When somebody says “I need new wedges”, there are two words you think of: Bob. Vokey.
Luckily, 2020 is the year that the world of golf has been blessed with a new model in the Vokey Design family. Following on from 2018s SM7 wedges, the stunning looking new SM8 wedges are here.
Most golfers will remember 1997 as the year that Tiger burst on to the scene, but the Big Cat was not the only significant name to make the headlines that year. It was significant for the master craftsmen he worked with, Scotty Cameron, and the man in the spotlight here, Bob Vokey. 23 years later, their legacies speak for themselves.
Bob joined Titleist in 1996 and 1997 saw his first wedge used on the PGA Tour. His close interaction with the best players in the world has gone on to produce the number one wedge on tour ever since.
Before I get into this review, it’s important to outline that I had a custom fitting session with Titleist (they wouldn’t just send Golfalot stock wedges to review without them being custom fitted – more on that later…) a week before the Vokey SM8 wedges arrived at Golfalot HQ, and I raced over to Delamere Forest GC to try them out.
What's It All About?
The SM8 wedges are the follow-up to SM7 wedges, which surprise surprise, we loved here at Golfalot HQ. So what’s the difference between the old and the new? How have Bob Vokey and Aaron Dill managed to improve on the best?
Well, there are three main areas in which the SM8s have taken things further to help you get the most out of your short game: centre of gravity placement (CG), refined sole and grind options, and 100% inspected spin milled grooves on the face.
For the new SM8, the CG has been moved so far forward that it 'hovers in front of the wedge face' which makes it much easier to square up the face at impact. This will result in better distance and flight control, improved feel and more stability. This process is explained here by Aaron Dill himself:
Vokey's six sole grinds: F, M, S, D, L, and K have been developed over the decades thanks to the input from tour players, and they allow golfers of all swing levels to find the wedge setup which fits their swing type, shot style and course conditions.
The new SM8s promise some serious spin on the greens too. To make this possible, patented Spin Milled grooves are meticulously engineered and 'cut to the edge'. Each groove on every head is then individually cut and inspected to ensure conformity to the rules of golf.
On top of this, micro-grooves are then individually cut in between grooves, to maximise spin further. A new heat treatment is then applied to the impact area to add durability without impacting the feel of the SM8s. This is something which Titleist says makes them have ‘the most durable groove in golf.’ Only time will tell…
This section is a little longer than usual but it’s very important to understand the actual wedges I tested and why I choose to test them.
The fitting process with Titleist was so insightful. My fitter, Fraser asked many questions about my divot size, the flight I like to see, and what lofts I usually go for. I’ve never had a wedge fitting before, I just discussed lofts, lies, and bounce with my coach and then went from there. Just like with a driver fitting these wedges can aid your swing faults.
For example, I have haddock fillet size divots with my lob wedges as I come down steep on the ball, so it was therefore suggested that I use a higher bounce.
I wanted to stick to what I knew in terms of the lofts I chose, but I was very open to changing up the bounce, grinds and finish. I wanted my wedges to carry the same distance that I am used to. As any golfer knows, wedges don’t sell on how far they go. Here are my usual wedge distances:
- Full swing 58 = 75 yards
- Full swing 52 = 90 yards
- ¾ swing 58 = 65 yards
- ¾ swing 52 = 83 yards
I decided on a 58 degrees, 12-D lob wedge with Jet Black finish...
and a 52 degrees, 10-F Gap wedge with Tour Chrome finish. Both of the wedges I was fitted for also had a regular Mitsubishi Tensei AV Series graphite shaft.
The D grind suits my steep angle of attack but offers high versatility, it is great for my bunker play and any tricky lob shots I need to play. The F grind suits full shots and all types of lies and was best for me as I use my 52 all the time.
To test these wedges I tried a multitude of scenarios: the bunker shot, shot from the rough, the lob shot, chip and run, ¾ pitch and full pitch shot. In order to see feel and ball reaction on the green, I needed good greens and bunkers for this test so I headed to the brilliant Delamere Forest GC.
Titleist SM8 Vokey Wedge Review
Compared to the SM7 model, the SM8s design has been cleaned up slightly by Titleist. The whole thing looks a little neater to me. The Titleist logo has been moved to the hosel and there is plenty of space to add your custom logos or stamps if you’re into that kind of thing.
Vokey wedges are beautiful, and that is no different here. Their shape and style have massive shelf appeal and with the 3 types of finish, there is a look that I’m sure will suit anyone’s eye.
