Whenever Titleist upgrade their wedges, the changes look minor at first glance, but then when you actually hit them you realise that their effect is much greater.
This is true of the Titleist Vokey SM5 wedge, which on the face of it looks like the Vokey SM4 wedge with some new grinds and finishes.
There are 3 different finishes of Tour Chrome, Raw Black and a new Gold Nickel that replaces the SM4 Oil Can and looks really slick.
There is also a choice of 6 different grinds and soles each with their own letter as explained in more detail on the Titleist Vokey SM5 launch page. In short, F is a full small grind, S & M (don't go there) are heel and toe grinds, the new K is a wider sole and T & L are enhanced heel and toe grinds for low bounce lob wedges.
The difference with the SM5 range is that there are more grinds available on more lofts, with the mid range lofts getting the S grind that was not previously available on the standard SM4.
Having used the low bounce 54.08 SM4 with the F grind on for some time, it tended to dig and catch when playing out of sand. By adding an S and M grind (below) to the lowest bounce 54 degree, it increases the effective bounce by 2° to 10° and is easier to use in bunkers and around the greens.
This is just one example of how the extra grind options improve the SM5 range because there are more options for every type of golfer. Not only was the 54° crying out for the M grind in a lower bounce than the previous 11°, but there is also the choice of a narrower S grind at the same 10° bounce and a higher 14° bounce F grind too.
It's also better value, as this lower bounce 54° M grind option was only available previously as part of the Vokey TVD range through the more expensive and custom order Wedgeworks service, so it is good to see it in the regular SM5 range now too.
The head shape of the SM5 wedge is also an improvement. Whilst Titleist say they have made it more compact, which they may have done in length, the higher toe actually makes it look larger, which I prefer. As the wedges now go down to 46 degree, the lower loft wedges become full shot clubs and therefore they need larger heads for a bit more forgiveness.
The Par height, which is the height of the face at the hosel, has also been increased and in the higher lofts this accentuates the more curved leading edge on the SM5. The curved leading edge also keeps the face looking sqaure to the target as you open the face which is a nice feature. Both of these design changes really increase the playability of the SM5 over the SM4 in my view and that gives you more confidence.
The new TX3 grooves are 7% deeper, but it was hard to tell the effect of these over the previous model, suffice to say they gave lots of grip and did not damage the balls I was using any more or less than before.
So that's it then. It's a great club so head down to your local golf shop and get a set of Vokey SM5 wedges.
All these options mean that to really get the full benefit from the SM5 you need to make sure you get the right combination of loft, bounce and grind for your game and that means heading down to your local friendly Titleist fitter.
You may think that getting fitted for wedges is going one step too far, but let me tell you that this is just as important, if not more so, than getting fitted for a driver.
I headed down to meet Graeme Noblett at the Titleist National Fitting Centre at King's Acre near Edinburgh to go through the process and the first step was to work out the correct lofts.
I am currently using a set wedge at 46° followed by wedges at 50°, 54° and 58° and a quick spin on Trackman with Graeme showed that I was covering the 80-110 yard distance perfectly in 10 yard gaps, so the make up of my wedge 'set' was perfect.
If you currently go from your set wedge to the sand wedge, you could have a 10° loft difference and therefore a distance gap of up to 25 yards in that key 85 to 110 yard shot range. Rather than having a club for each yardage, you will find life harder trying to adjust your swing to find a 100 yard shot and your scores will suffer.
Using some tape on the sole of the club, we could see that the low bounce set up was better for me than the higher bounce options, so the 8° bounce F grind was the clear choice for the 50 degree wedge.
Next up was my troublesome low bounce 54° SM4. Ideal for tight lies, but the heel keeps catching when opening the face in sand or longer grass. We headed out to the short game area to test the M grind and right away I could feel it skipping through the sand more easily than the SM4 or the slightly fuller S grind on the SM5. It also has the versatility of the toe grind to lift the heel up for pitching bump and runs and using from bad lies.
As I was already using the M grind on the 58° wedge it came down to a choice between that and the wider soled K grind, but with my shallow swing the M performed better for the same reasons.
What Graeme also liked was that I had a choice of bounces in the wedge set. The 10° on the 54° M was better out of longer grass when opened up than the higher lofted 58° M with 8° bounce. This enabled the club to brush through the grass instead of diving into it, resulting in a completely different impact sound and a more consistent shot.
In conclusion, I was very impressed by the performance of the SM5 wedges and what is really going to make the investment worthwhile is that I know I have the correct combination of loft, bounce and grind to suit my game and the shots I like to play. The knowledge of the Titleist fitters like Graeme is well worth drawing upon as they have seen it all, good and bad, and I certainly picked up a couple of new ideas during my visit.
If you have cash to splash, then one additional part of the custom fitting experience is that you can also personalise your Vokeys like the pro's do. The wide range of options include your own choice of letterings, colour, grips type, ferrules and even shaft stickers to really make them stand out. They look so good I am not sure whether to hit them or frame them and put them on my wall.