When To Use Sand Wedge: Find Your Consistency

The best golfers around are able to utilize the numerous wedges in their bag.

If you are someone looking to improve and take your game to the next level or simply just play more consistently, becoming very good with your sand wedge is important.

In my journey with golf, as a junior golfer, I quickly mastered the wedge game.  If you left me off the side of the green, I wasn’t just trying to get it close, I was trying to chip the ball in.  The expectations were high, I practiced a ton and the results were pretty impressive.

Many golfers are seeking consistency, the number one way to consistent golf is hitting wedges close and chipping the ball great! While we may never be able to strike the ball perfect everyday, being able to chip brings about score consistency and saves frustration on the golf course!

Most sand wedges will range in loft between 54 and 56 degrees.  I would call the 52 degree a gap wedge and anything 58 or higher a lob wedge.

It is often said that 65% of the shots in golf occur within 100 yards.  The quickest way to lower your score and shoot respectable scores is to improve with your wedge game.  So let’s go ahead and dive into the topic of the sand wedge and when to use the sand wedge in golf.

When To Use Sand Wedge?

There are five general situations when a golfer will utilize a sand wedge in golf.  These include the full swing, the less than full swing, the pitch shot, the chip shot and the sand shot.

Let’s look at every situation and talk about why it is used from this distance and some quick tips on how to get good at the specific shot.

If you can hit your pitch and chip shots within a 3 foot circle at least 50% of the time, your score will improve dramatically!

When To Use the Sand Wedge: The Full Shot

Every golfer will have a distance that they carry their sand wedge.  For me, this distance is 105 yards with a full swing.  Now I could hit it further, but with a simple, well balanced swing with a sand wedge, I can expect the ball to fly 105 yards.

So when I am faced with a 102-107 yard approach shot, the sand wedge is my go to club.  I play the ball slightly back of center in my stance and make a smooth swing.  The ball will often fly a medium height and stop pretty quick.

The goal for all of your clubs is to know the distance that each club will swing with a full swing.  Creating a chart will be highly beneficial to ensure you don’t have any gaps in your yardages and to help you manage your game.

I would highly recommend that all golfers create a chart like the one below:
ClubCarry Distance (100%)90%80%
2 Utility Iron210
4 iron190
5 iron181
6 iron171
7 iron163
8 iron153
9 iron143
P Club130123115
Pitching Wedge118110102
SW Club1059791
LW Club908274

The best way to create a chart like the one above is with a portable launch monitor.  I would highly recommend the SkyTrak, but there are some quality options in today’s golf market.  They are worth checking out and seeing if they might help improve your game!

There are two different ways to create this chart:
  • Use a SkyTrak or similar launch monitor to measure your distances.
  • Use the old fashion way of marking a spot out on the range and hitting enough shots to create a calculation.
With my SkyTrak Launch Monitor I complete the following process:
  • Hit 10 shots with each club at 100%
  • Hit 10 shots with each club at 90%
  • Hit 10 shots with each club at 80%
  • Remove the shortest and longest distance and average the other 8 shots.
  • Create the chart that looks like the one above

You now have an average and can create your own chart!  There are some affordable launch monitors on the market.  They may be more affordable than you realize.  Check them out here.

Ready to take your game to the next level?  Check out these 3 quality options below:

Not only can you have precise distances for your sand wedge and all of your clubs, but you will have instant access to the following data after every shot:

  • Carry and Total Distance
  • Ball Speed
  • Spin Rate
  • Spin Axis
  • Launch Angle

These devices are game changers for the everyday golfer that wants to get better!

Tip: Don’t try to over power a wedge.  Instead, maintain quality balance and rhythm with your wedges.  The goal isn’t to hit it far, the goal is to hit it precisely.  You want to control your start line and your distance.

When To Use the Sand Wedge: The Less Than Full Shot

The reality of playing golf is that you frequently do not land on the perfect number.  I do not always land on the 105 yard distance for my perfect sand wedge.  This is where the golfer needs to be able to take a less than full shot.

If I have 96 yards left, I will have a number of options.  I could hit the 90% sand wedge or around the 70% pitching wedge.

