TOUR WEDGES

An in-depth look at what is on of­fer from three lead­ing brands

The Cut - - CONTENTS -

If you’re lack­adaisi­cal about your equip­ment, se­lect­ing a set of wedges is just about the most straight­for­ward golf pur­chase you’ll ever make. Sim­ply throw a stock pitch­ing wedge and sand wedge into your bag and away you go. How­ever, if you’re a lit­tle more dis­cern­ing about the range of shots you want to play around the greens, wedges ar­guably pose more co­nun­drums than any other piece of equip­ment.

First, there’s the ques­tion of how many you need. With irons fly­ing fur­ther than ever, you can be left with a large yardage void at the ‘scor­ing’ end of the bag. Depend­ing on your set make up, you most likely face the prospect of try­ing to cover a range of dis­tances be­tween a full-out pitch­ing wedge and a 30-yard pitch with just a hand­ful of clubs — hence the re­cent emer­gence of the gap wedge.

Then there’s the sub­ject of how your wedges fit in with the rest of your bag. Do you carry three spe­cial­ist wedges in four-de­gree in­cre­ments at the ex­pense of, say, a 5-wood, or do you go for two spe­cial­ist wedges with six-de­gree spacing and add a hy­brid or res­cue club to re­in­force your long game ar­moury? Even if you’re clear in your mind about the role you want your wedges to play, you still have to fig­ure out whether you need a blade or cav­ity-back, high bounce or low bounce, regular or tour grinds. Un­less you’re an ac­com­plished golfer, that’s a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion­mak­ing ma­trix.

In this test, there were strong ar­gu­ments to in­clude Titleist Vokey’s SM5, Nike’s VR X3X and Tay­lorMade’s new Tour Pre­ferred ATV, each of which have prom­i­nent tour pres­ence. How­ever, there was a lot of in­ter­est in how the sec­ond it­er­a­tion of Call­away’s Mack Daddy 2 wedges fared against the 2.0 ver­sion of Cleve­land’s 588 RTX wedges and Ping’s new Glide, which quickly found its way into many of its staff tour pro­fes­sion­als’ bags. It was also the op­por­tu­nity to com­pare three very dif­fer­ent de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing philoso­phies.

Ping Glide

The back­ground

As the cre­ator of one of the most iconic wedges of all time in the Ping Eye 2, it is some­what be­wil­der­ing that Ping has al­ways been bet­ter known for its put­ters and irons. How­ever, if you were play­ing golf back in the mid-1980s, chances are you had one of those chunky cav­ity-backed beau­ties in your bag. And it was in there for one rea­son, and one rea­son alone. While the Ping Eye 2 lacked the soft, sub­tle and com­pact curves we’ve since come to ex­pect from a tour-cal­i­bre wedge, if you found your­self in a green­side bunker, you sim­ply dropped that thick, wide sole con­fi­dently down into the sand and the ball would just mag­i­cally float out. The Ping Eye 2s also had grooves wide enough to park a bus in and an in­vest­ment cast stain­less steel head that was quite lit­er­ally bul­let-proof.

Fast-for­ward some 30 years and Ping’s perime­ter­weighted wedges — in­clud­ing the 2015 it­er­a­tion of the Ping Eye 2 — are still squar­ing up against a plethora of bladestyle wedges. This time around, though, old ad­ver­saries Cleve­land and Titleist have been joined by nou­veau wedge spe­cial­ists Call­away and Nike, mak­ing the mar­ket as com­pet­i­tive as it has ever been.

De­spite the fact that it is perime­ter weighted, the Glide is a huge de­par­ture from Ping’s usual ap­proach to wedge de­sign. Yes, it’s still a cav­ity-back but only just. Dare we say it, but this might ac­tu­ally be the first Ping wedge that a se­ri­ous low hand­i­cap golfer would pick up and think I could see my­self us­ing that. The prom­ise with the Glide is tour-level per­for­mance around the greens and sta­bil­ity on full shots.

