When To Use A 56 Degree Wedge?


Did you know that the average golfer hits somewhere around 65% of their shots inside 100 yards?  Yet, people will spend weeks and months figuring out what driver to buy and are willing to shell out 400 to 500 dollars for that shining new driver that most likely will produce similar results. 

Not that we don’t enjoy buying that new driver that feels so good, but let’s spend some time considering how we can best use the wedges in our bag.  A question I often hear is when to use a 56 degree wedge.  There seems to be some confusion.

Two of my favorite clubs in my bag are my wedges.  I carry at least two wedges between 54 and 60 degrees.  I have a 54, 56 and a 60 degree, but only keep two in the bag for most rounds.  The versatility that is provided by each of these wedges saves a handful of shots each round. 

Trust me, the number of shots you can save with a wedge is impressive.  

The wedge is the key to lower scores

Did you know that the typical scratch golfer only hits 67% of the greens in regulation or right around 12 out of every 18 holes?  Think about that for a second, even a scratch golfer has at least 6 shots green side on the average round.  They will also save par 54% of the time when scrambling green side.  

If these stats aren’t convincing enough on the important of being able to fully utilize your wedges, I don’t know what will convince the average golfer.  We must spend time to understand our wedges and practice using them in many different situations. 

The 56 degree wedge brings about plenty of options and is a rather versatile club.  You can play the low shot, the low spinning shot or hit the flop shot.  For many golfers the can also use somewhere between 80 and 110 yards on approach shots.  This becomes a vital shot on shorter par 4s and on par 5s.

When to use a 56 degree wedge?

There are different philosophies and approaches to utilizing the 56 degree wedge. The first approach is to utilize different wedges throughout the bag depending on the chip shot  The second approach is to always use the 56 degree wedge whenever possible.  This is closer to the approach that Phil Mickelson uses with his 60 degree wedge, but can apply to the 56 degree wedge as well. 

Below we will take you through the following topics and questions:

  • Should I use my 56 degree everytime wedge or vary my clubs when chipping?
  • How far should I hit my 56 degree wedge?
  • How to use a 56 degree wedge?
  • Can you use a 56 degree wedge in the sand?
  • Why use a 56 degree wedge?

Should I use my 56 degree wedge every time or vary my clubs when chipping?

Option 1:  The preference that I prefer is to utilize the same wedge on a high percentage of the green shot shots.  This includes bump and runs, sand shots, and even higher lofted shots all the way up to the flop shot. 

My goal is to become very comfortable with one wedge, learn how it cuts through different grass lengths and de-loft or add loft to the club depending on the situation. 

Some may say this is the more difficult route, but I see more and more scratch and better golfers utilizing this approach.  I pretty much rely on three different shots:

  • The low bump and run that I can hit from different distances.  The ball is typically back in the stance and I squeeze the ball with a delofted 56 degree wedge.  This usually looks like a hinge and hold approach, where I hinge the club on the way back and then hold off the release.  This causes the ball to travel low to the ground.
  • The second shot is a stand chip.  I don’t take the loft away, but I also don’t add loft.  I try to take the wrists out of the shot, but I am sure to utilize the bounce on the club.  I can vary the distance by the length of the swing.
  • The third shot is a flop shot, I will typically have the ball more up in my stance and try to slide the club under the ball.  I add a significant amount of loft and be sure to swing through the ball and keep the right hand under the shot.

When I get to the ball after I have missed a green, I look at where the pin is located, how much green I have and take into consideration the lie and the conditions of the course that day.  Having these go to shots, really only requires me to practice these three shots, which provide everything that I need!

Option 2:  There are golfers that prefer to make a similar motion on every shot.  They will range from utilizing anything from a 7 iron up to a 64 degree wedge.  They try to keep everything the same except for the club in their hand. 

The thought process behind this approach is that the motion is more simple and the only variable is the club.  They are able to dial in the distance and the amount of roll by the club instead of changing the swing.

Testing the Options – How to test these two approaches:
  • Step 1: Practice for 30-45 minutes with a variety of shots.
  • Step 2: Take 10 balls from a variety of spots and see how many times you can chip a ball within 6 feet, but you can only use your 60 degree wedge.
  • Step 3: Take 10 balls from a variety of spots and see how many times you can chip a ball within 6 feet, but you should vary your clubs this time.
  • Step 4: Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have a data set of 30 chip shots.
  • Step 5: Review the data and your comfort level with both approaches and help this guide you in your decision making process.
  • Special Note: You might want to do this over several sessions where you can have data on 100-200 shots and frequently test to see how you feel.  You also want to take into consideration your “bad” shots.  Were the bad shots much worse with one approach over the other?

When you head to the course you want to be confident with your approach that you can hit every chip shot within about 6 feet.  The more your practice and get comfortable with your club (option 1) or your motion and club selection (option 2) you will play better golf and quickly realize how beneficial practicing your short game can be in reducing your scores.  

