The lob wedge is a hot topic in golf right now. I can’t name a professional golfer who doesn’t use one, but I only know one or two amateurs who do. And those amateurs are low single-digit handicap players. They’re not pros, but as players they’re head and shoulders above most of us.
There are several pros and cons to carrying this type of wedge. For highly accomplished players, the pros far outweigh the cons. But is that true for the rest of us? Should we be carrying one in our bags?
For most of us, a bump-and-run chip is a higher-percentage and safer play than a lob shot. In some cases, though, you just can’t do a bump-and-run. How could you when there’s a bunker between you and the green? Or a landscaping feature, like a grassy knoll, a group of flowers or bushes. Sometimes a soft, high lob shot onto the green is your only option.
So, in the right hands, a lob wedge provides a lot of advantages. You know those high, soft flop shots Phil Mickelson specializes in? It’s one of golf’s prettiest shots, but it’s also one of the toughest to pull off.
If you can handle a lob wedge you could be hitting that same type of shot. The kind of shot that lets you hit the ball high over a greenside bunker or other obstacle, and then stop the ball short, right alongside the pin. With that type of high lob shot there isn’t much rollout. But that’s not the only situation where one of these lofted clubs can help. Sometimes you need to chip onto the green but have very little green to work with. In that case, the high lob can be a great shot, but only if you have the right technique and a lie that lets you slide the club head beneath the ball.
This type of wedge can help you hit the ball high and land it softly on the green. So what’s the problem? Why don’t we all have one in our bag, just for the type of shots I’ve described above? It sounds like it would be perfect as a scoring club ...
There are two main disadvantages to carrying a lob wedge: it’s probably the most difficult of any club to hit properly; and carrying one means you’ll need to forego carrying some other club that you might use more often. You’re limited to fourteen clubs in your bag, and one will probably need to come out to make room for the wedge. Which one do you put away in your garage? Should it be your sand wedge? Nope, that would be a mistake. And removing one of your other wedges or short irons would probably be an equally bad move. You don’t want to take your driver out, do you? What about your 3-wood or hybrid? You see the dilemma.
The other problem is how difficult it can be to hit a lob wedge properly. For one thing, it will be the most lofted club in your bag, often somewhere between 58 degrees and 64 degrees. Because of the extreme loft, balls hit with a lob wedge will fly higher but shorter than balls hit with a sand wedge. They are used for short, finesse shots – and many of us just don’t have the level of expertise required to hit one well.
Unfortunately, they’re easy to “chili-dip” – a situation where your ball moves only a few feet when it’s hit. And, although they’re used for very short shots, hitting a lob wedge requires a full swing, one that’s every bit as full as the swing you’d use with your driver. Psychologically, it’s hard to make yourself take a full-blown swing for a shot you hope only travels 30 or 40 yards, if that. It requires a combination of finesse and power, and that’s a difficult combination for most amateurs.
Lob wedges are popular with the pros, but many of them only carry one fairway wood, while amateurs often have two or three woods in their bags. That means the pros have room for an extra wedge. And being pros, they’re more skilled than recreational golfers. It’s a difficult club to hit well, but it can be a tremendous weapon in the hands of skillful players. Unfortunately, for those who can’t hit them well, carrying a lob wedge can be a terrible mistake. In that case not only does it mean losing strokes because of poor shots – it also means another club (and one that will be easier to hit) has to come out of the bag. Still, though, it can be worth a try. With enough practice, you might be lucky enough to perfect the lob shot.