Gift Guide: Top 9 Wedges

Just in time for the holidays, here’s a list of 9 recommended brands of wedges for your reading pleasure. To keep this as simple as possible, there is no use in me telling you about the shaft options each company has for their wedges. That’s splitting hairs. They’re all relatively the same and I’ve yet to ever hear about someone selecting a wedge because they could get a graphite Project X shaft in it instead of a standard True Temper S300.

Additionally, most club manufacturers produce wedges in every bounce and lie angle you could want so long as you custom order your desired wedge with your exact specifications. Therefore, I’ll keep bounce and grind discussion brief. If there are extra customization options available to the public, I’ll make sure to mention it.

For those of you that don’t know much about wedges, this might be educational. For the rest of you… enjoy the ride.

Callaway – Mack Daddy 2 ($119 MSRP)

In the early years of Callaway Golf the company was mostly thought of for its innovative designs in fairway woods and drivers. In 1996 Callaway got serious about wedges when they hired the founder of Cleveland Golf, Roger Cleveland, to be their Chief Club Designer. Roger has been popping out nifty wedge designs for Callaway now for over a decade and most models don’t disappoint.

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Roger’s Mack Daddy 2 wedge is no different. For you tech nerds you’ll want to know that Callaways says the 39% larger grooves create 25% more spin on shots hit out of the rough. The MD2 also has special ‘laser’ milled grooves that increase friction on the club face to create more spin. Essentially, these are the wedges Phil Mickelson was begging for when the USGA changed their groove rule for tour pros in 2009. Mack Daddy 2 wedges can be ordered with custom sole grinds and in two finishes, chrome (above) and slate (below). The latter will oxidize over time to eventually show that rusty, unfinished look we’re all accustomed to seeing.

I tried these at a demo this year and found it hard not to walk away with a new pair in my bag. What stopped me? I’m really not a Callaway guy and I’m brand loyal to what I do buy. These look clean, set up great, and have a small looking head that should appeal to a better player’s eye. They’re also forged for those looking for that special feeling. What’s the knock on them? Not much. The Callaway stamp on it was the deal breaker for me.

 

Some folks will complain that the grooves produce too much spin or chew up their golf ball. That’s going to happen with any manufacturer’s wedges in this day and age, but even more with the Mack Daddy 2 thanks to the groove size. Unless you’re buying a used wedge, be prepared to remove chunks of golf ball from any new groove.  

Cleveland – 588 Series ($99 MSRP)

Wedges are what Cleveland does best, and they were a pioneer in producing wedges with more loft and various bounces and grinds to provide players of all skill ranges with the options they needed to improve their short games. The 588 series made by Cleveland is a classic. For the newest versions of the series it appears the club manufacturer has barely changed the design since Roger first made it.

In actuality, they reverted back what looks more like the old models but tweaked the grooves and materials they use to produce it. They also have different finishes for their wedges like the other club manufacturers do. A strike against the 588 series wedges would be that the heads on them seem to have grown just a touch over the years. I wouldn’t call them a game improvement club, but I don’t think you’re likely to see them in a low handicapper’s bag.

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That being said, you might notice a price break at most retailers and find that they perform very similar to wedges that cost 10% to 20% more. The 588 series might also be the most durable and versatile series of wedges being made. I owned a 53* and 60* model for nearly a decade and thanks to a groove tool and some TLC I didn’t feel as though a newer wedge would outperform them until the day they were replaced.  

Mizuno – MPT4 ($129 MSRP)

Forged. That should be the key word in your brain if you’re considering buying a Mizuno wedge. Are you comfortable with that feeling? If yes, proceed to demo. If no, put the club down and look elsewhere. Mizuno has long been the king of forgings, and for wedges there was a time when they made the cleanest looking wedges you could find. Those days have passed, unless you find an MP R-12 model from last year lingering around that fits your eye.

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I’m sure they perform fine, but the look of a wedge means a ton to me. You wouldn’t go talk to a woman across the bar if you thought she was ugly. Picking a wedge shouldn’t be much different. It has to look good to your eye. Like the other companies, Mizuno offers the wedge in the two finishes (or similar) that we’ve already discussed. I’m also not aware of any custom options available to you unless you’re tour player.

Hopkins Golf Custom Wedges ($99 MSRP)

Former Cleveland Golf/Srixon CEO Greg Hopkins now sits on the Back9Network’s Board of Directors in addition to running his line of custom wedges from Hopkins Golf

First and foremost, Hopkins Golf wedges look like they can do some damage from 100-yards and in. Featuring a classic grind appearance while adding a flare of color to the Hopkins logo on each club, I was immediately instilled with a sense of confidence upon addressing my first shot. I cannot overstate how important a certain comfort level with your wedge is to short-game success. I got exactly that with the Hopkins wedges.

Hopkins Golf Explodes Onto Custom Wedge Market

Next, the clubs’ technology put these puppies right in line with any other club on the market. Designed with the customer’s direct input in mind, you are able to choose from seven different grind options to build a set of wedges perfect for your game. Do you typically play in softer conditions? Go with the Wide Grind option. Are you more likely to play on firm, dry courses? Perhaps the Shelf or Channel Grinds are best for you.

To learn more about Hopkins Golf wedges, be sure to visit the company website.”

Nike – VR Forged ($129 MSRP)

I’ve always like the way Nike irons and wedges look. The Swoosh keeps their forged designs clean and simple, yet, they are also slightly innovative. And there’s that word again, forged. It’s not for everyone, but like the Callaway and Mizuno offerings discussed above, all of Nike’s wedges are forged. Unlike the other companies, Nike offers no options for any finishes other than the standard steel/chrome look you see in the picture. What they do offer is three different grinds. The grinds are standard, dual narrow, and dual wide. A quick click to the Nike site will further educate you in what each grind specializes in.

