If your equipment had superheros, the wedges would be Clark Kent. At first glance, they're nothing special. But when you're in trouble, your wedges become Superman, helping you out of tough situations. Today's models are true life-savers, and they don't need a telephone booth.
Drivers and irons are fun to hit. With each, you can consistently launch the ball more than a football field in length. Putting can be exhilarating, too, especially considering it's where golfers make up to 40% of their shots. But what about that critical distance from 100 yards away from the green, or from within a hazard, a bunker or deep rough? Truth is, as popular as drivers and putters have become, golf's real make-it-or-break-it distance lies within 100 yards of the green.
Ask any touring professional and he or she will tell you that your wedge game is where you can make up the most strokes. And since you're not going to hit every green and you're bound to find a bunker or two during a round, honing up on your skills from 100 yards and in is critical. Also, it's equally important to make sure you have the right tools to perform the myriad of shots required from these distances. High lobs, low chips, pitches, bump-and-runs—you have to have the right tools to execute them all. The good news is that there are plenty of options to help you get the job done. Modern wedges come in a wide range of finishes, sizes, metals and with grooves of varying shape. The question isn't if wedge technology exists, it's how can you use it your advantage.
The bulk of wedge design traits focus on the production of feel, which is of paramount importance in the short game. But when considering performance, nothing elicits more of an affect than sole design, encompassing the parameters of grind, shape and bounce angle. Basically, how the club interacts with the turf will tell a lot about how it will perform in your hands. Look to the sole first to find the most useful wedge for your swing.
Our Pro's Take On: Wedges I begin every new lesson with the short game. It doesn't matter if I'm teaching a beginner or a Tour player, if you can learn to turn three shots into two, you'll shoot lower scores.
In instruction lore, there's no greater story than Byron Nelson accepting a visit from a young Tom Watson who, at the time, was hampered by an errant driver. Eager to show Mr. Nelson his flawed swing, Watson yanked his driver from his bag and set up to hit. Before he could start his backswing, Nelson stopped him, reached over to Watson's bag, pulled out the sand wedge and handed it to Tom. "If you can show me you can swing the sand wedge correctly," Nelson quipped, "I'll let you hit your driver."
Heed Nelson's advice and perfect your wedge swing before moving up to your longer clubs—it sets the tempo for all full swings. — Marshall Smith, Peoria Ridge GC,Miami, Okla.
Bottoms Up While most wedges share a common shape and profile, what's happening on the sole really tells the story of how the wedge will perform. Sole shapes range from the subtle to the blatant, but all are designed to serve a particular purpose. Thinner soles, or soles with dual-bounce angles, allow golfers to adjust the clubface open at address without affecting the wedge's natural bounce angle. Wider soles are designed for golfers who want to avoid excess digging and generally work best when the face is set square at address. Built into the sole shape is the bounce, which refers to the angle between the leading trailing edges. Golfers with steep attack angles (those who make big divots) generally perform better with high-bounce wedges and golfers with normal to shallow swings, or who like to sweep the ball, do better with mid- to low-bounce models.
Cavity Search There's no denying that the most popular wedge design is that of the cast or forged blade, an equipment stalwart since the days of Nelson and Sarazen. However, several major manufacturers, including Cleveland, are integrating small cavities in the back of their blade designs. Cavities not only serve as a means for more forgiveness, they can actually be used to adjust the CG higher or lower on the clubhead for either a higher (low CG) or more controlled (high CG) trajectory.
Flip the club over and check out the grooves on today's top wedges. With computer-assisted milling machines, manufacturers can cut precise grooves at exacting dimensions and spacing for the utmost in spin and consistency.
Options, Options Any respectable family of wedges is available in a variety of loft and bounce configurations. In the case of Cleveland, the two dots indicate a "standard" amount of bounce for the given loft, which company designers have determined through years of testing and observation. Like Cleveland, most major manufacturers have also determined what "standard," or "low" bounce means for each loft increment, and built their wedges accordingly. What you need to know is that as wedge loft increases, bounce should decrease, and vice-versa. If your current wedge set doesn't adhere to this rule, fix it. Well-Connected Except for a few putter models, wedges have the longest hosels in golf. They're designed that way purposely, generally to raise the CG and afford more shotmaking versatility around the greens.
