Tried & Tested - Golf Wedges
January 2012 with Carly Frost
The 56-degree wedge is perhaps the most versatile you can carry in your bag. Although it is best known as a sand wedge as it has the ideal loft for bunkers, this handy wedge also comes into play from all sorts of lies around the green from those tricky flop shots to recovery from the rough, plus we want it to spin and stop with precision on our full shots into the pin. Golf Today has picked a selection of wedges that will be lining your golf shop shelves in 2012 and put them in the hands of some eager testers with a range of different handicaps. Here's how they got on...
THE TEST CENTRE We used the excellent facilities at Pachesham Golf Centre in Surrey (www.pacheshamgolf.co.uk) for our wedge test. Our four testers hit the wedges indoors on a state-of-the art Flightscope system to give us an accurate idea of performance, focusing on spin and control. They then hit the wedges on the driving range and around the excellent short game greens at Pachesham to gain a good overall view of their performance.
MEET THE TESTERS...
Handicap: 1 Background: Carly is Golf Today's resident equipment guru - there's not a product out there she doesn't know about. With her high standard of golf (she's a very steady one-handicapper, playing for her County team) and short game prowess, she's well-equipped to cast a judging eye over the latest wedges.
Background: Ben is one of England's star players. Having made an impressive debut in the Home Internationals last year, Ben is now ranked among the world's top amateurs (No. 97 on Jan. 1, 2012). He's currently on a university golf scholarship in Florida but Golf Today was lucky to catch him over his Christmas break and called upon his skills and expertise to help with our test. "I'm a very loyal Titleist Vokey player, in my opinion they are the best wedges in the world, but as they declined to be in the GT test it will be very interesting for me to try some different brands for a change."
Background: I've just completed my year as Club Captain at Pachesham, although I had very little time to practice I did play an awful lot of golf! I took up the game about five years ago and my handicap has been steadily coming down. My short game is definitely the strongest part of my game. I have a good natural touch and feel around the greens. I'm a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to my equipment, I'm fairly picky, so it will be interesting to see how each of the wedges fair.
Background: I only took golf up seriously a year ago when I returned from working in Perth, Australia and retired. I am extremely keen and play 3-4 times a week. I think I'm have quite an accomplished short game for my handicap, I tend to adapt well to the different turf conditions of the various courses I play and am very creative with my shots around the green. I must confess that I haven't switched wedges for years; mine are definitely trusty rustys so it will be interesting to see the difference in these latest modern wedges.
THE TEST CLUBS...
Price: £79 (g) £69 (s) Specs: 52 ° , 54 ° , 56 ° , 60 °. Contact: www.yonex.com They say: Manufactured with the characteristics required by our YONEX Tour professionals, the WS-1 wedge features a mild carbon steel head for maximum spin and distance control. This will help all players craft shots from fairways and bunkers. A tour grind sole ensures minimal friction and enables players to adapt to all situations and achieve greater control. We say: Carly Frost: An awesome wedge! I love everything about the Yonex WS-1 from the beautiful rounded clubhead to the soft buttery feel you get when you play those little chip and spin shots. The finish is perfect for year-round golf as it doesn't glare in bright light. This one was hard to fault in my hands. Ben Taylor: This looks like a pretty slick wedge. I'm not keen on the very rounded leading edge; I prefer a squarer, sharper look. It does however lend itself to being opened up for flop shots very nicely. The feel is soft and responsive and I found my distance control very consistent. Steve Mansley: I like the look of this wedge - it has a very classical teardrop shape and the simplicity of the design is wonderful. The finish is slightly unusual in that the groove section is dull and the metal either side near the toe and heel is shinier and a little distracting in bright light. The feel was excellent, one of the softest on test. Roger Page: This wedge feels really good in my hands. It feels a little heavier than others but I like that as it gives me a feeling of great control over the clubhead. The Jury's out on the clubhead shape, it's perhaps just a little too rounded, I think the look will appeal to lady golfers.
