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Review: Titleist Vokey SM5 Wedges
Summary: The SM5 wedges offer more spin, more grinds, improved finishes and more personalization options.
Pros: Vokey leads the way with 21 different loft, bounce and grind combinations, three different finishes and personalization programs that allows golfers to create a wedge that suits their games and personalities. The new specialized TX3 grooves add extra spin from around the green and more distance control from bad lies.
Cons: With vast loft, grind and bounce options, the selection process can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s best to be fit by a professional. The SM5′s are cast from 8620 carbon steel, which isn’t a problem unless you’re a forged wedge snob.
Bottom Line: The SM5′s will appeal to the majority of golfers no matter what they seek from a new wedge. Better players will benefit from the spin control and versatility around the greens, club junkies will love the customization options and selection of grinds and the average or below average players will greatly improve if they select the correct a loft, grind and bounce that fits their swing. No one gets left out in this line of Vokey wedges.
With the help of his team of wedge designers and feedback from Titleist tour professionals, Bob Vokey has made significant improvements with his fifth generation of Spin Milled wedges. The most notable change in the SM5′s is the introduction of new grinds and finishes. Six different sole grinds (L, T, S, M, F and K), lofts that range from 46-to-62 degrees in two-degree increments and three different finishes — Gold Nickel, Raw Black and Tour Chrome — allow for dozens of different wedge possibilities.
Different sole grinds are categorized based on low, mid and high-bounce options. The always popular S grind is now available in 54- and 56-degree models, and Vokey’s K Grind wedges, which were once only available through Vokey’s WedgeWorks, have been added to the retail line in lofts of 58 and 60 degrees. The SM5 K Grind wedges are a little different than the WedgeWorks models, however, with slightly wider soles that have a little more bounce than the TVD-K’s.
Another crucial change in the SM5′s is the introduction of the TX3 grooves, which have a 7 percent larger volume than the grooves in the SM4 wedges. In wedges with lofts of 48-to-54 degrees, the grooves are narrower and deeper than the previous generation and work to better fend off grass and sand through impact. The grooves in 56-to-62 degree wedges maintain the same width as the SM4 grooves, but they’re 7 percent deeper, adding spin and control.
The deeper grooves combine with an improved face texture that begins with a double fly cut face, and they’re finished with machine milled micro edges that reach the maximum limit of conforming face friction. The process allows for consistent spin on partial shots into the green.
Each wedge is also subjected to heat treatment on the face, which increases durability and prevents loss of spin through wear and tear of the grooves. And before Vokey wedges leave the factory, a digital stylus reads each and every one of a Vokey SM5 wedge’s grooves to make sure that they meet the company’s tolerances. That allows the company to get its groove sizes much closer to the USGA limit without going over, says Vokey Marketing Manager David Neville.
Titleist SM5 wedges can be personally customized with stamping, shafts, grips, ferrules, paint fill and laser etching for an additional charge. Vokey can also increase or decrease swing weight up to two points.
The added models in the new SM5 wedge line brings the general public closer to Vokey’s WedgeWorks and Hand Ground experiences as well. Hand Ground wedges were added to Vokey’s lineup in 2013 to appease a golfer’s every preference — nearly unlimited stamping, paint fill and shaping options — and they are hand ground and finished in Vokey’s Tour Department by the same craftsman who build wedges for Titleist’s Tour Staff. Hand ground wedges sell for $350, while each Titleist SM5 wedge sells for $145.
Vokey SM5 wedges come stock with True Temper’s Dynamic Gold S200 shaft (wedge flex) and an exclusive “Vokey Wings” grip made by Golf Pride from its Tour Velvet 60 round model.
For this review, I tested three different SM5 wedges with the following sole grinds and finishes:
- 52-08 (F Grind) in Tour Chrome
- 56-10 (M Grind) in Gold Nickel
- 60-11 (K Grind) in Raw Black
As a player with a naturally steeper angle of attack, I opted for higher bounce when given the option. I also tested the wedges in Hawaii, which tends to have slightly softer and wetter turf. I will go through the performance of each wedge separately, since they all produced unique results.
The 52-08 (F Grind) produced a wonderfully flat trajectory on full and partial shots, piercing through the wind on knock down shots with full control. The ball never floated and kept its line tightly. Distance control was easy to dial in from the fairway, even on slight mishits. Although the ball came off with more spin than I’m used to (I currently game SM4 52-08, 56-11 and 60-07 wedges), the ball was not ripping back, but rather settling nicely after it landed due to the low trajectory. From the rough, very little was lost with yardage control, and shots retained ample spin on mishits.
