The Best Sand Wedges For 2017

As a beginner, a Sand Wedge (SW) is probably one of the first solo clubs you end up buying. Most golf starter kits do not include a sand wedge in their selection of clubs, though exceptions can be found. This is not without good reason. Early on, golf newbies are expected to familiarize themselves with the basic clubs and swing action before trying the more specialized clubs like wedges.

But once you get a hang for the game, you should definitely consider getting a sand wedge to dramatically improve your short game. Here we have a shortlist of some of the best sand wedges in the market. They include:

But before we take an in depth look at the pros and cons of each of these products, let us go over a few things to keep in mind when looking for a decent sand wedge.

Why Even Buy A Sand Wedge?

This is actually a really good question. Beginner iron sets usually include an all purpose pitching wedge (PW). This is enough for novices and high handicappers in most instances when a wedge is required to hit the ball into the green from anywhere under 140 yards. But golf is far from being just about the long distance game. In fact, it is the short game that can have a massive impact on your final score. And to improve your chances for shots under 100 yards, you definitely need more than just a PW.

And as its name suggests, a sand wedge is something you usually reach for when the ball is trapped in a sand bunker somewhere near the green. With its high loft, you can hit the ball high and clean out of the bunker. But that is not all what this club can do. Experienced golfers will use them in all kinds of lie close to the green, be it the sand, fairway, rough or anything else. You see, the key in the short game is figuring out the optimal balance between elevation and distance for each situation. You also have to factor in things like your lie in, the surface condition, approach angle, topography, presence of any elevated hazards between you and the green etc. If you have a sand wedge with you, you have a reliable option to hit the ball from any surface, high enough to clear most hazards and yet drop with minimal roll on to the greens.

Loft Angles and Optimal Spread

These days manufacturers rarely market wedges in hard and fast brackets like PW, SW, GW and LW. The focus is more on the available loft angles. Simply put, a loft angle of any golf club determines the elevation of the flight achieved by a golf ball. Higher the loft angle, the steeper your ball will climb into the air. Each specialized wedge falls within a specific range of lofts. For instance a modern pitching wedge could be anywhere between 44-48 degrees. A lob wedge is usually in the 60-64 degree range while the sand wedge has been traditionally somewhere in the 54-58 degree range.

Over time, the loft angles of irons kept falling, eventually resulting in a wide gap between a modern PW (44 degrees) and a traditional sand wedge (54 degrees). Ideally, the clubs should have a stable progression in loft angles somewhere in the vicinity of 4 degrees. The gap wedge was created to bridge the gap between a modern PW and a sand wedge. If you have a 46 PW, you should ideally go for a 50 GW and a 54 SW. So when you are looking for a good sand wedge and you come across a sand wedge with multiple loft angle options within the 54-58 degree range don’t fret too much on it. Check the other wedges in your set and pick the one that best matches the optimal 4 degree dispersion and you should be all set.

Other Considerations

Bounce: one of the most misunderstood term in golf parlance, a “bounce” of a club has absolutely nothing to do with the behavior of the golf ball. Wedges are commonly used in rough and difficult terrain, when the ball is often half submerged in sand or other hazards. The “bounce’ of a wedge is the area at the sole of the clubhead most likely to hit the ground surface while hitting the ball. Bounce is defined and categorized according to the bounce angle in degrees. Higher bounce angles helps the club strike cleanly above the surface without getting stuck in the sand or the turf.

Different wedges have different ideal bounces. For excellent sand wedges, a high bounce is considered ideal, somewhere between 12 and 16 degrees. This allows them to hit cleanly even when the ball is buried in light sand or deep roughs, producing shots with steep elevation that carries the ball high up in the air.

Shafts: Steel shafts are all you need if you are a regular golfer. Juniors, Women and Senior citizens may be better off with a graphite shaft as it improves on low swing speeds . But in terns of feedback and feel, nothing beats steel when it comes to wedges.

Finish: a matter largely of personal choice and preference, some types of finish can have a slight impact on the performance of a wedge. But this only occurs after some time, as wear and tear and rust increases the potential friction on the clubface, increasing the chances of spin and control. But this is a very minimal increment, and should not as such affect your choice regarding the type of finish you desire for your wedge.

Sole Grind: Manufacturers often offer advanced design improvements on their wedges, by literally grinding away portions of the clubhead sole to improve performance in specific situations. This is an advanced option left untouched unless you are an expert golfer who knows his game and course very well. Or else, you can consult your clubfitter before choosing the optimal sole grind design.

