Eighteen years ago, a new era began on the PGA TOUR. It was the start of the period where wedges designed by a craftsmen from Verdun, Quebec, Bob Vokey, became the most played on the top professional golf circuit. That dominance continues to today.
As much as that has been a constant, what has been far more variable are the products that Titleist delivered under the Vokey brand, both to pros and amateurs alike.
The living laboratory of pro golf was the perfect place to learn, revise, and progress. So much so that with each iteration of products from the company, they can always claim they are the best they can offer, as of now.
2022 is no different. While nobody with any perspective will claim a revolution in the golf wedge product segment, the progression is both design and options is very clear, especially when you look back over a wider time frame.
Many will look at the brand new SM9 wedges and not see a lot of differences from the SM8, but a closer look reveals details that may be small, but can be critical in helping a player achieve a higher level of performance.
Key to much of this is the recognition that the needs of every golfer are very different. As a result the SM9 family provides a comprehensive number of clubs, 23 different models in fact, with six grind options, and ranging from lofts of 46* to 62*.
“It sounds simple, but having the correct wedge and knowing when to use it has a direct impact on scoring performance,” said Vokey. “The most important thing for golfers at every level is to know when and where to use the variety of wedges in their bag. That can be achieved by being properly fit based on swing and style of play, and understanding the roles for each.”
It’s a familiar refrain from Vokey, but one is willing to assert until people really hear his words. The elder statesmen of the wedge game may have handed off some of his role on Tour to his protégé, Aaron Dill, but the he’s not giving up his mission to educate golfers how wedges, as a tool, can be used to help a player score better.
You only need to look to his pointed assertion that the optimal strike position on the wedges that bear his name is between grooves 2 and 5. It’s knowledge gained through a lab-like testing and working with the best who swing a club. That principle led to creating wedge bounce and grind options that will work with various swing styles to achieve the desired results. That being the ball flight you see with the top wedge players, the lower, more consistent ball flight, with high spin. That’s hard to achieve with the wrong tool. It’s a tough scene (and frustrating) when players make a good swing but their wedge choice results in high contact on the face, increasing launch and reducing spin. That’s hard to control and is in direction opposition to what wedges are all about, precision.
“It is important to fit your wedges to your swing type, style of play and course conditions,” added Vokey. “That selection process should begin by determining the proper grind for the shots you hit most. The correct grind provides the best turf interaction, contact and shot performance.”
As mentioned, the changes in the new SM9 wedges are subtle to the uneducated eye, but what you will see is a difference where it counts, in ball flight, and even in feel.
The profile of the wedge are relatively familiar at address, but a lot has been done on the shaping to move mass around within that silhouette. The centre of gravity (CG) has been pushed more forward, for improved feel, and raised vertically. You can spot that behind the then topline where a thicker, tapered pad exists away from your eyes at the back of the head. Progressive hosel lengths through the lofts also addresses CG needs, to aid the player in controlling their flight.
Subtle adjustments you will find in the SM9 are grinds that have been refined to reflect new knowledge gained. The six previously offered grind names and styles remain – F, S, M, K, L and D, allowing golfers to match their selections to not only their swing needs but the turf they play upon.
For the first time in several generations, the groove milling process that these wedges have become known for (Spin Milled, aka SM) has been adjusted to be more precise. That takes into account the chroming necessary in some models, to ensure maximum groove volume to help disperse debris and ensure as much friction as possible. As in the past, those groove are also varied to match the loft of the club, adjusted to help the player play the shots they expect from them. Aiding these traditional grooves in their purpose are micro-grooves cut between them, all heat-treated to preserve them longer.
The popular finishes from models past carry over in the SM9 – Tour Chrome, Jet Black, and Brushed Steel, with an almost endless variety of customization (engravings, stampings, paint fill, shafts, grips, shaft bands, ferrules) offered through the WedgeWorks program.
Of course, it’s best to start with a fitting, and consumers are encouraged to get their buying process underway with the online Vokey Wedge Selector Tool to help the refine their options.
Pre-order for Vokey Design SM9 wedges begins on February 17, 2022 and they’ll hit the shelves at retail on March 11.