When you think of the innovation of wedges in the game of golf, you think of two names, the Ali and Frasier of club design if you will……….you think of Bob Vokey and Roger Cleveland. Both men are an institution in golf equipment, and both men have perfected the craft of creating some of the best feeling and best performing scoring clubs the game has ever seen. They never rebuild, just simply retool. They take a great club and make it better. Both men’s offerings for 2020 are just that; better.
The Titleist SM8 line by Vokey look way different than the couple previous models, but the big thing here is center-of-gravity (CG). Vokey’s progressive CG placement began back in the SM6 line. They featured a lower center of gravity in the lower lofted clubs and a higher center of gravity in the higher lofted clubs. The lower CG in the stronger lofts maximized speed, spin, and launch on fuller swings. You play a lot of your “touch” shots and delicate pitches with your higher lofted wedges, and having a higher CG in these clubs helped keep the ball from rolling up the face and coming up woefully short. The progressive CG placement continues in the new SM8 family. Uncle Bob (I’m not his nephew), and his team pushed the CG forward right behind the face. They lengthened the hosel and placed tungsten in the toe to help counterbalance all the change in weight. This forward CG increases the MOI (moment of inertia), which is the club’s resistance to twisting, by 7%. Improving a club’s MOI without redesigning the look and shape of a golf club is a huge homerun for Vokey and Titleist. An appealing look is always sought after when a player chooses a wedge, and Bob nailed that characteristic years ago.
Along with the same Spin Milled grooves you have grown to love, the SM8’s also contain micro-grooves. These micro-grooves are individual cut grooves between the main grooves and they help increase spin on little half swings and partial shots. The faces are than put through a specialized heat treatment which is done in order to add durability, and ensure that the groves don’t wear out too quickly. This process also preserves the wedge’s incredible feel.
The SM8 wedges move forward with the same 6 sole grinds (F, M, S, K, L, and D), and multiple bounce angles to fit any player based on versatility and performance characteristics. There were more than 100 SM8 models in bags on tour last week, and the wedges already have two wins in 2020.
And in this corner we have Roger Cleveland. Founder and former CEO of Cleveland Golf, yes. But Callaway’s chief designer for more than a decade. The MD5 (Mack Daddy) line for 2020 boast Jaws grooves, which the company claims is golf’s most aggressive. Similar to Vokey’s micro-grooves, the MD5’s contain groove-in-groove technology. This, along with the sharp edge radius, will not only impart more spin but also add precision and control. Roger has always been a stickler for looks, and these 8620 mild carbon steel heads look great and feel fabulous from every angle. The shaping of the MD5 Jaws wedges also progressively changes depending on loft. The lob and sand wedge lofted heads are traditional, while the stronger gap and pitching wedge models are more compact to suit the eye of someone who prefers player’s irons.
Callaway offers 2 finishes, platinum and tour grey, and there are 23 loft/bounce combinations available with 5 different sole grinds. New this year is the W-Grind low bounce. This version has a wider mid-section and is perfect for the player who is a sweeper and takes little to no divot and wants to open the face around the greens. There is also a women’s specific line available for 2020.
Each brand’s respective website features a wedge-selector tool that will help you choose the correct loft, bounce, and grind. These tools can generalize it and help give you an idea, but nothing is better than hands-on, in-person fitting. Your wedges should be fit just like your driver. You hit them the most out of any club in your bag, and you need to get the most out of your short game to salvage a bad round or make a good round even better.
Here is what I have found with my own, personal testing of each. I played Cleveland wedges for years, from my teens to my mid-20’s. They had the label for years, just like Titleist with golf balls, that they were the best wedges and it was dumb to even look at anything else. I first played Vokey wedges with the SM5’s a few years ago, and they spun around the greens like no other. I didn’t love them on full swings, however. That’s where the Cleveland Jaws come to play. They perform well and feel phenomenal on full swings. With both manufacturers doing similar things when it comes to the groove patterns, they were very similar when it came to spin around the green; exceptional. The Mack Daddy 5 just feels better and has more pop from farther out. Vokey wedges always felt a little heavier to me, and I do prefer that out of greenside bunkers. But I can alter swing-weight and I am a feel player. Even though I feel this is Vokey’s best looking wedge ever, The MD5 still looks better.
Short-game spin: Vokey
Full swing performance: Callaway
Callaway MD5 Jaws – 3, Vokey SM8 – 2
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Picks
Your boy remains hot with the picks as all 3 finished inside the top-25 in Scottsdale last week. Bubba continues to show signs of life with a T-3, and John Rahm had a chance to win but fired his worst round of the week on Sunday, mustering only a 1-under 70 and finishing T-9. My sleeper Bud Cauley finished T-25 with a four-day total of -9. Let’s head to Pebble Beach shall we? No seriously, get me out of northeast Ohio and get me to the Monterrey Peninsula! Winner Brandt Snedeker Nobody putts on poa annua greens better, except for maybe Tiger, than Snedeker. He has 4 career wins between Pebble and Torrey Pines, and two top-10’s at the Opens held there. He’s ranked 6th in Strokes Gained Putting over the last 50 rounds held at Pebble. Will contend Graeme McDowell It’s tough to win back-to-back out there, but coming off the win in Saudi Arabia, and having won the US Open at Pebble in 2010 has him feeling good. He’ll be in the mix. Sleeper Scott Stallings In the last 3 years he’s finished T-14, 7th, and 3rd. He’s also never missed the cut. Horses for the courses I believe is the term.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Written by Seth Zipay, Head Golf Professional
Design and Published by Craig Walton