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The Big Review – Vega RAFW-05 and RAFW-08 Wedges

by   |   April 16, 2008

Japanese forged wedges are regarded by many as the pinnacle of their type. High performance, great looks, outstanding feel; the only surprise to many is that they are not seen more often in the bags of the professionals.

Epon, Chikara, Scratch, Fourteen, Royal Collection, Miura – all names guaranteed to have the cognoscenti drooling with anticipation. To that list you can add the Vega. Vega make the full range of golf products, including drivers, hybrids, irons (if Christian Bale ever played golf, you feel he would just have to play their 50th Anniversary Blades) and, of course, wedges. The RAFW line of wedges are as sexy a line up of wedges as you will ever see and Bag Chatter got to test the golden hued RAFW-05 and the raw black RAFW-08 in our continuing investigations into great equipment.

Vega are the premium brand from Kyoei. JDM fanatics may recognise the Kyoei name as the company that Miura worked for before he left to found his own self named company. Based in Ichikawa in Japan (also the location where the clubs are forged), Vega have been in business 51 years this year. Using a mix of traditional one piece forging along with cutting edge techniques like CNC milling, Vega say that they are part of the endless search for the finest clubs possible. Testament to this is the fact that Vega can be found in the bags of about 30 main Tour players. Some achievement considering that they don’t pay anyone to use their equipment. With most players contracted to play 9 or 10 clubs from their main sponsor, competition is ferocious to fill those remaining spots and any manufacturer that can get its clubs into the bag of a modern Tour professional without paying tee up money is obviously doing something right.

At first glance while both wedges are aimed at better players, these are two very different wedges for two very different types of players. The RAFW-05 has a heavily milled face and some of the widest grooves I have ever seen while the RAFW-08 has more standard style grooves with no face milling but has a little more bounce and an exceptional sole grind. The shafts are the new FST High Rev wedge shaft (from the same designer as the Project X shaft, Kim Braly) rather than the de facto wedge shaft, Dynamic Gold. This was the first time I had played this shaft in anger and its quality really shines through. Especially impressive was that both shafts were requested at a custom length and both were measured as being dead on spec (loft specs were also accurate too). The grip is the extremely tacky Golf Pride New Decade Sand Grips which make for a brilliantly secure connection with the club. One point to be aware of is that there is a noticeable difference with the combination of the High Rev shaft and this grip as it feels about 2 wraps thicker than a DG with a standard Tour Velvet grip. Surprisingly that actually proved to reduce unnecessary hand action without reducing feel for virtually all who tried them.

Technical Specs

RAFW-05
52
56
60
Bounce 8 12 6
Lie 63.5 64 64

 

RAFW-08
52
56
60
Bounce 8 13 10
Lie 63.5 64 64

The RAFW-05 is made from a material exclusive to Vega called EES. Due to the high copper and zinc content of this material, grooves cannot be stamped on the face so CNC milling is used for both the face and for the grooves. The RAFW-08 is made from JIS S25C Carbon Steel which does not require milling so the grooves are stamped.  Vega have told Bag Chatter than due to Tour feedback a RAFW-08i will be on the way that will have a milled face for those looking for that extra level of spin along with all the other features of the standard RAFW-08.

Appearance

Stunning. Both have classic small teardrop headshapes with the RAFW-08 being the slightly larger of the two. The RAFW-05 is a more of a gold colour than a brassy one and does not look anything but extremely classy. The RAFW-08 is one of the most beautiful wedges I have ever seen. The surface holds the finishing grain and feels like freshly cut slate and the edges of the grinds are knife-like in their precision.

Three quarter view

 

Performance

Spin

With some of the widest grooves and some of the deepest face-milling of any currently available wedge, the RAFW-05 delivers awesome spin. Stopping the ball is a piece of cake and full shots can be made to dance. Aggressive shots out of the sand really come out spitting and high flop shots sit down fast.

The RAFW-08 has a completely different spin profile. With its narrower grooves and flat face area, this is a wedge for players looking for high controllable spin levels rather than someone looking to max their spin out. That said there’s still plenty of spin there make no mistake as balls will sit down like someone yanked them down with a piece of string, but certainly there seems a bit less than the RAFW-05.

Grooves and Face

05 Grooves

 

08 grooves

 

Control

From the sand and the rough, the RAFW-05 has the edge. With the extreme levels of spin, the ball can be struck firmly with the knowledge that there is almost no roll out and that the ball will pretty much stop at impact allowing you to play target golf. The RAFW-08 is no slouch in either of those conditions but it really comes alive on chips, pitches and full shots from the fairway where the grind can really be brought to bear and the control on greenside shots is awesome. Chipping from the greenside, holing the ball becomes a real option rather than a shot in the dark with the amount of spin and corresponding runout being very consistent and predictable depending on what shot you play.

Feel

For the price (£149 for the RAFW-05 and £139 for the RAFW-08) and the specs you would expect these two to deliver shots with great feel and they deliver in spades – helped in large part by the almost perfect headweight, the top quality shaft and excellent grip. The RAFW-08 offers sensational feel: a crisp yet soft strike that is never close to being clicky. Almost unbelievably, the RAFW-05 is even better, being through the other side of soft and into the realms of silken. Frankly, it’s like diving into a supermodel’s underwear drawer and a well struck shot with this wedge will have you open mouthed in disbelief. Off-centre hits are not punished as badly as you might think with either club and the feedback on these is certainly felt but never unpleasant.

Versatility

The RAFW-08 has the more obvious sole grind with a slight trailing edge grind and a very pronounced leading edge grind. The knife-like front really allows you to shave the ground with the club no matter what the lie. While you might expect that this grind would cause digging on steeper full shots it never seems to and as mentioned previously, it makes this wedge incredibly effective when chipping. The sole profile on the RAFW-05 is less radical but is almost as effective as the RAFW-08 with the trailing edge smoothly hidden by the asymmetric camber across the sole. Both can be opened up completely without the leading edge rising overmuch, making high flops far simpler than they otherwise would be.

Sole

 

08 sole

 

Conclusion

Two superb wedges aimed at different areas of the short game, it would be difficult to imagine anybody being unhappy about having either of these in their bags. The RAFW-05 offers the edge in terms of spin and feel while the RAFW-08 offers the better control and versatility allied to arguably better looks. If one had the luxury of having a full set of wedges from Vega, unless you are an extremely high or low spin player the obvious option would seem to have RAFW-08 wedges in the lower lofts where spin control and versatility around the green are the highest priority and then have the RAFW-05 for the unsurpassed stopping power from the rough and the sand and for those flop shots that need to stick where they land. All in all, these are two classic examples of why Japanese forged wedges have such a cult following.

2 Comments

  1. Martin

    February 24, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Mine are D4.5 but they are customizable so you can have what you want.

  2. Paul

    February 18, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Any idea on the swing weight of these wedges?

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