For avowed golf geeks, getting one’s hands on the latest Cleveland wedges is like catching a surprise sunset: You thought the last one couldn’t be beat, but then you find yourself tingling with delight. There’s a reason Cleveland continues to command such a loyal following up and down the ladder of short game prowess: They feel right from the first grip and perform beautifully as the years blow by.
But eventually those grooves wear down and it’s time to rev up the Cleveland craving with a new wedge … or two. When the company announced its new cavity back CBX Wedge —designed for the 84 percent of golfers who play cavity back irons, according their research — I decided to do a head-to-head, on-course comparison with the blade version of its sibling, the RX-3, which debuted earlier in 2017 (there’s also an RX-3 “cavity back”).
Both were 54 degrees with standard stiff Dynamic Gold shafts; the RX-3 had a V-Fit “mid-range sole grind” to fit most amateurs’ games. Since I’m very amateur and very average, that configuration worked perfectly for me.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
Let’s start with each wedge’s look at address: Quite similar, with identical groove/strike zones (both of which benefit from Cleveland’s Feel Balancing Technology, which moves the club’s center of gravity closer to the center of the Rotex face), and identical toe shapes. The CBX has a slightly more curved leading edge to help the wedge move more smoothly through rough or sand. Overall the visual feedback from both is of generous dimensions and a broad strike zone whether squaring or opening the face.
BATTLE OF THE BOUNCE
Looking “down the line” at the wedges’ heads from the hosel end reveals their biggest difference besides the “classic blade” vs. deep cavity-back trailing sides — the bounce. The RX-3’s mid-range grind offers a narrower and shallower angle between the club’s bottom and leading edge, while the CBX is, as you’d expect, wider along the base with a more acute bounce angle. In other words, it’s built not only to launch the ball higher from grass but increase the odds of escaping a trap in one go.
From a greenside bunker with very firm sand — a lie you might expect to be more in the RX’s wheelhouse — the RX-3 performed well with a slightly opened face, losing little momentum with a medium swing and cutting through the slightly wet surface with ease. Meanwhile, the RX-3 got the nod from a mid-range fairway bunker thanks to its slightly lower overall trajectory and tighter bounce. I didn’t get a chance to put either wedge through its paces on much softer, fluffier sand, but I’ll go out on a limb and say a wide-open CBX would come out on top.
From various lies and lengths of poa annua grass and from a wide variety of distances — 95 full-swing yards to abbreviated pitches and chips around the green — both wedges boasted that solid yet soft and smooth feel that we expect from Cleveland. The ball responded beautifully off each model’s milled-grind faces, though the RX-3 seemed a bit more workable in terms of distance elevation control, especially from tighter lies (a welcome continuation of the versatility and touch I’ve always counted on from my old 588 RTX). The new stick’s more pronounced bounce was noticeable on those slightly hooded runners.
The CBX, meanwhile, did a great job hoisting my wayward tee shot from medium-length rough over a tall cottonwood on one short par 4, with no added effort. Both excelled on the spin side, completing check-and-runs and soft lobs with just the right amount of pull-back or roll-out depending on swing length. In other words, on a classic muni with tiny, relatively flat push-up greens running medium-fast, I could afford little margin for error, and neither wedge let me down. I had my share of makeable birdie and “recovery par” putts. Which is what a trusty utility wedge is for, right?
TOOLS FOR THE LOB
In the end, the Cleveland RTX-3 lives up to its stated purpose as a stick for more skilled players, while the brand new CBX is, as the company purports, “a forgiving yet versatile wedge that caters to the needs of the majority of golfers.” If you struggle in the scoring range with your current old-school blade and get can past the initially jarring thought of using a cavity back wedge — yeah, I know what you mean, I’m a purist in that department too — the CBX could be the club you’ve been looking for (and beyond it is Cleveland’s Smart Sole 3 wedge, also a new model, which is “created for golfers who want maximum forgiveness”).
Which wedge stays in my bag as we speak? The RTX-3, though that could change from week to week, course to course and turf to turf. It’s just cool to have the choice, and even cooler knowing that I can’t choose poorly.
The CBX is priced at $129.99 with a steel shaft and $139.99 with graphite; the RTX-3 is $129 with steel shaft only. Check with your dealer for available lofts.