We’ve been pretty tough on Cleveland Golf of late. As you may recall, my colleague wasn’t what you'd call a fan of the new 2 Box Smart Square putter. To an extent I more or less agree with his assessment.
Look…maybe squares are truly ground-breaking technology. Maybe squares will revolutionize putting. Maybe the Smart Square putter will shock the world and finish first in our 2014 Golf’s Most Wanted Mallet test.
I’ll be brutally honest here. Even if what Cleveland is saying makes perfectly good sense (and it actually does), the perception is that a struggling golf company is borrowing heavily from a more successful company, and that’s not so cool.
When you’re the littler guy you have to innovate to succeed, and let’s keep being honest here; the progression from circles to squares looks anything but innovative (even if it is).
If you’re TaylorMade you can borrow from Adams. When you’re Cleveland you can’t borrow from Odyssey; even if you actually improve the product along the way.
I didn’t make the rules. I don’t particularly think they’re fair, but they are what they are. Reality Bites…they should make a movie.
And so…as long as we’re continuing with the brutally honest theme, finding myself feeling a bit suspect toward Cleveland these days, my initial reaction to the announcement of the new Smart Sole wedges was basically, “what the hell are these clowns doing?”.
I wasn’t alone.
On Second Thought . . .
Just as I found myself falling in line with the early Facebook crowd (getting irate and what not), just before I started my ranting about how no real golfer would every carry a chipper, or how no real golfer would ever want a super-fat-soled sand wedge, I started to think about Polara, and if rumors are true, TaylorMade, and Cobra too; all companies who have more or less made some noise about trying to make the game of golf easier for those of you out there who don’t have endless time to devote to the pursuit.
I’m talking about guys with wives and kids, and jobs, limited incomes, and perhaps physical issues – any number of things that make it impossible to take lessons, hit balls on the range 5 days a week, and play 72 holes on the weekend.
To an extent, I’m talking about guys who really aren’t that different from myself.
So when Polara, and TaylorMade (rumors…just rumors), and Cobra talk about their efforts to make more truly playable clubs (conforming or otherwise), I support them.
I Support Cleveland Too
Framed in the proper context (designs for guys and girls who just want to have more fun playing golf), it's hard for me to take any sort of issue with anything Cleveland is doing with its fall 2013 lineup, particularly with their Smart Sole Wedge Offerings.
Forced to confront my own hypocrisy, I’ve chosen to climb down off my high horse and stop being a sanctimonious d-bag long enough to take a closer look at the Smart Sole Wedge and what it might tell us about the larger plan for Cleveland Golf.
Simplifying the Short Game
We all want to hit little skippers that hop and skid, and stop right at the hole, bunker shots that sail past the pin and then suck back, and high open-faced flop shops that land next to the hole, right?
Actually…probably not. The data suggests that the average golfer could give a damn about all that fancy crap the PGA guys do with their wedges on Sunday.
The average guy just wants to have fun…and if he can keep it simple, then all the better.
If I’m reading this right, that’s what this Smart Sole Wedge thing is all about.
You can be overly technical?
Is it possible that there are actually golfers out there who can’t be bothered to agonize over every spec, don't worry (or care) about whether or not their added distance is coming from jacked up lofts, and don't lament the fact that the $300 shaft they just popped in their #2 hybrid is producing 150 RPM more spin than is desirable?
Are there guys who just want to hit good shots, and have as much fun as they can playing golf in whatever little window of time they’re allotted?
My God, I actually think there are (insane right?), and that’s where this Smart Sole wedge fits.
What the Hell Is A Smart Sole Wedge?
In case you haven’t pieced it together, the Smart Sole Wedge is the latest wedge offering from Cleveland Golf. Unlike the Rotex Series where the focus is on control, spin, and versatility, the Smart Sole Wedges are designed with a simplicity-first approach.
The goal of the Smart Sole, which is available in lofts of 42° (C Wedge) and 58° (S Wedge), is to provide a very simple set of tools that offer the recreational golfer more consistency, and by extension, more fun on the golf course.
More fun on the golf course? Why would you want that? I know…more crazy talk.
The Smart Sole is designed to prevent digging (how can anything that big dig?) and make it easier to hit crisp greenside chip. Short story…no more fatting and skulling.
If you find yourself getting all worked up about the Smart Sole Wedge, and how it’s a crutch, and how it’s going to ruin golf, then chances are it wasn’t designed with you in mind.
Why does everything need to be about you? It doesn’t. Get over your dang self already.
