best wedges

The Best Wedges in 2017

As with all golf equipment in the modern age, the key word is customized. The wedge market exemplifies this trend in the dizzying array of options available to a golfer in choosing what goes in the bag. In this article, we'll look at factors such as loft, bounce, shaft, grip and aesthetic finish as we determine the best wedges for beginners and higher handicappers.

Finding the best Wedge as a higher handicapped player

Loft

For most beginners and high handicappers, a wedge set includes the pitching wedge and sand wedge that came in your iron set. At most, a new player might add a sand wedge from another brand if their brand doesn't already include one in the set. That being said, there are a lot of options out there for lofts and it can be helpful to understand some of the terminology and benefits of different lofts in wedges. A professional-level player will tend to have three or four wedges among the total of the 14 clubs in their bags. Their games are at a level where the relatively subtle changes in the wedge lofts allow them to be much more accurate in those important shots under 100-yards. Beginners and high handicappers, on the other hand, are typically not at a level where the difference in wedges makes a noticeable difference to justify 3 or four spots of the 14 allowed clubs in a beginners golf bag. Wedge lofts range from 46-degrees to 64-degrees, with the pitching wedge in the 46-degree range, the gap wedge in the 52-degree range, the sand wedge at around 56-degrees and a lob wedge up in the 60 to 64-degree realm. While the gap wedge and the lob wedge can be very helpful, and you may consider adding them to your bag in the future, we recommend starting with a pitching wedge and a sand wedge, which will offer the bulk of your needs around the greens and will leave you some options for additional fairway woods in your set.

Bounce

The bounce on a club head is the feature that revolutionized play out of the sand and is a feature on nearly all sand wedges in the game today. Bounce is the flange or angle that sticks down below the leading edge of the club face. That bounce is what keeps the leading edge from catching the ground and digging in. When we play out of the sand, the recommended technique involves the club head entering the sand behind the ball, passing underneath it and throwing the ball out on top of a bed of sand. If we were to use a wedge with no bounce on it for this task, the result would generally be that the leading edge would catch the sand and force your clubhead deeper into the sand. The result is to hit too much sand and transfer very little energy over to the golf ball. In other words, the ball ends up two feet in front of you, covered up by the pile of sand you just excavated from the bunker. The bounce on a club keeps the club from digging, instead producing more of a skipping motion, like a rock skipping across a lake. Standard sand wedge bounce is somewhere around 14-degrees. When shopping for a sand wedge, you will likely come across two sets of numbers located somewhere on the head of the club. For example, a 56/14 combination denotes that the club has 56 degrees of loft and 14 degrees of bounce. This is the standard number combination for sand wedges and what we recommend as a starting point.

Shaft and grip

While the shaft on the wedges might not be as important a factor as it is on the longer woods and irons, it still can make a significant difference in how the club feels and the overall weight. A standard wedge will feature a steel shaft and will generally be rather stiff in flex. This stiffness is caused by the shortness of the shaft. With the priority being accuracy and reliability over distance with wedges, most players prefer the strength and stability of steel. However, that being said, a stiff steel shaft is relatively heavy and you may find that a lighter and more flexible shaft fits your swing and body type better. Getting a professional to assess the dynamics of your swing is highly recommended and will help in sorting through the details of what shaft and grip is the best fit for you. We also recommend trying a variety of wedges in person if at all possible. There is no better feedback than the actual feel of a golf club in your hand.

Aesthetics

There are a wide range of shapes, sizes, finishes and materials used to make wedges. Ideally, a sand wedge should be something you like the look of and inspires confidence in you. This is more of a personal and psychological factor than anything. That being said, it is a psychological game and having a club you like the look of can be a very helpful thing indeed. With those factors in mind, we now take a look at the wedges that we feel are the best wedges for average golfers, beginners and high handicappers.

1. Titleist Vokey SM6

Bob Vokey has been designing wedges for Titleist for many years and produces wedges that are played by many of the best players in the world. Vokey wedges feature progressive center of gravity, which moves the center of gravity from lower in the pitching wedge to higher in the higher lofted wedges. This progressive adjustment helps to position the center of gravity in the sweet spot of the club face and deliver a more reliable result.

Vokey wedges also offer five different grinds of bounce on their wedges. This is an advanced and customized feature to dial in the way your wedge contacts the ground.

The TX4 Grooves on Vokey wedges feature Parallel Face Texture which increases the reliability and consistency at impact.

While we recommend the Titleist Vokey wedges in the categories of best wedges for beginners and best wedges for high handicappers, we would also include these wedges in the categories of best wedges for advanced players, best golf wedges for mid-handicappers and best wedges golf.

And, although we are not generally recommending a lob wedge as a necessary club for beginners and high handicappers, if you have your heart set of having on in your bag, we would put the Vokey wedges in the category of best lob wedge for high handicapper.

 





What we like

  • Looks like proper player wedges, with a classic blade design.
  • Provides a high level of feel and feedback, allowing you to figure out mishits with ease.
  • Best in class accuracy and control.
  • With multiple grinds, you have a wedge for every golfer and every kind of turf conditions.

