Sometimes you go in depth when reviewing a product and research it, visit a fitting centre and then you think it is done. Then something comes along that takes it to another level. Welcome to my review of the Titleist Vokey wedge grinds.
Dedicated followers of my reviews will remember the experience I had at a Titleist Vokey wedge fitting review where I was gap fitted for the wedge lofts and then we went out to the short game area to finalise the bounce options.
It was all good, but then when I met up with Bob Vokey himself my understanding of bounce and grinds went to another level.
I have met Bob several times and one of his favourite sayings is that 'bounce is your friend'. But first you have to activate it by having your hands just in front of the ball rather than all the way ahead of it, otherwise you remove the effect of the bounce and the wedge digs into the turf or sand.
I had really not appreciated that enough and as a result the bounces from my fitting did not suit me 100%, which was no-one's fault as I was not using them properly.
I had been using a set of 50°, 54° and 58° so Bob and I headed on down to the range first to hit some full shots from the turf.
What was most amazing was that Bob was not looking at my divots or my swing, which could have affected his lunch, but he was focussed down the range looking at the trajectory and listening for the impact sound.
From this he could tell within a couple of shots that the 50° in the F grind with lower bounce of 8° was best for my shallow 'slider' swing and I would agree as the 12° was just too heavy through the turf.
That was the easy one as there is only one grind on offer with the 50°. In the 54° to 64° models of the Vokey range there are 6 different grinds with a maximum of 4 for any given loft.
When Bob asked what type of courses I played on, I had to give a politician's answer as I am a member of a links course and a parkland course and the sand varies from light to heavy, deep to shallow and every combination in between.
That did not matter to him and really if your technique is good enough then it should not matter to you either. We then went through various lofts and bounces on the parkland course we were at that had lush grass and bunkers with deep soft sand and I got some recommendations for much more bounce than I have been using.
I was not fully convinced that the higher bounces were for me, so I arranged for all the grinds in the 54° and 58° lofts to be sent to me for a long term test on links and parkland courses to see if Bob's recommendations stood up to the vagaries of British golf rather than the standard American course set up.
Choosing The 54° Wedge Grind
This is my pitching wedge from 90 yards in and also my normal sand wedge. First it was the full shot test and on links turf you really got to see how the sole interacted with the turf.
I had been using the M grind and the heel and toe relief was skipping through the ground fine. However over time I had found it to be less accurate than the fuller grind that I was using previously due to the lower turf interaction.
The S grind is listed with the same effective bounce of 10°, but with a straighter edge from the toe and less heel relief, it actually had a lower trajectory than the M grind. With my low bounce past I was erring towards that, but Bob's ears had recommended the 14° F grind with the fullest trailing edge.
This came out with the lowest trajectory of the three and you could feel it was the best through the turf. When I got my hands in the correct position it probably just edged the S grind.
Next up was a 30 yard pitch from the fairway and this is where the F took over as it was so much better than the S because the bounce on the sole just gave more margin for error. It was quite scary how different it was. The relief on the sole of the M really didn't help here and the skipping across the turf, rather than through the turf, saw it heading to the back of the queue.
I would have thought the higher F bounce would be harder on a firm links fairway, but get the ball and hand position right and it is the easiest and that was the same for the parkland course too.
From soft sand, the F when opened up gave the deep 'thunk' sound Bob wanted to hear at impact, so that probably had the edge over the M, which for me just edged the S as the extra heel relief helped it skip through a little more easily.
Even from firmer sand, where in the past I would have been worried about the sole not going into the ground, the F in the right set up position still performed the best. You just have to trust it.
Chipping around the tight links or lush parkland greens from all three was equally as good, but the F just gave that extra margin for error, so was declared the winner. Bob will be delighted.
Choosing The 58° Wedge Grind
I really like the Gold Nickel finish on the Vokey SM5, so picked it for the four grinds available on the 58° model.
The L grind has only 4° of bounce and has a lot of heel, toe and sole relief, so I would have thought that for full shots off firm lies it would have been great, but it had so little bounce that it just burrowed into the ground behind the ball too much.
The M grind with 8° bounce was my previous choice with the heel and toe relief, but the full shot is not its forte and by comparison it was skipping over the top of the ground and the distance control was not very consistent for me.
After the 54° version, I had high hopes for the 58° S with 7° bounce. This was nominally less than the M grind, but the slightly fuller trailing edge and heel relief seemed to go through the turf better. It was probably the best, but it still skipped a bit and was a little erratic on distance.
The K grind just looks like a non-starter as you would expect the wide sole to be very high bounce, but as Bob explained, the width is combined with a shallower camber to give it 11° of bounce. This felt a little more in the middle of the range between the S and the L and probably came out of the full shot test tied with the S.
Lob wedges are not really full shot clubs so I was not going to place a lot of weight on these results. Over to the 30 yard pitch and the L did its ostrich impression again, the M was not bad and the S lived up to my expectations with control, consistency and good turf interaction.
Pick up the K grind and you soon realise why the pro's use this at Augusta contrary to all common sense. The wide sole is so easy to hit because it gives such a large margin for error that I almost felt like asking if the club was legal. I had already experienced this on lush parkland lies, but seeing it on tight links lies was something else.
On to the sand and the M had been OK from hard bunkers or those with very little sand, but together with the L it did not have enough bounce for deeper or softer sand.
The S was possibly the best from the sand because of the narrower sole and the extra heel relief, but the K was not far behind it. As you may have guessed by now I went with the K and the wide sole was very playable from heavy sand too, especially for plugged lies when you just thump into the sand behind the ball and out it pops.
Around the greens the S and K did better on lush courses, but the M and L were great if you want to get under the ball for a flop from a very firm tight lie. You could also use the S and K for these by lifting the heel of the club as the gentle toe relief is enough to get a flop that lands with very little pace on the green.
So what did I learn from this? Well Bob, bounce is my new friend and I have learned to love it rather than loath it. I have stopped going for the lowest bounce possible and 'lofted up' on my soles.
Combined with a wedge lesson to get the correct technique, the extra bounce gives you more of a safety net than you think it would. Bob said his wedge selection sessions are part fitting, part lesson and that is true.
If you are looking at the Titleist Vokey range then I hope you will have seen that getting proper advice is crucial. If you can borrow the various grinds to try on the surfaces you play the most, then definitely do that first as you really have to experience the differences to believe them.
In the mid lofts of 54° and 56° then I would suggest leaning towards the S or the F grinds as the M is really quite specialised. It's a shame as I like the M grind, but I now like my bounce more.
For the lob wedges, most amateurs should skip past the L and possibly the M grind too as they do a job, but maybe not for everyone. These are precise tools for highly skilled players, so know your limits. The S grind is perfectly fine and will suit a lot of players, but you really have to try the K grind as it is very forgiving and I would not be surprised to see it coming out in lofts below 58° in the future.
Thank you to Titleist and Bob Vokey for his time and knowledge. Like bounce, he is my friend.
Read my Wedge Interview With Bob Vokey