What Is a Gap Wedge? (And Why Is It Called That?)

Phil Mickelson hits a wedge shot during a PGA Tour tournament
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The gap wedge is a golf club with a high loft that is carried by some golfers to provide more accuracy and variety on short shots into the green. And understanding why it's called a "gap" wedge helps explain its purpose. So let's explain the name.

For much of the second half of the 20th century, golfers typically carried only two wedges, the pitching wedge, and the sand wedge. Pitching wedges had lofts in the mid- to upper 40-degree range, and sand wedges had lofts in the mid-50s. That left a gap of about 8 to 10 degrees of loft from the pitching wedge to the sand wedge.

So to close that gap, some golfers added wedges with lofts in-between the loft of the pitching wedge and the sand wedge. And that wedge, therefore, became known as the "gap wedge."

Before the gap wedge came along, golfers facing a shot whose distance fell between their pitching wedge yardage and sand wedge yardage had to either muscle up on the PW, or dial back the SW. Adding the gap wedge to the bag meant having more yardages covered - more ability to attack shots from wedge distances.

Who carries a gap wedge? They are most commonly found in the bags of mid- and especially low-handicappers - any golfer good enough in the short game to carry more wedges. (Remember, there is a limit of 14 golf clubs to a bag under the rules of golf, so adding one club might mean taking another away.)

Loft in Gap Wedges

The goal with gap wedge loft is to slot it between the lofts of your pitching wedge and sand wedge, so there is a consistent progression of loft through your wedges. The key is that the gap wedge falls somewhere in the middle - more loft than a pitching wedge, less loft than a sand wedge.

Typically, that means a gap wedge loft in the neighborhood of 50 degrees, but depending on a golfer's set configuration and the loft progression in the golfer's irons and other wedges, the gap wedge might range anywhere from 46 degrees to 54 degrees.

The Gap Wedge Goes By Several Other Names

The gap wedge is a golf club of many names. In addition to "gap wedge" - which is our preference, since that name describes the club's reason for being in the golf bag - it is also called an attack wedge, approach wedge, and A-wedge.

Whether any of these names will survive long-term is in question, though. Beyond the pitching wedge, it's becoming more and more common for club companies to use degrees of loft, rather than any specific name, to label their wedges. So Company X, rather than advertising a gap wedge, might instead refer to its 50-degree wedge.