Why Are Sand Wedges Used from the Fairway?

Sand wedges are, of course, used primarily to hit out of sand bunkers. But the club may also come in handy in other places.

The typical sand wedge is lofted about 56 degrees, so it may be useful for playing short, high pitch shots. The club’s bounce plate makes it a poor choice on hard ground, so make sure the turf is reasonably soft before using your sand wedge from the fairway.

Trust Your Loft

When you use the sand wedge outside of a bunker, golf instructor Bill Moretti says, trust the club’s loft, rather than adjusting the club head’s position on impact to try to help the ball rise.

He advises golfers to take a normal swing and focus on their finishing position when hitting a sand wedge. For example, players must frequently take partial swings when hitting short approaches from the fairway. For a shot hit with 80 percent effort, Moretti focuses on his follow-through position, which should be a bit short of a full swing’s ending point. If you must hit a shot higher than normal, adjust your setup rather than your swing. Moretti recommends using a slightly weaker grip, playing the ball farther forward and opening your shoulders relative to the target line.

Use Your Arms and Hands

To hit a high, soft pitch shot with a sand wedge your arms and hands must control the swing while the rest of your body remains firm, according to PGA pro Jim Flick.

He says golfers should set up with their weight on the front leg and the ball positioned opposite the front foot. Swing the club back and through, like a pendulum, so the club head’s weight naturally uncocks the wrists at the bottom of the downswing.

Downhill Lie

A sand wedge is often a good choice when hitting from a downhill lie. Such a lie naturally causes a flatter shot, so using a lofted club -- such as a sand wedge -- will help compensate for the difficult lie.

When setting up for this shot, golf writer Steve Newell suggests, play the ball about 2 inches farther back than normal and set your hands a bit farther forward. Balance your weight forward and keep your hands in front of the club head throughout the downswing.

When Not to Use a Sand Wedge

Never hit a sand wedge when your ball lies on hard-packed dirt or bare ground. The club’s bounce plate is made to literally bounce off of soft sand.

On a firm surface the club head will often bounce off the ground and strike the middle of the ball. Many golfers prefer using a pitching wedge or another lofted club without a bounce plate when hitting from bunkers with very hard sand.