You might think that attack wedges are a new addition to the golfing world. Some exciting new tech to improve your short game. This is both completely wrong and actually more true than you might realise! Confused? It really isn’t that complicated despite what I just wrote. Let’s dig into the world of this short game Swiss army knife.
We probably need to go back in history at least a little bit in order to understand just what an attack wedge is all about. If we go back to the 1980s (perhaps even a bit later) and before, nothing like this actually existed. In fact, there was really no way it could have been any different.
A Marketing Gap Wedge?
For example, I have a set of old school blades in one of my back up bags. You can see the pitching wedge and sandwedge in the photo. This set is complete. That is to say that it runs all the way from 1 iron (don’t even think about hitting it!) to sandwedge. There is certainly nothing between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge.
This doesn’t mean that I am missing a club either. There is simply no space for an extra club here. I haven’t measured the lofts but I am guessing that the pw is at least 50 degrees, possibly even one or two more. The sandwedge is probably 56. What are you going to fit between the two? And why would you even bother? There is no gap to fill.
This brings us to the birth of the gap wedge. There was no intrinsic need to have a gap wedge. It is simply a logical development of creeping lofts. If you aren’t familiar with the idea of creeping lofts, that is a whole other can of worms! The short version is that golf club lofts especially on irons have become progressively stronger over time. The 35 degree seven iron from a few years ago has become a 28 degree seven iron today.
The reasons for this are essentially commercial. Distance sells. If your 7 iron goes further, that’s great right? Nobody points out that this seven would have been a six or five a few years ago.
Of course, if the 7 gets stronger, all the other clubs have to follow suit. Our 50 degree pitching wedge is now a 45 degree pitching wedge. Unfortunately, our sand wedge can’t follow along. A 50 degree sand wedge becomes a useless club because it doesn’t fit the purpose. It is’t great for getting the ball up and out of a greenside bunker or lobbing it over a hazard from rough to a short-sided pin. Our 56 needs to stay as a 56.
Now we have a problem. The gap between a 45 pitching wedge and a 56 sand wedge is too big so the gap wedge (not yet the attack wedge) was created. A 50 degree wedge fills the gap perfectly.
this is actually another win for the club manufacturers. Now they can sell the iron set with an extra club or sell another specialist gap wedge which is going to generate more revenue.
If this sounds cynical, it is also in large part the reality of the golf industry. It isn’t easy for companies to stay afloat. Look at the number of companies who have gone out of business over the last few decades. Being able to sell more clubs by creating a new need in the market is huge.
It doesn’t make this a totally useless invention however. Adding in a gap wedge actually lets us have better tools to play the various short game shots rather than just filling in a full shot distance gap.
Using Bounce and Grind
For example, you can start playing around with things like bounce and grind. Maybe your set pitching wedge is essentially just a “ten iron.” Getting another wedge before the specialist bunker club means that you can play shots that weren’t as easily doable before.
For example, you could make this wedge essentially like a sandwedge with a lot of bounce but less loft. Great for longer pitches or bunker shots. Or perhaps you might like something with a traditional wedge design but less than 50 degrees of loft. As much as this gap was created through marketing, it can really add options.
This is when the marketing men once again jumped on the bandwagon and christened this gap wedge the “attack wedge.” Aside from the obvious commercial angle, I do actually like the idea of attack wedges. I like the idea of picking a club to really go after the flag.
From Wedge to Chipper
I think this club might be the most player-dependent one in the bag too. For example, my current attack wedge is actually a chipper! It feels a distance gap between pitching and sand wedges but also lets me play a variety of short game shots. In the past, I have had a classic 52 wedge in there. It was there as a versatile club that did a little bit of everything. At other times, I have played a system with what is basically 2 sand wedges in 54 and 58.
Some people even prefer to have an 11 iron in the bag by having a gap/attack wedge which is the same as the pitching wedge which is in turn the same as the nine iron. I can see the point of this, especially for less-experienced golfers. I think that most reasonable way of building a bag once you can play a bit is to think about which club or clubs really help you attack the flag.
For some golfers, this might be a standard wedge. For others, you might want to play around with some different options and turn this marketing ploy to your advantage.