NIKE Vr PRO
Price: £99.99 Specs: 48 ° , 50 ° , 52 ° , 54 ° , 56 ° , 58 ° , 60 ° (LH: 52 ° , 56 ° & 60 ° ) Contact: www.nikegolf.com They say: The NIKE Vr Pro Wedges feature X3X high-frequency grooves and precision forging that combine with the flexibility of blades for the ultimate in shot-making precision. Tried and tested S20C forged metal is the premier material used by Nike Golf's Tour Staff, with each wedge also using Nike's amazing X3X high frequency grooves to enhance control and ball flight. Each wedge face features more grooves, resulting in cleaner, more consistent ball flight and spin while still conforming to new rules. We say: Carly Frost: Not the best looking wedge on test but I was extremely impressed with the spin and control. I loved the fact that I could really get the ball to drop and stop on a tiny target, which filled me with confidence. The feel gave me just the right mix of soft yet responsive feedback. Ben Taylor: I'm not keen on the looks - this wedge has a very modern design rather than a classical style, which I generally prefer. That said it sits very nicely and the ball comes off the face with great control and check. Steve Mansley: One of my favourite wedges on test. The Nike was just a really good all-rounder. The style suits my eye and the feedback and control I gained around the greens was impressive. The brushed satin finish is perfect for bright days. Roger Page: I instantly took to this wedge as the spin control was amazing. I don't get anywhere near that much spin and stop with my own wedges. The looks aren't classical but I think they will appeal to the modern golfer who wants the latest equipment. If it's good enough for Tiger...
TAYLORMADE XFT TP
Specs: 50 ° , 52 ° , 54 ° , 56 ° , 58 ° , 60 ° , 64 ° (LH: 52°, 54°, 58°) Contact: www.taylormadegolf.com They say: The TaylorMade XFT TP Wedge has the first inter-changeable wedge face of its kind, this enables you to keep your performance at the peak of your game. The reason for keeping your grooves fresh and rough is to create maximum spin and control, which gives a consistency in your short game that's second to none. The grooves of each exchangeable face are perfectly formed, conform to UPSGA rules, and are made from a spin-inducing texture that give a superb soft feel whilst the face itself is perfectly flat and has a secure fit within the clubhead. We say: Carly Frost: What an innovative concept. I can't say that I play enough golf to wear out my grooves so quickly that I'd want to replace the face, but I can see how the Tour professionals will. That aside this is actually a very nice-looking wedge that offers great feel and spin. Ben Taylor: Due to the amount of play and practice I put in at college I tend to have to replace my wedges every 3-6 months. In fact I can often wear out the new grooves of a wedge in just one bunker play session! So I can really see the benefit of this idea as it takes away the hassle and cost of buying a brand new club. The performance was decent too but I'm still a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to looks so this is just a little too modern and out-there for me. Steve Mansley: I like to read golf magazines and websites so I'm well aware of the importance of having sharp, clean grooves. In fact when the new groove regulations came into force last year I bought a new wedge (with the new legal grooves) not expecting to notice any difference, I thought it was all hype and what the Tour players were saying. In fact the difference was noticeable, so I'm actually a fan of this replaceable face technology and not having to buy a new wedge does appeal. It helps that the TaylorMade looks and performed really well too. Roger Page: This wedge seems a little gimmicky to me. I know that the whole adjustable thing has benefits in drivers but I really can't see myself ever buying replacement faces for my wedges, I just don't play enough golf to a high enough standard yet that I'd notice the difference, and I'd sooner go out and buy a new wedge if I did. The look of this club is great though.
Price: £89 Specs: 52 ° , 54 ° , 56 ° , 58 ° , 60 ° , 64 ° (LH: 52 ° , 56 ° & 60 ° ) Contact: www.callawaygolf.com They say: The newest forged creations from Callaway Chief Designer Roger Cleveland offer golfers all the control, spin and feel they could ever want to attack the pin with new finish options that exude confidence from a striking look. Tour CC Grooves help promote ideal trajectory and distance control while a softer 'C' shape allows for versatility and precise shot-making. Available in two finish options: dark chrome or copper. We say: Carly Frost: This is a really classy-looking wedge that has lots of shelf appeal. It instantly caught my eye, partly just because it has a shiny chrome finish. The feel was slightly more solid than soft yet it was still incredibly responsive and gave me great feedback on all my shots. Ben Taylor: I don't like the reflective finish of the chrome but this wedge sits very well and has a good shape. I was able to open it up and play a wide range of touch shots with ease that gave me the confidence that this would perform in all conditions. Steve Mansley: The first thing I noticed was how unusual-looking the grooves are on this wedge, but strangely it was something my fellow testers didn't spot. Whether it was the grooves or not I did find spin control exceptional. My only criticism is the shiny finish, not great for a sunny day, but how often do we have them in this country anyway?! Roger Page: A very versatile club. I had nice control over my full shots, with near-on perfect distance control, and great feel and touch on my short shots. It doesn't have the finish I'd choose but perhaps the copper option would appeal.
