Group Test: The latest wedges

The spin doctors check out what's new among the scoring clubs

Nick Bayly
Fri, 1 Aug 2008

Group Test: The latest wedges
Did our panel of testers sharpen up their short games with the latest Tour-inspired performance wedges or did they come up short? We tested steel-shafted 56-degree Callaway X-Forged, Cleveland CG14, Nike SV, Ping W Tour, Taylormade Z TP and Titleist Spin Milled Vokey wedges with a range of bounces (10-, 12-, and 14-degrees).

The testing panel(from the left):

Lynton Smith
Age: 46
Handicap: 11
Home Club: Banburgh Golf Club, Norfolk

Lee Carpenter
Handicap: 13
Home Club: Chichester Golf club, E.Sussex

Nick Bayly
Handicap: 12
Home Club: Horsham Golf & Fitness, West Sussex

Callaway X-Forged

Contact: www.callawaygolf.com

Loft options: 50, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees.

Price: £89 (chrome), £99 (vintage)

Callaway says: Designed by Roger Cleveland and available in 12 loft and bounce combinations with Tour-proven precision for the more accomplished golfer. Forged from soft carbon steel for exceptional touch and feel around the green. The 58- and 60-degree models feature the special C-Grind (with specific feedback from Phil Mickelson), making them extremely versatile performers. Also feature unique ‘Mack Daddy’ grooves, an aggressively-sized but conforming groove that maximises spin, trajectory and distance control. Available in satin chrome or vintage finish.

Lynton says:The clubhead sits well behind the ball and I liked the teardrop shaped head. The 14-degree bounce in this model made it hard to cut through the firm turf so I was more likely to thin the ball when trying to nip it off the top. Felt much better on full shots.


Callaway Big Bertha

Lee says: Can’t quite put my finger on it but never entirely comfortable with this club. I wasn’t blown away by its finish and it just didn’t give me the feel that I got from some of the other models.

Nick says: I really liked the straight leading edge, which not only helped with alignment, but gave the impression that you could nip the ball cleaner off the surface than some of the more rounded edges of its rivals. The satin chrome finish made it look a little less flash than others but it’s by no means dull. The spin I was able to generate, especially when switching to a three-piece ball, was superb, with even short chips checking up quickly, though falling short of sucking back! It felt soft and solid as you’d expect from a forged head, with even miss-hits not feeling too harsh. Sound at impact was a muted ‘click’ and overall, a really good performer that offers something slightly different than other Tour-driven models.

Ping Tour W

Contact: www.pingeurope.com
Loft options: 47, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees

Price: £90 (steel), £105 (graphite)
Group Test: The latest wedges

Ping says: The Tour-W wedges feature a tungsten weight in the toe to increase the MOI (moment of inertia) and improve forgiveness. Using high-density material allows the club to be slightly smaller for increased playability from various conditions. Vertical custom tuning port, moves centre of gravity down and forward for correct clubhead rotation at impact while patented hosel notch controls the bend point for precise loft and lie adjustments for custom fitting. Multiple bounce options offer a more precise fit for an assortment of swing styles and turf conditions. Available in a brushed silver chrome and black nickel chrome finish.

Lynton says: I liked the compact, if slightly chunky head, which framed the ball nicely at address. Feel was exceptionally soft, probably enhanced by the insert in the back of the head. It was a solid all round performer, working well from the fringe and on full shots from 100 yards out. The clubhead also cut through sand - wet from overnight rain - get the ball up quickly and stop.


Ping Tour W wedge

Lee says:Most golfers either love or hate Ping irons and wedges. Before this test I was definitely in the latter camp, having never really warmed to their chunky look. But this wedge has changed my opinion completely and I really enjoyed using it. It sat well behind the ball and had a comfortable weight to it. It checked the ball up quickly on both greenside chips and full shots into the green and was an efficient tool from the sand. My favourite club of the batch.

Nick says: As the current owner of a 52-degree Ping Tour wedge – albeit a two-year old model – I was keen to see how the W wedge compared. After a thorough test from all lies and distances I’ve no hesitation in saying that these are a marked improvement on what was already a pretty decent wedge. The look is pretty conventional, but the feel is much softer – almost forged-like - and I got none of the harsh contact that I sometimes get with the Tour model.

Spin was right up there with the best of them, and they felt really solid on full shots, flying high and stopping quickly. By far Ping’s best effort with a wedge.

Titleist Vokey Spin Milled

Contact: www.titleist.co.uk

Loft options: 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees.

Price: £90 (graphite)
Titleist says: By working with Tour players to create wedges that perform under the most challenging conditions, Bob Vokey has developed a precisely-machined, tight-tolerance groove that provides the player with increased spin on both full and partial shots. Featuring a CNC machined cut face and grooves, the SM wedges have 30 per cent more groove volume than a conventional wedge to provide more consistent and higher spin, particularly from grassy lies and wet conditions. Heads made from mild carbon steel with a chrome or oil can finish..

