Gear: Titleist Vokey Design SM9 wedges
Price: $179 each with True Temper Dynamic Gold S200 shafts and Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 White grips
Specs: Cast stainless steel with six sole grinds available. Even lofts from 46 to 62 degrees.
Available: March 11
Bob Vokey, Titleist’s master craftsman for wedges, has helped some of the best players in the world hone their short games and improve their wedge play for decades. Today, the wedges that bear his name can be found in the bags of players such as Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Nelly Korda, Adam Scott, Danielle Kang, and Will Zalatoris.
With the release of the new SM9 family of wedges, Vokey has tried to build tools that will help golfers at every level improve on the three things that he believes are key to a good short game: distance and trajectory control, the ability to generate and control spin, and shot versatility.
Variable center of gravity
Titleist said a key to controlling how far your hit your wedge shots, and how high or low they fly, is the location of the center of gravity. In a driver, a low and back center of gravity encourages a higher-flying shot, and the same thing holds true in wedges. In the SM9 wedges, the center of gravity changes with the loft because the preferred flight with a pitching wedge is different than with a lob wedge.
By shortening the hosels in the pitching and gap wedges, and keeping more of the weight near the sole, Titleist gave those clubs centers of gravity that mimic a short iron’s. That should help those clubs behave like an extension of an iron set and get the ball to fly higher.
With sand wedges and lob wedges at or above 56 degrees of loft, hitting high shots is already easy. What you want with those clubs is more control, which usually comes from flighting them down. To make that easier, Titleist designed the sand wedges and lob wedges with longer hosels and extra mass behind the topline to elevate the center of gravity.
In both cases, the center of gravity remains in front of the hitting area, a design feature that debuted in the SM8 two years ago. Titleist said this enhances feel and helps golfers square the face more consistently for improved contact and a more-solid strike.
New spin milling process
The first spin-milled wedges from Titleist Vokey Design appeared in 2005, and the company has continuously refined the way it creates grooves ever since. In the SM9 (SM stands for spin milled), the cutting process was updated to allow Titleist to tighten its manufacturing tolerances for better consistency from groove to groove.
As with the center of gravity, the grooves in SM9 wedges vary by loft. The pitching wedges and gap wedges (46-54 degrees) have grooves that are deeper and narrower to match iron-style grooves that provide better performance on full-swing shots from the fairway. The grooves in the sand wedges and lob wedges (56-62 degrees) are wider and shallower to help keep water, sand and debris from the face more effectively on shots around the green.
Between each groove, Titleist added a series of microgrooves to increase surface roughness and help golfers generate more spin on delicate chips and pitch shots.
To further ensure consistency, Titleist inspects each groove in every wedge to be sure it is as sharp as possible without exceeding the USGA and R&A’s limits.
Sole grinds galore
Golfers have different swings and play in different conditions, so Titleist has created six unique sole configurations, or grinds, to help players find the ideal wedges to match how and where they play.
F Grind: Available in lofts from 46 degrees to 56 degrees, the F grind is a straight-sole option best suited for full-swing shots.
M Grind: Available in lofts from 56 to 62 degrees, the M grind has material removed in both the heel and toe areas, making it an ideal choice for players who rotate the club open and closed through their swing and who tend to hit shallow, sweeping shots.
S Grind: Available in lofts from 54 to 60 degrees, the S grind has a full sole with some material removed in the heel area. It has trailing-edge relief and is best suited for golfers who play in firm conditions and who like to hit the ball with a square face.
D Grind: Available in lofts from 54 to 60 degrees, the D grind has heel, toe and trailing-edge relief. It has a thinner sole with high bounce, making it a good option for players who like to manipulate the club and open the face to hit a variety of shots in soft conditions.
K Grind: Available in 58- and 60-degree versions, the K grind is the highest-bounce option in the SM9 lineup. It features the widest sole and significant camber, making it especially good in bunkers and thick rough.
L Grind: Available in a 60-degree version only, the L grind has heel, toe and trailing-edge relief with a narrow sole and the lowest bounce of any SM9 wedge. For skilled players in tight, firm conditions, it is designed to provide versatility.