Material Matters: Rust In today's golf shops, wedges generally fall into two categories—chromed or unchromed. Chromed wedges are generally plated with nickel and/or chromium to protect the wedge from rust as well as to beautify the looks of the clubhead. Chrome can actually harden the face of what's otherwise a soft metal wedge for what some manufacturers consider as a recipe for added spin. Conversely, unchromed carbon-steel wedges often have an oil-based coating when you buy them, which later wears off to reveal a rusted, brownish finish. Some golfers claim the rust adds spin, while other opt for this look due its no-glare appearance. Either way, most experts agree that it's the grooves that impart the spin, not the finish. —Ryan M. Noll
Understanding Our Charts Features: The primary design elements that make the wedge(s) noteworthy. Advantages: How the primary design elements are meant to elevate the performance of the club. Benefits: A general recommendation as to which skill level or player type would best be served by the model in question. What We Like: We have our preferences, too. A quick description of what impressed us in our review and testing. Lineup: The other wedge models available from the manufacturer. Clubhead: The primary material from which the club is either forged or cast, usually a form of stainless or carbon steel. There are two basic designs: cavity-back or blade. Clubface: Indicates the material used for the strike area. Design: Here you'll find whether the club is forged or cast, and its general shape. Basically, wedges fall into two shape categories—blades or cavity-backs. Size: Three sizes listed—standard, midsized and oversized. Clubs: Lists the loft/bounce combinations available in the line and whether or not the clubs are available for lefties. Shaft(s): These are the stock graphite and steel shaft offerings from the manufacturer. Ben Hogan Apex www.benhogan.com (866) 834-6532 | $135
Thanks to a refined tail-end sole grind, classic shape and the maximum allowable groove width, the Apex wedges deliver championship-caliber performance. Features: Slight offset is handy to prevent slicing with irons, but on wedges, it commands a skilled player looking for total shotmaking control. Advantages: The deep grooves and Tour-inspired sole design help to spin the ball not only from perfect lies, but also from the rough and sand. Benefits: Although designed with the aid of Tour pros, these wedges will help any player. What We Like: The Apex 5208 gap wedge performs like a sand wedge, but with the distance of a pitching wedge. Lineup: Apex, Colonial, Carnoustie, Riviera Clubhead: Carbon steel Clubface: Same Design: Forged blade Size: Standard Clubs: 52_¡/8_¡ GW; 56_¡/12_¡ SW; 60_¡/6_¡ LW (no LH) Shaft(s): Ben Hogan Apex steel (wedge)
Bridgestone J33 Forged www.bridgestonegolf.com (800) 359-6319 | $129
These Black Satin wedges define performance, thanks to a double-cut sole for less drag and a trapezoidal muscle design for shotmaking consistency. Features: The U-grooves impart a ton of spin, and the leading edge grind prevents digging. Advantages: Better players will appreciate the raised CG, resulting in better trajectory and distance control on approach shots. Benefits: Although the design is Tour-inspired, all players can benefit from the clean geometry and shotmaking control of these beautiful wedges. What We Like: The elongated hosel (which raises the CG) is retro, but the feel and performance are anything but. Lineup: J33 Black Satin Forged, J33 Forged Clubhead: Carbon steel Clubface: Same Design: Forged muscleback Size: Standard Clubs: 52_¡/8_¡ GW; 56_¡/12_¡ SW; 60_¡/8_¡ LW (no LH) Shaft(s): True Temper Dynamic Gold steel (S)Callaway X-Tour www.callawaygolf.com (800) 588-9836 | $135 ($150 Vintage)
