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Top 5 wedges of all time

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Wedges. They are the “trusted old friends” in our golf bags. They inspire confidence inside of 100 yards and help us get back on track when we hit a wayward approach.

There was a time not too long ago when a bunker was considered a true hazard, but over the last 80 years, as agronomy has evolved on the same trajectory as club an ball technology, wedges have changed a great deal along the way—from the first modern prototype wedge built by Gene Sarazen to clubs featuring various plating and coatings to increase spin and performance. There are a lot of wedge designs that have stood the test of time; their sole grinds, profiles from address, and performance bring back memories of great hole outs and recovery shots.

With so many variations of wedges in the history of golf (and so much parity), this is my top five list (in no particular order) of the most iconic wedges in golf history.

Original Gene Sarazen Wedge

An early Gene Sarazen wedge. (Photo: USGA)

Gene is famous for a lot of things: the career grand slam, the longest endorsement deal in professional sports history (75 years as a Wilson ambassador), the “shot heard around the world”, and as mentioned earlier—the creation of the modern sand wedge. Although not credited with the invention of the original  “sand wedge” he 100 percent created the modern wedge with a steel shaft and higher bounce. A creation that developed from soldering mass to the sole and flange of what would be our modern-day pitching wedge. Born from the idea of a plane wing, thanks to a trip taken with Howard Hughes, we can all thank Mr. Sarazen for the help with the short shots around the green.

Wilson R90

The next evolution of the original Sarazen Design, the Wilson R90 was the very first mass-marketed sand wedge. Its design characteristics can still be seen in the profile of some modern wedges. Although many might not be as familiar with the R90, you would almost certainly recognize the shape, since it was very often copied by other manufacturers, in their wedge lines.

The R90 features a very rounded profile, high amount of offset, and a great deal of bounce in the middle of the sole, with very little camber. Although not as versatile as modern wedges because of the reduced curve from heel to toe, the R90 is still a force to be reckoned with in the sand.

Cleveland 588

You know a name and design are classic when a company chooses to use the original notation more than 30 years after its initial release. The 588 was introduced as Cleveland’s fifth wedge design and came to market in 1988—which is how it got its name. Wedges were never the same after.

The brainchild of Roger Cleveland, the 588 was made from 8620 carbon steel—which patinad over time. Not unlike the Wilson before it, the 588 had a very traditional rounded shape with a higher toe and round leading edge. The other part of the design that created such versatility was the V-Sole (No, not the same as the Current Srixon), that offers a lot more heel relief to lower the leading edge as the face was opened up—this was the birth of the modern wedge grind.

Titleist Vokey Spin Milled

The wedge that launched the Vokey brand into the stratosphere. Spin-milled faces changed the way golfers look at face technology in their scoring clubs. From a humble club builder to a wedge guru, Bob Vokey has been around golf and the short game for a long time. The crazy thing about the Bob Vokey story is that it all started with one question: “who wants to lead the wedge team?” That was all it took to get him from shaping Titleist woods to working with the world’s best players to create high-performance short game tools.

Honorable mentions for design goes to the first 200 and 400 series wedge, which caught golfers’ eyes with their teardrop shape—much like the Cleveland 588 before it.

Ping Eye 2 Plus

What can you say? The unique wedge design that other OEMs continue to draw inspiration from it 30 years after its original conception. The Eye 2+ wedge was spawned from what is undoubtedly the most popular iron design of all time, which went through many iterations during its 10 years on the market—a lifecycle that is completely unheard of in today’s world of modern equipment.

A pre-worn sole, huge amount of heel and toe radius, and a face that screams “you can’t miss,” the true beauty comes from the way the hosel transitions into the head, which makes the club one of the most versatile of all time.

Check out my video below for more on why this wedge was so great.

Honorable mention: The Alien wedge

To this day, the Alien wedge is the number-one-selling single golf club of all time! Although I’m sure there aren’t a lot of people willing to admit to owning one, it did help a lot of golfer by simplifying the short game, especially bunker shots.

Its huge profile looked unorthodox, but by golly did it ever work! Designed to be played straight face and essentially slammed into the sand to help elevate the ball, the club did what it set out to do: get you out of the sand on the first try. You could say that it was inspired by the original Hogan “Sure-Out,” but along the way it has also inspired others to take up the baton in helping the regular high-handicap golfer get out of the sand—I’m looking at you XE1.

That’s my list, WRXers. What would you add? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. Buckeye

    Sep 14, 2019 at 7:56 am

    MacGregor “Dual Purpose” in the 50s-60s, with a groove in the center of the sole. You have to be of a certain age to have experienced it. And perhaps from Ohio. I’m sure Nicklaus would have had one.