JOHN LETTERS TOUR BLACK WEDGE
Price: £99.99 Specs: 52°, 56°, 60° Contact: www.johnletters.com They say: Forged from soft 8620 carbon steel, the John Letters Tour Black wedge is the best feeling wedge that John Letters have ever produced. The high carbon content softens the feel, making it the perfect material to execute precise pitches and controlled chip shots. The Tour Black wedges feature a tour preferred classical tear drop shape that appeals to the professional and accomplished golfer while not being too intimidating for the club golfer. The trailing edge grind narrows the sole to improve contact from all lies, while the heel grind makes it much easier to open the face for flop shots around the green. As well as being aesthetically pleasing the stunning black nickel finish is equally functional, reducing glare at impact. We say: Carly Frost: This wedge stood out from all the others on test thanks to its unique dark finish and the fact that the shaft had a matching finish. It's not something I've ever seen before in a wedge and although black is not my finish of choice I like it. The feel was a little firmer than others on test and the clubhead shape a little angular for my eye, but the overall spin control was hard to fault. Ben Taylor: I'd never heard of John Letters before this test and I have to say because of that this wedge exceeded my expectations. It sits nicely and is easy to control. I'm not sure about the dark finish to the shaft; I'm a bit of a traditionalist and prefer the good old-fashioned silver steel. Steve Mansley: What an unusual-looking wedge, the dark black is completely different from anything I've seen before but I quite like it. I'm not keen on the shiny finish as I prefer wedges with a brushed finish that don't reflect bright light. The feedback and performance on all shots was pretty solid. Roger Page: This wedge instantly caught my eye, I like the deep dark black clubhead and complementing shaft, it's not something you see very often. The performance didn't quite live up to the looks however, I think perhaps it may be better suited to the lower handicapper - I need a little more help!
PING TOUR-S WEDGE
Price: £100 (£120 graphite) Specs: 47°, 50°, 52°, 54°, 56°, 58°, 60°, and 64° Contact: www.ping.com They say: A classic wedge design that incorporates PING technology for enhanced performance including tour inspired sole geometry that allows versatility and shot-making from all lie conditions. An Enhanced Vertical Custom Tuning Point (CTP) weight has been designed to angle towards the back surface allowing more mass to be distributed around the perimeter of the club head to increase the MOI. The CTP has more contact with the face of the club to enhance feel. The precisely machined face and new conforming grooves add to the overall quality and provide consistent performance across each set. We say:
Carly Frost: It's just personal preference but I've never been a fan of Ping wedges, they've always looked a bit too cumbersome to me. The Tour-S is very solid feeling and responsive and certainly gives you the impression that you can't miss it. Ben Taylor: I was a Ping wedge player for years and the only reason I switched is because I just didn't like the way the clubhead sat when I opened it up and felt as though I was going to catch shots thin off a tight lie. The Ping Tour-S is a little more traditional in size and shape so I took to it. The performance was, as I expected, top quality. Steve Mansley: What a fantastic wedge, quite simply, hard to fault. I love the look and the size of the clubhead fills me with confidence as did the performance - outstanding. This would definitely go straight in my bag. Roger Page: This wedge looks as though it should belong to a set of Ping irons, rather than as a standalone wedge. It's a little larger in style than others but it gave me a lot of confidence at address. I felt as though I couldn't miss. It was just lacking a little in feel for me as the feedback was firmer.
