The pitching wedge is a fundamental wedge and generally included when you purchase a set of golf clubs. It's the easiest of the wedges to use, and from it you can learn the characteristics of all wedges.
You'll use your pitching wedge for shots between 110 and 125 yards and longer chips to the green. You normally use a full or nearly full swing with a pitching wedge.
A sand wedge usually needs to be bought separately because it's not generally included in a new set of clubs. It's mainly used to hit out of sand traps, although you can use it to hit from the fairway or out of the rough. Your sand wedge is for shots beginning about 90 yards from the pin. You won't use a full swing, so your ball doesn't fly over your target.
Balls hit with a sand wedge have a higher trajectory but don't travel as far as those hit with a pitching wedge.
Your pitching and sand wedges are lofted clubs. Loft is the angle of the club face next to a level surface. The loft determines the trajectory of the ball and how far it will go after it's hit. The more loft, the higher the trajectory but the less distance it will travel in the air. More loft will result in your ball rolling less after it hits the ground. After a well-struck wedge shot, the backspin on the ball will cause it to go backward when it hits the ground.
Pitching wedges have 45 to 48 degrees loft, and sand wedges have 55 to 60 degrees loft.
Another idiosyncrasy of a wedge is its bounce. Bounce is the angle of the club's trailing edge compared to the leading edge. Bounce determines the ease a wedge will slide through sand and heavier grass to get under your ball and lift it into the air.
The bounce angle of your pitching wedge is 0 to 5 degrees, and your sand wedge is 10 to 16 degrees. The degree of bounce is determined by adding weight to the club face, which usually makes your sand wedge the heaviest club you'll use.
The most important rule to remember with a wedge shot is to be sure your hands are ahead of the club face as you swing. This makes it possible for your wedge to get your ball high into the air quickly. To make sure your hands are in front of the club face as you swing, place the ball toward the back of your stance. This also helps you hit the ball on your down stroke.
When you start your swing, your weight should be toward the front of your body and remain that way throughout the swing. It's important not to bend your wrists during the swing trying to get the ball into the air. Swing naturally, keep your wrists stiff and let your club do the work of lifting your ball into the air.