  2. slypanther

    Sep 9, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    The announcers are ill informed of the history of golf club technology, the audio is C**P, I would rather read the content as I do not have an hour of time in a day to just sit down and try to understand the commentators. I view WRX less and less as you have forced the majority of new content onto these podcasts. If I do not see a shift back to print media, soon, I will cancel my subscription status and look to Golf Digest/Monthly/World for info I desire about the golf industry

  3. Dan W

    Sep 2, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Growing up, all “players” either had an eye 2 or the 588 and usually accompanied with mizuno blades, eye 2 irons, or DCI 762. The small tour prefereed TM woods, a copper anser or zing 2 putter and the loose bodied Ping bag with legs.

    My bag in high school:
    Tm tour preferred burner 7.5 and 15 deg
    Ping eye 2 beCu 2-pw
    588 56 deg
    Copper ping zing 2 putter
    That ping bag.
    Saddle foot joy with old school metal spinks
    Tour edition ball.

    Just typing this up gives me a thick fat nostalga sandwich to chew on. Good times. I would love to recreate the whole set, ball included and go play onc last time with them.

    • Tim Armington

      Sep 4, 2019 at 10:06 pm

      You just described me!!!!

    • Dan W

      Sep 8, 2019 at 2:21 am

      Unbelievable, my bag was exactly the same but originally I had the copper 588, then the RTG. Dynamic Gold s-300 in the woods. Pings had zz lites and were black dot bent by ping from orange because they were hand me downs from my short grandpa. Found the putter broken in half in the garbage can in front of the pro shop. Soaked it in coke , reshafted it with an x-100 wedge shaft and loads of lead tape on the bottom. Top 2 putters I ever used. I still can’t figure out how the Tour editon could spin like it did with the firm cover it had. Also for a while I wore Mizuno shoes with permanent ceramic spikes until one popped out of the shoe. Saddle FG shoes were always a no brainer. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • E. Tench

      Nov 14, 2019 at 2:19 pm

      Eye 2 sand and loft wedges, mizuno mp-32 irons, Zing 2 putter, Ping Hoofer bag. Loved the Tour Edition balls, they were like throwing darts. The mp-32s replaced Eye 2’s which replaced Eyes. Arizona born and raised, if you didnt have Eye 2’s you were saving up for them. Great post, thanks.

  4. rex 235

    Aug 31, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    How could anyone ignore placing the Wilson Staff Dynapower Wedge series- 1957-1975 in the top 5?

    • steve

      Sep 9, 2019 at 11:07 am

      If this lists does not include the WS wedges and or joe powell JP wedges than don’t bother taking this serious,

  5. ChipNRun

    Aug 31, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    Callaway Forged+ and XForged SW with C-grind stayed in golf bags for a long time; most got bumped out for competitive golfers who had to obey the 2010 grooves rule revision.

    https://www.callawaygolfpreowned.com/golf-clubs/wedges/wedges-x-forged-2008.html?cgid=wedges

  6. Webster Miller

    Aug 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    I’ve still got a BeCu R90 in the garage somewhere. That thing can dig divots like a backhoe. While the 588 is easily more popular, I always preferred the 485 for its smaller head. FWIW, there are 2 completely different 485 head shapes; one that is offset with a super wide sole, and then one that’s more traditional. The offset one is a chipping machine as you can just aim slightly behind the ball and let that wide sole due all the work.

  7. Larry

    Aug 25, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    No Wilson 58 Dynapower????

  8. James Awad

    Aug 25, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    No serious ‘top 10’ – never the less top 5 – list can POSSIBLY exclude the Hogan Sure Out.

    But by all means, put Cameron’s poor cousin Vokey & his standard issue copies of stuff – made out of crushed up Yugos & tin cans.

    Hack!

    • Darryl Souness

      Aug 26, 2019 at 2:51 am

      Crushed Yugos…. immense, I’ll borrow that if I may James.

  9. duke

    Aug 25, 2019 at 11:06 am

    My all time favorite is the 588. I still have one in the bag.

  10. Pelling

    Aug 24, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    The Cleveland VAS 792 PW clearly the most beautiful club ever made…

  11. HDTVMAN

    Aug 24, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    I had Ping Eye2 56° & 60° in the 80’s, and the lob allowed me to do perfect flop shots. Just bought the new 54° & 58° Ping 3.0 Glide Eye2’s this weekend…can’t wait to try them Monday!

