Pros: Hand Ground wedges are made by the same craftsmen who create wedges for tour players. It’s one of the few custom wedge programs that allows consumers to select their favorite grind and tweak it to their preference. It also marks the first time average joes can get their hands on a raw Vokey wedge.
Cons: $350 is a lot for a handmade wedge, but it’s not out of line with Vokey’s competitors. Wedge fanatics will be disappointed that they can’t get handmade pitching wedges, gap wedges and sand wedges.
Bottom Line: A variety of stamping, shaping and sole options makes Hand Ground the go-to lob wedge program for exacting golfers. And if you want your wedge to come off the same grinding wheel as Adam Scott’s wedge, Hand Ground is for you.
Hand Ground isn’t the average wedge customization service.
Yes, like others it allows golfers to get their wedges with different stamps, letters and phrases. And it also gives golfers the option to pick a custom ferrule, shaft and grip. But Vokey’s WedgeWorks programs already provided all of those options before Hand Ground, along with the ability to purchase WedgeWorks exclusives — limited-edition and TVD wedges that are not available in stores.
Where Hand Ground breaks ground is in its focus on customizable grinds and wedge shaping, which allows golfers to tweak their favorite Vokey grind to their exact preference.
Four customizable grinds are available through Hand Ground: Vokey’s E Grind, M Grind, T Grind and V Grind, all of which have different playing characteristics. But the beauty of Hand Ground is that even if a golfer were to select a high-bounce wedge, such as a V Grind, he or she could have the wedge tweaked to play with less effective bounce.
That option, called “Pre-Worn” leading edge, is created by grinding off some of the metal on the front of a wedge’s sole. It works to “roll” the leading edge into the sole, allowing the leading edge to sit closer to the ground at address and cut through the ground better in firm conditions.
Conversely, a low-bounce wedge such as Vokey’s T Grind can be made to play with more effective bounce through the addition of a “Pro groove,” a small channel ground into the center of a wedge’s sole that moves the contact point forward. According to Bob Vokey, it can help golfers keep their wedges from digging into the ground on short pitches.
Above: A Vokey Hand Ground wedge with a pre-worn leading edge and a pro groove.
Aesthetic changes, such as making the leading edge straighter, the toe squarer or the top line thinner are also possible through Hand Ground.
It should be noted that Vokey is not the only wedge company to offer its grinding services to the public: Cleveland, Edel, James Patrick, Ping, Scratch and others offer wedge grinding and customization services, and unlike Vokey those companies expand their services to pitching, gap and sand wedges.
But none of those companies can claim the high usage of its wedges on the PGA Tour that Vokey boasts, which is the most mesmerizing part of the Hand Ground experience.
Above: Bob Vokey grinding a Hand Ground wedge for a customer at the Vokey tour department in Carlsbad, Calif.
Since Hand Ground wedges are created in Vokey’s tour department in Carlsbad, Calif., they’re made on the same machines by the same grinders that produce wedges for Adam Scott, Steve Stricker, Jason Dufner and the dozens of other Vokey wedge players on the PGA Tour.
Above: Each Hand Ground wedge comes with a certificate of authenticity that include the wedge’s specs and is signed by the person who ground the wedge.
Vokey Hand Ground wedges cost $350, and are available for purchase through Vokey’s website. All Hand Ground wedges have a raw finish, which means they will rust over time. According to Vokey, the build time of a Hand Ground wedge takes 10 days from the time the order is confirmed, not including shipping.
My Hand Ground was made with Vokey’s M Grind — the same grind that was on my current lob wedge, a retail Vokey SM4 60-10. I also ordered it to the same specs, which means that my Hand Ground wedge was nearly identical to my 60-10 on paper — same shaft, grip, swing weight and SM4 grooves. But when I took it to the course, the wedge performed differently thanks to the addition of a pre-worn leading edge.
Above: A Pre-worn leading edge on a Vokey M Grind Hand Ground wedge.
According to David Neville, Vokey’s marketing manager, wedges with pre-worn leading edges are requested by several tour players. The orders spike in the time before players are scheduled to head overseas for The Open Championship, where the modification helps golfer deal with the faster, firmer conditions that are typical on links golf courses. But you don’t have to be an Open Championship contestant to benefit from a pre-worn leading edge.