Renowned clubmaker Roger Cleveland designed these traditional forged wedges for Phil Mickelson and other accomplished players. Features: Forged carbon-steel construction, special PM (Phil Mickelson) grind and "Mack Daddy" grooves complement the Tour-inspired head shape (available in either Satin Chrome or Vintage finishes). Advantages: Carbon-steel construction provides exceptional feel while the sole grind and unique groove design makes the X-Tour extremely versatile, particularly for better players. Improved head shape provides confidence. Benefits: Better players who like to open and close the clubface to execute a variety of chips, pitches and lobs around the green. What We Like: Any wedge designed by Roger Cleveland. Lineup: Forged+, X-Tour Clubhead: Carbon steel Clubface: Same Design: Forged Blade Size: Standard Clubs: Eight loft and bounce configurations (available LH) Shaft(s): True Temper Dynamic Gold steel (wedge) Cleveland 588 DSG www.clevelandgolf.com (800) 999-6263 | $133 ($157 graphite)
The original 588 is still considered by most golfers and club designers to be the industry benchmark. However, Cleveland's R&D staff has been hard at work bringing the timeless design into the 21st century. Features: Arguably the most popular wedge shape of all time is left intact, but now features a unique Dynamic Sole Grind that's designed to allow the leading edge of the club to remain closer to the ground when the club is laid opened at address. Advantages: Gives players greater versatility around the greens. Benefits: Accomplished players who demand the ability to open and close the clubface to produce a variety of shots. What We Like: Innovative idea, same great overall design. Lineup: CG11 BP, CG11, CG10, CG10 BP 588, 588 DSG, 588 GunMetal Clubhead: Carbon steel Clubface: Same Design: Cast blade Size: Standard Clubs: 54_¡/12_¡ GW; 56_¡/14_¡, 58_¡/10_¡ SW; 60_¡/3_¡ LW(available LH) Shaft(s): True Temper Dynamic Gold steel (wedge); Cleveland graphite (wedge)
Cobra King Cobra C www.cobragolf.com (800) 225-8500 | $79
Designed to be both forgiving and versatile, with increased bounce and a widened sole for less digging into the turf and sand. A soft, vibration-absorbing urethane insert helps create the feel of a traditionally shaped blade-style wedge. Features: The King Cobra C is one of few perimeter-weighted new wedges on the market for players who crave extra control. Advantages: Short swings need forgiveness, too. Benefits: Solid performers for players who tend to struggle with excess digging on pitch shots. What We Like: Making a forgiving wedge that looks great is a tall order, but Cobra did a fine job. The price is desirable, too. Lineup: King Cobra C Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Design: Cast cavity-back Size: Oversized Clubs: 50_¡/8_¡ PW; 52_¡/8_¡, 54_¡/9_¡ GW; 56_¡/11_¡, 56_¡/14_¡ SW; 58_¡/12_¡, 60_¡/8_¡ LW (available LH) Shaft(s): True Temper Dynamic Gold steel (S)F2 F2 Series www.f2golf.com (800) 683-2390 | $99 ($120 graphite)
The F2's hosel sits more toward the rear of the sole and the clubface protrudes toward the ball. This "Face Forward" design facilitates a flatter arc through the bunker and a better ability to lift the ball from thick sand. Features: One can't miss the unique hosel positioning to encourage clean, crisp contact. Advantages: Players ought not to fiddle with opening the face at address. The F2 wedge performs best with a squared face. Benefits: Players who struggle with getting the ball out of the bunker will find using the F2 to be a rewarding and round-saving experience. What We Like: The looks take time to adjust to, but bunker play has never been easier. Lineup: F2 Series Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Design: Cast cavity-back Size: Oversized Clubs: 52_¡/6_¡ GW; 56_¡/NA SW; 60_¡/NA LW (available LH) Shaft(s): F2 steel (wedge) Delacruz Delacruz www.delacruzgolf.com (877) 430-4653 | $99
