Most standard iron sets do not come a gap wedge. The shorts irons usually end at a Pitching wedge (PW) with an option for a Sand Wedge (SW) thrown in.
In the last two decades, the revolution in clubhead design has forced a dramatic decrease in the loft of short irons, resulting in a 5 -6 degree reduction in PW loft. This leaves a critical gap in loft progression between a PW and SW, and you really need a GW in there to fill the void.
And cased on usage patterns at the Tour, an overwhelming number of pros are carrying a Gap Wedge in their arsenal to give them an edge in their short/approach game. In this review, we will examine the significance of the gap wedge and look at 5 of the best GWs up for grabs in the market, including:
Our Best Gap Wedges
Gap Wedge – From a Compromise to Almost Necessity
Before the 1980s, the spread between a PW and GW was a manageable 5 degrees. But the modern PW is nearly the loft of an older 9 iron, while the SW has remained more or less same, almost doubling the loft angle spread to 10 degrees between the two.
This was a direct result of the arrival of cavity back and perimeter weighting designs in the 1980s and 90s. These newer designs created much higher launch angles than before, necessitating a reduction in loft angles (de-lofting) of irons across the board including the PW.
A gap wedge literally just that: a wedge with a loft angle somewhere in between the PW and SW, designed primarily to fill the “gap”. They have become almost a permanent fixture on the professional circuit, with a lot of pros opting to include them as a part of their selection of clubs.
As such, a gap iron has no well defined purpose. The best way to describe a GW would be as a capable replacement of the PW in instances where you need less distance and more flight.
So why bring a GW when you have a PW?
On average, your short game will account for at least half of your shots on a hole, if not more. With the distance on modern drivers and woods, 2 shots are all you need to start your approach play, even on longer par 5 and above holes.
Since the short game is so important, leaving out gaps in your short irons loft spread means that you are missing out on a tool that can handle a significant spread of yardage.
And the 10 degree spread between a PW and SW is too wide to ignore especially since this is usually a range where you are looking to get on to the green from the fairway at between 75-120 yards. A GW offers you a lot of variety on you short attacking game.
You can either use it for a full swing shot to cover up to 110 yards with a loftier trajectory than your PW, or you can use it for lofted half shots straight on to the green at distances more than your SW can handle.
In short, there is too much versatility on offer from a gap wedge for any golfer to ignore in their short game strategy. If 90% or more of the pros are using a gap wedge, you can infer the capabilities of this club.
If you don’t use gap wedges at all in your short game, you really ought to at least consider it from now on. You might be surprised at the improvement in your overall scores.
Gap Wedge Features To Look For
Focus on the Loft
Manufacturers are increasingly marketing wedges based on their loft angle configurations rather than strict labels like PW, GW and SW.
IF yo are searching for a gap wedge to complete your short iron collection, look at the lofts of the irons you already have and choose your gap wedge based on the gap between your PW and SW.
An ideal spacing between your wedges for optimum spread would be 4 degrees each, meaning, if you have a 45 degree PW, buy a gap wedge that is in the 49-51 degree range.
The traditional wedges have a standard sole design on which various manufacturers add further machining to provide improved grinds suitable for various turf conditions, increasing the versatility of the gap wedge.
But this is highly contextual decision to make and since changing soles also affect the overall bounce of the wedge, buyers are better off taking advice from their local clubfitter before choosing the best sole grind to suit their needs and local course conditions.
These are like the treads on a car tire. If you put a premium on impact sound and feel, vintage finish grooves are what you need.
For those looking for added spin on their wedge shots, laser etched grooves provide the best optimization.
This feature on the curvy leading edge of the clubface is what helps a wedge to cleanly hit through rough uneven surfaces like sand and dirt without snagging. The choice of bounce angle depends on your course conditions and what you intend to do with your versatile gap wedge.
If you plan to use it more in drier conditions and tighter lies, or have shallow attack angles, select a wedge with a bounce angle below 10 (low). On wetter conditions, or if you have a steeper attack angle, wedges with standard bounce is ideal (10-16). For reference, sand wedges tend to have high bounce (16+).