Best Sand Wedges Reviewed

Callaway MD3 Milled Wedge

This series from Callaway has one of the most comprehensive selection of wedges you can hope for. Ranging from PW to LW, in all loft configurations, two types of finishes, three different sole grind options, you can easily find a high performing sand wedge of your choice somewhere within this pack.

And they also have a unique sole design developed by Callaway with inputs from the legendary pro Phil Mickelson himself.

PROS


  • Unique clubhead design gives excellent spin control
  • Playable on multiple surfaces and lies, a really versatile sand wedge
  • The matte black finish looks especially stylish and fetching

CONS


  • Not the most forgiving option for beginners and high handicappers
  • Expensive, so choose the right configuration carefully to avoid extra expenses in refitting

As we already noted, manufacturers are trying to provide a series of wedges in multiple loft angle, bounce and sole grind configurations to cover any possible wedge requirement a golfer might have. The Vokey SM6 is no exception to this trend with loft ranges from 46 to 62 and bounces from 4 to 12 degrees.

And these are then further available in 4 different levels of grind. The end result is a series of highly specialized wedges that can play a bevy of different shots and fill the gaps in any golfer’s bag.

PROS


  • Highly focused specialized performance on offer with multiple loft bounce and grind options
  • Very soft and responsive feel and pronounced feedback, the sand wedges from this series can really dominate the sand.
  • Clean and minimalist looks, simply the best in class.

CONS


  • Not too friendly for beginners and high handicappers, thanks to the bewildering array of choice

This is an unusual offering from Mizuno, with a larger clubface that has been created via the forged route as opposed to the usual casting method. The clubface is quite longer and deeper than average, making the S5 a tasty option for mid to high handicappers.

The sand wedges come in lofts from the standard 54-58 range, so there is adequate amount of choice. Though there is not much in way of grind and bounce options, the high forgiveness of the clubface suggests that the target audience of this wedge will not miss those features too much.

PROS


  • A very forgiving clubface design makes this ideal for high handicappers as well
  • A versatile wedge with excellent all round performance
  • The finish choices, especially the Blue Ion finish looks very stunning

CONS


  • Less configuration options when compared to other wedges in the list
  • The forgiveness detracts slightly from overall performance
  • The blue finish may wear off quickl

The choice between Cavity back and more traditional blade design in specialized wedges like the Sand Wedge comes entirely down to personal preferences rather than any significant considerations regarding performance.

The 2.0 series has both options, along with 3 grind options as well as lofts from 46 to 64 and bounce angles from 6 to 14. Just for sand wedges along that offers up a mind-boggling variety of choice.

PROS


  • The blade heads will work for better players while the cavity backs offer good forgiveness for mid to high handicappers.
  • The deeper grooves on the clubface offer excellent spin and control
  • Outstanding finish quality, with black and satin options

CONS


  • The feel and feedback are not the best in class
  • The black finish may not last long

No top 5 list of golf clubs would be complete without at least an honorable mention of this brand. There are several manufacturers who provide high priced top of the line clubs. But no other brand has made a virtue of churning out extremely affordable yet highly dependable clubs quite like Wilson.

Their FG Tour wedge, though not their cheapest range, still manages to offer good value for money at rates less that most other clubs in this list.

PROS


  • The sand wedges are true life savers, capable of reviving your game with booming shots from the most treacherous sand bunkers
  • Firm and honest feedback, excellent for golfers seeking game improvements
  • No fancy design elements, just plain old school looks, clean and straightforward

CONS


  • Not too effective at anything beyond the shorter range
  • The mature looks may be too boring for some
  • The wider sole can prove to be a deal breaker for advanced golfers

Conclusion

Based on what we have seen from our shortlist of the best sand wedges out there, the market right now seems to be plagued by the problem of plenty. In some series, one could even end up looking at up to 30 different versions of a sand wedge! It is good to have such high degree of specialization, but having too much choice on offer can seem intimidating to people who don’t know exactly what they want.

If you are thinking about buying a new sand wedge, our advice would be to do your homework, figure out what you need based on your swing style as well as the courses you regularly play in and then go out and buy a sand wedge. As for our choice, it has to be something from the Titleist Vokey SM6 series for the sheer quality and variety of choice on offer.

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