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Opinion & Analysis

Extreme wedge testing: Titleist Vokey SM4

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By Brian Chipper

GolfWRX Contributor

I recently purchased a Titleist Vokey Design Spin Milled (SM4) 52 degree gap wedge. I had read some reviews online that guided me to try the club out. And after hitting the club a few times while enjoying the look I decided to purchase it.

However, I don’t feel like all the reviews online did justice and more importantly, as a lot of the reviews didn’t fully test the club to the extreme. A recreational golfer doesn’t get to play all the posh golf courses with caddies and non-governor-regulated carts.  Below you will find the gauntlet I put this club through over a two week span.

Average distance: B

110 yards was about average for me. It only scored a B because I didn’t feel like hollering “BOOM” like with the Hammer Driver.

Happy Gilmore Toss: F

Only going 39 yards, the tackiness of the grip and the fact the club is still pretty new probably subconsciously slowed my throwing motion. In comparison, my 1999 Cleveland wedge’s last throw was measured around 85 yards.

Percent chance if you give it a frustrated flip towards your bag that it will hit it: 100 percent

I tried to pick a ball off some hardpan, I got some divot, enough said.

Percent chance if you give it a frustrated flip towards your bag the head will fly off: 0 percent

Hey, this has happened before. This test is also known as quality of glue test.

Full swing at pumpkin grade: N/A

The clubhead dug quite well into the pumpkin, but was unexpectedly slowed down by the guts and was not able to penetrate the opposite wall.

Half swing at pumpkin grade: A+

Letting the club do the work this time, the clubhead sliced right through a new pumpkin like a Ginsu Knife.

Strength of clubhead, as measured by the number of new dings per walking round: A+

I have walked three rounds with the club in the bag and only have one small ding near the hosel.

Ability to spread butter on piece of French Bread: D+

The grooves held too much butter and made quite the mess to clean up after the experiment was over.  However, the angle of the clubface did interact with the tub of butter and the bread quite well.

Grip quality, as tested in the cliffhanger challenge: B

Okay, there was no cliff, but my 3-year-old was able to hold on pretty well as I picked her up while she had her hands on the grip.

The Cola-finish challenge: B

Left the club soaked in some cola and was pleasantly surprised to see this type of carbon steel did not lose any color.  It didn’t get a perfect score because it was quite sticky afterwards.

Freezer Test: A+

I put it in the freezer, took it out and it was very cold.

Shovelability: A

I helped the wife plant some bulbs in the garden for next spring recently and found that this club was more than sufficient for digging out a proper sized hole.

Sex Appeal: B

I have a feeling the oil or black finishes may score higher than my satin chrome. That being said, it is not Bo Derek on the wall amazing, but above average none-the-less.

Drunken Karaoke microphone fill in: A+

My brother in-law, who was drunk, did not notice the difference between this club and cheap microphone. How he found my club in the trunk of my car is still being debated.

Overall Score: A

I was very pleased with the ability this golf club has shown. It also helps I’ve been able to spin balls on the green like I never have before.  I hope the grooves retain their ability for next season.

Click here for more discussion in the “equipment” forum. 

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Topical writer for GolfWRX. Minnesotan. Father. Golfer. Has convinced himself that if he played on nicer courses he could truly be a scratch golfer.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Tuukka

    Oct 15, 2012 at 2:48 am

    I really enjoyed reading this review. You made my before-work-coffee-moment.

  2. Roger in NZ

    Oct 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Try the Mizuno MP R 12, i haven’t done the extensive testing aka throw it at the bag etc, but my 52 and 58 throw darts at the pin. Have a Happy Gilmore day! Humour…makes the world a great place.

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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Podcasts

Two Guys Talkin’ Golf: “Are pro golfers actually underpaid?”

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Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX editor Andrew Tursky argue whether PGA Tour players are actually underpaid or not. They also discuss Blades vs. Cavity backs, Jordan Spieth vs. Justin Thomas and John Daly’s ridiculous 142 mph clubhead speed.

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Podcasts

Legend Rees Jones speaks on designing Danzante Bay in Mexico

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Hall-of-Fame golf course architect Rees Jones talks about his newest course design, Danzante Bay at Villa Del Palmar in Mexico. Also, Jeff Herold of TRS Luggage has an exclusive holiday discount offer for GolfWRX listeners!

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