CLEVELAND 588 Forged
Specs: 46°, 48 °, 50°, 52°, 54°, 56°, 58°, 60°, 62 ° and 64° (LH: 52°, 54°, 56°, 58°, 60°) Contact: www.clevelandgolf.com They say: Cleveland Golf has sold over 7 million wedges globally and has gone back to its routes with the 588 Forged wedge, which maintains the popular, tour-proven shape of Cleveland Golf's original 588 wedge, but offers a series of technological breakthroughs to provide added performance benefits for players of all abilities. Made from 1025 carbon steel, the 588 Forged wedge offers golfers an incredibly soft yet solid feel and less unwanted vibration. Tour Zip GroovesT and Laser MilledT technology help to maximize spin in accordance with USGA regulations. Also, exclusive to the 588 Forged wedge is the Tour Concept steel shaft, co-developed and engineered by Cleveland Golf and industry leader True Temper. With a unique stiffness profile that features a less active tip, this shaft promotes a more penetrating ball flight, increased spin and optimal distance control along with superior feel. Available in Chrome and Satin finishes. We say: Carly Frost: I can't blame Cleveland Golf for going back to their roots with this choice of wedge, virtually every Cleveland Golf Tour player I have come across in the past 10 years carries one of these in their bag and won't part with it even when newer technology has been introduced. That said the look of this wedge is quite a long way apart from the wonderful Cleveland Golf CG15 wedge that I carry in my bag. The shape is more angular, the leading edge sharp and the finish far too shiny for me. Ben Taylor : This wedge was very easy to play with and offered great shot-making versatility. It lacked a little in feel for me, sounding and offering a firmer feedback than I'm used to. The sharp shape is also a little harsh for my eyes although I can see why it has historic appeal. Steve Mansley: I had high expectations for this wedge as I've always associated Cleveland Golf with great wedges, however I was a little disappointed with the performance. The feel was firmer and the straight leading edge a bit too accentuated for me. Roger Page: This wedge is so shiny I could see my reflection in it! I think that will deter a lot of golfers from choosing this finish option. I like the traditional shape, it reminds me of wedges I've seen pictures of from a bygone era, but I think perhaps Cleveland Golf should have left this one where it deserved, back in the history books.
BENROSS ZIP IT LASER WEDGES
Price: £59.99 Specs: 52°, 56°, 58° and 60° Contact: 01932 821200, www.benrossgolf.com They say: The new and improved Zip It Wedges have additional Laser Cut face grooves to increase club to ball friction, helping grab and impart extra spin, giving golfers of all abilities a better opportunity to maximise scoring potential. A versatile and aggressive C-Grind sole unit helps increase the golfers' performance from sand, rough or fairway, being easy to pick off any lie. A Tour Proven teardrop head shape, versatile bounce angles and a Dynamic Gold shaft as standard, mean the Zip It Laser will be just as at home in the club golfers bag as it will in the hands of an accomplished professional. We say: Carly Frost: At the budget end of the buying scale you really can't fault the Benross Zip It for value-for-money. The performance, although not exceptional, was every bit as good in terms of spin control as some of the far higher priced wedges. I'd like to see Benross tone down the font and size of their brand graphics, if they made these look a bit more classy there's a high chance this would find a place in the more discerning golfer's bag. Ben Taylor: The least likeable wedge on test for me. Price aside I still wouldn't choose to play this wedge as I just don't feel that I could be creative with it. The design is very standardised and I'm sure that will be OK in the hands of the mid to high handicapper but I'm looking for something that offers but greater feel. Steve Mansley: I've never hit a Benross club before and the playability was far better than I expected for something of this price point. The dark finish looks good and the shape is stylish. The fact that this is a lesser-known brand doesn't deter me from using this at all. Roger Page: I found that my spin control was really good with this wedge. It's not the prettiest wedge out of the test line-up and in fact is a little plain looking but I did enjoy the performance. The slight offset to the shaft helped with confidence on my full shots which flew straight and with consistent distance.
What wedge would we each pick?...
Carly Frost: My surprise favourite was the Yonex WS-1. It's not a brand I'd traditionally associate with great wedges but the WS-1 just really ticked all the boxes for me. It has a classical rounded shape that looks as though it has been beautifully crafted and wonderful feel and spin control to complement. Ben Taylor: To be honest I wouldn't swap any of the wedges on test for my Titleist Vokeys but if I had to pick one from this line-up then it would be the Callaway Forged as it felt really good in my hands. I'd go for the copper finish rather than the shiny chrome though. Steve Mansley: The Ping was the outstanding wedge for me. I loved everything about it from its ease of use, to the confidence-inspiring looks and great all-round performance. It would definitely go straight in the bag. Roger Page: It has to be the Nike for me, a great-looking wedge that had the wow factor - spin I thought I could never achieve. Seriously, you have to try it to see for yourself!