Since Gary Adams launched the metalwood revolution in the late 70s, TaylorMade Golf has been at the forefront of golf club technology and innovation. I got my first taste of TaylorMade’s clubs back in the early 90s when I picked up an Original One 12 degree driver. It quickly became my favorite club. I used it off the tee and in the fairway as a strong 3 wood to great effect. There have been many more technological breakthroughs from TaylorMade since then, and I could write an entire article about that alone.
Fast forward to 2009, and TaylorMade has again shaken up the world of golf equipment with an idea that may very well revolutionize the short game – The TaylorMade TP xFT wedges. Let’s take a closer look at these short game weapons and see how they perform!
If you are looking for a traditional, clutter-free wedge, this is not it. As soon as you pick it up you know there is something different about this club. The shape and grind of the wedge are in fact a traditional looking shape, but the back of the wedge has a lot going on. From the recognizable “TP” logo in the middle of the head to the two set screws that fasten the face, to the cut through showing the back of the exchangeable face and what grooves it has, to the loft and bounce numbers, the graphics and features are busy, but not overwhelming. If not for the borders of the exchangeable face plate on the face of the club, this would appear to be a traditional wedge at address. TaylorMade has never been shy about pushing the envelope with it’s club designs, but when it comes to a club with the “TP” designation, they are always careful to retain a more classic appearance at address, since the TP line is designed primarily for better players and pros who prefer this look.
There is only so much technology you can pack into a wedge. Most of the advances in technology recently have come in drivers and Hybrid clubs. With the exception of grooves, wedges have remained pretty much the same for decades. Until now that is. TaylorMade has managed to take a wedge head forged from 304 stainless steel and come up with a way to change the face of the wedge at will. With the xFT (Exchangeable Face Technology) wedge, players can change the face of their wedge, giving themselves fresh grooves and maximum spin whenever they want. This is achieved by milling out the face of the wedge and creating a faceplate. The face is backed with a soft, urethane foam that TaylorMade calls Poron. The benefits of this design are twofold. It allows the face to fit very snug in the cavity of the wedge, and the cushion it creates reduces vibration and increases feel. With today’s milling machines it is possible to get extremely tight tolerances, within .0001 of an inch. The face can be tightened and loosened with the white R9 torque wrench in a matter of seconds, and comes with either the new ZTP grooves that conform to the new USGA Groove Rule, or the current Z grooves that are still allowed for most golfers until 2011.
Specs, Options & Pricing
In addition to the two available groove configurations, the xFT wedge is available in 10 different loft and bounce combinations. (50.06, 52.09, 54.12, 56.12, 56.16, 58.09, 58.12, 60.06, 60.10, 64.06) The standard shaft in the TP xFT wedges is a KBS High-Rev shaft which was specifically designed for wedges to increase spin potential. It is slightly heavier and has a longer tip parallel region compared to other wedge shafts. The High-Rev shaft promotes more spin because of its increased weighing, the way it kicks and the way it presents the head to the ball. There are several custom shaft options available as well, including Dynamic Gold, Rifle, Project X, Nippon Steel and KBS Tour, among others. The TP xFT wedges will be priced in the $129 range, which is certainly higher than most wedges, but in the long run you’ll probably end up keeping it longer that your other wedges too. Individual faces with either the ZTP or Z grooves will be sold separately for around $39 each.
Performance and Feel
Do these wedges with the exchangeable faces really live up to the performance claims? In a word, yes. The xFT wedge was born of the idea that touring pros wanted fresh grooves without giving up a wedge that they had become accustomed to and comfortable with. PGA Tour pros are a fickle bunch. Once they find something they like they don’t let it go, and conversely if they don’t like the way a club feels or performs they’ll drop it like a bad habit. When it comes to wedges, players are very demanding. Some pros changes wedges a few times a year or every month, and some even get new wedges every week! However, some pros that have dialed in the perfect weight, feel and grind to a wedge don’t want to change it once they get it just right, and sacrifice spin for feel and playability. Having a trusty old wedge in my garage that has a smooth circular wear spot on the face from years of play and practice, I know how hard it is to give up a wedge you really like. TaylorMade’s new TP xFT wedges allow anyone to get a wedge with fresh grooves every week or month, or whenever they want.
I started out hitting chip shots and short pitches with the xFT, and right away I noticed that the feel of the ball off the face of this wedge was a little softer and more muted sounding than other wedges I have tried lately. The spin was similar to most brand new wedges. The ball comes off the face of a new wedges a bit lower and with more spin that that of a used wedge. Moving on to 10 – 20 yard pitch shots and then full shots from 100+, again the feel was soft and muted. Clearly the soft foam backing behind the face of the wedge has a dampening effect that is unique to this club. The spin potential was very high, but not more or less than other wedges I’ve used. The results are predictable and consistent. The sole grind is pretty standard stuff, and allows you to open the face and play a variety of shots. My test unit is the 56.12, so the bounce is right in the mid range for a standard sand wedge. The performance out of bunkers and the rough were pretty much as expected, with the club sliding through the rough and sand with relative ease. The performance of a wedge often comes down to the skill of the player of course, but these wedges perform admirably and the only question mark for me is the long term durability of the faces. Will they last as long as a typical wedge or will they need to be replaced more often? PGA Tour data from Taylor Made tells us that the edge radius of grooves and surface roughness of the face on most wedges starts to decline at about 1000 shots. To me, it isn’t unreasonable to assume I would be changing faces at least once a year, but it depends on how much you play and practice. When the USGA Groove Rule mandates that manufacturers stop making clubs with the current grooves in 2011 you won’t have to buy new wedges at least.
TaylorMade has always come up with new and innovative ideas to help golfers play better and hit the ball further. With the introduction of the TP xFT wedges, they are helping touring pros and amateurs alike gain control around the greens and lower their scores. The exchangeable face technology is a great idea and TaylorMade has executed it very well. These new wedges spin the ball, have great feel and perform on par with all the best wedges on the market. Being able to replace the face only will make these an economical long term club for serious golfers that wear out wedges fast, and give players the choice of two different groove configurations in one club. What’s the next step? I’m sure we’ll see these wedges evolve as suggestions for improvement are implemented and perhaps TaylorMade will carry this idea forward and create an entire set of irons with exchangeable faces in the future. That would be interesting for sure!
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