9 Iron vs Pitching Wedge: Learning When to Use Each

Your short irons, wedges, and putter are your money clubs.

You need to stiff your approach shots to put yourself in a position to make your birdie putt. In this post, I focus on the features and differences between a 9 iron vs pitching wedge.

The aim is to give you deeper insight into the construction and performance of each club and to teach you how to optimize your performance in this area. After learning all the ins and outs of these clubs, I will reveal when to use them and which spins and hits higher.

 

Overview of The 9 Iron and Pitching Wedge

A 9 iron and pitching wedge are weaker lofted clubs designed to send your golf ball high and land it softly. A 9 is the last iron in your set before you move into the wedges. The shorter shaft on this club makes it an easy club for most amateurs to control, enhancing consistency.

On the other hand, a pitching wedge carries the strongest loft of the golf clubs in this category and bridges the gap between your 9-iron and approach wedge.

Golfers usually swing a pitching wedge for short full shots because it produces adequate distance, high trajectory, and a soft landing. This helps you stick it close to the pin for a makeable putt. In addition, a pitching wedge is used for pitch shots and chips.

Differences Between a 9 Iron and Pitching Wedge

Loft

The first difference that strikes me between these clubs is the degrees of loft. On average, a 9-iron is constructed with 38.5 to 39 degrees of loft, making it the weakest lofted iron in your set. Conversely, a pitching wedge loft typically measures between 43.5 and 44 degrees.

These days it is common to find stronger lofted clubs designed to increase distance. In this case, you may find a 36.5-degree 9-iron and a 41-degree pitching wedge, like the Callaway Rogue ST Max OS irons.

The difference in loft impacts backspin, apex, descent angle, and distance of your shots. Technically, the weaker the loft is, the more it spins and the higher it launches, leading to fewer yards.

Shaft Length

Shaft length is the next clear difference between a 9-iron vs pitching wedge. These golf clubs follow the trend of mid and short irons with a reduction of 0.5-inches per club. For example, the standard 9-iron shaft is 36.25” compared to 35.75” for a pitching wedge.

The shafts of these clubs are not particularly long, and most golfers have little difficulty swinging either of them. However, the shorter the shaft of the club is, the easier it is to control and catch the ball out of the sweet spot.

Face Lie Angle

The lie angle of your clubface increases as the loft of your irons weakens. For example, an 8-iron carries a lie angle of 63.5-degrees, whereas a 9-iron sits at 64 degrees.

Then you move onto the wedges where everyone has the same angle. A gap, lob, and sand wedge all sport a lie angle of 64.5-degrees, half a degree more than the 9-iron.

The reason for the angle changes in your irons is to help keep the clubface square to the target. If the face lie angle is incorrect, it can cause you to hook and slice your shots.

Bounce

Legendary wedge designer Bob Vokey describes bounce as the angle between the leading edge and the lowest mark on the sole. The higher the degree of bounce, the more forgiveness your clubs offer.

It propels the clubface towards the ball for clean strikes, even on mishits. Instead of your clubhead digging into the turf, it springs into the ball to produce ultimate ball speed and spin.

Offset

When manufacturers enhance the offset of irons, it restricts workability and promotes straight ball flight. Although this feature is ideal for full-swing shots with hybrids, it reduces your control with short irons and wedges.

That is why you’ll notice that stronger lofts possess enhanced offset angles, whereas a 9-iron and pitching wedge feature less. However, the wedge features an average of 0.4 to 0.7 millimeters less offset than a 9-iron. This means it produces increased side spin and backspin compared to the shorter iron.

Backspin

There is not much in the backspin numbers between these two golf balls. But as marginal as it may be, there is a difference. I typically produce 7200 rpm of backspin with a 9-iron compared to 8200 with a pitching wedge.

This impacts my apex, descent angle, and roll. Since I produce higher backspin levels with a pitching wedge, it should travel shorter and stop faster on landing.

Trajectory

As I explained before, backspin impacts the apex and trajectory of your golf ball. The more backspin you produce, the higher your golf ball should launch. However, high launch angles do not translate into an elevated apex.

As a moderate swinger myself, I get a 9-iron 25-yards into the air and a pitching wedge 22-yards. The lower trajectory stems from a slower clubhead and ball speed, preventing the ball from reaching the levels of a 9-iron.

On the other hand, I launch a pitching wedge an average of 1.5-degrees higher than my 9-iron.

