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Opinion & Analysis

Working with the living legend Roger Cleveland

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This job has a ton of unique, out-of-body experiences that go along with it. Traveling the country, testing new gear, and most importantly, getting to know the community that drives and creates the equipment we love so much.

When I was flying from Toronto to Carlsbad, I was struck by something that hadn’t really sunk in. I was going to meet and work with Roger Cleveland, Chief Club Designer for Callaway Golf, and the lead creative for the company for over 23 years. It’s been a bucket list item for me since I was a kid. I’ve played a 588 wedge since the beginning, and Roger was one of the few individuals I followed and built a ridiculous amount of curiosity around. It was an “oh my God” scenario, and it didn’t disappoint. How could it?

We were on-site to get our first look at the new Callaway Jaws MD5 wedge, and Roger was kind enough to give me the full tour of what he and the team at Callaway had come up with. With all club launches, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the data—spin, launch, etc. But when Roger and I began our journey, it was apparent that although these new wedges are packed with new ideas, it’s the wisdom of this man that you feel and experience the most.

Now, let’s be honest here, all of the OEMs make unbelievable stuff. I grew up in a time when the grinds that were available consisted of standard and a shovel. These days, with the influence of people like Roger, all golfers can dial in the bottom half of the bag to the nth degree. Now standard offerings are versions of a C, S, etc.—all tour-inspired shapes that satisfy pretty much every player who ever picked up a club.

This particular line has all the fixings one would expect. It’s a five-grind, multi-bounce line that has grooves that could peel the paint off of a car. In the video, you will see that I didn’t want to demonstrate what these things do on shots that would rely on the ball zipping back like a midnight infomercial. It’s the stock shots where you will see the most value in the Jaws MD5. The 40-yard pitch or a shot from just off the green that needs to check a bit. It’s practical spin where I saw why these wedges are fantastic. In the video, there is a moment where on a simple pitch I could literally hear the ball ripping the grass. On a fuller shot it’s normal…but on a 60-foot pitch-and-run? Not normal.

Believe it or not, the grooves on the Jaws MD5 are intense, but that was the second biggest story I discovered. After hitting a bunch of shots, there was one big surprise that I experienced: It was the Low Bounce W Grind 60 that really impressed me. I am a lunatic when it comes to lob wedges. I’m a good wedge player and will not entertain any wedge not resembling something with a ton of heel relief and a thinner flange. As you will see in the video, once I listened to Roger a bit and heard the excitement in his voice (about this wedge in particular), there was just enough daylight shining on my brain to give it an honest look. Bottom line: it’s the hidden jewel of the entire Callaway lineup. Especially for better players.

Wedges these days are pretty much paint by number with the only real shifts being CG placement. It’s rare that a new grind comes to retail that legitimately impresses me—and I will go even further: I was as impressed as I’ve been in any new club launch. I’ve had a few holy s**t moments, and this was one of them.

After the fitting/testing was complete, this is what I landed on and what I learned.

Callaway Jaws MD5

  • 46S, 50S, 54C(@55), 60W
  • True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts
  • Standard lie

The biggest takeaway from this whole experience was that, when it comes to the scoring clubs, it’s wisdom, not science, that makes them special. I can see Roger Cleveland in every grind Callaway offers; I can see the thousands of players, clubs, sessions, and shots he’s been involved with. And it’s not exclusive to this new offering, it bleeds throughout Callaway as a company.

So, were my expectations met? Yes. The man is a wizard. There a few of them still out there, but when you get to spend time with one, you better thank the golf gods you got the time. And you wanna know the best thing? He was as excited and passionate with me as I’ve seen him with the likes of Phil and the rest of the Tour. The guy just loves talking golf, and as a ride-or-die golf junkie, I’m grateful he wanted to chat with me on that unbelievable day.

Watch my full testing/fitting session here. 

 

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Johnny Wunder is the Director of Original Content, Instagram Manager and Host of “The Gear Dive” Podcast for GolfWRX.com. He was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. John is also a partner with The Traveling Picture Show Company having most recently produced JOSIE with Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner. In 1997 Johnny had the rare opportunity of being a clubhouse attendant for the Anaheim Angels. He now resides in Toronto, On with his wife and two sons. @johnny_wunder on IG

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1 Comment

  1. Speedy

    Oct 10, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks, JW. Good coverage.

    I remember the lush greens at Rainier.

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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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The Gear Dive: Urban Golf Performance owner Mac Todd

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Fujikura, Johnny chats again with his old pal Mac Todd Owner and Operator of Urban Golf Performance in Los Angeles. They cover the growth of the business, what the new Club member experience may look like and much much more.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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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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