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I’ve tried these a few times and again have almost left the demo with a pair. One of the characteristics of them that I like most is their weight. Nike wedges tend to feel heavy in your hand. Personally, I think that enhances the way the club feels, but many are uncomfortable with such a sensation when handling their wedges. Nike doesn’t blow you away with how they describe the grooves they’re putting in these wedges. They simply tell you the grooves have stronger, more aggressive edges and deeper channels that conform to the USGA standard. That’s it. Simplicity is a good thing.

Ping – Anser ($170 MSRP)

In my experience, you’re either a Ping guy (or gal), or you aren’t. I am not. I love their bags, but I haven’t used a another Ping piece of equipment in years. Chances are if you have Ping irons you also have Ping wedges. So much of what you like about a wedge is how it looks and the Ping look will only appeal to certain people. Since 2012 Ping has offered a forged line of Anser wedges. The Anser has, over the years, been a very successful line of putters for Ping. Now they’ve moved the name to their wedges.

 

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The Anser series was one of the highest rated clubs in last year’s Golf Magazine club testing. Testers loved the look and performance of the club, specifically the control and solid feel each shot produces. The only complaint from the tests were that the Anser didn’t feel as soft as a Nike, Mizuno, or other forged wedges. If Ping equipment generally appeals to you, you’ll probably like the Anser wedges.

Scratch – Fit Wedges ($199 MSRP)

Scratch is a bit of an unknown club maker to the masses. Scratch has a bit of a cult following that is loyal and believes in the product almost like it is a religion.

Scratch Golf was founded in 2003 by a bunch of guys that loved working on clubs and tinkering with custom grinds, soles and bounces in their garages. The company got started with custom wedges, which were all handmade one at a time by master craftsman Jeff McCoy. Custom is what the company does; it was their mantra from the beginning and continues to be today. They’ll grind your wedges anyway you can imagine and include custom finishes, stamping, colors, lofts, etc. Their customer service is very hands on. Club makers will take your personal call to discuss your options and get your order perfect.

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Scratch wedges got noticed and are now played by several tour players as well as used at almost every level of professional golf. Personally, I love everything about the wedges Scratch makes. If they were a woman, they’d be supermodel Marisa Miller.

Yeah, her. They’re that good.

TaylorMade ATV ($120 MSRP)

TaylorMade Golf is as cutting edge as it gets in golf club making. They market their products better than almost anyone else in the business but you rarely hear about their wedges.  TaylorMade currently offers six different makes of wedges, but for this review we’ll focus only on the ATV wedge pictured below.

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ATV of course is short for All-Terrain Versatility. TM markets the wedge as a club that can handle a multitude of shots, course conditions and swing types because of the special sole they designed for it. The ATV wedges have no bounce shown on them because, according to their website, the sole takes on different bounces depending on how open the face is. The ATV performed great at this year’s club testing and was rated very high by almost every rater/tester.

Titleist – Vokey Design Spin Mill 4 ($145 MSRP)

Bob Vokey has done for wedges what Scotty Cameron has done for putters, albeit, without the fun custom head covers Scotty churns out. Both club makers rarely put out a clunker, and the latest Vokey (the SM4) is no exception.

In the SM4 series a golfer can get almost any bounce/loft/lie combo they can dream of. The new Vokey is also available in the standard chrome and black nickel finishes that most other companies also offer. However, as always with Titleist, customers also have the oil can finish available as an option. You want something less ‘off the rack’ and more custom, Vokey can do that too. Order from the Vokey shop (for a significant up-charge) and BV (or his apprentice) will stamp your wedge for you with initials, other lettering, or a phrase of your choice.

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I love everything about these and they have the cleanest look and perform at the highest level. I truly believe these are the best all-around wedges in look, feel, and performance.

The heads on the SM4s and most other Vokeys are a little on the small side. That can make using them a bit demanding and should scare the more casual golfer away. Consulting a professional when purchasing a Vokey is a must. If you don’t get the right bounce/grind combo the club will probably not perform how you want it to.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Tis the season for buying wedges, and with the new groove rule becoming effective for most of us soon, I’m sure many of you will be purchasing wedges too. My advice? Try what looks good, then select what feels good and put it on your Christmas list. Maybe Santa will slide one down the chimney for you.

What’s the point to the Shut Face Golf blog? There isn’t one. No, I’m not the Seinfeld of the golf blog world, I just thought I’d give this a try and share my candid, brutally honest, crass, and sometimes vulgar views on the game we love. Nothing is off limits, we’ll talk golf, period. If I bore you, tell me. If you laugh, say so. If I offend you, you should lighten up. Check it out at ShutFaceGolf.com.

More Holiday Gift Guides:

Complete Back9Network 2013 Holiday Gift Guide
Gift Guide: 9 Outstanding Charities
Gift Guide: Top 9 Golf Getaways
Gift Guide: Top 9 Electronics
Gift Guide: Motorsports Lovers
Gift Guide: Top 9 Drivers
Gift Guide: Top 9 Irons
Gift Guide: Top 9 Wedges
Gift Guide: Fairways and Hybrids
Gift Guide: Top 9 Beers
Gift Guide: Top 9 Wines
Gift Guide: Top 9 Liquors
Gift Guide: Top 9 Gifts for Video Gamers
Gift Guide: TrendyGolf’s Accessories
Gift Guide: Top 9 Funny Golf T-Shirts

 

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