You may not know the name Carlton Masui, but chances are good you’ve run across his products.
Masui has worked for Gauge Design in Japan and helped design wedges and putters. He left the company in the late ’90’s but has opened a shop in Hawaii and has been doing quality club work since 2006. Masui has become famous for building clubs and grinding wedges for teen phenom Tadd Fujikawa. Masui’s most recent adventure – releasing the Chikara Designs line which begins his own line of production wedges. This is not your typical run of the mill sand wedge. Everything about the club is performance oriented, from the forging process it’s made from to it’s pronounced sole grind and head shape. So exactly what makes Carl’s Chikara wedges that much better than other wedges on the market?
Chikara has a very clean look at address. The round, high toe is very reminiscent of the tried and true Cleveland 588. When set down behind the ball, the club has a very thin topline and a leading edge which blends perfectly into the hosel to give the look of minimal offset, but still providing quite a bit of confidence at address. The top line has an incredibly thin appearance due to a beveled edge which gives it a very thin look from address without sacrificing the feel of actually losing material high on the club. The graphics of hte club are very clean, with the number of dots denoting the loft of the club (three dots means 57) and the Japanese Kanji “Chikara” which means power on the toe.
The Chikara wedge comes in two flavors, the standard retail and the prototype. The prototype is hand ground, features a black finish, and has less bounce along with milled grooves. The retail clubs are available only in satin chrome, have slightly more bounce, and have grooves that are double punched rather than milled. Dynamic Gold is the standard shaft for both models, although various others are available.
How much technology can there be in a wedge? Well, the Chikara finds a clear way to seperate itself from many of the other wedges on the market, yet does it subtly and without any gimmicky packaging. Looking over the wedge and the most prominent feature is the impressive sole grind. The combination of heel, toe, and trailing edge relief allow for the club to lay flat on the ground even if the face is wide open. Also, the CNC milled channel cut into the sole allows the club to play with minimal bounce when square but still keeps the full width of the sole intact for times when more bounce is needed.
Also, the transition from the club face to the hosel has received special attention. The hosel is very slightly offset but progresses forward to keep the leading edge directly inline with the shaft to give the appearance of no offset. It’s something you would probably not notice unless told to look for but was purposely designed that way by Masui to add forgiveness but maintaining a look even the most skilled players will love.
More and more companies these days are incorporating sole grinds into their retail wedge line. However, none of these can compare to the grind on the Chikara. Although the club officially has fourteen degrees of bounce and a fairly wide sole, it does not play that way at all. Quite the contrary, even if the face is opened wide up, the club plays with much less bounce than advertised. The advantage of having that much bounce is very apparent on full swings though. Going through the turf, the wedge is incredibly stable and is great for players who like to hit down on their wedges. Feel wise, the club is very soft. The S25C metal and the unique forging process yield a very soft feeling wedge that still retains quite a bit of durability. Fans of Mizuno forgings will notice a great deal of similarity in feel in the Chikaras. The channel cut in the sole allows it to sit square and brings the leading edge closer to the turf. The combination of wide sole with reduced camber helps prevent skipping even in hard conditions. However, the bounce does not get in the way around the greens since the heel and toe relief allow for the club to sit low to the ground when the club face is wide open. Sliding the club face under the ball even from tight lies is really not a problem at all with this wedge.
Although the grooves on the retail club are not milled, this was a calculated move since the double punched grooves on the retail provide more than enough spin. The large groove volume and sharp edges mean that sucking golf balls back is no issue at all and getting short shots around the greens to check is very easy. It has taken about a month to get the club broken in, but now it provides quite a bit of spin and is still pretty friendly to premium golf balls, with only minor cover damage. One of the biggest advantages of the club is found in bunkers. The club is simply automatic out of the sand. If you enter the sand a little too close to the ball, the leading edge seem to just dig enough to allow the club to slide under the ball. A little fat and the bounce works to prevent digging. Few other golf clubs can make this claim, but with this in your bag, you will become a better sand player.
The club also very playable whether the conditions are soft or firm. I’ve played the club in deep rough and the extra bounce available makes it very easy to keep the club from digging even in deep rough with a semi-buried ball. Also, thanks the channel in the sole, picking the ball clean off the tightest bent grass lies hasn’t been a problem since the club plays very low bounce when square. Golfers who carry multiple bounce configurations for different conditions can easily replace their entire collection with the appropriate lofts in the Chikara.
With the exception of the putter, the sand wedge is of paramount importance to golfers. Increase their handicap, and this value seems to grow exponentially. With all the options on the market today, it might be difficult to choose a product like the Chikara, especially since many golfers have come to trust their Clevelands and Vokeys over the years. However, if you can get past the lack of an established name, you’ll find the Chikara wedge to surpass any other on the market in terms of playability, feel, and spin. Whether it is the narliest blue grass rough, or the driest hard pan lie, there is not a single shot the Chikara can’t tackle.