Wedges Test 2015

Published:

The technology and design of 14 of the latest models put through their paces on the course and a launch monitor. So which models will come out on top?

A good wedge is a blend of technology and the touchy-feely stuff; it has to inspire confidence through its design and feel, and it has to perform with consistency in crucial parameters like flight, spin and distance control. Our testing protocols reflect that. Fourteen wedges were tested by resident gear expert James Ridyard, acting gear editor Duncan Lennard and two mid-handicap club players. Their views were blended with factual performance data from TrackMan to create a ranking for each. The results will help you make the right choice when the time comes to upgrade your wedge set. 

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  Our panel of testers

James

James Ridyard

Handicap: Pro
Current Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5

Duncan

Duncan Lennard

Handicap: 7
Current Wedges: TaylorMade TP

Jon

Jon Bolger

Handicap: 11
Current Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM4

Andy

Andy Wosket

Handicap: 11
Current Wedges: Cobra Trusty Rusty

 

  How We Tested The 14 Wedges

All 14 wedges in the test were rated in five categories, and given a mark out of 10 for each.

  • For the first three – the more subjective areas of Looks, Feel and Perceived Versatility, TG clubfitting expert and PGA pro James Ridyard was joined by TG equipment editor Duncan Lennard and readers Jon Bolger and Andy Wosket. All testers hit each loft from a variety of lies and situations – the 60º for lobs and pitches, the 56º for bunker shots and the 52º for chip shots. Wedges are arguably only behind putters in being a personal choice, but their thoughts will help you form your own view.
  • For the second two – the more techy categories of Gapping and Spin Retention – we used TrackMan to collect data in two crucial areas. A good set of wedges should supply you with even distances through the lofts, and our Gapping mark was designed to assess this. Manufacturers submitted a 52º, 56º and 60º option. Ideally, the typical 56º distance will bisect those created by the 52º and 60º. Each loft of each brand was hit repeatedly by PGA pro James to a tolerance of 1mph clubhead speed with quality of strike – TrackMan’s smash factor rating – taken into account. A benchmark distance was established for each loft. The closer the 56º got to splitting the 52º and 60º distances, the higher mark they achieved. Spin Retention is an assessment of how well each wedge spins the ball from longer grass. The 2010 groove rule change came about because wedges were doing this too well, and so reducing the benefit of hitting the fairway. Much of the technology on test is the result of the brands’ R&D into raising spin rates legally, and recouping some of these losses. The 56º wedge of each brand was struck from a mat with a dry ball, with only shots within three yards of a 50-yard carry counting. The results created an average spin rate. The same process was then repeated from two-inch rough, creating a second average. This score, as a percentage of the first, represented spin retention. The higher the percentage, the better the score.
  • Each wedge set, then, earned a total mark out of 50 based on the five 10pt categories. This was averaged to give the club its final mark out of 10.

Wedge Test

  Who Took Part

We invited all major manufacturers to submit one set of wedges for the test, in lofts of 52º, 56º and 60º. These were in standard lengths, with medium bounce and the sole grinds that come as standard with the set – though alternative grinds were also supplied where the manufacturers felt appropriate to give each tester a fuller understanding of the options open to him. 

 

 The Results

Wedge Test

Progen Chromo

Wedge Test

MD Golf Superstrong

Wedge Test

Yonex WS-2

Wedge Test

Wilson Staff FG Tour

Wedge Test

Ping Glide 

Wedge Test

Cobra Tour Trusty

Wedge Test

John Letters MM Grind

Wedge Test

Mizuno MP-T5 

Wedge Test

Callaway Mack Daddy 2 

Wedge Test

TaylorMade R  Series EF

Wedge Test

Bettinardi H2

Wedge Test

Nike Engage

Wedge Test

Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0

Wedge Test

Titleist Vokey SM5

 

  Four things we learned

The truth about wet golf balls and dark clubheads!

Dark heads look smaller
You can buy most of the wedges on test in a range of finishes, with many offering a lighter and a darker look – for example Cleveland make both a Tour and Black Satin option in the 588 RTX 2.0. Testers frequently commented on how the darker version made the head look more compact, even though the dimensions were identical. This is worth taking into account when making your choice. 

The wet ball effect
In the ideal wedge contact, a dry face meets a dry ball. This allows the face milling to apply maximum friction to the ball, sending it out relatively low and packed with spin. During TrackMan testing we aimed for such dry impacts, but the occasional wet ball inevitably got through. When this happens, less friction is possible; the ball simply runs up the face, producing much lower spin and launching higher. We discounted those shots. Modern designs limit this effect, but on wet days make sure you allow for it. 

Don’t ignore the shaft
The 2010 groove rule change – and consequent drop in wedge spin – led to an increased focus on wedge-specific shafts. Testing shows shaft bend profiles can have a significant impact on lifting or calming spin rates; KBS’s Wedge shaft for example moderates spin while their Hi-Rev raises it – as does True Temper’s DG Spinner. Understanding whether you need your wedge spin rates raised or lowered is key to using your best shaft. 

High spin isn’t necessarily good
With all the fuss made about spin creation, it’s quite easy to form a belief that the higher the spin rate, the better the club. It’s not the case. On a couple of occasions our testers found wedges too spinny, the ball checking on shots they felt should run out. Very high spin is also no good without consistency; our top scorers didn’t always produce the most rpm, but their spin rates were remarkably steady.

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