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Titleist Vokey SM8 wedges: Leading with performance

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Say “Vokey” to any golfer and they will instantaneously know you are talking about wedges. The name Vokey, along with Titleist, is synonymous with performance. In 2020, Vokey is introducing its most performance-driven line yet, the Vokey SM8 wedges.

Built on the foundation of what were already the number one wedges on the PGA Tour, Vokey SM8’s take precision and control to the next level thanks to refined shapes, cosmetics, sole grinds, and for the first time, multi-material technology to improve performance.

2020 Vokey SM8 wedges: How did we get here?

Vokey wedges are the standard by which wedges are judged by most golfers, similar to the way new golf balls are often compared to the Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x. Dating all the way back to the original Spin Milled wedges, Titleist has lead the way with spin performance and quality club after club. This comes from the fact that each and every single wedge manufactured is tested for groove dimensions before ever being built.

Titleist believes that there are three key performance factors that golfers should consider when choosing new wedges

  • Distance and trajectory control
  • Shot versatility, in varying conditions
  • Spin depreciation and groove wear over time

Distance control is important for reasons I probably shouldn’t have to explain, and as golfers get into their wedges, the old mindset of just getting 52, 56, and 60-degree wedges to make sure you have all the shots is out the window. Golfers now have to consider where they transition from their irons to wedges and the lofts are of those clubs, which means if you have a 44 to 45-degree pitching wedge, grabbing that conventional 52 might not be the best idea. This is exactly why Titleist decided to put the lofts of its pitching wedges on the bottom of the T-Series irons: to better help golfers make good gapping decisions.

Loft decisions also rely on the type of shots players hit with each club, because if you are only taking full swings with your gap wedge and sand wedges, then those lofts need to reflect those shot choices and the desired distance goals. The shortest wedge can then become a specialty club built for versatility, and this is where grinds come in.

Wedges need to be the most versatile clubs in any golfer’s bag because of the variety of shots hit with them; from full swings to short touch shots around greens, they have to offer absolute control to help players not only score but also recover under diverse conditions.

This is why player dynamics, shot choice, and conditions play such a big role in selecting the proper short game tools, and as far as options go, Vokey wedges offer the most off-the-shelf options in the game.

Spin equals stopping power. As mentioned earlier, not only do Vokey grooves get pushed to the limit, but thanks to extremely high-quality control standards all the way up the manufacturing chain, you can be assured that you are going to get spin control shot after, which also leads to improved trajectory control. Less traction leads to less spin and higher launch, and as much as that might be helpful with a driver, it’s the last thing you want in a wedge.

What’s new with Vokey SM8 wedges

For the new Vokey SM8 wedges, performance is about creating better short game tools for golfers of all skill levels, shot after shot. It’s not about chasing an elusive spin number or building a wedge designed with a single task in mind, it’s about offering state-of-the-art technology alongside tour-proven consistency to give golfers more control than ever before.

“Out of head” center of gravity and multi-material construction

This is the biggest overhaul to Vokey wedge design since the introduction of Spin Milled grooves. For the first time in North America (there have been multi-material wedges made for the Japan market), the 58 to 62-degree wedges will have tungsten placed in the toe to push Center of Gravity more forward and out of the head into a space beyond the face of the club to offer more rotational control. When asked why the tungsten is kept hidden and is not a visible technology in the wedge, we were told: “it’s to keep with the classic styling associated with Vokey Designs.”

It might seem counterproductive to put tungsten in the toe of a wedge when a higher center of gravity has been proven to offer more trajectory control in higher lofted clubs, but the engineers at Titleist balanced out this toe mass by increasing hosel length to raise CG and MOI. These design tweaks create a seven-percent higher MOI than SM7 with even great vertical stability, too.

The rest of the Vokey line beyond the highest lofts still feature the proven center of gravity shifting to aid in trajectory control but now in a more subtle looks package.

The face and grooves

The Vokey Spin Milled groove design has not changed since Vokey began offering variable depth and width designs depending on loft. Tolerances continue to get pushed, but since the design was already at the limit, it’s now more about being able to replicate rather than search for an elusive few hundred RPM.

When talking about those extra RPMs gained by potential tool and radius changes, Titleist likes to use the analogy of a pencil. You can sharpen a pencil to an absolute point, but the first thing you are going to notice when you start to use that pencil is how quickly that extremely sharp point dulls back to a “standard” sharpness. This relates directly to groove radius and Titleist’s philosophy to offer maximum spin for the life of the wedge, not just those first five rounds of golf, because unlike PGA Tour players, regular golfers can’t just wander into a tour van and ask for a new lob wedge every week.

vokey-sm8-wedge-face-2

Titleist also extends the life of the grooves with a centralized heat treatment to the face of all the wedges to harden the metal without negatively affecting feel.

