A 4 Wedge setup gives you more options in terms of bounce, sole width and grooves
When you use a 4 wedge setup, you can experiment with different bounce and sole width options.
For instance, a wide sole wedge can be much easier to hit out of a bunker. Similarly, a high bounce wedge is often the best choice for soft wet fairways or when coming out of the rough. A low bounce wedge tends to perform best from tight lies when you really just want to clip the ball off the turf.
The point is, having 4 wedges in your bag allows you to customize your wedge setup to suit your swing characteristics, and meet the demands of the course that you are playing on.
When should you use a 3 wedge setup?
A 3 wedge setup is considered more old school than a 4 wedge setup. In order to consider using 3 wedges, it is helpful if:
1. If the loft of your pitching wedge is quite weak (ie in the region of 48 degrees).
A weak pitching wedge reduces the need for a gap wedge. You can get away with a 6-degree gap between each wedge without too much fuss. The bullet points below help clarify the preferred gapping with a 3 wedge setup.
- Pitching Wedge: 48 Degrees
- Sand Wedge: 54 Degrees
- Lob Wedge: 60 Degrees
As you can see, this setup would still allow you to maintain a distance gap of about 10 – 12 yards between each wedge.
2. If you have the distance needed to hit Par 5’s in 2 consistently.
The primary advantage of using a 3 Wedge setup is that it gives you an extra club to play with in the lower half of your set.
For most players, this means that you can plug the gap that typically exists between a 4 iron and a low lofted hybrid.
For instance, you could experiment with carrying any of the following clubs.
- 4 Hybrid
- 3 Iron
- 7 Wood
- 5 Wood
- 2 Hybrid
- 2 Iron
As you can see, all of the clubs above sit somewhere between 17 and 21 degrees of loft. By picking the club best suited to your strengths as a player, you should be able to reach more par 5’s in 2 and have more approach options on extremely long Par 4’s.
To give you an example of this, it is worth mentioning that Tommy Fleetwood’s favorite club is a 7 Wood. He loves the 7 wood, because he can fly it about 245 yards with a towering ball flight that lands very softly on the green. It is one of the most important clubs in Tommy’s bag because it helps him attack the scoring holes on the golf courses that he plays regularly.
3. If you struggle to hit a lob wedge
It is surprisingly common for amateur golfers to struggle with a lob wedge. It can be quite an unforgiving club, especially on tight lies and wet fairways. Lob wedges provide very little room for error, and it’s perfectly understandable if you struggle to hit yours consistently.
If this applies to you, removing the lob wedge from your bag could be the way to go. You should find that a sand wedge is more forgiving in most situations, and you can also learn how to hit bump and run shots with your pitching wedge and 9 iron. Learning how to hit bump and runs, and mastering short pitches with your sand wedge could add much-needed consistency to your short game.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What wedges should a beginner carry?
High handicappers and beginners should carry a pitching wedge (46-48 degrees), a gap wedge (50-52 degrees) and a sand wedge (54-56 degrees). These wedges are a staple requirement for most beginners.
The only wedge that is optional for high handicappers is a lob wedge (60 degrees). This is because a lob wedge isn’t very forgiving and it increases the likelihood of hitting fat shots and thin shots. For beginners, a simple way to reduce these score-killing shots is to simply take the lob wedge out of the bag entirely.
That being said, if you are pretty solid with a lob wedge in your hands, it can be very useful around the greens and with short approach shots. You just need to be honest about how skilled you are with a lob wedge in your hands when making this decision.
Do pros use 3 or 4 wedges?
There is actually a fairly even split when it comes to professionals. For instance, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Brooks Koepka all use a 4 wedge setup, whereas Tiger Woods, Rory Mcllroy and Matthew Wolff all use a 3 wedge setup.
One of the reasons a 4 wedge setup is so common on tour is because pros hit the ball so far, which leaves them with plenty of short approach shots into small greens. In addition, the loft of modern irons has means that a gap wedge plugs a very important distance gap.
However, a 3 wedge setup is also very common, because it gives pros more options off the tee, and when hitting long approach shots on reachable par 5’s. Pros also face extremely long Par 3’s in most competitions. This is another scenario where an additional lower lofted club can also be very handy.
Is 4 wedges too many?
No. In this day and age, a 4 wedge setup is more common than a 3 wedge setup. A gap wedge is a staple requirement for most amateur golfers, and you are likely to use your wedges significantly more than a very low lofted iron or fairway wood, during most rounds.
Ultimately most amateurs are best served by a 4 wedge setup. It’s really only super long hitters that carry a weak lofted pitching wedge that can get away with a 3 wedge setup because they can maintain a distance gap of 10-12 yards between each wedge, while beefing up their selection of lower lofted clubs for reaching Par 5’s in 2.