Last year, I tested Cleveland Golf's CBX 2 Wedge and concluded that it might just be the best wedge on the equipment market for mid-to-high handicappers. The combination of forgiveness, ease of use, feel and spin is something which could benefit a large majority of amateurs.
If you play with game-improvement irons because you struggle with ball striking, then should you really be using a bladed wedge?
This year, it's the turn of the new Smart Sole 4 Wedge, which is aimed at ultra forgiveness for those golfers who wake up in cold sweats at the thought of a chip over a bunker or pitch shot from a tight fairway lie. Let's find out more...
What's It All About?
Cleveland Golf's Smart Sole 4 is engineered with a clear emphasis on making life as easy as possible for the golfer when they miss the green, whether in the bunker or the rough.
The most notable design feature is the huge wide sole design, which provides extra forgiveness and guards against fats and thins. This fourth iteration of the Smart Sole includes an Enhanced Three-Tiered Sole, with extra bounce added to the leading edge, which should stop golfers from digging into the ground before the ball.
Cleveland has also upgraded their Feel Balancing Technology by taking weight from the hosel to move the centre of gravity closer to the clubface, which is said to improve feel and aid consistency.
Finally, new premium 'aggressive milled' grooves generate more spin and are also designed to take moisture and debris away from the face, meaning that spin rates are more consistent regardless of conditions.
The wedges are offered in three different models - a C model chipper (42°), G model gap wedge (50°) and S model sand wedge (58°).
I took the 58° sand wedge out to Bramall Park Golf Club for some on-course testing, to see whether Cleveland had created a wedge which provides even more forgiveness than the CBX 2 whilst still looking and feeling good enough for golfers to put into the bag.
Cleveland Golf Smart Sole 4 Wedge Review
First things first, let's address the looks. It's big and chunky, and in some ways the complete opposite of what you'd picture when you think of what a wedge is designed to do - provide ultimate feel and precision.
But this wedge has a specific target market of golfers who are either beginners, high-handicappers, or lacking in confidence when it comes to the short game. So for them, this friendly head size and wide sole should be welcome as it should help mitigate that feeling that you're going to fat or thin it when standing over the ball.
The wedge has a relatively rounded head shape with a soft leading edge angle which frames the ball quite nicely, and I also liked the fact that there appeared to be plenty of grooves on there too.
Even if this is just purely cosmetic or perhaps due to the fact that the shaping meant that the face was a little higher, it made it feel like I was going to still get a little spin even if I did strike the ball right at the top, for example when chipping out of thick rough.
If you're somebody who has been using a blade wedge like an RTX, Vokey or Mack Daddy and you're looking to switch to a model like this, then you will find that the feel does suffer in comparison.
The larger head size and cavity makes it harder to get that instant feedback when you strike the ball, and the acoustics are a little 'clickier' too.
Out on the course, I was expecting a wedge like this to be really easy to get up and going, and it certainly lived up to the billing. The wide sole does a great job of cutting through the grass which allows you to swing with more confidence, particularly if you get caught up in the rough.
I could see the Smart Sole 4 being very useful during the winter months when the course is soft and wet, and the rough gets a bit more clingy. The wide sole shape will come in very handy here as it'll be a bit more lenient than a traditional bladed wedge, so if you're strike isn't quite there you should still get away with it.
There's always a bit of a trade-off with spin rates when it comes to a wedge like this, and you definitely don't get the same sharp grip as you would on a premium wedge - in fact the reaction was more like that of a set wedge - but again, in the winter this shouldn't be too much of an issue with softer greens.
The other thing to remember is that these wedges are aimed at golfers who aren't too worried about how much spin they're getting on pitch shots. They're just trying to get it on the green more consistently from within 100 yards, and even trying to get rid of those dreaded yips around the putting surface.
One thing that I did notice during testing is that the ball flight tended to be quite high on the fuller shots into the green, perhaps due to the fact that there's more weight in the back of the head and a wider sole making it more difficult to really compress the ball. I'd be inclined to use this 58 for shots around the green only, and choose to hit softer shots with a Pitching Wedge or Gap Wedge if I had it in the bag.
The shaping lends itself to pretty neutral setups, and whilst this limits the versatility a little bit for golfers who do like to add or take away loft on their chips, it makes things much easier for the golfer struggling with their short game. Simply put the wedge down by the ball, make a good committed swing, and watch it pop up into the air regardless of the lie.
I tested the 58 on the fringes around the green to see how it would perform on slightly tighter lies but I was really impressed with how easy it was just to bump the ball forward and get it rolling out nicely.
As you'd expect for a wedge named the 'S model', the performance out of the bunker was excellent. The sole shape made it almost impossible to leave the ball in the bunker or thin it into the face - which will be music to the ears of many golfers I'm sure!
If bunkers are your issue, perhaps you could keep the rest of your current wedges and just stick this sand wedge to help save some shots?
Cleveland Golf Smart Sole 4 Wedge Verdict
Cleveland say that the Smart Sole 4 Wedges make life easier for golfers who struggle with their short game. The bottom line from this review - that is absolutely true.
Ok you don't get the same feel and precision as you normally would from a more bladed wedge, but I think you'd quickly get over that if you started hitting the greens and giving yourself par putts more often, rather than trudging off to collect your divot which has gone further than the ball yet again.
Like most of the major equipment brands these days, Cleveland now have a wedge option for every type of golfer.
If you're looking for spin and precision, there's the RTX ZipCore. If you're an improving golfer or mid-handicapper who just wants a little bit more assistance from your gear, then the CBX 2 could be ideal.
Then there's the Smart Sole 4, which is for people who are new to the game or who really fear the shots around the the green. If that's you, then perhaps its time to be Smart about your equipment and make life easier for yourself out on the course.
Extremely forgiving sole on variety of lies
Easy to get up and out of bunkers
Confidence-inspiring look at address
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