Cleveland Golf has a long history of making great wedges. The almost iconic 588 wedges are still in play all over the world for pros and weekend hackers alike. Founded in 1979, Cleveland Golf was purchased in December of 2007 by SRI Sports, the parent company of Srixon Golf in Japan. Over the last few years the wedge market has become very competitive, with the tour success of Titleist’s Vokey wedges taking a slight edge in weekly wedge count on the PGA Tour. The founder of Cleveland Golf – Roger Cleveland, sold the company in 1990. Later, he hooked up with Callaway Golf and now designs clubs for them. Even Taylor Made has gotten into the act, and several smaller companies also seek to steal some market share in the wedge world. Still a market leader, Cleveland Golf has a new wedge offering for late 2010. The CG15. Last month I first wrote a preview of these wedges, and Cleveland was nice enough to loan me a few to test out in person. Let’s take a look at these beautiful new wedges and see how they perform.
With the exception of advances in CNC machining that led to sharper and deeper grooves, technology in wedges hasn’t changed much since Gene Sarazen invented the modern sand wedge back in the early thirties. Subsequently, little has changed in Cleveland’s wedge offerings in the past few years. From the CG10, to the CG12 and now the new CG15, Cleveland retained the same basic look. There isn’t much you can change on a classic wedge design, so most companies relocate the text or change the graphics. With the new CG15 wedges, they have moved the bounce angle number and dots from the hosel area to the sole of the club, just below the loft number. They’ve also moved the company name from the sole to the back of the club, replacing the logo that was there on the CG12. Cleveland has also rolled back the trailing edge of the club to make it more playable when opening the club.
Cleveland’s new CG15 Wedges are offered in 3 distinct finishes – Chrome, Oil Quenched and Black Pearl. The chrome finish is the classic treatment that we are all used to seeing in a wedge or forged iron. The Black Pearl finish is a dark matte finish similar to Cleveland’s gunmetal finish. This dark finish has become familiar to Cleveland fans. The other finish being offered with the CG15 wedges is called Oil Quenched. This finish has a beautiful reddish brown tint to it, and like other non-chromed clubs, it will rust over time. Many players have come to prefer a rusty style wedge, one for the glare resistance, and two because many players believe a lack of polish makes the clubs softer. Either way, a choice of three finishes certainly is more than most companies can offer.
The good folks at Cleveland Golf sent me three wedges of different lofts and finishes to put through their paces. I had a 52 degree Oil Quenched, 56 degree Black Pearl and 60 degree Chrome wedge to test out. The timing of my play testing was almost perfect. I was fortunate to have a fantastic venue to test out the wedges at Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club in Ocala Florida. I was in town competing in the Florida State Mid-Amateur Championship and I had several friends available to hit some balls with them and give me their opinions. The short game practice facility at Golden Ocala is second to none, featuring three beautiful practice greens with bunkers and plenty of space to hit from all angles. In fact, there is enough space to hit short chips all the way out to 100 yard shots, making it a perfect place to try out new wedges. I put the CG15 wedges through their paces, hitting everything from basic chips and bunker shots to pitch shots, knockdowns and full wedges from a variety of lies. To sum things up, these wedges are very solid. They have the predictable feel common to Cleveland wedges. It’s soft and muted, and vibration is kept to a minimum, even on mishits. The feel almost reminds me of a forged cavity back iron, even though these wedges are neither forged nor cavity backs. This is a common misconception among consumers. Cast and forged clubs differ only in the manufacturing process, not in feel or performance. The reason many cast clubs feel harder than forged ones is simply that harder metals are easier to cast than softer ones. Cleveland has never made a forged wedge, and neither has Bob Vokey, who’s Titleist wedges combine with Cleveland to dominate the wedge market. They use soft carbon steel to cast their wedges, and they feel every bit as soft as a forged club of the same metal.
Cleveland’s Zip Grooves have been augmented with a new feature called Laser Etched grooves, introduced for the CG15 wedge. Using a laser, 4 texture lines are milled between each groove exactly to the conforming roughness limit. This roughness application optimizes ball-to-face friction and maximizes spin under the rules of golf. In my experience, the ability to produce spin depends less on the club or grooves, and more on the golfer’s ability and the golf ball used. Having said that, these wedges can put some serious spin on the ball. From a fairway lie the spin produced is similar to most other wedges. On chip shots executed with proper technique, the ball skids and grabs hard, trickling the rest of the way to the hole. From the rough is where the modern box grooves really shine. Because of the increased groove volume and shape, more grass and dirt is trapped by the grooves and balls hit from the rough spin much more than when hit with wedges with more traditional V grooves. I had no problem stopping the ball reasonably quickly from lies in all but the thickest rough.
I found that the initial finish on the face of the Black Pearl and Oil Quenched wedges wears quickly, but this is normal and unavoidable, just as with any other wedges. The face of the chrome wedges also wears just as fast, but because of the finish its not as noticeable. The grooves and even the laser etched grooves micro grooves held up well in my 4 days of testing, and I predict they will wear well for at least a season for most golfers. It remains to be seen how long the laser etched grooves last under normal use. I always recommend new wedges every year for serious golfers. These wedges are very well balanced, and in the hands of a skilled golfer they become deadly scoring weapons. I was able to hit low spinning shots and high flops alike with ease. The multiple bounce and loft options ensure that they have a wedge for everyone’s needs or wants. Another option that has been in Cleveland’s arsenal for a few years is the DSG wedge, which stands for “Dynamic Sole Grind”. These wedges have a sole that is beveled to allow the leading edge to sit closer to the ground when the face is opened. This allows for more versatility for a variety of lies and turf conditions.
Specs and Options
With three finishes, two different grind options, lofts from 48 to 64 degrees and several bounce options, there is sure to be a CG15 for everyone. The most popular lofts have several bounce options to make the wedges more versatile for different players and turf conditions. The 56 degree loft for example is offered with 10, 14 or 16 degrees of bounce, and the DSG version has 8 degrees. There are also several custom shaft options available to upgrade the stock shaft, which is the now very popular “wedge flex” shaft that many companies are selling wedges with. This is a shame, because these shafts are garbage. I have seen wedge flex shafts flex all over the place on a shaft deflection board, and the weights are also not tightly controlled as they are on a shaft like the Dynamic Gold. I would highly suggest ordering wedges with the same shafts that are in your irons for consistent feel.
I think Cleveland has a winner with the new CG15 wedges. They feel very solid and well balanced, and Cleveland offers more loft, bounce and finish options than any other manufacturer. The Zip Grooves with Laser Etched micro grooves generate plenty of spin, and they look great in the bag. My personal favorite is the Oil Quenched finish (seen at far left below), which has a gorgeous red tint that is unlike any other club out there. I wish the stock shaft was of better quality, and I also would love to see a comprehensive wedge fitting system available to help match players with all those loft and bounce combination for best performance.
Pros: Soft, solid feel, tons of loft/bounce options, good spin potential
Cons: Stock “wedge flex” steel shafts are disappointing. Laser etched grooves may wear fast. With so many loft/bounce options, Cleveland needs a comprehensive wedge fitting system.
The Cleveland CG15 wedges will become available after November 13, 2009 for an MSRP of $119 each. For more pictures, see my preview article here.
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