Clubhead Speed

The longer your shaft is, the faster your clubhead speed is bound to be. When your clubhead speed accelerates, it improves your ability to produce a powerful strike and generate rapid ball pace.

As you reduce the length of your shaft, you begin to lose clubhead speed. This is evidenced by the discrepancy between my 4-iron, 7-iron, and lob wedge velocity. I average 79 mph on full swings with a 4-iron compared to 62 mph with a 60-degree.

This remains the case between the 9-iron and pitching wedge as well. My average clubhead zip with a 9-iron is 70 mph, compared to my pitching wedge’s 68 mph.

 

Which Club Typically Hits Further?

A 9-iron hits the golf ball further than the higher launching, spinning pitching wedge. In my case, I send the shorter iron 120-yards on a golf course. Whereas I produce 108-yards with a pitching wedge.

Furthermore, the added spin created by the 9-iron causes the ball to roll marginally further than the wedge. To give context, I swing a driver between 87 and 90 mph, which is in line with the average golfer.

Those who swing a driver around 80 mph will send their 9-iron approximately 9 yards further than a pitching wedge. In addition, an average swing speed of 70 mph may produce 12-yards over the wedge.

 

When to Use Each Club

9-Iron

Approach Shots

The most common scenario where you swing a 9-iron is on short approach shots from the fairway or the rough.

These are strikes from 79 to 119 yards for slow to moderate swingers. These are the shots where I recommend attacking the flag and trying to position yourself for a makeable birdie putt.

Par 3 Tee Shot

On the odd occasion, you may face a short par 3 where a 9-iron is a suitable option. I have provided a video below of me striking a 9-iron off a par 3.

The 7th hole at my local course has an outrageous layout. Multiple towering blue gum trees sit directly in front of the tee box. That forces you to elevate the ball rapidly to clear the canopy. I have posted a clip below of a recent shot on this hole to show what I mean.

Don’t get too comfortable with these short holes because they do not come around every day.

Lay up

You’ll find that a 9-iron is a suitable option for lay up shots. These are necessary when your mission is to land your golf ball short of a water hazard or bunkers. The spin and high trajectory help land your ball softly and eliminate the risk of rolling into trouble.

Bump and Run Shots

The stronger loft of the 9-iron makes it an attractive profile to initiate a bump and run from the fringe of the green.

It launches lower than a lob, sand, pitching, or gap wedge and generates faster ball speed. These characteristics help you run the ball up to the hole, reducing bounce and the risk it brings with it.

Pitching Wedge

Approach Shots

The average golfer will employ a pitching wedge for full swings between 73 and 109 yards. The high launch and backspin minimize roll to help you stick the ball close to the cup. Like your 9-iron, a full pitching shot is a time to be aggressive and attack the pin since the ball is likely to stop rapidly.

Lay Up

I explained what a lay-up is above, and like a 9-iron, the pitching wedge is an excellent choice for this shot. It’s an ideal way to produce an accurate, controlled shot, positioning yourself optimally for the next strike.

Pitch Shot

As its name suggests, a pitching wedge works well for pitch strikes. These are short game shots where your golf ball flies further than it rolls. You play these shots on slower greens when you want to get the ball up to the cup and stop it quickly.

Of course, you can play a pitch shot with a sand or gap wedge, but a pitching wedge allows you to do so from further out.

Chip Shot

In perfect conditions, golfers will use a higher lofted wedge such as a sand or lob for greenside chip shots. However, a pitching wedge works as well. That is the first club I used to chip with, and it did everything I asked.

A chip shot rolls further than it flies. Therefore, the stronger loft of a pitching wedge produces the speed and run needed to get the ball to the cup.

Besides greenside chip shots, the wedge is a safe option to help you chip out from the trees. Its shorter shaft enables you to better control the club and strike the ball in the middle to get it out of the woods. Make sure you place the ball on your back foot to limit the risk of launching it into the overhanging branches.

Clearing Trees

I thought about this the other day when I sliced my drive onto the parallel fairway. I had a wall of trees between the correct fairway and my ball, and there were few gaps for me to punch through.

That is where my pitching wedge came in handy. Its weaker loft and high launch helped me hoist my ball comfortably over the canopy and back into play.

Fairway Bunkers

I suggest swinging a sand wedge for the added loft on greenside bunker shots. However, when your ball ends in a fairway bunker, I advise pulling out a pitching wedge, launching the ball skywards, and getting it back into play.

Obviously, that depends on how your ball is lying in the bunker. In extreme circumstances, you may need a sand or lob wedge to escape.

 

Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years.