Cleveland have opened our eyes over the last three years by creating cavity back CBX wedges specifically aimed at club golfers.
They said golfers don’t suddenly become tour pros when they pull a wedge from the bag, so why make life harder for yourself by using blade-style wedges?
Like lots of product development, though, once the cogs start whirring on new ideas and you’ve created a proven piece of tech that people buy into, it leads to new revelations in other areas. So while Cleveland were happy to say their previous RTX 4 wedges were the most tour-authentic they’d ever made – which was only possible thanks to having a cavityback CBX line, too – it hasn’t taken their engineers long to toy with the idea of making tour-level wedges more forgiving as well.
Now, acceptable head shapes for tour level wedges are already set in stone. So Cleveland were well aware that under no circumstances could there be any drastic head reshaping if any new model was going to get played on tour by guys like Shane Lowry, Graeme MacDowell and Keegan Bradley. So, with that in mind Cleveland’s engineers turned their attention to what’s inside the head.
What they’ve come up with is a brand new idea, where they’ve removed the heavy, stainless steel at the heart of the new RTX ZipCore wedge and replaced it with a very lightweight core instead.
It means that even though on the outside this new model is very much a tour-level bladed design, its resistance to twisting (MOI) on high to low impacts is 9% higher than Cleveland's previous RTX 4 model.
What does that means to golfers? Because the tech also enables Cleveland to position the sweetspot (centre of gravity) 1.4mm closer to the centre of the face, more shots hit the sweetspot, so you get better feel and feedback, right alongside a lot more spin and distance control consistency, too. It sounds like a heck of a lot of wedge to us, especially if you still insist tour level wedges are the best fit for your game.
Details: Cleveland ZipCore Wedge
Lofts: 46° - 62° in 2° increments
Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Spinner
Stock grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360
Head options: Low Sole Grind, Mid Sole Grind, Full Sole Grind
Finishes: Tour Satin, Black Satin, Tour Rack Raw (£159)
What you need to know about the Cleveland RTX ZipCore wedge
Get into the groove
When your business is almost all about wedges you get plenty of time to pour over every last detail. And Cleveland must have spent many a sleepless night agonising over their new UltiZip grooves. Each groove is closer (7.4%) so there’s two more grooves per face. The grooves are also deeper (7.4%) so they’re better at channelling away debris, as well as being 11% sharper to maximise spin on every single shot.
It’s getting hot in here
There’s absolutely no point in having the best groove tech in the world if it wears away after a few rounds, so Cleveland have made the ZipCore’s new grooves more durable. Heat treatment during production rearranges the head’s grain structure improving durability. It means your new grooves stay sharper for longer.
Tour rack options (Available in the USA only)
ZipCore wedges come in three sole grind options (low, mid and full sole), but if that’s not enough and you want to add extra toe, heel or trailing edge relief like a tour pro, Cleveland are opening up a brand new custom Tour Rack service. Cleveland craftsmen will customize any Tour Rack Raw head for you. As the graphic below shows you can customise everything from toe and heel shaping to trailing edge relief and leading edge shaping.
We asked Cleveland's head of R&D Jeff Brunski to explain more about the ZipCore:
Can you tell us a bit more about ZipCore? What is it made of? Why is that material best? And where is it positioned?
ZipCore is an aluminum-silicate compound. It’s not a metal, but an engineered compound with low-density (about 4-times lower than steel) and a very high melting point. It’s located within the lower hosel and heel area of the clubhead.
How does the ZipCore change the production of the head? Is the ZipCore produced first, then encased within the cast? How much more difficult is it to make a ZipCore wedge compared to a Cleveland RTX 4?
Exactly as you suggest: the ZipCore insert is manufactured first, then encased within the cast carbon steel head. It’s quite a bit more difficult to manufacture than a traditional cast steel clubhead. There are challenges keeping the ZipCore material stable in the proper location and orientation and preventing it from deforming or failing entirely.
We also need to care for the clubhead a little differently during later processes like nickel-chroming. All in all it’s one of the biggest manufacturing achievements in our brand’s history.
How close is the off centre hit performance of a ZipCore wedge compared to the CBX 2? What’s the difference in MOI between the pair?
From the extensive data we’ve collected, higher handicap golfers tend to hit their wedges farther and farther out on the toe. For golfers with a 10+ handicap, the average impact is well onto the toe-side of the clubface. For this reason, the CBX2 sweet spot is located just toe-side of centre.
The RTX ZipCore, designed for lower handicap players, has a sweet spot located slightly heel-biased. This makes it both significantly better than other blade-style wedges, while also not too different than what better players may be accustomed to playing.
As far as MOI, the RTX ZipCore has a higher High-Low MOI than the CBX2, which is remarkable considering the CBX2 is a cavity-back wedge.
How close is the CG to the centre of the face of the ZipCore? And how far away are the competition?
ZipCore allows us to locate the center-of-gravity and sweet spot closer to the centre of the face than any other blade wedge we’ve seen, while at the same time, it’s allowed us to increase the high-low MOI by nearly 10%. The better sweet spot improves feel, consistency, and spin, and the improved MOI improves spin and launch consistency up and down the face.
For reference, two of our top market-share competitors are about 4mm and 1.5mm farther from centre.
UltiZip grooves sound like a good sized step forward, how much more spin/control do they offer over the previous RTX 4?
No wedge groove will spin most out of all conditions, so we’ve prioritized shots that will help golfers score the best on the course. UltiZip grooves shine in performance from the rough - where it’s most difficult to generate spin - and on partial shots where you don’t have as much speed coming into the ball. These are more practical and beneficial than a groove that may spin a lot off a mat in a hitting bay, but then loses spin dramatically out on the course.
Getting more, sharper edges on the ball gives more spin and stopping power on these critical shots from the rough and from 20-50 yds. From our testing against all top competitors, we’ve seen a spin advantage of 100-400rpm, depending on loft and shot-type.
How big of an investment is the new Tour Rack system? Will the Tour Rack wedges be ground in the US and how many grinders have you assigned to the project?
Cleveland Golf is committed to providing innovative new products, and that includes enhancing our offering with programs like Tour Rack. We know there will always be demand for Tour authentic, custom products, and we recognize that these customers are among the most passionate in golf.If we can deliver them the complete Tour-experience, we know we can earn a customer for life.
There are only two people currently qualified to polish these grinds, and the process takes place in our US headquarters.
Finally for people buying off the rack wedges could you give us an idea of which sole grinds (% wise) are the most popular?
The Mid grind is definitely the best selling, accounting for about 70% of sales. The Full and Low are about evenly divided among the remaining 30% of golfers.
WATCH: Which wedge suits your game?
What Cleveland say about the RTX Zip Core wedge
“The new RTX ZipCore is a technological leap forward for Cleveland wedges,” said Jeff Brunski, Vice President of Research and Development. “We’ve inserted a low-density core inside the clubhead, allowing us to create a wedge with unprecedented consistency and exceptional feel. They also feature our tour-proven grinds and most aggressive groove technology to date – all packaged in a sleek yet traditional design.”