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The science of
the short game
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What level of player do your wedges suit? For different models we’ll target certain features at a certain player type. What sets us apart is that we design products for every type of player. We have the CG12 for the good player who likes traditional looks, the CG12 DSG for the good player who likes to open up the face, the CG14 for everybody, but primarily mid-handicappers, and then we’ve just developed the Niblick for the guy that really needs some help and forgiveness. How much input do the tour pros have in the design of a wedge? They have a lot of input. We always work in collaboration between our R&D design engineers and the tour. They are always talking about concepts, shapes and prototypes and thoroughly test things to make sure they feel right before it goes into the market place. Do you also test with a variety of handicap players before a wedge goes out? We focus local testing on handicap players between about 5 and 15. We bring in hundreds of them and get feedback on the feel of the wedges, the sole design and different balances so that we can then refine the designs. What are the most important things to consider when choosing a wedge? For the average player, balancing the number of wedges and lofts so that they evenly space your full-shot yardages, but also give you the tools to hit all the short-game shots around the green. You need to have a wedge that you can comfortably get out of the bunker, and wedges where you can comfortably hit a lot of low pitches and chips. I’d probably place more emphasis on the shots around the green because that’s somewhere that can help to save you more shots. What is the best-performing wedge loft? With all our testing the 56˚ wedge was the best performer consistently out of the bunker for most players. It’s designed specifically for bunkers, which gives you a little more forgiveness, it has the right loft to get the ball high so you can get out of the bunker in almost every circumstance and a couple more degrees of bounce. How important is it for people to get their wedges fitted? Wedges make up more than a quarter of the shots in an average player’s round so you can really shave a stroke or two off your game by fine-tuning your wedges to suit your descent angle, your course conditions and optimise your full-shot gaps. It will help you get into more comfortable positions on your scoring shots, consequently hit them closer to the pin and eventually make more putts. So it’s kind of a trickledown effect.
New groove restrictions coming into force soon. How is that going to affect you? It’s going to affect every equipment company that manufacture wedges and irons. We have a dedicated team who are constantly testing new groove configurations, so we’ll be able to optimise these within the rules and restraints that should make it an almost seamless transition for the average player. The way that the USGA has proposed the transition plan is very gradual so it’s really going to be a minimal impact on the average guy. The PGA Tour pros have to switch starting next year, so there’ll probably be some talk and some adjustment to a couple of the groove configurations, but we think we’ve got the leg up on some future designs that are going to make it probably a minimal issue many players. Cleveland’s success began with the classic 588 wedge (pictured). Have all your design principles evolved from that one club? They all tie back somewhat to the 588 shape. That’s the one that resonated with golfers around the world and is just a traditional shape that people love, so we always use that wedge as a bit of a base. Why do you think that wedge has been so universally popular? My theory is that it had so much attention to detail paid to it, especially from the hosel to the leading edge, the curvature and the sole design, that it’s just become the industry standard of what a traditional wedge should look like. Even on our future models we have to spend a lot of time on the shape features to get them to look as good as the 588. We’ve sold 2.6 million over 20 years. Are groove restrictions are a good idea? It’s definitely an interesting idea to increase the difficulty for players. I wouldn’t be surprised if innovation in product design negates all of the USGA’s intentions. Equipment is always evolving and getting better and so are the players. But it will be interesting to see if it works out and if it does increase the difficulty out of the rough. If it does make a difference I think some of the players could combat some of the spin effects with a change of ball and maybe switch to a ball that spins more and sacrifice a bit of distance because to get optimal spin you want a well-made wedge and a well-made groove system in combination with a ball that spins well. So you could see some experimentation out there with balls and grooves to find a mix they like. • Turn the page to find out which Cleveland wedge is likely to work best for you
Many of the world’s top players put their faith in Cleveland wedges. Will Spence put the questions to Scott Carlyle, Cleveland’s business unit leader for wedges
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WEDGE SUITS YOU? Scott Carlyle explains how wedge specialists Cleveland have a wedge out there that will suit all of us
CG12 The CG12 is for the good player who likes traditional looks
CG12 DSG This is for the good player who likes to open up the face a lot
CG14 The CG14 is for everybody, but primarily mid-handicappers, although lots of our tour players have now put these in their bags
NIBLICK THE design philosophy was ‘Classic Concept, Modern Design’. That’s the phrase we use because The Niblick is not a new concept, it was around more than 100 years ago and was a very common, get-outof-trouble 9-iron lofted club. We wanted to do a chipper, but something that nobody had ever done before. So we came up with the idea to combine the best features of a putter, a wedge, a hybrid and an iron to create the ultimate scoring club that you can use on full shots and around the greens. It’s a really interesting club, easy to set up, very forgiving on chipping and easy to control. It has Zip Grooves so it
spins and comes in two loft options that have the equivalent full-shot distance as a 9-iron, with the 37˚ option, and a pitching wedge, with the 42˚. There are some people who just absolutely love the idea of the Niblick and have both options in their bag, but most use the one club and typically they’ll get the 42˚ because it’s the most versatile. You can hit high pitches with it, you can punch it out of the trees, out of bad lies, it’s kind of a recovery club and a chipping club. It’s also really forgiving on heel or toe hits, they go a lot straighter than an iron or a wedge. There was a little concern
about the initial reaction because we are known as a traditional wedge company with classic looks. We wanted to do it tastefully and it has been extremely well received because there are so many players who realise the benefits of its design.