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How to hit a sand wedge depends on the particular situation: where you are (sand, rough, fairway), what your lie is (tight, buried in the rough, etc.) and what shot you want to hit.
When it comes to the short, lofted irons like the sand wedge, pitching wedge or lob wedge, the concept for hitting them in each situation is the same.
What are the characteristics of a sand wedge?
Although the sand wedge is so named because it’s typically used to hit bunker shots, it is essentially just an iron with a clubface loft of around 54°-56°, which is generally in between a gap wedge and a lob wedge.
The sand wedge also has a shorter shaft than longer irons, at about 33-37 inches.
A sand wedge generally has a wider sole (the surface at the bottom of the club) and has more bounce than other irons. The term bounce refers to the quality or feature of an iron that allows it to “skim” the ground near the bottom of the swing arc.
With higher lofted clubs, the leading edge is more elevated than the trailing edge and thus is less able to dig into the ground. This is ideal in situations where we want to slide the club underneath the ball, launching it higher and having it land softer.
From the short grass (fairway, fringe, etc.), a sand wedge is played more or less the same as any other iron. The loft of the club will allow it to slide under the ball more and send it on a higher trajectory.
Some typical situations that would call for a sand wedge are:
- the ball is in the sand (of course)
- the ball is sitting in muddy ground, and/or is sitting down in the rough
- the ball is on firm grass and you want to hit a higher, softer shot
Below I’ll expand on the ideal techniques to use with your sand wedge when playing out of these lies.
When the ball is in the sand…
When you have a good lie in a greenside bunker and you want to hit your sand wedge, play it like you would any normal bunker shot.
Enter the sand about a couple inches behind the ball, and let the bounce of the club slide the clubface underneath the ball, lifting the ball into the air. If you have trouble hitting behind the ball, try moving the ball forward in your stance.
See my how-to article on hitting out of the bunker for more details and tips on hitting out of greenside bunkers.
When the ball is sitting down in the rough…
When you have a poor lie in the rough and you’re near the green, you want to avoid “chopping down” on the ball with the leading edge and digging your club into the ground.
With a sand wedge, the goal is to use the bounce and focus on working the club through the rough into the ball.
Take the club far enough back and make a full enough swing so that you have enough momentum to get the club through the grass. If you don’t, the grass will catch and slow your clubface and you will likely make bad contact with the ball.
Also make sure you rotate fully through your shot, as not doing so will tend to promote stopping the club in the grass and digging.
See this great short video on hitting lofted clubs out of greenside rough by golf instructor Ken Green:
When the ball is on the short grass…
Although hitting your sand wedge from the fairway is very similar to hitting any other iron, there is one key difference between the sand wedge and your other irons that presents some difficulties for many golfers.
With a sand wedge, the leading edge of the club is normally higher than the trailing edge — more so than any other club in the bag. This causes the sole of the club to touch the ground before the leading edge, and you end up hitting the ball thin or even topping it.
One way to get around this problem is to move the ball back in your stance. The end result of the new address position is your hands being more forward from the clubhead.
This does deloft the clubface slightly, but it also brings the leading edge down to the ground and elevates the trailing edge, thus solving the problem you were facing. It also makes it easier to hit down on the ball.
With this slightly altered setup, you can effectively make a normal swing and be more confident that you will make proper contact.
What sort of equipment is best for the job?
When determining what wedges work best for you, you need to figure out what lofts and bounce settings best suit your particular swing.
Although less skilled golfers generally need not worry too much about such things, it’s important for skilled golfers and professionals to get it right as it can make all the difference when trying to shoot a lower score.
If you don’t want to go through a custom fitting, a good thing to do is buy a quality wedge that has multiple loft and bounce settings, and experiment until you find a setting that works best for you.
Consider looking through the product reviews page for information and recommendations on quality wedges.
In a way, the proper technique for hitting a shot with a sand wedge depends on the lie and the shot you want to hit.
But maybe you’re really struggling with hitting your sand wedge and don’t know how to get better. Maybe the standard guidance just isn’t doing it for you.
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Thanks for reading. Are you learning how to hit a sand wedge or are struggling with it? Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below.