You drive for show. You putt for dough. But what about those tricky shots around the green that, more times than not, we fail to get up and down? Why has this become such an overlooked portion of our game? The pros put in an incredible amount of time on their short game and greenside shots – some estimate well over 50% of their practice time – perhaps it should be a focus for you too. The next time you are left with a dicey pitch shot to salvage the round of a lifetime, you’ll be thankful you put in your time. Of course, a great short game requires the right tools and the information below provides a snapshot of the hottest new wedges available.
Titleist Vokey SM6
Folks, Titleist did it again. There’s a reason their Vokey SM6 wedge is the preferred choice among PGA Tour professionals. The game of golf continues evolving, driven, in part, by equipment innovation. Titleist keeps pushing the envelope with their wedge technology and the SM6 wedges offer an array of benefits, which we can narrow down to three specific components: center of gravity (COG), groove design, and grind. The center of gravity is determined by a specific loft-to-weight ratio. There’s the lower-lofted wedges (PW, GW), mid-loft (SW), and high-loft (LW). This COG technology combats loft variations by realigning the club face’s center of gravity to promote consistent, predictable shot-making.
When it comes to delicate pitch shots, spin is king. The Vokey SM6 wedges feature TX4 groove technology. The low-loft wedges (46°-54°) are designed with narrower, deeper grooves. Whereas, the high-loft wedges (56°-62°) have wider, shallower grooves to help stick it close from anywhere around the green.
Furthermore, the SM6 wedges are offered with 5 different grind options: F grind, M grind, S grind, K grind, and L grind. Each one is designed to work with a golfer’s particular style of play and from various turf conditions. Consult with a golf professional to identify the best choice for your particular style of play.
The newly designed MD3 wedges have three different grinds (W, S, C) as well as Callaway’s Progressive Groove Optimization. The W-Grind offers a wider sole, ideal for bunker play, soft course conditions, and players with steep swing planes. The S-grind is the most versatile of the three, created with just about every course condition in mind and recommended for both steep and shallow swingers alike. Finally, we have the C-Grind, meant for firm course conditions and players with shallow, around-the-body swing planes. The Progressive Groove Optimization is engineered with a 3-groove design to make spin consistency between irons and wedges more reliable. The Pitching and Gap Wedges include 30V grooves, which cater to steeper angles of attack; the 20V grooves are ideal for bunker play; the 5V grooves in the lob wedge caters to those delicate, short-sided greenside shots, when stopping the ball on a dime is imperative.
When Cleveland began designing the RTX 2.0 wedges, they aimed to solve a common pain point: Shots from 125 yards and in. With the likes of Graeme McDowell, Keegan Bradley, and Hideki Matsuyama providing expert intel, the Cleveland RTX 2.0 wedges are considered the perfect antidote to a struggling mid-range game for golfers of all skill levels. Cleveland’s Rotex Face Technology continues to expand shot making possibilities to boot. With 15% sharper grooves compared to last year’s model, and the roughest face pattern permissible within USGA guidelines, you can rely on predictable spin, shot after shot. The grind design is engineered to provide a perfect combination of versatility and dependability, though I can’t say I would recommend this particular model for players with significantly steep or shallow swing paths. It is much better suited for players with neutral swing paths.
TaylorMade Tour Preferred EF
Like all other wedge manufacturers on this list, TaylorMade emphasizes the significant effects of groove design on shot-making. In fact, this is where TaylorMade differentiates its wedges from the competition’s. By taking a different approach to the traditional groove design, TaylorMade has effectively created a niche in the wedge manufacturing market. For the most part, grooves are created on a clubface by milling (or cutting) them into the face or they have been cast with the grooves as part of the die, or mold. TaylorMade has gone against tradition and developed an electroforming process to create grooves. For non-chemists out there, this innovative “milling” technique translates into sharper grooves and increased club longevity. If you’re looking to improve your spin around the greens and want a long-lasting wedge, consider TaylorMade’s Tour Preferred EF model, the juggernaut of wedges.
Ping took a similar approach to TaylorMade when designing their Glide wedge, but instead of focusing on groove design, Ping created a fully custom club. From the grip, down to the club face, these wedges are a fully integrated “system” designed for greater consistency. In addition, Ping’s proprietary Gorge Groove Technology promotes consistent shot trajectory and spin for every loft. The Ping Glide wedges are available with four different soles: Thin, Wide, Standard, and EYE2. The thin sole caters to firm conditions and shallow swing paths; the wide sole was made for softer conditions and steeper swing paths; the standard sole provides the best of both worlds (soft/firm conditions, as well as a variety of swing paths); the EYE2, with its throwback name, also provides the best of both worlds and promises to improve bunker play.
Mizuno took a craftsman’s approach when designing their S5 wedges, which feature a unique Silhouette profile. With PGA professional Luke Donald providing expert input, these wedges offer two sole grinds to get up and down from all angles and lies. Mizuno’s technology offers Quad Cut CNC milled grooves to promote spin. S5 wedges come in 25 different loft and bounce options, ensuring all distance possibilities are accounted for. Furthermore, the S5 wedges offer grinds complimentary to their high and low bounce options: High bounce (15% sole grind) and low bounce (25% sole grind). The grind compliments the bounce by allowing the high bounce version to play higher and the low bounce to play lower.
The wedge technology is out there, no doubt about it. Now, it’s a matter of finding the right option for your game. Consult with your local golf professional to weigh the pros and cons for all wedge models. Once you find your wedge, practice, practice, and practice some more. Then, stick it close, tap it in, and repeat.