What we dislike

  • Forgiveness takes a backseat for playability and feedback.
  • Might take a while to figure out the best wedge for your requirements.




2. Cleveland RTX-3

Along with Titleist, Cleveland has been a leader in the wedge market for many years. With the RTX-3, Cleveland has produced a patent-pending technology called Feel Balancing Technology. This technology has to do with the trend in wedge design to bring the center of gravity to the center of the club face. Cleveland does this by shortening the hosel and adding a microcavity to the club head. What this technology means is that shots hit on the sweet spot will produce less wobble and will result in more accurate results.

Cleveland RTX-3 wedges also feature a V-shaped sole grind that has been shown in computer testing to hold more momentum through impact with the turf. This innovation allows you to deliver more solid contact with the ball and is more forgiving on ground-first contact, otherwise known as hitting the ball heavy or fat.

The RTX-3 comes in Tour Satin, Black Satin and Tour Raw finishes along with a blade or cavity back design. For beginners and high handicappers, we would recommend the cavity back design, as this perimeter weighting distributes more weight to the edges of the club and is more forgiving for mishit shots.





What we like

  • The black satin finish looks great and is more durable than similar finishes from other manufacturers.
  • The Feel Balancing Technology has improved the CoG and the overall feel and feedback from the clubs.
  • Laser milled Rotex grooves add additional spin.
  • Comes in three sole options, with low, medium and high bounce.
  • Their 60-degree wedge is probably the best lob wedge for any high handicapper, due to added forgiveness from the cavity back design.

What we dislike

  • Expensive when compared to other options.
  • Finding the right grind will require expert assistance.




3. Callaway MD3

Callaway, a manufacturer who is arguably best known for producing the best golf sets for beginners and the best irons for high handicappers, as well as the best drivers for high handicappers, has also produced an attractive wedge with the MD3.

The MD3 features three different sole grinds. At one end of the spectrum, the W-Grind features a wider sole, which is great for soft conditions and swings with a steep angle of attack. With the S-Grind or Standard-Grind holding the compromised middle ground and the C-Grind offering a more versatile slim sole, there is a sole grind for everyone’s particular preference.

The Callaway wedges also feature Progressive Groove Optimization, where the grooves are adjusted throughout each loft to produce more spin and get those short shots around the green to land softly.

As with all of the major manufacturers in this category, Callaway offers a wide range of customized components including satin steel and satin black finishes and a vast selection of shaft and grip combinations.





What we like

  • Increased width on the soles improves forgiveness.
  • Looks classy in chrome.
  • The groove optimization improves the performance of the specialized wedges.
  • Three sole grinds and numerous loft angles offer a wide array of choice.

What we dislike

  • The price is on the higher side.
  • Though a very solid club, the overall performance is not exactly game changing.




4. Wilson FG Tour PMP

In the mid-price and mid-level range for wedges, we suggest the Wilson FG Tour PMP wedges. These wedges from Wilson feature Precision Milled Performance technology which widens the grooves. Between the grooves, the Wilson FG Tour also has 11 laser-etched lines which offer addition grab and spin.

The Wilson FG Tour PMP comes in a oil can, gun blue and tour frosted finish and sole grinds include Wide, Traditional and Tour Grind.





What we like

  • Great value for the investment.
  • Very good consistency on both full and partial shots.
  • Tour grinds help with various lies.
  • Excellent spin stopping the ball from rolling very far after landing.

What we dislike

  • Some buyers report receiving the club with blue coating.
  • Not a great distance club due to increased spin on the ball.




5. Wilson Harmonized Golf Wedge

As a beginner, you don’t necessarily have pay top dollar to get a competent set of wedges that suit your handicap level. Wilson has built their reputation around providing beautiful quality clubs at very affordable prices.

The Harmonized series have earned a devoted fan following for their classic chrome finish, simple yet classic design and effortless playability. These are highly reliable clubs that will stand you in good stead as you learn the intricacies of the short game.




What we like

  • Outstanding value for money at a very low price point.
  • Available in durable chrome finish, a black finish version with less longevity is also available.
  • Tour grinds help with various lies.
  • The grooves on the head provide decent amounts of spin.

What we dislike

  • Some players found the wedges to be too heavy.
  • Doesn’t have the performance comparable to the (more expensive) big brands.



Conclusion

We, once again, encourage you to test a variety of wedges in person before you decide on the right fit for you. Although there are a number of factors that might sway your decision in choosing wedges for your bag, there is a lot to be said for holding a club in your hand, seeing how it looks to your eyes and perhaps even trying it out and feeling the contact and seeing the results.

With that in mind, we select the Titleist Vokey SM6 wedges as our best wedge for beginners and high handicappers because of their attractive design, history of quality manufacturing and advancements in center of gravity location and groove design.

The Titleist Vokeys also are the wedges we would rate as being among the best wedges for mid-level players and professionals. Because wedge play is not about distance and is more focused on accuracy, we believe that you might as well put the best of the best in your bag for the wedge game from the beginning, so you have a club you can start and progress with over the years to come.

 

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