Great Drill/Game: A great short game practice drill you can compete against yourself with or a friend is to take one ball and see how many times out of 20 you can get up and down to save your par.  Throw the ball to a random spot, hit the chip shot and make the putt. 

Do this for at least 2 rounds and record your score.  Track this over the course of time.  If you want to reach your full potential and get better fast, the short game is the real secret.  Get started today!

How far should I hit my 56 degree wedge?

The average golfer should hit their 56 degree wedge between 75 and 110 yards.  The key here with this wedge or any wedge is to not overswing.  The wedges and truly anything inside of 150 yards should be thought of as a precision club. 

Would you rather swing hard and have your dispersion be all over the place or make a controlled swing and be able to control the start line of every shot with your wedge?

Be smart with your wedge and have it be a controlled swing where you can control the ball flight and the start line.  You will want to play the ball further back in your stance to keep the ball low or up in your stance if you are trying to add some height to the shot. 

They key is to make solid contact and control the ground contact spot.  This can often be enhanced and controlled by placing at least 60% of your weight on your front foot at address.

In your practice routine, practice from different lies.  You will want to be able to hitt he full swing from the fairway and the rough.  When in the rough, you may need to play it a bit back in your stance to ensure you strike the ball first.

How to use a 56 degree wedge?

The 56 degree wedge is a highly versatile club that be played from any different lies from distance just off the green up to 110 yards away from the pin.  The key here is to learn how to use the bounce and utilize that bounce in your favor. 

Allow the bounce to help you through difficult lies and try not to dig with the leading edge.  There may be some shots that you want to keep lower and play back in your stance, this could lead to the leading edge hitting the ground firmly, but you can be prepared by practicing these shots.

Here is an excellent video on using the bounce:

Can you use a 56 degree wedge in the sand?

Absolutely!  The 56 degree wedge is ideal for a bit of the longer greenside bunker where you have plenty of green to work with.  I will utilize a 56 or a 60 depending on the length of the bunker shot. 

Even if you are not carrying a 60 degree wedge, the 56 provides plenty of loft even if you short side yourself!  Once again, practice these shots and get used to adding loft.

Quick Tip:

Learning to maximize your loft on a 56 or 60 degree can help you play the difficult modern designs.  The main defense for many course architects is big greens with isolated areas protected by green side bunkers. 

This can leave you short side in a bunker or deep rough.  Being able to hit the flop shot with the 56 or the 60 is vital to saving several pars per round in this situations.  Gone are the days of always being able to hit the bump and run.

Some sand tips brought to you by Shawn Clement:

Why use a 56 degree wedge?

One word, versatility.  I have found that the 60 degree wedge brings many options to your game.  Getting comfortable with adding loft or taking loft away can help take your game to the next level. 

My goal is to get up and down to save part at least 50% of the time.  In my most recent round I was 5 for 8 and 5 for 7.  The ability to save pars will give you some positive vibes on the course, keep a great round going or save a round headed in the right direction and also frustrate your opponent! 

In my opinion it all starts with the 56 degree wedge and getting comfortable with it.  My best days with the wedge were during my teenage years because I spent endless amounts of hours around a putting green hitting all kinds of shots with my 56 degree wedge. Practice is the key and getting comfortable with your different shot options.

You can say this about a 56 or a 60 degree wedge.  Depending on the other 13 clubs int he bag, many golfers have different setups.  However, learning to play with a more lofted wedge can be the greatest shot saver club in your bag!

Quick Tip: 

Recently, I have found that chipping ping pong balls in my basement off of the carpet is a great way to practice indoors.  I can try different shots and get comfortable with my 56 degree wedge.  There are a lot of ways to practice around your house and you don’t always have to get to the golf course to practice. 

The short game is much easier to practice around the house than the full swing.  Make it your mission to be the best short game player in your foursome and your score will thank you!

Final Thoughts

I often compare chipping to playing defense in basketball.  While your driver swing or iron swing might struggle that day, you can always chip well. To me this is similar to basketball in that your outside shot might not be falling that day, but you can always play defense. 

Chipping will bring consistency to your game that you are seeking and it will influence your shot decision in a positive manner as you will have more options when in a bad position on the golf course if you have confidence that you can get up and down to save your par. 

I love the Cleveland and Titliest Vokey Wedges.  I have used both of the years and believe they are phenomenal.  Here are two recommendations for you:

Here is my current wedge that I playing:

Take Action – What You Can Do Today to Get Better

What does this mean for you?  I believe in the following recipe to get better:

1 – Improve your motion in the golf swing by identifying a golf instructor.  Here are some options:

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

2 – Train to swing faster and improve your swing speed.  Here are some options:

Looking to gain more Speed and Distance in your swing. Two Options:

3 – Understand course strategy and work to break through your next barrier.  Here is a series on breaking through:

We have provided guides on how to break 100, 90, 80 and 70. Check out more below, if interested.

4 – Practice Frequently

Did you know that I build a golf simulator in my garage and have played over 500 rounds of golf on my SkyTrak system?  It has been a game changer and one worth checking out. Here are some of my other posts on golf simulators frequently asked questions:

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