Why You Need a Lob Wedge

Students in my short game schools ask all the time about how to hit high, soft shots. I tell them the first thing they should do is invest in a lob wedge. Let’s say you have 40 yards to a pin, and you have to carry a bunker with only a few yards of green to work with. You need the right tool — a lob wedge — to hit the ball high and land it softly enough to stop by the hole. The following is a collection of answers to the questions I hear most about lob wedges.

Question: Who needs a lob wedge?

Pelz: Everyone who wants to score better. If I were your caddie, I’d recommend a lob wedge for shots over high obstacles, to tucked pins, from downhill lies and certainly when playing super-fast greens. Basically, the lob wedge is useful for any shot where loft is the primary requirement.

Question: But I’m a high-handicapper. You mean I should get a lob wedge, too?

Pelz: The more greens you miss, the more you need a lob wedge.

Question: Can high-handicappers hit a lob wedge successfully?

Pelz: The killer mistake in hitting a lob wedge is deceleration, which causes your hands to lag behind the clubhead at impact. Anyone can learn to overcome this. If your hands are even with or ahead of the ball and you accelerate the club through impact, you’ll find that high, soft shots are easier to hit with a lob wedge than with any other club.

Question: So why do the Tour pros need a lob wedge?

Pelz: Because they miss greens, too, and those greens are faster and have tougher pin positions these days. Lob wedges make it easier to hit high shots with enough backspin to stop finesse shots near the hole.

Question: Why can’t I just open the face of my sand wedge to hit higher shots?

Pelz: You can, but you shouldn’t, for the same reason you hit a 7-iron from 140 yards instead of an open-faced 5-iron. It’s easier to hit the ball solid and straight with a square-faced club.

Checklist: Lob Wedge Keys
Have confidence: You can hit high, soft shots with a lob wedge. Here’s a short checklist of keys to take with you as you groove your swing
Play the ball in the middle of your stance, with your weight balanced
Limit your backswing to about three-quarter length
Lead the downswing with your left hand, so it’s even with or ahead of the ball at impact
Accelerate to a full finish

Question: But I’m confused. I always thought the higher-percentage play was to pitch the ball low. Are you sure lob wedges are as easy to hit as less-lofted wedges?

Pelz: Yes, absolutely. Lob wedges are the easiest clubs to use when the situation calls for a high trajectory and a soft landing. Of course rolling a ball onto the green with a putter, or hitting a low, running chip gives you the largest margin for error. But neither of those shots do you much good when you need to fly the ball over a bunker and stop it quickly.

Question: Can you give me one tip that will make my lob wedge shots better?

Pelz: How about two: Play the ball in the middle of your stance and accelerate past impact. My swing goes only three-quarters of the way back, and then I make a full finish. The reason is that a longer through-swing insures smooth acceleration. For a shorter shot, swing one-quarter of the way back, then finish with your hands at chest-height to get the same accelerating effect.