This is more of a cosmetic choice depending upon the personal preferences of the individual golfer.
Other than the old school steel and chrome, you can now get gap wedges in copper, nickel, oil can, rusty, black nickel and raw finishes.
Best Gap Wedges Reviewed
The MD 3 or “Mack Daddy” 3 family of wedges derive their name golfer Phil Mickelson’s description of certain high spin grooves created by Callaway a while ago. This is an extensive line of wedges, with 15 models, 14 loft angles and 3 types of grooves.
Regardless s of your requirements and turf conditions, chances are high that there is an MD 3 gap wedge out there that will suit you to a T.
- A multitude of options and configurations that covers pretty much every conceivable wedge requirement
- Excellent forgiveness and control
- The wedges rather heavy
A generous cavity back wedge that is friendly to beginners and mid level players, this wedge has a laser etched face and loft options going all the way from 46 degrees to 64, along with multiple head and sole configurations.
So if you need a friendly gap wedge in the 49-54 degree range, this is a good options with a lot of spin on offer, with 3 bounce options in high, medium and low.
- The specially designed clubface optimizes friction and provides generous amounts of spin, providing high control shots into the green.
- Excellent forgiveness for double digit handicappers
- Not for more experienced players, though there is a blade version from Cleveland for those people
The Mizuno S5 series has a game improvement aura thanks to its more than generous head dimensions.
These wedges still stand out due to the fact that they are one of the few options out there manufactured via forging as opposed to the cheaper casting methods.
They do have less options compared some of the competition, with 10 loft options with added matching soles in 5 versions.
- Ideal wedges for low and mid handicappers.
- Forged heads is an uncommon option in this class and give extra feel and grip,
- Visually striking finish, especially in the blue color versions
- Somewhat limited grind options in each loft angle
The Dyla-wedge grip is one of the highlight features on this cast head with a cavity back design from Ping. It has been specifically designed with hand markings down the shaft to assist a golfer in better hand placement, good for executing both full swing shots as well as less powered half shots with ease.
There is also a moisture repellent chrome finish that improves performance in damp and wet conditions with more spin and control.
- Good mix of forgiveness and control, especially in moist conditions.
- The special hand grips are a nice touch for players learning to control and vary their swing
- There are no published bounce numbers for the soles, so if you want to go for a gap wedge with a specific bounce configuration, maybe this is not the choice for you
These classy and traditional looking wedges from TaylorMade score very highly on the looks department thanks to a smoky PVD finish that is shiny yet non-glare, which is a rare and desirable combo.
TaylorMade claims a lot of technical wizardry when it comes to the grooves, which all boils down to some extra friction and grip. The spin levels though are nothing to write home about, giving just about average performance.
The shaft and soles though are excellent and offer great stability and loft. All in all, a decently specced series of wedges for the mid handicapped players.
- Best in class finish and looks, high drool quotient
- Unique precision manufacturing process for the clubhead ensures precise grooves that are more durable
- Despite the precision machined grooves, the spin and control are only par for the course
As you might have already gathered, picking the best gap wedge is not a cut dried affair. Wedges these days are being sold under a mind boggling array of configurations and loft angle choices. Before anything else, you have to first figure out the gaps in your short iron loft progression.
Rather than searching for a sand wedge or gap wedge or pitching wedge, consumers are being encouraged to simply search based on their loft angle requirements.
So, when shortlisting the best gap wedges, rather than looking at individual wedges, one has to look at a series of wedges offered by different manufacturers.
The above list was compiled looking the overall performance, fit and finish as well as availability of choice in terms of configurations.
Based on all these considerations, it would be safe to say that the Callaway MD 3 Milled series of wedges can be expected to have some of the wedges on offer.
What sold us to this series from Callaway was the balance between performance and accessibility, combined with the sheer number of choice in terms of loft, sole and groove options