Lynton says: Been seriously considering investing in a set of these wedges, as my old set of Snake Eyes wedges are coming to the end of their natural life. My thorough testing of these 56- and 60-degree models confirmed my expectations - seriously well made and performing brilliantly from all types of lie. The head slides under the ball easily to produce high floaters as well as hard-spinning knockdowns, offering bags control.

Feel great off the face and offer plenty of feedback so you immediately know when you've hit a good one (and a bad one!)

Half the attraction of Vokey wedges is making me aspire to being a better wedge player and in that respect I’ll be digging into my pockets very soon – especially as they have come down in price.


Titleist Vokey spinn-milled wedge

Lee says: I liked the overall classical look and feel and was impressed with the spin rates and bite-ability although they sometimes generated so much spin that I sometimes wished they’d run out a little more. It’s something I'd need to get used to but overall - they offered a solid, pure feel when hit out of the middle but not as forgiving as some of the others.

Nick says: Vokey wedges have inspired a cult-like following for many years among good wedge players - they're a true players’ wedges, offering spin-a-plenty in an eye-pleasing package. Placed in the hands of a 13 handicapper their powers are slightly dimmed, as my ability to spin it on a sixpence isn’t quite up there with the best of them. But the milled face – between the grooves – means that every part of the clubface is working towards generating more ball control and more spin. Even mid-handicappers will benefit from its design. Hard to fault on all performance fronts, it didn’t have the curb appeal of some other models. The opposition is catching up fast but Vokeys are still the golf industry standard in my opinion.

Cleveland CG14

Contact: www.clevelandgolf.com

Loft options: 50, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees

Price: £89
Group Test: The latest wedges

Cleveland says: Tour-inspired shape, sole and offset. CG14 wedges also feature vibration dampening Gelback technology - a lightweight, material behind the hitting zone in the back cavity to remove vibration on miss-hits and deliver better feedback. Wider sole improves contact on full shots, reduces 'digging' and special sole grind delivers crisper contact and turf-cutting power. Milling technology of Zip Grooves channels more debris than traditional grooves at impact. Available in standard and low bounce options.

Lynton says: I love the overall look of the CG14 wedge, which I found both visually appealing and inspiring confidence at address. I was able to generate lots of spin on shots around the green, even though we were using two-piece Callaway balls in the short game practice area. I liked the gunmetal finish, which looked classy and gave me plenty of feel of the centre of the clubface.

Produced consistent trajectory and spin with plenty of height on full shots from either grass or sand. One of my favourite clubs from the group we tested.


Cleveland CG14 wedge

Steve says: Already owner of a Cleveland CG10 wedge, I was really looking forward to judging the difference. In looks it was quite fussy for a Tour players' wedge, but not offensive as the yellow colouring in the back cavity is hidden from view at address. Had a nice weight and look to it at address and offered good levels of spin. Is this a feature of the new Zip Grooves or just that it was brand new? Wasn't the best performer in the sand for me but worked best with full shots and chips from the fringe. Overall not such a drastic improvement from my old set of CG10 wedges so not convinced to upgrade yet.

Nick says: Shape-wise looks less rounded than previous designs, which makes it seem more playable and in line with other Tour models. Slight cavity back is concealed well and the large face inspires confidence at address. Chrome finish on the model tested is very shiny but there’s also a black model for those that don't wish to risk reflection.

Gelback technology certainly made the club feel less harsh than other models and minor miss-hits weren’t punished too much. The sole and leading edge is very smooth and seemed to slide over the turf or through the grass quite nicely. With the low bounce it's more versatile and easier to pull off lob shots, too. The Zip Grooves deliver good bite with balls landing softly on full shots, while checking quickly on lower trajectory shots. A really nice club.

TaylorMade Z-TP


Contact: www.taylormadegolf.com
Group Test: The latest wedges

Loft/bounce options: 52/8, 54/10, 56/12, 58/8 and 60/6 degrees.
Group Test: The latest wedges
Group Test: The latest wedges

Price: £89.99
Group Test: The latest wedges

TaylorMade says: A revamped version of the successful rac wedge, the Z-TP is designed to be more versatile with a Tour-proven C grind sole making it easier to open the face to play a variety of greenside shots. Combines classic teardrop shape with large 'Feel Pockets' behind the face to channel away any impact vibration. Milled Z grooves – 10 per cent bigger than Y grooves - for more stopping power. Smoked PVD finish to reduce glare and promotes focus at address. .

