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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.

1 Comment

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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