  12. D

    Aug 24, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    Eye2 plus? The original square groove is the relevant club for this conversation. The plus was NOT well received.

    • Jamie

      Aug 25, 2019 at 10:19 am

      This.

    • Ed

      Aug 25, 2019 at 5:15 pm

      I agree. I thought for sure the original Eye 2 sand/lob wedges, which spawned all of the “high toe” wedges, would be the style profiled. Those are the best wedges I have ever used around the green.

    • Ditto

      Aug 28, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      The Eye 2 sole was FAR SUPERIOR to the Eye 2+ sole. The Eye 2+ Sole grind was horrible for the average player. Even Tour Pros favored the Eye 2 sole.

  13. Bob

    Aug 24, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Hogan Sure Out was very popular, late 70’s early 80’s

  14. Tom54

    Aug 24, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Anyone remember the Ram 3D wedge? Not sure if it was a pro model but it sure had a neat split sole design

  15. RAR

    Aug 24, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    I think someone overlooked the Wilson R-20, it was one of the first sand wedges to ‘copy’ Sarazen

  16. Andrew Millar

    Aug 24, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Taylormade RAC TP

  17. AF

    Aug 24, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    SCOR changed the Wedge category with the V-Sole (double bounce) & weight higher up the back.. More importantly, making the case forever that cavity back wedges are counter productive at best.. As far as I’m concerned, any Iron 40 degrees & up should never have any cavity..
    I wish they had never been wiped away by Hogan..

    • D

      Aug 24, 2019 at 7:34 pm

      Scor wedges didn’t change anything. Crappy grind for 90%

    • Mark M

      Aug 24, 2019 at 10:54 pm

      Still playing SCOR wedges, best wedge I’ve ever used. But they’re getting very hard to find now.

    • Jonathan Weaver

      Sep 2, 2019 at 8:59 am

      wasnt scor a copy of the eidolon which was a copy of the Reid Lockhart?

  18. Mario B

    Aug 24, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Mizuno Raw Haze, Taylormade EF, Crews wedges

  19. Howard Clark

    Aug 24, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Hogan Special: best then; best now.

  20. Mark

    Aug 24, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Watson cobalt wedges were the ultimate wedges. Should have made this list.

  21. L.T. White

    Aug 24, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Spaulding bird back wedges from 50’s and 60’s

  22. Greg Templeton

    Aug 24, 2019 at 2:24 am

    Think the 588 released in 1988 had a shiny chrome finish until about 1996 when the Rad Tour Grind finish was offered as an option.

  23. Techvan4Life

    Aug 23, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    You are wrong about the cleveland wedge naming system ending at the 588. The 691 was wedge 6 in 1991 the 797 beni was number 7 in 1997. Number 8 never made to market and the 900 was number 9 in 2000.

    Then the system just got simple. Cg10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16

  24. Wedge Doctor

    Aug 23, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    Historically and impact fully, I’m not sure anyone could argue with:
    1. The Sarazen Wedge
    2. The Staff Dynapower Wedges
    3. The Ping Eye 2 Square Groove
    4. The Cleveland 588
    5. The Vokey Spin Milled
    Virtually everything else came as a result of those wedges.

  25. Tim Vaughan

    Aug 23, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Wilson staff dynapower 58-59, Nicklaus, Watson, chip in US Open Trevino and many more, should be Number 1

    • J Zilla

      Aug 24, 2019 at 2:23 am

      I don’t think mine is from 58-59 but a much later re-release, but I’ve had my Wilson Fluid-feel Dynapower since my earliest days golfing 30 years ago. I don’t play it anymore, but I always love taking it and looking at it. In fact I may even take it to the chipping green next time I go.

  26. Bruce

    Aug 23, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    Console? Wilson Staff?

  27. Darth Blader

    Aug 23, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    CG14?

  28. Joe McManuis

    Aug 23, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    If not top 5 the Hogan Sure-out has to be # 6

    • Bob Jones

      Aug 24, 2019 at 3:04 pm

      Yes. From the bunker or the fairway it works great. And from tall grass, all that metal will not be denied.

  29. tom

    Aug 23, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    Eye 2+ over Eye 2 square groove?????????????????????????????????????????????

    • Joe

      Aug 24, 2019 at 4:00 pm

      That’s what I was thinking. The non+ are the ones I’ve always liked (and have in my bag).

  30. JB

    Aug 23, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    Can’t believe the replaceable face TaylorMade wedge didn’t make the list… lol

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive WITB Edition: Adam Scott

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In this WITB edition of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with JJ VanWezenbeeck and Aaron Dill of Titleist Golf on the ins and outs of Genesis Invitational Champion Adam Scott’s setup.