Depending on the pin placement, bunkers, wind and lie, I will make a decision that provides me with the best option of number one hitting the green and number two getting it close if the situation allows.

The last thing I want to do from this distance is short side myself, miss the green and leave an impossible chip shot to save my par.

Having an idea on your number will help you get your game to the next level and dial in different distances to give you a major advantage starting at abou 125 yards an in with your wedges!

A golfer could create a chart with a 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90% and 100% with every wedge.  Having access to the chart when you play will help you manage your game and stay within yourself to hit the shot that you know you can.

Tip: Make sure you don’t slow down on the downswing to try to control your distances.  Instead, only take the club so far back to get to something less than 100% with your wedges.  Too often, golfers will try to slow down, causing bad contact and a lack of confidence over their next shot.  Stay aggressive and make a confident swing through the ball.

When To Use the Sand Wedge: The Pitch Shot

The pitch shot with the sand wedge is from around 10 yards to 40 yards.  It is more than a chip, where the ball will be a combination of spending time in the air and rolling out a certain distance as well.

This becomes a very important shot on par 5s, especially if you are a longer hitter or if you are struggling with the driver that day and leave the ball in that 10-40 yard range out after you punch the ball towards the green.

The key here is to create a system.  I would recommend creating a system where you hit three different speeds and three different lengths, giving you plenty of options.

Here are the possible combinations:
  • The short and slow swing
  • The medium and slow swing
  • The long and slow swing
  • The short and medium swing
  • The medium and medium swing
  • The long and medium swing
  • The short and fast swing
  • The medium and fast swing
  • The long and fast swing

These different combinations give you 9 different shots within this 10-40 yard distance where you want to be able to save your par or make the birdie on a par 5.

Tip: Commit to the shot that you have selected. If you are unsure of the lie, play the ball further back in your stance and make sure you stay through the shot without stopping.  Too often, golfers slow down and chunk the ball from lacking confidence.

When To Use the Sand Wedge: The Chip Shot

This is similar to the pitch shot, but shorter in overall distance with the ball rolling out more than flying towards the hole.  I would recommend creating a system like the one above with the 9 different shots.  Being able to substitute different clubs will give you the greatest versatility for scoring opportunities on the course.

I would also recommend a golfer test out the flop shot around the greens for those extremely difficult, short sided chip shots where the ball has to get up in the air quickly and stop quickly without travelling a far distance.  This is a shot that every golfer should practice for those situations and use it when the situation arises.

Tip: Hitting the chip shot with the sand wedge will give you plenty of loft.  Make sure you learn to hit a variety of shots with the golf ball in different locations within your stance.  This will help provide more or less loft and give you the greatest versatility for the shots you will face on the golf course.

When To Use the Sand Wedge: The Sand Shot

Many amateur golfers seem to struggle with the green side bunker shot.  The sand wedge can be used on the longer green side bunker shot and I would recommend a lob wedge for the shorter greenside bunker shots.  

The bounce on both the sand wedge and lob wedge should allow the club to hit before the ball utilizing the sand to throw the ball out of the sand.  The bounce keeps the club from digging and stopping in the sand.

Tip: Make sure you hit behind the ball in the greenside sand shots.  Make sure you keep your speed going and commit to the shot.  You want the club face to be somewhat open, maximizing the bounce on the club and to keep it from digging.

Courses like the one above force you to be a solid bunker player! Practice and then practice some more!

Next Steps

Get out and pracitce!  This is the quickest way to improve your score.  Work on these 5 different shots, so you can play with confidence and be able to pull them off when you encounter these shots on the course.

Overall, each of the 5 situations above are rather important to ensure consistency in your game. If you can become an expert at these 5 shots you are on your way!

The great news is that being a great wedge player doesn’t require speed, power or strength, but rather time spent practicing and key information, such as carry distance!

Don’t forget to check out the launch monitors and highly consider adding one to your collection of golf tools that will help you improve. . There is such great data available at our fingertips and information that once only the professionals had as little as 5 years ago. 

Today, even the average amatuer can benefit from the data and use it to improve his or her game!  Playing year round is my single greatest benefit of having a launch monitor and being able to practice 12 months a year!

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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