I had success with my retail Vokey 60-10 wedge I was fit for in December on straight-faced shots that required a lot of speed, because it allowed me to hit down on the ball steeply without fear that the wedge would dig. But I sometimes struggled to slide the sole of the wedge under the ball on delicate pitch shots from tight lies.
Above: The tale of two M Grinds.
The pre-worn leading edge solved that problem, because it made the leading edge sit slightly closer to the ground. That made it much easier for me to slide the wedge under the bottom of the ball, allowing me to contact the ball a groove or two higher on the face. The higher contact point made the ball climb up the face more, creating softer shots with more spin.
Above: Hand Ground wedges have the same SM4 grooves and face texture as Vokey’s retail wedge models to provide maximum spin.
As expected, the pre-worn leading edge made the wedge slightly more susceptible to digging compared to my 60-10. But the digging was limited to shorter shots I hit with a straight face and a lot of speed.
I noticed very little difference in the way the wedge performed on full shots and opened-faced shots, which says a lot about the cleverness of Vokey’s sole modifications. Adding a pre-worn leading edge or a pro groove will change a wedge enough to help a golfer do this or that, but it won’t change the wedge completely.
Looks and Feel
The second modification I had made to my Hand Ground wedge was having the top line made thinner, which Vokey does by removing a small amount of mass from the back of the top line. It’s a look that many golfers, particularly those who play irons with thin top lines, will appreciate at address.
Because Hand Ground wedges come with a raw finish, I speculated that they might have a slightly different feel than my retail wedges with a plated finish. But I was wrong — I didn’t find any difference in feel.
I did notice, however, that my Hand Ground wedge appeared smaller at address than my Vokey 60-10 with a plated “Tour Satin” finish.
Since Hand Ground wedges have no finish, they will rust as soon as they are introduced to water. In general, wedges with darker finishes look smaller than wedges with lighter finishes, which is why the rusted finish of a Hand Ground will look smaller than a wedge with a Tour Satin finish.
If you’re a Vokey lover, there’s only two good reasons not to get a Hand Ground wedge:
- It’s out of your price range.
- You haven’t taken the time to learn what grind or grind modification will help you play better.
$350 is a lot to pay for a wedge, especially for golfers who like to practice and can wear out as many as two new wedges per season. But it’s a two-edged sword — usually, if golfers are willing to put in the time to practice their wedge game, they’re also willing to spend the money to have their perfect wedge built.
For golfers who don’t know what grind is best for them, I can’t recommend a wedge fitting enough. Wedge makers are offering more grind options on their retail wedges than ever before, and golfers who aren’t testing all the different retail bounce, sole width and camber options aren’t getting the most out of their wedge games.
If you’ve already done such a fitting and think that a program like Vokey’s Hand Ground can help you, you’re probably right. Aside from the putter, no club is more important to scoring than the lob wedge, and golfers should take care to make sure they’re playing one that fits them as well as possible.
Bettinardi unveils new 2023-2024 Queen B line of putters
Bettinardi Golf has today introduced its new Queen B Series of putters that includes four timeless models.
The 2023-2024 Queen B Series enhances the Queen B 6 & Queen B 11, while also introducing two brand-new models, the Queen B 14 and Queen B 15.
The entire series is crafted using 303 Stainless Steel and features an all-new Caramel Copper PVD finish, which aims to not only accentuates the classic beauty of each model but also optimize visual cues on the greens to give a confidence-inspiring appearance at every crucial putt.
In addition, the new Queen B line debuts Bettinardi Golf’s new Mini Honeycomb face milling. This newly developed face utilizes an 8% smaller machine tool in order to provide the softest Honeycomb face to date.
“By utilizing an even smaller machining tool during the milling process, we were able to remove more material from the face of the putter, creating a softer feel at impact. Since 1998, Bettinardi putters have been world-renowned for our Honeycomb face milling. Twenty-five years later, my patented face continues to evolve and produces one of the most recognizable looks and feels in golf.” – Bob Bettinardi, CEO/Founder of Bettinardi Golf
The 2023-2024 Queen B Series will be available for pre-order on Tuesday, November 22nd online at Bettinardi.com, and will be available for purchase at authorized Bettinardi dealers worldwide, starting January 17th.