Grind, finish, and custom options

titleist-vokey-sm8-wedges

Constant refinement is the name of game, and the SM8’s featured Vokey’s six tour-proven sole grinds—F, S, M, K, L, and D—to allow golfers of all skill levels to be expertly fit for their swing types, shot-making preferences, and course conditions. The wedge bounce matrix has changed too, with Titleist eliminating the 58-degree L grind, adding 54 and 56-degree D grind options for more higher bounce versatility.

The new SM8’s will come stock in Jet Black, Brushed Steel, and Tour Chrome, with the option for Raw available through custom order. Raw is the biggest news since it is normally reserved exclusively for tour and Wedge Works—and at an upcharge.

Last but not least, the most obvious design change is the overall aesthetics of the SM8 versus any previous Vokey design. The top half of the back of the wedge is entirely blank, and except for small script on the hosel, the name Titleist has been left off.

Call it modern minimalism mixed with the respect that Titleist has for Bob Vokey and the product that bears his name. What this canvas comprised of soft steel also allows is even more customization. Titleist hasn’t given any further details on what this could mean from a consumer standpoint, but it’s likely to be revealed through the Wedge Works program. For the artisan and at-home wedge stampers alike, this means, now more than ever before, you can customize too.

New Vokey SM8’s will retail for $159.99 in all finishes with custom upgrades available through Titleist Custom order.

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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.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. DS

    Jan 22, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    I got fitted for SM6s and Cleveland RTX3s on consecutive days. I want to hit my lob wedge with a full swing and despite the Vokey 58 degree spinning the ball like it had Velcro on it (super impressive stopping power), I could not hit any of them consistently with a full swing. I figured the sweet spot was just too small for my ability. The Clevelands have been solid from day 1.

  2. Pelling

    Jan 22, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    It’s Boron, you moron!

  3. Paulo

    Jan 22, 2020 at 4:00 am

    Is it just me or do these look a lot like the Old mizuno t5 Wedges ?

    • Pelling

      Jan 22, 2020 at 4:50 pm

      The Mizuno MP T5 are the best wedges! You can get them new on EBay for about $40 per club, KSouth is the seller, top rated. I stocked up, can’t beat them, 1025 E mild carbon steel!

  4. Larry Coop

    Jan 21, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    Tried them in 56 and 60, hit them solid. The weight is nice. But oh, feel is hard, in cold weather almost unbearable. Vokey’s are now a thing of the past. He needs the Japan “Cold Forged” in USA. All companies have grinds, all have good grooves. Softer and better products out there. Bob, you need a better 8620 metal.

  5. Carolinagolf

    Jan 21, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Had a chance to try the SM8 and the new Cleveland’s at demo day today. Man those Cleveland’s are unreal. I think they will be the wedges of 2020. SM8 just didn’t have a great feel

  6. clubhofosho

    Jan 21, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    Any idea if the raw version will be made available to the lefty population?

  7. CrashTestDummy

    Jan 21, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Still waiting for a 56 K-Grind with 8-10 degrees of bounce.

  8. Jerry Kluger

    Jan 21, 2020 at 10:33 am

    I remember a few years back that a Golf WRX member was fitted by Bob Vokey at his facility and at that time he was told that a high bounce wedge is a better solution in firm conditions. This seemed counter-intutive at the time and certainly surprised the person being fitted as well as comments by others on Golf WRX. Looking at the chart for the new wedges, it appears that they are now recommending low bounce wedges for firm conditions. Does anyone else have the same recollection and perhaps confusion?

  9. Mike Larson

    Jan 21, 2020 at 10:19 am

    Vokey’s have felt so harsh and clicky since the SM4’s And lost their feel…..why can’t he get back what he had with the sm2’s? Callaway, Mizuno, and PXG (hate to say it) have it figured out. Sure wish Voke could use a softer metal.

    • Skip

      Jan 21, 2020 at 4:39 pm

      I work on Vokeys all the time and agree with your assessment.

  10. AndyfromNC

    Jan 21, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Not saying any previous gen of the V wedges didn’t look good….but man, these look fantastic!!!!!

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Whats in the Bag

Dustin Johnson WITB 2020

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Driver: TaylorMade SIM (10.5 @ 10 degrees, D4 swing weight)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X (tipped 1 inch, 45.75 inches)

Fairway wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila RIP Alpha 90 X

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max Rescue (22 @ 19 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Black 105 X

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), TaylorMade P730 DJ Proto (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (soft stepped)

Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 (52-09, 60-10 @ 62 degrees)
Shafts: KBS Tour Custom Black 120 S

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Mini
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT 1.0

Ball: TaylorMade TP5

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 58R (1 wrap 2-way tape + 2 wraps left hand, 3 right hand)

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Top 10 clubs of 2003—inspired by Adam Scott’s Titleist 680 irons

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As has been well documented, Adam Scott recently won the Genesis Invitational with a set of Titleist 680 blade irons, a design that was originally released in 2003. One of the great benefits of being one of the best players in the world is you don’t need to search eBay to find your preferred set of 17-year-old irons. Titleist has been stocking sets for Mr. Scott—even to the point of doing a limited production run in 2018 where they then released 400 sets for sale to the general public.