Yes . . . It’s a Chipper
It’s reasonably safe to assume that the ‘C’ in the 42° (a degree stronger than the 9 iron in Cleveland’s 588 CB Irons) offering stands for Chipper (oh the horror!), and no doubt some will see that as an abomination.
Chippers have no place in golf. Learn to chip with a 9-iron. Am I right?
Unless you don’t really want to…or you’re tired of blading balls across the green, or flubbing chips, or whatever it is you do.
There’s no practical reason to suffer. Golf is a game, and games are supposed to be fun.
My point is that if you struggle with your chipping, and you don’t have time for lessons, or you don’t care enough about golf to take lessons, then fine…use the C wedge. It doesn’t impact my life one iota, and chances are, even the most irate of you out there; it doesn’t impact your life either.
Even the USGA is good with the chipper.
The whole truth of the matter is that Cleveland has done this before (the Niblick didn’t happen that long ago). I hated the notion of it when it launched, but over time I’ve softened my feelings about this whole actually enjoying golf nonsense.
There’s a rebirth of sorts happening with this golf made easy/fun/enjoyable/less frustrating thing, so it’s as good a time as any to reinvent a club that a lot of golfers actually loved.
That’s A Big-Ass Sand Wedge Right There
The second offering in the Smart Sole Wedge lineup is the 58° S wedge. It’s not the only über-wide soled wedge on the market, and like the others its primary purpose is to help guys who can’t escape bunkers to get their damn ball out of the bunker.
Still having friends who would rather cut off a finger than play out of a bunker, I get it.
I can tell you with absolutely certainty that there are plenty of recreational golfers who treat bunkers as Ground Under Repair.
When the ball goes in the sand, you take it out of the sand, drop it next to the sand and hit it from there. If you’re semi-scoring, you do so without penalty.
Why let a bunker ruin the fun (or kill your shot at breaking 100…more or less)?
So my thinking as a guy who probably wouldn’t play the “S” wedge (my sand game isn’t that bad) is that if it gets the guy who refuses to play from the sand to finally start playing from the sand, well that’s progress, and progress is usually good.
Two Wedges are Simpler Than 3 . . . or 4
Let’s go back to that reality I dropped on you a bit ago. Not everybody wants to hit towering flop shots with their 64 degree wedge. Not everyone wants to carry the pin and then suck the ball back 30 feet. Simply put, not everybody who picks up a wedge aspires to be Phil freakin’ Mickelson.
Granted, I do.
I’m not a guy who does simple (even if I should), and you might not do simple either, but we are the minority...the loud, obnoxious, online, minority.
Cleveland Smart Sole Wedges offer a very simple approach for the golfer who really just wants to keep it simple. They’re not designed for me, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The Clevleand Smart Sole Wedges are designed for guys who just want to keep it simple.
Cleveland is still talkin’ crazy, but I get it.
A Different Cleveland Golf
We’ve heard to stories about Cleveland Golf recently. The first is that they’re on their last legs and might not live to see 2015. We’ve also heard from a well-placed insider that Cleveland is far from done.
We’re told they’re almost literally flipping the equation that defines the traditional relationship between golf companies and retailers. They’re introducing new product lines, trying to reach different golfers, and at least for this fall, making a real effort at making the game more enjoyable.
Like any brand in golf, Cleveland’s success is still largely dependent on the Tour. I don’t expect you’ll see them drop Keagan Bradley or Graeme McDowell any time soon. Those guys, along with the rest of the Clevleand/Srixon staff, are critical to any future success.
That said, the issue with Cleveland Golf over the last few years has been stagnation. They’ve had a couple of noteworthy products, but for the most part they haven’t done much of consequence, much of anything different. Srixon balls notwithstanding, they’ve done little more than exist (even if I think the Classic Series is pretty cool).
With the Fall 2013 lineup, there are signs of a pulse, maybe even some vigor at Cleveland. Perhaps it’s not what some of us were expecting to see, or hoping to see, but it’s something, and I really do believe this effort to make golf more fun for the masses is going to catch on.
Cleveland, with their Altitude Driver and Smart Sole Wedges is laying the ground work that could set it up to be a major player when it does.
Pricing and Availability
Cleveland Smart Sole Wedges will be available beginning November 15th. Retail price is $99.99 for steel, and $119.99. For more information visit ClevelandGolf.com
Have Your Say
What do you think of Cleveland’s Fall 2013 Lineup? Even if they’re not for you, do you believe these new products will find a receptive audience, or will they simply fall flat?