Cleveland Golf has long said that 84% of us are doing it wrong. If you play Game Improvement irons, why play Tour-style wedges? That mindset is the driving force behind both of today’s releases: the Cleveland Smart Sole 4 and the CBX Full-Face wedges.
The CBX Full-Face wedges are an extension of Cleveland’s successful CBX game-improvement wedges, offering a high-toe option to the GI golfer. The Smart Sole 4 wedges are the latest iterations of Cleveland’s take on a polarizing, but silly-easy to use short game solution.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Love ‘Em/Hate ‘Em?
I don’t get the hate for wedges like the Cleveland Smart Sole 4. I really don’t.
The Get Lessons! and the you-can’t-buy-a-game crowds always get their undies in a wad over the Smart Sole sand wedges, and don’t get them started on the Chipper.
Using clubs that make some of golf’s most challenging and frustrating shots easier isn’t a federal crime. It doesn’t suggest cowardice or weak character either, no matter what Torch & Pitchfork Nation says. It’s just golf.
My friend Todd, for instance, is a hard worker and solid citizen who’s earning his place in Heaven by fostering unwanted dogs. His wife rates him as acceptable 53% of the time, which is above average on the Husband Quality Index. He plays golf maybe once a week during the summer and leads a rich, full life that doesn’t lend itself to hours of practice.
By most reasonable metrics, Todd is Opie Taylor-level likable. But a fat or skulled sand shot or chili-dipped chip turns him into Linda Blair from The Exorcist in half a heartbeat.
“They’re very polarizing,” says Cleveland Wedge Specialist James Fodera of the Smart Sole line. “There’s always that group – whether it’s ego or tradition or just misunderstanding – they not only get mad at us, they get mad at people who buy the product.”
Cleveland’s Smart Sole 4 is a lineup of super wide-flanged specialty wedges to help with those shots that transform Todd and others like him from a normal human being into a pea-soup vomiting, head-spinning, satanically possessed 13-year-old girl. Each wedge has a specific purpose: the C is a chipper, and the S is a sand wedge. The newest member of the clan is the G, or gap wedge.
“Once a player goes to a Smart Sole, they really don’t want to go back to butter-knife blade wedges,” says Fodera. “So to fill that hole in their setup, we added a 50-degree Smart Sole. It lets you take advantage of the Smart Sole forgiveness a little farther from the green.”
All three Smart Sole 4 wedges feature CNC-milled grooves that are sharper and more aggressive than previous models. Fodera says it’s not so much about maximizing spin for the target high-handicapper; it’s more about consistent spin.
“This player isn’t looking to back it up ten feet,” he says. “ But they do need to know – shot after shot – that the ball is going to check up or whatever, and do it over and over.”
The Chili-Dip Stopper
If there’s any shot that could make you toss your club in a lake or bend it into a pretzel, it’s the chili-dipped chip. Chippers have been around forever, and while traditionalists might scoff at chippers and those who use them, it’s the perfect chili-dip antidote.
“Golfers can reach for a 7-iron or something to run the ball up to the hole,” says Fodera. “But nothing else is going to have that extra-wide sole that’s only going to give them confidence if they’re afraid of the chili-dip. It’s going to help if they hit behind the ball at all.”
The problem with chippers is they tend to be one-trick ponies, suitable only for bump and runs or the occasional punch-out. However, while messing around with the Smart Sole 4 chipper on the range, we found it to be remarkably useful on full swings.
“It’s been kind of an unspoken secret around here,” says Fodera. “If you want to hit a full shot with a chipper, it’s going to perform great for you. That’s not its primary job, but plenty of players in the building will reach for the chipper for 100-, 115-yard shots all the time.”
CBX Full-Face Wedges
While the Smart Sole 4 wedges are simply the fourth generation of an existing Cleveland line, the new CBX Full-Face wedges are an extension of the popular CBX-2 series. It’s a high-toe addition to the CBX family, with the requisite full-face grooves.
High-toe wedges are versatile as heck around the greens, but Cleveland is trying to make them a little easier for the masses to use.
“What is the high-toe, full-face groove category really saying?” asks Fodera. “It’s saying ‘Hey, here’s this shot you’re afraid to try, a shot you’ve shied away from.’ High-toe is supposed to make that easier.
“But at the end of the day, those are still blade wedges, so they’re not going to have the type of forgiveness, the perimeter weight and the CG that we deliver with our CBX line.”
High-toe wedges offer better players plenty of versatility around the green, but they aren’t all that forgiving, especially on longer shots. Cleveland’s CBX Full-Face lineup adds a healthy dash of help.
“Let’s take the fear out of the equation,” says Fodera. “Let’s give somebody a little bit of confidence when they’re setting up for a tough flop shot to a close pin.”
High Lofts for High Toes
Cleveland is offering the CBX Full-Face line in higher lofts only, which makes sense. It’s notoriously difficult to hit full shots with high-toe wedges, so 48-, 50- and 52-degree options won’t work for most golfers, especially those in the CBX target audience. Cleveland is offering the Full-Face in 56-, 58-, 60- and 64-degree options.
“At the end of the day, this club is a flop-shot machine – that’s what it’s made to do,” says Fodera. “They add more versatility to the CBX line.”
The 64-degree wedge is a particularly interesting option. It has a damn-near spatula look to it at address, so there’s no need to open it up any more. Again, it’s for flops and other delicate or creative pitches and chips around the green. Full shots? Best to pick and choose your spots carefully.
We’ve said before that when considering high-toe, full-face wedges, it’s probably wise to bag just one for the versatility – usually your highest-lofted wedge.
“It comes down to personal preference,” says Fodera. “Do you prefer to see full-face grooves and a high toe on your 56, or do you prefer a more traditional wedge shape? With higher lofts – the 60 or 64 – it’s all about how often you open the face and are going to play some flop shots.”
The CBX Full-Face wedges feature Cleveland’s signature Rotex face milling – kind of a no-brainer for Cleveland – so spin isn’t a problem. They also include Cleveland’s Feel Balancing Technology, which pushes the CG more towards the toe (the high-toe feature does as well), since that’s where amateurs tend to miss.
Specs, Price, and Availability
Cleveland’s CBX Full-Face wedges, as mentioned above, come in 56-, 58-, 60- and 64-degree options, each with 10-degrees of bounce – pretty much standard for the high-toe category. The wedges also feature a low C-grind sole for a little extra relief on the heel, making it easier to manipulate the face.
The stock steel shaft is the Dynamic Golf DG 115, and the stock graphite is Cleveland’s Rotex Precision shaft in wedge flex. As always, Cleveland offers a wide variety of shafts through its custom department.
CBX Full-Face will retail for $149.99 and will be in stores and on Cleveland’s website on February 28.
The Cleveland Smart Sole 4 wedges come in three different models: the 42-degree C, or chipper, the 50-degree G, or gap wedge, and the 58-degree S, or sand wedge. They’ll be available in left- and right-handed models for both men and women.
The stock shafts are Cleveland’s Smart Sole in steel and in graphite. The women’s model is available in graphite only but can be custom ordered in steel.
Smart Sole 4 wedges will retail at $119.99 in steel and $129.99 in graphite. They’ll be in stores and on Cleveland’s website on February 7.