An AW golf club is an Approach Wedge, also commonly called a Gap Wedge. They are used by golfers when a pitching wedge is too much club when approaching the green. Not so long ago, golfers had only two wedge clubs in their bag, a pitching wedge and a sand wedge.
There are four wedges in use these days; the pitching wedge, the gap (or approach) wedge, the sand wedge and the lob wedge. The short game in golf is all about finesse and feel – four types of wedge allow the best golfers to produce the best results from a variety of lies around the green.
Its all in the loft
The difference between the four types of wedge is their loft. Loft is the angle of the club face in relation to the shaft that controls ball trajectory and distance. The higher the loft, the higher the ball will fly.
The approach wedge usually has a loft of between 50 – 54 degrees but are the lofts and distances for all four wedges.
|Pitching wedge||45 – 53 degrees||80 – 120 yards|
|Approach (gap) wedge||46 – 54 degrees||70 – 110 yards|
|Sand wedge||54 – 58 degrees||60 – 100 yards|
|Lob wedge||58 – 65 degrees||50 – 90 yards|
These numbers reflect average distances. Actual distances will depend on many other factors like swing speed and angles of attack.
You can see from the Distance column that these four wedge will have a different purpose. The purpose of the sand wedge is obvious. The purpose of the lob wedge is to execute one of those miraculous very high-lofted shots that avoid all the danger and stop dead on the green – the sort of miracle shot that Seve Ballesteros used to make and thrill us all. We’ve all used a pitching wedge for years and pretty much know its purpose and when to use it.
But what about the approach wedge? What is that all about? Do people even know for sure what the A stands for in AW?
What is an Approach Wedge?
Yes, the A stands for Approach, not “attack” or “auxiliary”.
The purpose of an approach wedge is to hit the ball high and land it softly and hopefully close to the hole. This club will allow the golfer to hit the ball over obstructions like bunkers, water hazards and trees. A well struck shot should land the ball near the flag and stop quickly or even spin back if the golfer has created that spin on the ball. Putting backspin on the ball can be very useful when hitting the ball onto a green where the flag is positioned right behind a bunker.
Why “approach”? Well, it is generally accepted that the AW is the transition between your irons (to the PW which you could call a 10-iron) and the sand and lob wedge. It fills that gap which is why it often referred to as a gap wedge.
How far do you hit a pitching wedge?
How far do you hit your pitching wedge? Let’s say anything between 80 and 120 yards. The top pros will use their pitching wedge to hit the ball 150 yards, scary, eh? Anyway, my point is, what if you have left yourself a comfortable 60 yards to the pin? Your pitching wedge would be too much club and the lob wedge not enough maybe. There you have it, a perfect time to get out the approach wedge! With the extra loft you can hit an aggressive shot to the green.
A little more bounce
You’ll find that an approach wedge has a little more bounce. Most amateur golfers won’t have any idea about bounce. That’s ok, it’s pretty technical stuff. So, what is bounce?
Bounce or bounce angle is the angle between the leading edge of a golf club, typically a wedge, the sole of the club, and the ground. The bounce angle is an indication of how much the sole of the club lifts the leading edge. A high bounce angle (angles of 12–15° are not uncommon) indicates a sole which lifts the leading edge significantly, whereas a club with little or no bounce allows the leading edge to contact the ground without interference.
The purpose of introducing bounce into club head design is to control how easily wedges, with their steep angles of attack, penetrate the ground under the ball. A low- or zero-bounce club has a streamlined profile, and the sharp leading edge of the club will tend to cut into the ground easily. When this is undesirable, the use of a club with more bounce will cause the sole of the club to impact first, keeping the wedge from digging into the surface by causing it to “bounce” across the surface instead.
So, the approach wedge has a bit more bounce than a pitching wedge. Click here to learn a bit more about golf club bounce.
Use an Approach Wedge for accuracy
Where the pitching wedge is the club to get you onto the green from, say, 120 yards, it is the job of the approach wedge to give you more accuracy and control.
Most average golfers can usually get to within 100 yards of the hole. Consider how many of your golf shots are played from 100 yards in and you will quickly realize that improving your wedge game and improving your accuracy could be a very important strategy for lowering your score.
Accuracy from 80 yards or so, is the generally accepted benefit or purpose of the approach wedge. And accuracy will hopefully you will avoid 3 putting and even achieve an approach shot followed by one putt. Wouldn’t that be great!
So, the bottom line is to try and hit your golf ball closer to the hole with your wedge. The closer you hit your approach wedge to the hole on average, the higher your chance of making the putt.
How to use an Approach Wedge correctly
These are quite technical points but take time to read them. The mistakes made in an ideal swing are:
- Too much plane angle variability from backswing to impact
- Too much up and down motion of the body
- Too much sideways motion below the waist
- Too much sideways motion above the waist
- Arm swing out of sync with body motion
If you have never considered purchasing an Approach Wedge, you should think about it. It is a very versatile golf club to have in your bag. It can make the difference between just getting onto or near the green and getting close to the flag.
And, as usual, practice, practice, practice.