I think back to the mid to late 1990s when wedge gapping was a straightforward equation to solve. Most players, including myself, were PW/56/60, PW/54/60, or PW/52/58. The set make-ups for the longer hitters were your standard Driver, 3-wood, 2-PW, and two extra wedges. If you were on the shorter side like Pavin, Kite, or Ben Crenshaw, it was a 4 or 5 wood and no 2-iron.
It was simple.
Then the year 2000 hit, and new low spinning, higher launching golf balls came into existence, and everyone, I mean everyone that could swing more than 100MPH, got 15-20 yards longer (overnight) with the driver and 1/2 club longer with everything else.
The evolution of the golf ball all but banished the 2 and 3 iron and slowly turned the bottom of the bag IE the wedges, into a math problem that every player had to pay attention to.
I still have my yardage info from the summer of 1999.
Driver: 275 7.5 Loft
3-wood: 250 13 Loft
2-Iron: 235 18 Loft
3-Iron: 220 21 Loft
4-Iron: 205 24 Loft
5-Iron: 195 28 Loft
6-Iron: 180 32 Loft
7-Iron: 165 36 Loft
8-Iron: 150 40 Loft
9-Iron: 135 44 Loft
PW: 125 49 Loft
SW: 110 54 Loft
LW: 80 60 Loft
Compared to today:
Driver: 285 8.5 Loft
3-wood: 255 15 Loft
5-wood: 240 19 Loft
4-Iron: 220 22 Loft
5-Iron: 200 25 Loft
6-Iron: 190 29 Loft
7-Iron: 175 33 Loft
8-Iron: 160 37 Loft
9-Iron: 145 41 Loft
PW: 130 45 Loft
AW: 120 50 Loft
SW: 110 54 Loft
LW: 80 60 Loft
As you can see, the set makeup changed drastically to accommodate for the ball going further, higher which in turn made gapping (especially wedges) a small 💩 show.
Get to the point, how do I gap my wedges?
Out on the PGA Tour, there are a few basic principles players live by that make wedge makeup quite simple. There is one thing to keep in mind, they are TOUR players who control speed, dynamic loft, and flight at a god-level so I’m only using this as a reference and not a recipe for your own games, I’ll get to that.
However, there are some nuggets here to hold onto:
- Carry distance over loft: Wedges are a precision tool to hit EXACT numbers. Period end of story. Players on Tour aren’t married to a specific loft set up as much as they are, carry distances. If the PW goes 135, the next wedge must go 120, the next 105, and the next 95, and so on and so forth. If it ends up being 46/52/56/60, great, or in the case of someone like Xander it might go 48, 52.5, 57, 61. They land on the final lofts based on the preferred carry. There is no guesswork at that part of the bag, they back into a loft, not a yardage.
- Make a decision: This is where analyzing your home course, tracking your game/stats has so much value. If you use data like Arccos, for example, it will start to show you where the holes in your bag are. Tour players are constantly looking at data and if they see a hole somewhere, it’s addressed quickly. In some cases, a player like Kevin Na might find that it’s more important to have options at the top of his bag. That’s why most of the time he goes with a 3 wedge set up (PW/54/60) to give him one extra club at the top of his bag. Na is one of the best wedge players on Tour and can make his 54 play like a 50/52/54/56 at any given moment. So there is a ton of value if you can practice turning one wedge into 4. Tiger has been doing that for YEARS.
This is what my gapping looks like:
So these are my 3 tips on how to build the perfect wedge set up..
- Find the holes in your bag: First and foremost, do a gapping session and figure out just how far you are hitting everything. Most fitters will do an hour gapping session for a reasonable fee, and the benefits are huge. 12 to 15 yard gaps in between clubs is just fine.
- 3 yardages for each wedge: FULL/STOCK/OFF SPEED. Anything with a W on it needs 3 yardages. FULL: 90-100% STOCK: 80-85% OFFSPEED 50%-70%
- 3 Windows for each wedge: HIGH/MID/LOW. Pretty Self-explanatory
Once you have all this information, then and only then can you truly figure out how many wedges you need, and the loft configuration.
In my opinion, wedge fittings and ball fittings will have more impact on your actual score than anything else.
My advice? Take whatever wedges you have in the bag right now and do the 3 yardages/3 windows experiment. Please keep track of the numbers and jot them down.
Then take it to the course, and every time you hit a wedge, markdown:
1) Was it FULL/STOCK/OFF SPEED
2) The Yardage
3) How far it carried
Once you have gone thru this process, you will have a firm grasp of your actual needs and whether or not you need a 3 or 4 wedge set up. I’m not ignoring grinds BTW, but that’s for a different article. This is gapping and how to do it properly.
The goal is to start looking at your wedges as yardage clubs not lofts. So next time you grab a 56, it’s not a sand wedge; it’s your 103/98/82 club. Make sense?