Cleve­land 588 RTX 2.0

The back­ground

While Cleve­land wedges have en­joyed a solid resur­gence dur­ing the past cou­ple of years, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the com­pany ‘owned’ the wedge cat­e­gory 15 years ago

with some 30 tour pros — in­clud­ing the likes of Vi­jay Singh and David Toms — us­ing the equip­ment. In fact, the main rea­son why cur­rent flag­ship staff player Graeme McDow­ell signed for Cleve­land was his re­la­tion­ship with the com­pany dur­ing his col­lege days at the Uni­ver­sity of Alabama where he played the 588 wedges. At the Euro­pean Open in 2002, Michael Camp­bell showed up at the K-Club, took one look at the course and re­placed his spon­sor’s wedges with three Cleve­lands. He went on to win the event and af­ter­wards claimed the clubs saved him four shots a round.

Cleve­land was also the first man­u­fac­turer to show the wedge-buy­ing public that they meant busi­ness.

If you had stepped into the com­pany’s tour trailer a decade or so ago, you would have en­coun­tered a mind-blow­ing ar­ray of wedges in dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als, fin­ishes, bounces and grinds. Then some­thing strange hap­pened. Out of the blue, Cleve­land switched to a more sim­plis­tic mar­ket­ing mes­sage. The com­pany reined in the num­ber of op­tions it of­fered and, in do­ing so, al­lowed sev­eral other man­u­fac­tur­ers to po­si­tion them­selves as a spe­cial­ist tour brand.

Dur­ing the past few years, how­ever, Cleve­land has re­stored its wedge de­sign mojo with a suc­ces­sion of clas­sic tour-in­spired wedges and the restora­tion of a full range of loft, bounce, grind and fin­ish op­tions. The new forged 588 RTX 2.0 is the com­bi­na­tion of the com­pany’s most iconic head de­sign with its lat­est high-per­for­mance groove tech­nol­ogy.

Call­away Mack Daddy 2

The back­ground

Call­away has been in and around the spe­cial­ist wedge mar­ket now for the best part of two decades with­out, it is fair to say, re­ally set­ting the cat­e­gory on fire. In one

re­spect this is not un­usual given that Call­away’s early spe­cial­ism was cre­at­ing chunky cav­i­ty­backed club­heads. On the other hand, it is sur­pris­ing when you con­sider that the com­pany’s chief designer is none other than Roger Cleve­land, the founder of Cleve­land Golf and the cre­ator of ar­guably the most iconic wedge ever — the afore­men­tioned clas­sic RTG 588.

That’s not to say there haven’t been a few stand­out suc­cesses along the way in re­cent years. The X-Forged Chromes were sen­sa­tional in both styling and per­for­mance while the orig­i­nal Mack Dad­dys also com­fort­ably held their own on tour. By and large, though, re­cent Call­away wedges have been just a lit­tle too con­ser­va­tive to re­ally set the pulse rac­ing.

If you’re won­der­ing why Call­away chose the name Mack Daddy, the an­swer lies with Phil Mick­el­son. Ac­cord­ing to Roger Cleve­land, Mick­el­son was at the com­pany’s test cen­tre in Cal­i­for­nia testing some new pro­to­type de­signs. Af­ter hit­ting a full-length lob wedge shot that sucked back about 40 feet when it hit the green, Lefty looked at the shred­ded ball, then down at the face of the wedge, and ex­claimed, “That’s my Mack Daddy groove.”

The Tour Wedge Test

Be­cause wedges can be used to hit a va­ri­ety of shots, each club was tested in a wide range of sit­u­a­tions, from full-out ap­proach shots to del­i­cate dinks and bumpand-runs around the green, and from dif­fer­ent types of lies. In ad­di­tion, an in­door com­po­nent, us­ing Flightscope and GC2 launch mon­i­tors, tracked dis­tance, spin and launch rates.

