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Titleist introduces new design Vokey SM4 wedges
September 6, 2011

TitleistBorn from the unique artistry and club-making experience of master wedge craftsman Bob Vokey, Titleist Vokey Design Wedges have earned the reputation as the game's finest short game tools. Since 1998, Vokey Design wedges have achieved overwhelming success as the favourite of more players across the worldwide professional tours and competitive golf and as a leader with serious golfers in the marketplace. In fact, Vokey Design wedges have been the top choice on the PGA Tour in terms of player count and wins for eight consecutive years and counting.

Now, Titleist introduces a completely new line of Vokey Design Spin Milled wedges to maximise performance within the limits of the 2010 Groove Rule. The new Vokey Design SM4 wedges feature 17 precise, individually cut and 100% inspected grooves that maximise groove geometry and push groove edge radius to the conforming limits. Using computer aided design (CAD), SM4 wedges also feature a new shape inspired by Vokey's original 200 series. With twenty-one loft and bounce combinations and five different sole grinds that Vokey developed through his research and work with the best players in the world, the new Vokey Design SM4 wedges represent the next generation of the most renowned scoring clubs in golf.

BACKGROUND: In 2009, when the U.S.G.A. and R&A announced their joint decision to limit groove volume and the sharpness of groove edge radii, it was necessary for Titleist (and other club manufacturers) to develop wedges that would satisfy the new "Condition of Competition" requirements to go into effect on January 1, 2010. Titleist's response came in the form of the Vokey Design Spin Milled C-C wedge, a modification of the popular Spin Milled wedge that was the flagship of the Titleist wedge line. Being the leader in wedge use on the worldwide professional tours and since there was so little time to retrofit existing designs, Titleist took a conservative approach to the new C-C pattern to insure conformity.

"During the whole rule-change process our number one priority was to protect our players," explained Steve Pelisek, General Manager, Titleist Golf Clubs. "We had to ensure that 100% of the Vokey wedges used in competition would comply with the new regulations. We weren't able to pursue as aggressively the outer line in the sand that the ruling bodies had established. What is so exciting about SM4 wedges is that we've now had adequate time to prepare, research and develop a better solution to the performance challenges that the new rules present."

Much of the success of the Vokey Design SM4 project can be credited to the decision by Titleist to invest in precision machining and scoreline measurement technology that allows for the most precise face and groove cutting followed by 100% inspection of every groove on every Vokey SM4 wedge head that is produced. Each groove is evaluated using computer-guided plotting technology in which a sensored stylus is piloted to trace the contours of each groove. Three-dimensional coordinates are recorded and plotted as the stylus moves. This data can then be translated into measurements of the groove's total volume and edge radii as well as surface roughness to allow us to manufacture wedges at the conforming limit.

"Our development of an automated, absolute inspection process is significant, because it enables us to machine our grooves right up against the limit of the edge radius specification," said Dan Stone, Vice President, Research and Development, Titleist Golf Clubs, "We can now push the envelope on performance, giving players the highest possible spin and trajectory control without risk of non-compliance."

NEW ADVANCES IN THE SM4 VOKEY DESIGN WEDGES:

Like their Spin Milled predecessors, the new Vokey Design SM4 wedges are made from soft 8620 carbon steel and feature Titleist's industry-leading Spin Milled technology. The SM4 wedges have a CNC-machined perfectly flat face and precisely cut groove geometry using a formed cutting tool that creates a tighter tolerance on both the groove size and edge radius. The face surface is also precisely machined with a series of milled micro edges resulting in greater surface roughness for improved spin on partial shots versus a polished wedge face. Regardless of the conditions or shot type, Spin Milled technology provides maximum spin and shot control.

HEAT TREATED FACE: The new Vokey Design SM4 wedges undergo a unique, surface localised heat treatment that substantially increases the durability of the precise scoreline edge radius and face surface texture. In comprehensive play tests that compared treated faces to untreated, Titleist found that the process helped retain both increased spin and lower launch angle for better shot control through the life of the wedge without altering the feel in any way.

NEW GROOVE CONFIGURATION: After the original C-C wedges were released, the Vokey Design team continued to investigate ways to recapture some of the backspin on full shots hit from the rough that was lost due to the new groove guidelines. The new SM4 groove was designed to be narrower than the C-C design in order to accommodate more grooves, making use of a 17-scoreline pattern, a combination that proved optimal in player testing. In fact, the SM4 groove pattern reclaims over 1,200 rpm in lost backspin versus the original C-C design. The SM4 groove radius is sharp and the tight manufacturing tolerances of the Spin Milled process allow the grooves to push right to the conforming edge radius limit.

"Seventeen scorelines gives us more teeth on the ball, but it doesn't impart so much spin that you lose versatility and shot control when accessing a middle to back pin," said Vokey. "I honestly think this pattern strikes a perfect balance. At first, when the new groove regulations were announced, most folks were very reactive and wanted to hold on to every rpm of spin they could get. The new SM4 groove allows the player to play high spinning shots with a controlled trajectory, or hit a shot with controlled spin and precise roll-out."

NEW SHAPE, EXPANDED OFFERINGS: The new SM4 wedges are inspired by Vokey's original 200 Series designs. Created by Bob for Titleist in 1998, with shapes still widely used on Tour and recently made available to Vokey enthusiasts through Vokey.com's WedgeWorks custom shop, the 200 Series featured a classic teardrop head shape with a high toe peak, shallow heel and a soft trailing edge. Like the 200's, the heads of the new SM4 wedges are slightly larger than the original Spin Milled and C-C wedges and feature dimension and shape progression through the lofts.

"I consider wedges a distinct set of clubs," explained Vokey. "We offer 10 different wedge lofts from 46 to 64 degrees. Your pitching wedge should have a different shape, topline, bounce and leading edge than your lob wedge because you're asking each club to perform very different jobs. This is where CAD has been so valuable. It allows us to produce a series or set of wedges that progress perfectly from loft to loft."

The Vokey Design team uses Computer Aided Design (CAD) to dial in proper dimension and shape progression as the models advance in lofts. In SM4 wedges, the clubhead size increases and toplines grow rounder, as do the leading edges of the wedges, as the lofts move from the 46-degree strong pitching wedge up to the 64-degree lob wedge. This progression follows functionality - squarer toe and leading edge in the wedges that are used to play more full-shots, and rounder toe and leading edge in wedges that are frequently used for partial and touch shots where the club must perform well when played in either an open or closed orientation. CAD allows the Vokey Design team to blend the visual features that players require in designs that also deliver functional performance.

Model changes to the SM4 line include a new 46-degree pitching wedge and higher bounce models in lofts of 48, 50 and 52 degrees. Ten models, ranging from 54 to 64 degrees, will now be offered with specialty sole grinds that Vokey developed on Tour. In addition to the popular "M" grind (a versatile design suitable for many playing styles in a variety of course conditions that is characterized by a crescent-shaped forward bounce surface and relieved wrap surface), the "T" grind as well as the new "S" and "L" grinds have been added to the offering. The "T" and "L" grinds are modifications of the "M" grind, offering greater heel, toe and trailing edge relief for less effective bounce. These models are suitable for players with shallow angles of attack and/or firm playing conditions. The "S" grind is named for Titleist Brand Ambassador Steve Stricker, with whom Bob worked to create a sole with heel and trailing edge relief but with a fuller toe to provide added effective bounce for bunker play. In addition all full sole Vokey wedge models feature a new trailing edge ribbon that offers less resistance during takeaway and more consistent turf interaction at impact.

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