Bettinardi adds BB28 putter to brand’s BB series
Bettinardi has today unveiled the addition of the BB28 to its BB series line.
The BB28 features Aggressive Flymill face milling designed to give the putter a responsive, yet soft feel off the putter head, and offers a full-flange design, which provides greater perimeter weighting and higher M.O.I.characteristics.
This latest addition uses a PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) finishing technology, which is a thin, yet resilient coating that shows off the mill marks in an artisan way.
Each BB Series putter is one-piece milled from 303 Stainless Steel, which is the same blend of material preferred by all Bettinardi Tour staffers, with the metal offering a more durable, responsive, and solid feeling putter for optimal performance.
Bettinardi have also launched the center shaft BB28 putter featuring a 1/4 toe-hang wide-body blade, as well as a BB28 Armlock containing a near-face-balanced wide-body blade.
The BB28 model is available for pre-order at Bettinardi.com ($430) from November 22nd and at retail on January 22nd.
2022 Joburg Open: Betting Tips & Selections
And that was the DP World Tour season over.
And here is the DP World Tour season beginning.
Just a few days after Jon Rahm produced an exhibition display to beat a stellar field in Dubai (and earn less ranking points than Adam Svensson did at the RSM), the tour starts its 2023 season with a co-sanctioned Joburg Open, a mixed field of the best of the Sunshine Tour, some European stalwarts, and others that might well not bother turning up.
Viewers will not have seen Houghton GC for many years, but in the years of hosting the Dunhill Championship (2000-2004) the names Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel and Justin Rose call for the halcyon days of the tour in South Africa. There are very few in this field that could reach that major-winning standard, and it will be of interest to see if the internationals can wrest away the title from the home contingent, something they could not do when that event turned to Leopard Creek, the Springboks winning seven from the last ten.
The Nicklaus course now hosts the Joburg Open, where in 14 runnings over various courses, home players have won nine and been out of the runner-up spot just twice.
Back to the Dunhill and it’s most recent winner, Christiaan Bezhuidenhout, easily the most likley victor this week.
Like many of the more promising youngsters in South Africa, Bez’s career starts with early victories on the Big Easy Tour and has progressed ever since.
Although with just four wins to his name at this level, the 28-year-old has built his reputation on a stellar short game, something that enabled him to win at tricky Valderrama by an incredible six shots, before going back-to-back at Leopard Creek and the Gary Player GC, to win two of his home country’s most prestigious events.
Having spent much of the last two years inside the world’s top 50, a series of acceptable rather than impressive results has seen him slip to number 72 but he will surely see this as a chance to get going in the right direction again.
Clearly Bez likes Gary Player designed tracks, and it may be no coincidence that his best recent effort was last time out at the Nedbank (held at the GPGC), but like Nicklaus, Player asks questions of the golfer, and with Bez having a short game at a level higher than the majority of these, it is easy to see him thrive here.
Stats on the recent PGA events are very mixed, but he was third in greens-in-reg and eighth in putting at the John Deere – a course that requires low scoring and a bogey-avoiding round – and he was again top-10 for the flat stick stats at Sedgefield and at the BMW, the penultimate FedEX Cup event.
The mention of that lucrative title certainly puts Bez in a different league to his rivals this week and, having relished the return home a couple of weeks ago, can continue that form and take a win into the 2023 PGA season.
Despite losing strokes off the tee at the Gary Player, Bez ranked 11th for tee-to-green, 4th for around-the-green and top 20 for putting. Add that to his figures when playing at home since 2020 – 1/15/1/1/6/5 – and anything bigger than 6/1 looks worth a pop.
Should Bez get beaten, both George Coetzee and Thriston Lawrence are clearly the biggest dangers, especially given their win records compared to Hennie Du Plessis, Oliver Bekker and Louis De Jager.
Coetzee loves it when dropped back from the DP World Tour and has already won twice when arriving back from either the Korn Ferry or European tours, but he seems happier in weaker fields where he is favourite and can dominate.