First up was the Ping Glide. The gen­eral feel­ing among the testers was that this is the best­look­ing Ping wedge to emerge from Phoenix in many years. While the ini­tial pref­er­ence was for the slightly slicker and sleeker

head pro­files of the Call­away and Cleve­land, the Glide’s slim­line cav­ity-back de­sign grew to the point where, af­ter 30 min­utes or so, the testers didn’t even no­tice it. Viewed from above, the club looks like a gen­er­ously sized blade wedge. It’s not un­til you flip the club over that you’re aware of the sub­tle cav­ity back.

Looks aside, the most no­tice­able thing about the Glide was how solid it felt on full shots. You might be think­ing for­give­ness and sta­bil­ity through im­pact are rel­a­tively unim­por­tant considerations for a wedge, but with the dis­tance gap be­tween the regular pitch­ing wedge and spe­cial­ist wedges grow­ing by the minute, why make the jump from a cav­ity-back to a muscleback any sooner than you need to? For that rea­son, there’s a lot to love about the idea of the Glide as a gap wedge to soften that tran­si­tion — es­pe­cially if you’re al­ready a Ping iron afi­cionado.

Although the Glide launched the ball higher than both the Cleve­land and the Call­away — an at­tribute you will ei­ther love or hate depend­ing on your shot­mak­ing pref­er­ences — it was eas­ily the most con­sis­tent in dis­tance con­trol on full-out shots. The testers as­sumed there would be a trade-off in per­for­mance around the greens and on shorter-range pitch shots, but that never ma­te­ri­alised. In fact, the dif­fer­ence in feel be­tween all three clubs was neg­li­gi­ble. They felt com­pletely con­fi­dent open­ing up the club­face and were able to play a full reper­toire of touchy feely shots.

Ping claims it has de­signed the Glide from the hands down, start­ing with a slightly longer than stan­dard Dyla-wedge grip that has a nar­rower ta­per to en­able you to main­tain con­trol as you choke down for shorter length shots. The grip also fea­tures mark­ings to help you al­ter your hand po­si­tion to hit shots of dif­fer­ent lengths. Although the idea ap­peals, there are a cou­ple of reser­va­tions. First, it’s easy to mis­take the mark­ings as a grip align­ment aid. Sec­ond, testers felt the guide would be more use­ful if it helped po­si­tion the top hand on the grip rather than the lower hand.

Over­all, the Glide not only is eas­ily the best cav­ity-back wedge on the mar­ket right now it’s also good enough to give the Cleve­lands, Call­aways and Vokeys a se­ri­ous run for their money.

While Ping ap­pears to be try­ing to sim­plify the mes­sage around loft, bounce and grind op­tions, Cleve­land is cur­rently flex­ing its mus­cles in this area. The new 588 RTX 2.0 is avail­able in no fewer than 17 dif­fer­ent ver­sions rang­ing from 46 de­grees to a pos­i­tively strato­spheric 64 de­grees. Hav­ing said that, the com­pany is mak­ing a de­cent ef­fort at steer­ing golfers in the right spec di­rec­tion with a dot sys­tem on the sole of each wedge. A sin­gle dot means a low bounce, two dots means medium bounce while three dots sig­ni­fies max­i­mum bounce on the sole.

One of the chal­lenges Cleve­land con­tin­u­ally faces is how to im­prove on its leg­endary 588 se­ries. Just how do you go about en­hanc­ing the most iconic wedge of all time? The an­swer is that you leave the clas­sic head pro­file well alone and fo­cus on the grinds and grooves. The sole shap­ing on the 588 RTX 2.0 is just ex­quis­ite. If you’re one of those play­ers who likes to slide the club­head un­der the ball, you’re go­ing to fall head over heels for th­ese clubs.

Call­away Mack Daddy 2

Con­struc­tion: Forged Lofts avail­able: 47°- 64°

RRP $189.99 per club (From the Golf Ware­house)

WITH THE DIS­TANCE GAP BE­TWEEN

THE REGULAR PITCH­ING WEDGE AND SPE­CIAL­IST WEDGES GROW­ING, WHY TRAN­SI­TION FROM A CAV­I­TY­BACK TO A MUSCLEBACK ANY SOONER THAN YOU NEED TO?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.