Martin Hopley
By Martin Hopley

Bob Vokey is one of the world’s leading wedge designers with the classic Titleist Vokey wedge range proudly bearing his name. Always enthusiastic, it was a pleasure to catch up with Bob to look back at his career and ask him who was the best wedge player he worked with.

Hi Bob. You’ve been creating wedges for over 40 years now, so when Andy Bean took that first Vokey wedge out 11 million wedges ago in 1977, what were you thinking about at that time?

I never thought it was possible. I wasn’t thinking that they were going to sell 11 million wedges. I thought if we sold 50,000 it would be great and little did I realise that version sold 90,000. So that’s when I started to realise after the sales came in that, wait a second, maybe this could be fun.

But we never set out to be number one, we just wanted to be in the wedge business. We had no grandeurs about being number one on tour or leading the sales, but now that we have it, it’s cool.

Looking back over all the models you have done, are there any that stand out as particular favourites?

My favourite of the grinds is the M grind, but the favourite profile look for me is what I call the over-40 look, which was my series 400 wedge. It had a little cut in the back, similar to what we have right now in the SM6 and SM7 ranges, but this was back in 1998.

Titleist Vokey SM7 Wedge

You have worked with most of the great players during your career so who would you say are the top 3 in the short game that you have seen?

I would go with Seve, Lee Trevino and then I would throw in Tiger from 2000 as he was better then. Other guys would be Tom Kite, Brett Rumford from Australia, Tom Pernice and Mike Weir who were also all great wedge players.

Is there anything you created with them that ended up going into production for consumers?

In 2000 I put a softer S400 shaft in Tiger’s wedges before he went on to win the US Open by 15 shots. You can’t go wrong putting the same shaft in your wedges that you have in your irons, but I was always a firm believer in having a little softer shaft in the sand and lob wedge.

That way you get a little more feedback because you’re not putting a full swing on it, you’re doing little half swings and chip shots around the green and you should get a little bit better feel and when you are being versatile around the green then having more feel is going to help you. That’s why our wedges come with an S200 shaft as standard.

Titleist Vokey SM7 Wedge

With Trevino and Seve, I can see Seve not asking for much change to his sand wedge, but Trevino tinkering a lot?

Trevino definitely did tinker a lot. He liked a bit of heel relief because back then soles were flatter and now of course we have better grinds with camber and roll.

On the other hand Seve could almost take anything and use it, but he liked to have the trailing edge removed so he could slide the head under the ball more easily - but he could definitely hit all the shots!

Do modern players ask for as much grinding or are they not as versatile as the previous generation?

It’s surprising what’s happened over the years because we have eliminated a lot of the special grinds. Something that was a prototype one year comes into the line the next year, so all these grinds are right there in our 23 models that we have out there.

Titleist Vokey SM7 Wedge`

So there’s not as much grinding of new shapes now compared to what I had to do years ago. We’ve been able to capture all of those grinds and put them in the series that we sell to the public right now.

Looking forward now, where do you see wedge production going?

There’s always little things that we can do from looking at different kinds of metals, weight placements, heat treatments and score lines. Score lines tend to wear out so we are looking at ways to improve our spin retention over time and now with the heat treatment on SM7 we have wedges that last a little bit longer than anyone else’s out there.

Is there anything you can do with the metals that will make those grooves last longer?

We’ve done a couple of different things that I am not at liberty to say what we’ve done in the face with SM7 and will continue with in future models, but we are always working hard at improving our wedges.

Well, we look forward to seeing those new development in the future. Thank you for your time Bob, it’s been a pleasure.

Thanks Martin, loved talking with you.

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