However, Lawrence, who, with a win last year finally lived up to some big early hype, won his first true DP World event at Crans after running-up at Kenya – both significant moves towards this event.
Off the boil for a while, he bounced back to form when sixth at potentially linkable Valderrama, before an eventual 15th at the Nedbank disguises that he was third going into Sunday.
19th off-the-tee for the season, the 25-year-old backs that up with top-30 for approaches, tee-to-green and greens-in-regulation, with 18th for putts-per-greens-in-reg.
This is, of course, a huge drop in class from the DP World Tour Championship last week and on overall stats, he looks an each-way play to nothing.
It would be surprising if one of the top lot were not to win, so I’ll take just one, far more unexposed, player to grab a place on the first couple of pages of the board.
Deon Germishuys was a tempter after an excellent Challenge Tour season, but perhaps he’s best left as a ‘follow’ throughout 2023. Instead, take a chance with Tom McKibbin, a name that should be on everyone’s list going into 2023, 2024, and beyond.
Coming from Holywood brings a sense of foreboding, as surely he will rarely escape the comparisons to that Northern Irish town’s most famous son, Rory McIlroy. The 19-year-old isn’t at all fussed, though, telling Irish Golfer, “I try not to read much about myself or anything like that. I’ve heard the comparison since I’ve been nine or 10 years old, so if anything, it’s got a little old now.”
Ignore that and we have one promising player, and one that has broadcasted his ability for a few years, despite his current age.
An outstanding junior and amateur, McKibbin had verbally agreed a move to the University of Florida before Covid ruined those plans and, it seemed, the 2021 Walker Cup, an event he was almost certain to be selected for.
Again, this is a cool head on young shoulders – “It meant I got off to a bit of a head-start in pro golf. I don’t think Walker Cup would’ve been much of a benefit and I haven’t really thought much about it since.”
So, let’s talk about the play.
In his first year with limited status and invites, the JMC-managed player recorded a 12th and 16th at Challenge Tour level before a 26th place at the higher level at Galgorm Castle (11th and 20th after the first two rounds).
That gave McKibbin entry into a few of the better Challenge Tour events, and he has taken advantage in style.
The beginning of the year saw the traditional exodus of trophy-seekers to South Africa, and McKibbin took a lead into the final day of the Cape Town Open before finishing in third place – “I played fine, did the same things I did the first three days, it just wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t tense up or anything like that. I thought I did the right things. It just didn’t pay off.”
A week later, he finished seventh after a level-par Sunday would never be enough to exploit an overnight position in the final group, but the experience would be yet another notch on the post.
The second half of the year was to be McKibbin’s highlight, with 14 events played from July onwards, rewarding him with six top-10s, including an almost repeat effort at Glagorm Castle, and three top-20 finishes.
Latterly, sixth place at the Challenge Tour Grand Final would leave him in 10th place on the CT rankings and a full DP World Tour card, something he can exploit before the bigger events next year.
Mentored by Rory, with Chris Selfridge – ex-professional and ex-caddy of Ryan Fox – on the bag – “It obviously costs money getting a top caddie like him but I think you’ve got to do it right if you want to get something really good out of it in the end. No point not investing in yourself and ending up in the same spot in five, 10 years’ time,” and with one stats line that reads ‘overall stats leader’ at Galgorm, McKibbin is something special.
It may take a few years, as it did Thriston Lawrence, to make a real mark, but it will come. Why not this week?
Other to note for big performances are Oliver Hundeboll, winner in this part of the world on the Challenge Tour last year and fifth at Fairmont at the Hero Open, and Casey Jarvis, a multi-decorated junior who in a short professional career has proven too good for lesser grade and has improved in contention throughout the year, finishing runner-up to Coetzee at the South African PGA at the beginning of the month.
I’m expecting the trophy to be lifted by one of the more obvious types, but eyes down the board to see how some of the youngsters get on, for they will be winning soon enough.
- Christiaan Bezhuidenhout – Win
- Thriston Lawrence – Each Way
- Tom McKibbin – Top-20
- Oliver Hundeboll – Top-20
- Casey Jarvis – Top-20
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