Adam Scott WITB details below

Driver: Titleist TS4 (10.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting, 2-gram weight)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 X

  • Scott put the Kuro Kage in play this week. Per Titleist’s J.J. VanWezenbeeck, “Adam Scott switched to the TS4 driver at the ZoZo Championship due to head size, shape, and improved launch to spin ratios. This week, after discussions with Adam, he went to a shaft he had previously played for increased stability. He felt the shaft went a little far and he lost head feel. We went on course with lead tape to get the feels to match up then weighted the head to preferred swing weight after testing.”

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (16.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Rombax P95 X

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (3-iron), Titleist 680 (4-9 irons)
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (48.08F, 52.08F, 56.10S), Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (60.06K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Xperimental Prototype Rev X11 (long)

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Scott marks his ball with dots in the pattern of the Southern Cross, which is featured on the Australian flag.

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: An examination of proper “release”

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One of my favorite ‘contributions’ to this game I love is helping golfers t an “ah-ha” moment, wherein they gain an understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the golf swing that helps them make progress in their ball striking. In so many cases with recreational golfers, keys to improvement can be much more conceptual than physical. In other words, helping a golfer discover what really should be happening in various parts of the golf swing leads them to make their own swing alterations to adopt this new understanding.

I firmly believe that teaching through understanding is much more productive than trying to teach “a new move” through the physical approach. From my observation of recreational golfers, particularly those with “homemade” swings (which all have the potential to produce better and more consistent results in my opinion), one of the most misunderstood intricacies of the golf swing is how the club should be “released” through the impact zone.

Almost universally, golfers seem to think that the club releases through impact by or with an unhinging of the wrists, so that the left arm and shaft form a straight line.

If you genuinely want to improve your ball striking, your distance, your consistency and your scores, I suggest you pursue a genuine and technical understanding of this critical segment of the golf swing. Because most of you are
stuck in front of your TV right now–watching more golf than you are playing–you can make this time count. Every chance you get, watch the slow-motion videos of the golf swing from behind the golfer, looking down the line. A
straight-on view of the golf swing does not reveal this angle, but that is mostly what we are given in swing analysis by television and magazines, unfortunately.

[I’ll offer too, that you can learn a lot more from watching the LPGA players than the guys, as these very talented ladies are much closer to our own strength profiles. In my opinion, most of them are much more fundamentally
sound in their mechanics as they simply have to get the most efficiency out of the swing.]

What you will see, particularly with the wedge and short iron shots is that the hands and arms follow a path through impact that very nearly “covers” their position at address, where a distinct angle is formed by the left arm and shaft of the club…again, looking from behind the golfer down the target line.

As you study these videos and still photos, you’ll see that in the longer, more powerful swings–driver, metals, hybrids–the hands drift a little higher and away from the body more than they do with the middle and short irons, but the angle is still there. As you watch these guys hit the delicate short shots around the greens, the hands almost identically cover their address position.

That’s because a proper “release” of the club is not as much an unhinging of the wrists, but rather a rotation of the hands and arms through impact, in concert with and driven by the rotation of the body core itself. Close examination shows that the hands remain almost directly in front of the sternum through the entire impact zone, and the forearms and hands rotate – not unhinge – so that the club is squared at the ball for consistent impact.

Now, all this diagnosis would not be worth a dime to you if I didn’t show you how to experience this for yourself. Like most new physical activities, you are always best served by trying to LEARN IT IN SLOW MOTION! Simply pick up your 8- or 9-iron and find a place in your house or garage where you won’t take out a table lamp, and make very S-L-O-W swings, while concentrating on making this rotational release motion.

Your goal is to set up at address with the left arm hanging naturally from your shoulder, not pushed out toward the ball. Take the club back with a rotation of the body core, and then back through the impact zone, concentrating on making the left arm and hands exactly “cover” their address position. The angle of the wrists is maintained, and the club rotates through the ball, as your body rotates through impact.

Once you get the feel of it in slow motion, make slightly faster swings, concentrating on the path of the arms and that rotational release. When you actually hit balls with this newly-learned release–DO IT AT 35-50% POWER–you’ll be amazed at the boring trajectories and effortless distance you will get!

Let’s get some feedback on this, guys. How did you do?

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Tiger at Riviera and his future in golf

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Tiger looked pretty bad at the Genesis this weekend and is not playing next week, what does his future look like in golf? Speculation on his future and if he will play some champions events or what. Also discussed: A little on distance and what not to do at a club demo day!

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