A lot of time has passed since 2003, and considering the classic nature of Scott’s Titleist 680, I figured now was a good time to look back at some other iconic clubs released around the same time.

Ping G2 driver

This was Ping’s first 460cc driver with a full shift into titanium head design. The previous Si3 models still utilized the TPU adjustable hosel, and this was considered a big step forward for the Phoenix-based OEM. The driver was a big hit both on tour and at retail—as was the rest of the G2 line that included irons.

TaylorMade RAC LT (first gen) irons

The RAC LTs helped position TaylorMade back among the leaders in the better players iron category. The entire RAC (Relative Amplitude Coefficient) line was built around creating great feeling products that also provided the right amount of forgiveness for the target player. It also included an over-sized iron too. The RAC LT went on to have a second-generation version, but the original LTs are worthy of “classic” status.

TaylorMade R580 XD driver

Honestly, how could we not mention the TaylorMade R580 XD driver? TM took some of the most popular drivers in golf, the R500 series and added extra distance (XD). OK, that might be an oversimplification of what the XD series offered, but with improved shape, increased ball speed outside of the sweet spot, and lower spin, it’s no wonder you can still find these drivers in the bags of golfers at courses and driving ranges everywhere.

Titleist 680MB irons

The great thing about blades is that beyond changing sole designs and shifting the center of gravity, the basic design for a one-piece forged head hasn’t changed that much. For Adam Scott, the 680s are the perfect blend of compact shape, higher CG, and sole profile.

Titleist 983K, E drivers

If you were a “Titleist player,” you had one of these drivers! As one of the last companies to move into the 460cc category, the 983s offered a classic pear shape in a smaller profile. It was so good and so popular, it was considered the benchmark for Titleist drivers for close to the next decade.

Cleveland Launcher 330 driver

It wasn’t that long ago that OEMs were just trying to push driver head size over 300cc, and Cleveland’s first big entry into the category was the Launcher Titanium 330 driver. It didn’t live a long life, but the Launcher 330 was the grandaddy to the Launcher 400, 460, and eventually, the Launcher COMP, which is another club on this list that many golfers will still have fond memories about.

Mizuno MP 33 irons

Although released in the fall of 2002, the Mizuno MP 33 still makes the list because of its staying power. Much like the Titleist 680, this curved muscle blade was a favorite to many tour players, including future world No. 1 Luke Donald. The MP 33 stayed in Mizuno’s lineup for more than four years and was still available for custom orders years after that. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a set now you are going to have to go the used route.

Callaway X-16 irons

The Steelhead X-16 was a big hit at retail for Callaway. It offered greater forgiveness than the previous X-14’s but had a more compact shape with a wider topline to inspire confidence. They featured Callaway’s “Notch” weighting system that moved more mass to the perimeter of the head for higher MOI and improved feel. There was a reduced offset pro series version of the iron, but the X-16 was the one more players gravitated towards. This is another game improvement club for that era that can still be found in a lot of golf bags.

Ben Hogan CFT irons

The Hogan CFTs were at the forefront of multi-material iron technology in 2003. CFT stood for Compression Forged Titanium and allowed engineers to push more mass to the perimeter of the head to boost MOI by using a thin titanium face insert. They had what would be considered stronger lofts at the time sounded really powerful thanks to the thin face insert. If you are looking for a value set of used irons, this is still a great place to start.

King Cobra SZ driver

In 2003, Rickie Fowler was only 15 years old and Cobra was still living under the Acushnet umbrella as Titleist’s game improvement little brother. The Cobra SZ (Sweet Zone, NOT 2020 Speed Zone) was offered in a couple of head sizes to appeal to different players. The thing I will always remember about the original King Cobra SZ is that it came in an offset version to help golfers who generally slice the ball—a design trait that we still see around today.

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Today from the Forums: “The importance of wedge fitting”

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Today from the Forums we delve into a subject dedicated to wedge fitting. Liquid_A_45 wants to know if wedge fitting is as essential for golfers as iron fitting, and our members weigh into the discussion saying why they feel it is just as imperative.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • Z1ggy16: “Super important if you’re a serious golfer. Even better if you can get fit outdoors on real grass and even go into a bunker.”
  • ThunderBuzzworth: “The biggest part of wedge fitting is yardage gapping and sole grinds. If you have a grind that doesn’t interact with the turf in your favor, it can be nightmarish around the greens. When hitting them try a variety of short game shots with different face angles etc. with the different grinds to see which one works best for what you need.”
  • Hawkeye77: “Wedge fitting I had was extremely beneficial when I got my SM6s a few years ago. Mostly for working with the different grinds and how they interacted with my swing and on different shots and having an eye on my swing to help with the process and evaluate the results. My ideas of what grinds were right for me based on researching on Titleist, etc. just were not correct in 2/3 of the wedges I ended up with as far as the grinds were concerned. Good to have an experienced fitter available to answer questions, control variables, etc.”
  • cgasucks: “The better you get at this game, the more important wedges are.”

Entire Thread: “The importance of wedge fitting”

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