Lynton says: First impression is that the Z-TP is refreshingly heavier than other models we tested. The weight gave a better feel for where the clubhead is in the swing, as well as making it the most powerful when hitting full shots from the fairway. Exceptionally solid feel, especially from the sand, with the extra weight helping to dig the ball out from even plugged lies. Really impressed. Only just behind the Vokey and the Cleveland in overall performance.


TaylorMade ZTP wedge

Lee says: Clean looks, good feel with the twin cavities in the compact head inspiring lots of confidence. Even though it had 12 degrees of bounce I found it easier to hit off tight lies than models with less bounce and it was by far the best performer from the sand. My clear runner-up.

Nick says: I was really taken with the whole package - cool, retro looks and a classy gunmetal finish. Plenty of care has been taken in design to appeal to good players as well as aspiring players. Sets up well behind the ball

From short chips to full-swing approach shots, the ball left the face softly, with no sting from miss-hits. This 56-degree model functioned perfectly as a sand wedge yet still sat nicely on tight fairway lies. Nicely weighted and well balanced with Z grooves producing more than adequate stopping power. A great wedge.

Nike SV Tour
Group Test: The latest wedges


Contact: www.nikegolfeurope.com
Group Test: The latest wedges

Loft/bounce options: 50, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees
Group Test: The latest wedges

Price: £79.99
Group Test: The latest wedges

Nike says: The profile, bounce and groove contour of the SV Tour wedges are derived from extensive feedback from Nike’s Tour staff. Made from feel-enhancing 8620 carbon steel they feature classic profiles and grinds and provide a clean look at address and maximum versatility. A CNC-milled, flat face provides consistent ball response off the clubface for more accurate shots. Comes with High Flex Point Dynamic Gold S400 steel shafts.

Lynton says: Head looks large and quite cumbersome in comparison to other models on test. Higher handicappers might find this appealing but I found it a off-putting and too rounded. Both chrome and nickel finishes felt quite soft off the face but I had to hit the ball a tad harder to get the distance I achieved with other models. Plenty of spin, however, especially on those low trajectory chips from around the fringe, which delivered plenty of control for precise shots to the flag.


Nike SV Tour wedge

Lee says: The uncomplicated head framed the ball well at address and gave the feeling that it would be hard to miss-hit it. Gave me lots of spin around the greens and checked up well when struck crisply and firmly. It lost a bit of its control on the longer shots from 80 yards out, and wasn’t the most consistent performer, making you really work to get the maximum out of it.

Nick says: Traditional-looking, classy head with a soft feel at impact and plenty of spin from all lies and surfaces. The grind on the sole made it easy to open up the face and get the clubhead under the ball for high lob shots. Didn’t really set the pulses racing, it’s clearly a solid performer, without being top drawer.

The Golfmagic Verdict
Group Test: The latest wedges
Group Test: The latest wedges

All the clubs we tested fell into the £80-£90 price bracket, and although you can find them cheaper if you look in the right places, they are premium wedges, using carbon steel to offer soft feel and precise control and head shapes inspired by Tour players on the manufacturers' staff.

But make no mistake, these wedges are designed for good iron players, not high handicappers, so if you’re looking for forgiveness then try cavity-backed models. While cosmetic looks has a big influence on shelf appeal, these are precision tools, so weight and balance are all vital.

Lee (left) and Lynton fire off their wedge samples


Ping and Titleist have both maintained their status as serious wedge makers with their latest models, while Cleveland, which once dominated the market, has, it seems shifted slightly away from its classic look to a more fashionable design with its CG14, which might upset the purists. Callaway and Nike, both relative newcomers in the stand-alone wedge market, are clearly making good progress, and it’s especially good to see Callaway opting for a forged model.



Lee checks out a wedge from sand

What this test proved is that it’s vital to get the right bounce on your wedges to suit the conditions your playing in, from the type of sand, thickness of the rough and general consistency of the fairways. Too much degree of bounce (the curved flange behind the head) makes the club difficult to nip the ball off firm fairways, too little bounce gives a tendency for leading edges to dig into soft fairways and fluffy bunkers.

The other key to getting the right wedge set up is to have enough clubs to cover all the distance gaps, so that there are no glaring holes say from the 80- or 100-yard mark. In addition to a PW (48), a 52-, 56- and 60-degree wedge would be about right for most mid to low handicappers, although a 50-, 54- and 58-degreee wedge will also provide a uniform distance separation.

Golf at Goodwood

*Our thanks to Golf at Goodwood, near Chichester in West Sussex, for providing the practice facilities for our test and for the use of the magnificient Downland course. For more details visit www.goodwood.co.uk or call Tom Munt on 01243 755144 for details on memberships, tee times on the Park course, as well as corporate and society bookings.

Group Test: The latest wedges
Group Test: The latest wedges
Group Test: The latest wedges
Group Test: The latest wedges
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