The Approach Wedge: What It Is and How It's Used

Approach wedge showing the clubface
The approach wedge has a higher loft than the pitching wedge but a lower loft than the sand wedge. Cleveland Golf

"Approach wedge" is another name for the gap wedge and is the wedge that fits between a golfer's pitching wedge and sand wedge in the progression of lofts.

That is to say, of the three clubs the pitching wedge has the least amount of loft and the sand wedge the most, with the approach wedge in-between.

Why Use an Approach Wedge?

The same reason you'd choose, say, a 6-iron rather than a 5-iron or 7-iron.

If you have a shot into the green whose distance is less than your pitching wedge distance but more than your sand wedge distance, you'll probably pull the approach wedge.

The approach wedge will also give you steeper angles of ascent of descent relative to the lower-lofted pitching wedge, which means less roll once the ball hits the ground.

What is the Loft of an Approach Wedge?

Lofts are not standardized across the golf manufacturing industry, so approach wedge lofts can vary from company to company. They generally fall into a range of 46 degrees to 54 degrees, and what loft a company selects for its approach wedges will be influenced by the lofts of the pitching wedge in front of it and the sand wedge behind it. You generally want your wedges to have gaps of no more than six degrees in-between them; many golfers prefer only 4-degree gaps or less.

Other Names for the Approach Wedge

As noted in the first sentence, "approach wedge" is just another name for gap wedge, and gap wedge remains the most common name for this club (but approach wedge is beginning to catch up).

But there are other names for it, too. This club is called by more different names than any other club in golf. And golf manufacturers are the ones who decide what to call their versions.

In addition to approach wedge and gap wedge, this club is also called an attack wedge, an A-wedge and a D-wedge.

Why All Those Different Names?

Marketing.

A desire by one manufacturer to be different from another. Who knows. But we wish everyone had just stuck with gap wedge, because all these different names for the same club only creates confusion.

Some manufacturers today are even starting to do away with wedge names altogether (at least in marketing) and focus instead on the specs: the loft and bounce angle combinations available. So instead of labeling the club an approach wedge, some companies might list their wedges as a 48-degree wedge, 50-degree wedge, etc.

Buying an Approach Wedge

If you need an approach wedge to fill the gap between your PW and SW - you feel you need more precision in your scoring clubs and approaches into the green - an approach wedge is a good buy.

They are typically not included in 8-club base sets of irons, which means you'll probably be shopping for your approach wedge as a separate, standalone purchase.

Check the loft of your PW and SW and split the difference to get your best approach wedge loft. If you don't carry a sand wedge, then add 4 to 6 degrees to your PW loft and look for approach wedges in that range.

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