Do you carry a sand wedge and a pitching wedge? A lofted club is very important to have in the bag when you are hitting shorter shots to the green. However, some key differences between golf wedges, especially the pitching and sand wedges, need to be considered for better course management.
I love my sand wedge, but during some rounds of golf, the pitching wedge comes out of the bag even more often. Let’s examine the differences and when you should use each wedge.
What’s the difference between a sand wedge and a pitching wedge?
The club’s loft is the most significant difference between the sand wedge and the pitching wedge. Sand wedges have a higher loft, sometimes as much as ten degrees more than the pitching wedge. The degrees of loft a wedge has will impact how you can play shots with it and how far it flies.
Pitching wedges also have a slightly longer club length than most sand wedges. The extra length of the club results in more distance.
We must look at their features and functionality to fully understand the differences between the sand wedge and the pitching wedge.
The loft of a normal pitching wedge is between 42 and 48 degrees. Most game improvement style wedges fall in the 43 to 44-degree range. Loft can increase slightly for a blade-style wedge as it is often more about workability and control than total distance. The lower the loft a golf club has, the further it will fly. You can see a more thorough explanation for What degree is a pitching wedge here.
The loft on the sand wedge is around 56 degrees, as a standard. However, with all the changes in golf clubs and their loft, we see numbers closer to 52 and 54 degrees.
The bottom line here is that the higher you need the ball to go, the sand wedge will be the better wedge to hit because of its higher loft. You can also see an additional post on Approach wedge loft here.
You can find all the Golf club lofts on our Degrees of loft on golf club post.
A club’s length is not how far it goes but its physical length. The pitching wedge is the longest of the two, although, for some golfers, the difference between clubs like approach wedge, lob wedge, and the sand wedge is almost non-existent.
In my set, the pitch wedge is a little longer than the sand wedge, and it helps to give a few extra yards on those full-swing shots. Stronger lofts combined with longer club lengths increase the total distance you can get but sometimes decreases control.
When determining what wedges to use in the bag, try not to think about full swing distance. Instead, focus on partial shots like pitch and chip shots and which clubs allow you to control the distance best.
Most average players hit a pitching wedge about 100 to 110 yards; the sand wedge is closer to 80-90 yards when taking a full swing. That said, you should be able to hit both the sand and the pitching wedge 50, 60, and 75 yards depending on the shot you have in front of you.
Forgiveness/Ease of use
Many golfers (myself included) find the pitching wedge one of the most forgiving clubs in the bag. Regardless of your skill level, there is plenty of loft to get the ball up in the air, and with a clean leading edge, it is easier to make contact with the pitch wedge from various lies.
The sand wedge can be associated with being less forgiving simply because it is often used out of greenside bunkers or tight lies where players struggle to play consistent golf. Also, many sand wedges have a blade-style design, which is different from the cavity back style and requires a more precise strike.
See the comparison of Blades vs cavity back irons here.
Many amateur golfers struggle with consistency in the shaft between the sand wedge and the pitching wedge. My best advice is that if you are playing with a regular graphite shaft in all of your irons, make sure your wedges match. A graphite shaft in your pitching and heavy steel sand wedge could create too much inconsistency in the swing.
See the comparison of a Graphite vs Steel shaft here.
For the most part, you will see differences between the shafts in your wedges, and it’s smart to schedule a Golf club fitting with a professional and talk about what you can do to make things more consistent for your game.
Sand wedge vs. pitching wedge: Use on the course
On the golf course, you must have several types of wedges to be prepared for the shot you will hit. For instance, bunker shots play entirely differently than a chip from a clean lie. Here is how to determine which wedge you should use on the golf course.
Getting out of trouble
The pitching wedge is a go-to club for getting yourself out of trouble. If you find the ball behind a tree or a bush, or you are stuck in a thick rough, the loft of the pitch wedge makes it a great club to hit.
Although you may find some golfers trying to use a sand wedge from this position, sometimes it doesn’t travel far enough to get you back in play. That combination of a few extra yards with plenty of forgiveness is powerful for golfers.
The sand wedge is designed for greenside bunkers. Many golfers have a 56-degree wedge in their bag that is incredibly helpful at getting the ball up and over the edge of a bunker. In addition to plenty of loft to lift the ball up and over the lip, there is also a Wedge bounce that makes it more forgiving. The bounce on the wedge glides through the sand, allowing your ball to fly out easily.
High-lofted greenside shots
A higher lofted greenside shot is one where you need the ball to stop quickly on the green. This often happens if your approach shot barely misses but ends up in the rough right next to the pin. In such a situation, you’ll have no choice but to get the ball up in the air quickly and have it stop on the green.
Sand wedges are better since they are higher lofted wedges and do a great job of spinning and stopping on the green when you need them to.
Lower lofted greenside shots
The lower lofted greenside shots are more like Bump and run shots, perfect for the pitching wedge. You can hit the ball halfway or even two-thirds of the way to the pin and have it roll out the rest of the way.
If you want to know how far the ball will run for each club, our very popular Rule of 12 chipping post will set you straight.
Keeping the ball slightly lower to the ground, with a lower-degree wedge, eliminates some room for error. You will only be able to take a small swing, and therefore you eliminate wrist hinge and swing plane issues.
Approach shots to the green
When hitting an approach shot to the green, you must consider the total distance and the trouble you are dealing with that day. If it’s windy, hit with the pitching wedge because the sand wedge gets too high and is affected by the wind.
For golfers struggling to make consistent contact, you are better off with a half-swing pitching wedge than a full-swing sand wedge. Again, the full swing almost always leads to a greater chance of error.
Get comfortable with both wedges as well as the Distance for golf clubs and learn to hit the utility or approach wedge as an alternative.
Do I need both a sand wedge and a pitching wedge?
Golfers should have at least a sand wedge and a pitching wedge in their bag. However, using a Lob wedge and Gap wedge is also a good idea. The approach shot to the green can vary in length and lie; having more than one golf club to choose from makes it easier to hit an accurate golf shot.
Be sure to check out the different Types of golf wedges here.
The battle of the sand wedge vs. pitching wedge comes down to learning how to read the lie. You will have to choose a club accordingly, depending on how the golf ball sits and how far it is from the pin. The pitching wedge is a versatile club good for approach shots, smaller chips, and pitches around the green. However, that extra loft and bounce on a sand wedge is your best bet for getting the ball to fly high and land softly.