According to Cleveland Golf, most of us are still doing it wrong.
Two years ago, Cleveland gave us the CBX wedge, designed for the golfer who plays game improvement irons, which is to say, most of us. Cleveland said at the time 84% of us play game improvement irons, so logic dictates we should play wedges that fit the same profile: a larger, forgiving head with a cavity back, but with far more wedgieness than set-matching gap, sand and lob wedges provide.
Two years later, the old clock on the wall says it’s time for a CBX upgrade. While the first-generation CBX wedge outsold projections (Cleveland says “by a little bit”), it was in some ways a category buster – a non-traditional, non-blade style wedge in a traditional, blade-style world. The new CBX 2 is still a non-traditional, non-blade style wedge – and for some that will be a non-starter – but if you’re a mid-to-high handicapper, there are enough upgrades to make you want to read on.
Cleveland designed the original CBX wedge to be a Wedge-Festivus for the Rest of Us. Were they successful? Well, yes and no.
“If I play game improvement equipment or cavity back irons, I probably shouldn’t be playing this heavy, compact blade wedge,” says Brian Schielke, Cleveland Golf’s marketing director (and former golf club product manager). “Yes, it was successful in terms of we did really well with it. But I’d say no in terms of the 84% of golfers who play improvement equipment – not all switched to CBX.”
If there’s one criticism of the original CBX is with just one sole grind throughout the line, what it gained in simplicity, it lacked in versatility – you were limited in the kinds of shots you could hit around the green. A miscalculation by Cleveland? Perhaps. There are some mid-to-high handicappers who do like a little flexibility around the green, and while the original CBX was money on full shots, you had to make do with what you had the closer you got to the hole.
“There were shots people wanted to hit that the sole wasn’t perfect for,” admits Schielke. “So we redesigned the sole of CBX 2 and made them different sole grinds per loft.”
The new CBX 2 features three separate grinds, categorized by loft. For example, how do you use your 46 to 52-degree wedges? Full, square-faced shots, most likely, so the new CBX 2 features Cleveland’s traditional V-Sole in those lofts. The 54 and 56-degree wedges feature an S-grind for bunker and open-faced finesse shots. It’s wider on the toe for more forgiveness and narrower at the heel so you can still open it up – not as much as a blade-style wedge, but enough for most golfers in the target audience. The 58 and 60-degree wedges have a C-shaped sole, so you can open up for lob shots but still keep the leading-edge low.
The idea, says Schielke, is to give golfers flexibility without overloading them with choices.
“If there are ten different sole grind options, nine out of ten times golfers will pick the wrong one,” he says. “We do player testing every single day with our target golfers, and we’re trying to take the guesswork out of selecting a sole grind and make sure they have the right sole for the right shots.”
The CBX 2, like its predecessor, features the same groove technology as Cleveland’s RTX-4 wedge line, which is basically grooves on top of grooves on top of grooves. It starts with Cleveland’s Rotex Milling, that swirly, moisture channeling pattern carved into the face. Next, are Tour Zip Grooves – 17 of them – milled into the face with what Cleveland calls “proprietary edge radii specifications.” Pretty much every OEM does a variation of this, with narrower and deeper grooves on the stronger lofts for full shots, and wider, shallower grooves on the weaker lofts for more bite on partial shots.
The final step is laser milling: 96 etched lines between the grooves to even more face roughness. Schielke says the goal is to optimize spin whether in any condition – wet or dry – and from any lie.
“If you hit wedges off the tee, there’s absolutely nothing between the ball and the face, and they all spin just fine,” he says. “It’s when you have slight inconsistencies, where you have blades of grass between the face and the ball, or some moisture between the face and the ball. That’s where spin really drops off.”
“That’s where we try to optimize our grooves and our face texture with laser milling. We try to bring those spin differences closer together.”
Hooked on a Feeling
Aside from sole grinds, the other significant upgrade is in something Cleveland calls Feel Balancing Technology, which started in RTX-3 and was included in the original CBX. In a nutshell, Feel Balancing Technology Cleveland’s version of moving the Center of Gravity away from the heel and more towards the center of the face. While the notion is hardly revolutionary – pretty much every major wedge player is doing the same thing – it is kind of complicated to do.