This high-performance wedge from DeLaCruz is a traditionally styled blade with almost no offset. Features: Unique to this model are straight-back bounce angles and a lack of camber, a design that allows the club to sit precisely under the ball at address to facilitate clean hits. Advantages: Toe and heel areas angle away from the sole to reduce turf drag and fat shots. Benefits: Players can feel comfortable hitting open-faced lobs due to the flat heel, thus making it easier to slip directly under the ball without the face closing at impact. What We Like: This handsome series is polished with a high-chrome finish, save for the scoring lines, which are sand-blasted for durability. Lineup: DeLaCruz, Wolfram Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Design: Cast blade Size: Midsized Clubs: 50_¡/6_¡ PW; 54_¡/12_¡, 56_¡/12_¡ SW; 60_¡/5_¡ LW (no LH) Shaft(s): Dynamic Gold steel (wedge)Cleveland CG11 Black Pearl www.clevelandgolf.com (800) 999-6263 | $129
Building on the success of the original CG11, Cleveland applies a new glare-free finish to a game-improvement cavity-back wedge that's also finding favor with Tour professionals and better golfers. Features: The "_ber-soft CMM (Carbon Metal Matrix) returns as does the low-, high- and mid-bounce options for most lofts. Advantages: The wide sole and back cavity yield forgiveness without the clunkiness found in other nonblade wedge designs. Benefits: Beginners and high-handicappers will appreciate the wide sole and better players will like the multiple loft and bounce options available. What We Like: Cleveland found a way to make a cavity-back that doesn't look like one at address. Now that's talent. Lineup: CG11 BP, CG11, CG10, CG10 BP 588, 588 DSG, 588 GunMetal Clubhead: CMM Clubface: Same Design: Cast cavity Size: Standard Clubs: 46_¡/6_¡, 48_¡/6_¡ PW; 50_¡/8_¡, 52_¡/10_¡, 54_¡/10_¡, 54_¡/12_¡, 54_¡/14_¡ GW; 56_¡/12_¡, 56_¡/14_¡, 56_¡/16_¡, 58_¡/10_¡, 58_¡/12_¡, 58_¡/14_¡ SW; 60_¡/10_¡, 60_¡/12_¡, 60_¡/14_¡ LW (available LH) Shaft(s): TT DG steel Eidolon V-Sole www.eidolongolf.com (361) 983-4691 | $129
Check out the brilliant dual-bounce sole, which affords golfers the option to significantly open or close the clubface without the club digging into or bouncing off the turf. Each groove is CNC-milled for increased levels of spin and greater face consistency. Features: The dual-bounce sole allows golfers to adjust trajectory without compromising bounce angles. Advantages: The sole near the trailing edge has almost no bounce so it lies flat whether the clubface is square, open or closed. Benefits: Better players will love the shotmaking versatility and the spin-inducing CNC-milled grooves around the green. What We Like: The combination of looks and performance. Lineup: V-Sole Clubhead: Carbon steel Clubface: Same Design: Forged blade Size: Standard Clubs: 52_¡/18_¡ (3) GW; 56_¡/30_¡ (7) SW; 60_¡/25_¡ (6) LW(available LH) Shaft(s): Rifle Spinner steel (F, S) For Golfers Only! DW-1 www.forgolfersonly.com (951) 302-1200 | $89
From master equipment maker Don Wood comes the DW-1 wedges, featuring micro-abraded milled grooves that produce maximum spin rates without damaging the golf ball. The high-toe shape and minimal offset enhances versatility. Features: The Tour-like shape of the DW-1 is very inviting and easy to align at address. Advantages: Multiple loft/bounce combinations make finding the right wedge an easy task. Benefits: Neo-classic design for every player. What We Like: The grooves have tremendous bite, especially on the 64_â_¡ wedges. Lineup: DW-1, DW-1 Personal Grind Clubhead: Carbon steel Clubface: Same Design: Cast blade Size: Standard Clubs: 46_¡/4_¡, 46_¡/8_¡, 50_¡/6_¡, 50_¡/10_¡ PW; 52_¡/8_¡, 52_¡/12_¡, 54_¡/10_¡, 54_¡/14_¡ GW; 56_¡/8_¡, 56_¡/14_¡, 58_¡/10_¡, 58_¡/16_¡ SW; 60_¡/8_¡, 60_¡/16_¡, 64_¡/8_¡, 64_¡/16_¡ LW (available LH) Shaft(s): Several custom options available KZG Forged www.kzgolf.com (800) 200-8800 | $89 ($99 graphite)
The newest KZG wedges are double-forged and handcrafted from super-soft S20C carbon steel. Features: Each wedge in the set is engineered with the ideal leading edge and sole grind. Advantages: The grind reduces turf drag and creates more efficient clubhead speed. These attractive wedges are finished with high-polish, nickel-chrome plating. Benefits: Any golfer who appreciates high-quality construction, design and materials should give the KZG Forged models a look. What We Like: The raw finish option, which allows the wedge to rust over time for a distinctive look and a slightly different feel. Lineup: Forged, Cast 9500 Clubhead: Carbon steel Clubface: Same Design: Double-forged blade Size: Standard Clubs: 52_¡/4_¡ GW; 56_¡/11_¡ SW; 60_¡/3_¡ LW (available LH) Shaft(s): KZG Tour steel (X, S, R); KZG Control Plus graphite (X, S, R, A, L) Mizuno MP-T Series www.mizunousa.com (800) 966-1211 | $159