I personally favoured the Jet Black finish as it matched my irons and I’ve played black wedges for years. Yes, they do mark more but the chrome finish tends to hinder my vision when playing in the sunshine. Also, when I sit the club behind a white ball the black head makes the ball look bigger.
There is always a raw finish available which screams “I want to be like Justin Thomas” - this is a finish which can be personally grinded to suit you.
It is worth noting as a slight negative though, when passing the wedge over to a fellow golfer they didn’t notice any difference from the SM7s when looking down at the club.
I only need one word here - “buttery”. But as this is a written review, allow me to explain.
When I was hitting pitches and full shots the ball felt like it stayed on the face longer. During more creative shots the face felt stable and not clicky in the sound. You almost can’t hear the ball being hit as it feels so smooth off the face at impact. The SM8 wedges, as expected, really do feel brilliant. As good as any wedge I have ever hit.
I played Vokeys as a teenager but moved away from them as I struggled when hitting longer wedge shots from 70-90 yards. These were my full shots and the ball always seemed to pop up without going as far as I wanted. I know now this is dynamic loft and CG based, which Vokey have addressed in SM8. Thankfully I can confirm that this new technology improvement did help me when hitting full shots on the golf course – I felt as if I was getting a more penetrating ball flight and therefore more consistency in distance.
My consistency with the 58 was frightening, this never normally happens with my short game - hence why I hate hitting full shots with a 58. Plus, the divots depth and size was reduced… HALLELUJAH!
From the bunker I was incredibly consistent with the depth of sand taken and the height/length of the shot. I felt so confident with the D and high bounce in Delamere’s bunkers. However on a more hard-pan, links-style surface I’d need less bounce for sure.
Out of the thick rough the weight of the club and stability helped with direction and the ball's reaction on the green was soft, which I was impressed by. My current 52 wedge is my love, so this wedge needed to be consistent. The yardage was slightly down on my wedge by a couple of yards but the averages were excellent in distance and dispersion.
There was plenty of spin on the ball when hitting both wedges too, averaging 9500 rpm on full shots which is impressive, but to be expected with brand new wedges and grooves if I’m honest.
Around the greens the roll out and flight was consistent. I always had the heel of my 52 degree wedge grinded down as when I stood closer on chips it would dig in. With SM8s the D grind already has that as standard which is ideal for me. This is a point that’s worth highlighting. With the SM8 wedges, given that you get custom fitted, every golfer can really get the same personalisation as a tour pro like I used to be able to get.
The only negative is I struggled on lob shots, which for me is a weakness in my game due to poor technique. So, although the SM8s are good – Bob Vokey can’t perform miracles I’m afraid folks.
Titleist SM8 Vokey Wedge Verdict
The confidence I felt when putting these wedges in my hands was unreal, followed by the reaction of the ball on the green and how consistent I was. I actually felt like Seve. Vokey Design wedges are the benchmark and ask any tour player about them and they’d say “If I wasn’t contracted to (fill in your chosen manufacturer) then I’d use Vokey wedges.”
They look, feel and perform great and with the added grind and bounce there are so many options to suit your swing and conditions. During the first few weeks be prepared to chew up many covers of your golf balls, my poor ProV1's cover was splattered all over my lob wedge face after only 5 shots. So added to the already-premium price tag of these wedges £160 each), you may be spending more on golf balls too.
Vokeys - you want to sleep next to them, show them off to your friends and head out to the chipping green to practice even in the rain. One of my friends described them as better than having a girlfriend…! Ok, that maybe a little far, but you get the picture…
Would I Use Them And Should You?
Hell yes! But I only saw the real benefits after a fitting. I honestly can’t tell you how much my bunker shots improved with a different bounce. I was struggling beforehand out of the sand, but after my fitting - what an improvement! Things can’t change that much in a few days swing-wise so the club must have helped here.
I also think I’d have to purchase a lower bounce 58 degree wedge for links courses, firm summer conditions and compact bunkers. Which means another £160, again a lot of money…
Should you use them? Of course, but get fitted and be prepared - these clubs aren’t adjustable like drivers. You can’t change lofts, bounce and lie angles without changing the club.
I think you can tell I like these wedges. But as final point to prove their performance, at the end of testing I did a 5 ball, 15 yard chipping challenge, and holed my second chip. Enough said.
• Looked brilliant at address
• Consistent in distance and flight
• Loads of spin
• Custom fitting options are massive
• Your on-course street cred will go through the roof
• Price is premium and if you carry a lot of wedges, things get expensive
• Only a slight improvement on SM7 in my opinion, it’s hard to improve perfection
• Customisation has gone so far for conditions, you may need to purchase multiple wedges, again more ££s.