Although I don’t often use a 52-degree wedge for chipping and pitching, the F Grind worked well for lower, running shots. The sole resisted digging, but it still allowed me to slide under the ball from tight lies and add plenty of check when I needed it.
The 56-10 (M Grind) was the combination of grind and bounce that I personally found to be most versatile, and really highlighted the improvements in the SM5 line. For the golfer who likes to play a lower, one-hop-stop style of shot, this wedge is ideal. The deeper grooves really grip the ball on square-face shots, and the wedge was even more impressive when I opened the face for higher, softer shots. Even from the thickest, nastiest lies, I found I could get the ball to stop within a reasonable distance.
Although I usually play bunker shots with a 60-degree, I found the 56-10 to be a perfectly fine option from greenside bunkers. On full and partial shots, it tended to launch the ball higher and with more spin than I anticipated, a great thing for golfers who are seeking more stopping power. Attacking tucked pins, hitting over trees or playing from poor lies proved to be less difficult than it should have been with this wedge.
Lastly is the 60-11 K Grind, which has more camber than any lob wedge I’ve used in the past. That’s why this wedge took some practice. At first, I was mis-using the sole, which gave me fits in my first few practice sessions. However, after working with it and getting used to the grind, this wedge produced eye-openingly soft shots. I had to let the sole work naturally rather than try to force it to work. When I did that, the sole played unbelievably forgiving. Shots from the fairway and rough came off the face soft and landed delicately.
I’m a high-speed player, so I shied away from hitting full shots with the club. I’m known to balloon shots from more than 70 yards, and unless the greens are firm, the ball tends to spin back much too much from where it lands. The aggressive grooves in the SM5 wedges made this problem worse, but spin around the greens is what I desire most from a lob wedge, and there it delivered. I also found that the 60-11 simplified my short game, as the K Grind allowed me to hit high, soft shots without having to open the face as much as other 60-degree wedges. That led to more consistent contact and less flop shots, which are both good for my score.
Out from the bunker, don’t expect much roll out with an SM5 lob wedge. The 60-11 K Grind stops where it lands, to the point where I found myself making sure that I flew my bunker shots all the way to the hole. Who doesn’t want that?
Looks and Feel
The first choice to be made when a golfer is choosing from the new SM5 lineup is what finishes to choose. I will not attempt to influence your liking, but will rather pass along my own.
The Gold Nickel finish is double-plated, which keeps the wedge from rusting. I personally like wedges that rust, but the Gold Nickel finish is soft enough and durable enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to put three of them in my bag.
The Tour Chrome, which is actually a nickel-chrome finish, is a little brighter and more reflective than the company’s previous Tour Chrome finishes that had a “milkier” look. The added brightness gives the wedges a little extra “bling” in the bag, but it doesn’t add any glare at address thanks to the dark face blast that kills reflectivity and can help alignment.
A long-standing myth among many golfers is that wedges with finishes such as Gold Nickel and Tour Chrome create less spin than “raw” wedges, which don’t have a finish. What they don’t know is that such finishes are about one-third the thickness of a human hair, don’t affect spin and actually serve to prolong the sharpness of a wedge’s grooves over time.
The Raw Black finish, which was my favorite, works well with customization due to the contrast of gold and white lettering on the black base. It is so dark that the grooves can hardly be deciphered from the face, but that only adds to its stealthy look.
The back of the wedges allow plenty of room for stamping and customization, but still looks good “naked.” The color scheme of white, gold and black works well and provides a clean, sophisticated look. While the high impact areas of the wedge such as the face and sole will wear to a silver color with use, the Raw Black finish on the back of the wedge should remain intact.
The overall visual changes Vokey made to the head shape are pleasing to the eye when looking down at address as well. The taller heel combined with a rounded, higher-peaked toe gives the SM5′s a compact, balanced look. It keeps the typical tear drop shape, but it will appear shorter from heel to toe than the SM4′s.
Although the club is cast from carbon steel, most golfers (not GolfWRXers of course) assume that Vokey wedges are forged. That’s because even though they’re cast, the 8620 carbon steel from which they’re cast feels soft and solid at contact.
The improvements that Bob Vokey and his team made with the SM5 line make the wedges suitable for nearly any golfer. The specialized TX3 grooves are noticeably more consistent, and the increased fitting options mean that better players will likely be able to find a wedge that adds shots to their arsenal. Less-skilled players will also have a better chance of finding a wedge with a sole grind that fits their swing type and forgives their bad habits.
Be sure to get help from your local club fitter in order to properly fit yourself in a Titleist SM5 wedge, and don’t forget about Vokey’s affordable customization options. Nothing is cooler than getting up and down with a wedge that has your initials stamped all over it!