Tour-inspired wedges in three performance-enhancing finishes: Chrome, Raw Haze (complete with a multi-hued tint that will rust over time) and Black Nickel. Features: Over 20 MP-T wedges, with the Tour-preferred teardrop head shape and multiple lofts and bounces. Advantages: Mizuno's now-legendary Grain Flow Forging technique produces some of the purest wedges and irons in golf. Benefits: Excellent all-around performance for discerning golfers. The unique finishes will not only attract stares, but also add that needed spin. What We Like: Advanced craftsmanship. Lineup: MP-T Series, MP Series Clubhead: Carbon steel Clubface: Same Design: Forged blade Size: Standard Clubs: 51_¡/6_¡, 53_¡/8_¡ GW; 56_¡/10_¡, 56_¡/13_¡, 58_¡/10_¡ SW; 60_¡/5_¡, 60_¡/8_¡ LW (Chrome 51_¡/6_¡, 53_¡/8_¡, 56_¡/13_¡, 60_¡/8_¡ available LH) Shaft(s): True Temper Dynamic Gold steel (wedge)PING Tour Black Nickel www.pinggolf.com (800) 4-PING-FIT | $125 ($150 graphite)
The Tour wedge from PING gets a muted, black-nickel makeover, but retains the same playing attributes that have made the Tour wedge a popular addition to many golf bags around the world. Features: A slightly smaller head size and a ferrule for a traditional look. These wedges retain Tour-tested capabilities melded with playability. Advantages: Variable bounce angles and machined U-grooves enable customized control. The slight offset and small cavity make for shotmaking versatility combined with added forgiveness. Benefits: Tour professionals dig the clean, traditional look, and casual golfers will no doubt appreciate the dose of forgiveness the small cavity yields. What We Like: The custom fitting, the looks, the performance—we like it all. Lineup: PING Tour, PING Tour Black Nickel, PING Wedge Clubhead: Stainless Clubface: Same Design: Cast cavity-blade Size: Standard Clubs: 52_¡, 54_¡ GW; 56_¡, 58_¡ SW; 60_¡ LW (available LH) Shaft(s): True Temper Dynamic Gold steel (X, S), PING CS Lite steel (S, R), PING Z-Z65 Steel (S); PING TFC 100i graphite (S, R, A) Adams Puglielli www.adamsgolf.com (800) 622-0609 | $119
The brain child of veteran club builder Max Puglielli, this self-named wedge is designed with the low-handicapper in mind. Featuring CNC-milled grooves and a Fly-Cut face for superior flatness and consistency. Features: The Puglielli design affords golfers the choice between two wedges based on their swing characteristics (steep or sweeping). Advantages: One of the top wedges for players who like to open or close the face at address. Benefits: The better player will appreciate the effectiveness of the club's design subtleties. What We Like: The high-polish finish and multiple loft/bounce options make this wedge a winner. Lineup: Puglielli Wedges, Tom Watson Wedges Clubhead: Stainless steel Clubface: Same Design: Cast blade Size: Standard Clubs: 2_¡/7_¡ GW; 54_¡/15_¡, 56_¡/12_¡ SW; 58_¡/12_¡ LW; 60_¡/8_¡ LW (no LH) Shaft(s): True Temper Dynamic Gold steel (S)
Tech Talk More Than A Feeling By Todd Harman Vice-President of Product Marketing Cleveland Golf
Golf Tips Equipment Panel Like putters, wedges are largely a personal preference to most players. But wedge manufacturers know what golfers are seeking. We're thinking about feel—it's really our primary focus when we're making a wedge. We explore how we can make that club feel better so that the player gets more feedback and has more control with it. The starting point there is the base metal that we're working with, and then strategically placing weight and designing its structure so that the maximum amount of feel can be sent to the player's hands.
The other thing we've been looking at for the past several years is offe