With Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama winning major championships in recent times with Cleveland Golf wedges in the bag, the brand are proving that they are still more than capable of producing top-quality golf equipment that is suitable for the very best players in the world.
When you're trying to keep up with the golfing juggernauts that are Titleist, TaylorMade and Callaway, with all of their fancy marketing and dozens of Tour players, victories like this are an excellent way to keep your name in the picture.
Having said that, Cleveland wedges have been regarding as some of the best in the business for over three decades, with the RTX line coming in at a little better value than some of the 'bigger brands' yet retaining performance levels that can more than compete.
What's It All About?
Ever since the introduction of the CBX range, Cleveland has been able to move the RTX line more towards the better player with a sleeker profile and improved feel and responsiveness.
This latest model has kept much of the same design elements as the RTX 4 and instead focused on what's under the hood in order to drive better performance.
The ZipCore gets its name thanks to a new low-density core, which shifts the centre of gravity and raises the MOI to add more stability high and low on the wedge face - both common areas for mishits when it comes to wedges.
The wedges feature Cleveland's new UltiZip grooves, which are 11% sharper and 7.3% deeper than previous generations, whilst also being 7.4% closer together to provide more contact between the ball and the grooves on every strike. The idea behind this is that they generate more spin, and more consistent spin, from any course conditions.
In order to ensure that the grooves stay sharp and responsive for longer, they have undergone a new heat treatment process which is said to aid their durability over a longer stretch of time.
The RTX ZipCore comes complete with a new, Tour Issue Dynamic Golf Spinner shaft and Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 grip.
It is available in three different sole grinds - Low, Mid, and Full - depending on your angle of attack and course conditions, in three different finishes from 46 to 62 degrees.
Cleveland Golf RTX ZipCore Wedge Review
Looks and Feel
The RTX range has long been one of my favourites when it comes to looks, as Cleveland tend to stick with a relatively simple, classic design and the RTX ZipCore continues on that theme.
In all honesty the design has barely changed from the RTX 4, beside the fact that there is now 'ZipCore' written underneath the RTX logo and they have done away with the dots in the heel to indicate which grind is being used.
The topline was slightly thicker than I perhaps expected for a wedge which is intended for use by 'better players', and this gave an inviting look at address which I think can appeal to a wide range of golfers.
There's a pretty straight leading edge line with very minimal offset, which I like with my wedges as it mentally gives me a little more confidence that I'm going to strike it well and I think it is slightly easier to find the low point, particularly when chipping.
On the fuller shots there was perhaps a slightly more muted sound and feel off the face with this wedge than with the likes of a Vokey or Callaway Mack Daddy, but there was still plenty of feedback offered. It's a bit of a cliche to say that better players prefer a duller sound from their clubs but I can see this finding favour with many.
Having a choice of finishes is always a bonus, and I particularly liked the look of the raw finish although I understand that some of you may want your wedge to stay looking shiny and new for a little while longer after you've bought it.
I started off by hitting some chips from different areas around the practice green before heading out onto the course, and I was immediately struck by how simple the setup and design of the wedges were, allowing you to focus on the shot in hand.
I enjoyed using the Mid Sole grind, although I do think it is a little one-dimensional so I'd suggest that you get properly fitted for these wedges to make sure you get the right grind for you.
This is particularly important if you are someone who likes to manipulate the face on shots to change the ball flight as this is where Cleveland's Low Sole grind could come in handy.
On shorter shots I felt like the ZipCore provided the usual look and feel of a specialist bladed wedge, but with the forgiveness of something a little more suited to higher handicappers which meant that I could make aggressive swings even from close range - a great combination for me.
The performance was also good in the bunkers, with the Mid Sole that I tested working well to get through the sand nice and easily without having to do much manipulation of the face.
The wedges provided a nice bit of grab on a couple of pitches from the fairway, and I also dropped a couple of balls in the rough before hitting 75 yard pitches in and I was pleased to see there was a bit of stop in there too, even despite the fact that the greens were pretty firm and dry on the day of testing.
When hitting from the rough it always carries a risk of getting a more varied strike, particularly as the ball can tend to be struck higher on the face, but my distance control seemed pretty good during my testing. A big tick for the new low-density core there.
On full shots the new Ultizip grooves gave solid and predictable levels of spin although I wouldn't say I had the ball ripping back off the front of the green. I know this is something that us amateurs love to see but in reality, it's not that useful.
A little bit of check on your pitches and chips is perfect, but considering most amateurs miss short with their approach shots I don't think loads of spin is really necessary.
The performance on full shots was possibly my favourite aspect of the ZipCore wedges, with a consistent, controllable ball flight and the distances were exactly as you'd expect. I don't like usually to hit my wedges at any more than 80% on the course as I tend to start losing control so it's nice to know that you won't have to work too hard here.
The addition of the new Dynamic Gold 'Spinner' shaft perhaps goes some way to explaining the increase in price over the last few years and whilst it's hard to judge the performance of a wedge shaft, it felt a nice solid weight and produced the kind of flight that I desired.
At £139 (£159) for the Raw finish, the RTX line is really no longer a cheaper alternative to the big names but a direct rival.
Cleveland Golf RTX ZipCore Wedge Verdict
The RTX ZipCore is Cleveland's wedge option for better players, who I think will enjoy the sound and feel that they offer. However I still think that these are more than usable for mid handicappers thanks to the forgiving sole shape and relatively friendly look at address.
I can't say I was blown away by anything that I saw from the ZipCore during my testing, but then I wasn't really expecting to be.
They do everything I'd want from a wedge: provide great feel and feedback whilst retaining a little bit of forgiveness, offering plenty of grind options, performing well from a number of situations and doing it all with a classical look and minimal fuss.
I can see exactly why the likes of Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama have got them in the bag. Having said that, it is an ideal all-rounder which should have a wider appeal than just the 'better player' that Cleveland seems to be leaning towards.
With the ZipCore, CBX 2 and Smart Sole 4 all available in their lineup, if you're looking for a new wedge this summer then I would definitely advise that you should be taking a closer look at Cleveland Golf.
- Smart, understated looks
- Clear grind options
- Three great finishes to choose from
- Surprisingly forgiving
- Friendly look at address
- Consistent performance across the board
- Spin could've been more 'aggressive'
- Price tag means this now competes with the big brands
If you enjoyed this, you may also like:
Cleveland CBX 2 Wedge Review
Srixon Z-Star Golf Balls Updated For 2021