With CBX 2, Cleveland is doubling down on CG by actually moving it more towards the toe, where its studies indicate a majority of the target CBX golfers tend to hit it. Toe shots can be maddening, especially when you leave it well short of the green or in a bunker after flushing your drive and second on a long par 5.
Cleveland used several design features to move the CG toward the toe, including drilling out a micro-cavity in the hosel and adding a small cutout on the outer hosel itself. There’s also a new hollow cavity for CBX 2, which creates discretionary weight to be moved where it’s needed.
“It allows us to position more weight towards the toe to get the CG where we want it, while still making it look like a balanced wedge,” says Schielke. “If you have a pure blade-looking wedge without a hollow cavity and you want the weighting out there, you’d have to have some massive chunk of metal out toward the toe that wouldn’t look very good. The wedge wouldn’t look balanced, and people would be turned off immediately.”
The cavity is filled with a Gelback insert – a urethane material to help dampen vibration and improve feel. The original CBX had an open cavity that looked, well, open. The Gelback fills in the cavity and gives the wedge a more finished look.
Easy Like Sunday Morning
If the CBX wedge line is about anything, it’s about easy. Full shots are damn near automatic with any of the CBX 2 grinds, and the heel relief on the higher lofted wedges is a welcome addition for partial shots from both the rough and from tight lies. There’s still a lot of bounce, but in virtually any situation for us mere mortal golfers, bounce is your friend.
Cleveland is sticking with the Dynamic Gold 115 as the steel shaft option for CBX 2. It’s mid- to low-launch and spin and, at 115 grams, makes for a much smoother transition from your GI or SGI irons with shafts weighing 105 grams or less. Cleveland is also sticking with its proprietary Rotex graphite shaft, which weighs-in at 90-grams.
“With CBX 1, we sold more wedges with graphite shafts than we have in the past,” says Schielke. “Because people play with graphite iron shafts that may weigh as little as 60 grams, it doesn’t make any sense for them to go to a 130-gram steel shaft. Rotex is lighter, is easier to swing and pairs better with their irons.”
Price, Availability and Final Thoughts
If you want easy, CBX 2 – like its predecessor – certainly delivers. A practice session showed CBX 2 silly easy to hit on full and partial shots. While it’s not what the wedge was designed for, you can – with some adjustment – flight the ball higher or lower. If that’s your preferred style of wedge play, you’ll find a blade-style wedge more to your liking. If your goals are more modest and you just want to whack the ball greenward with plenty of stopping power, and do so more easily and consistently than you can with blade-style wedges, then CBX 2 should be on your demo list.
Around the green, the grinds and bounces do what they’re supposed to do and give you way more options for different types of shots than the original CBX. However, if you’re used to manipulating your wedge for a wider variety of shots, you’ll want to stick with a blade-style wedge.
Just remember for whom this wedge is designed.
“It’s a serious, high-quality wedge,” says Schielke. “But at the same time the message is ‘hey, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for you to be playing the same wedges built for the perfect ball-striker who hits the center of the face every single time.’ People want to play better and have more fun on the course. We’re just trying to provide them with the equipment that helps them do that.”
One lesson Cleveland admits it learned from the first generation of CBX is shelf appeal matters. To that end, Cleveland is sprucing up its retail presentation with CBX specific display racks, in-store posters, and benefit-specific packaging.
On top of that, CBX 2 is noticeably better looking than the first generation, despite being available in only one finish. It’s a bigger head than your standard blade wedge, to be sure, but like a mullet, it’s business in the front and a party in the back.
“We did all this work to the back of the wedge,” says Schielke. “There’s this big cavity and a lot going on, but it still looks like a nice blade wedge at address. The backside is where we do all the forgiveness work, but having that nice, clean look at address is key to get people who play blade wedges to look at CBX 2.”
CBX 2 will be available in 46 to 60-degree lofts in two-degree increments, in both left and right-handed options. The 46- through 52-degree wedges will feature the V-sole, the 54 and 56-degree the S-shaped sole, and the 58 and 60-degree the C-shaped sole. As said earlier, the DG 115 wedge steel and the Rotex Precision graphite are stock shafts – although you can custom order with any shaft in Cleveland’s catalog. The Lamkin 360 is the stock grip.
The same lofts and grinds are available for women, with Cleveland’s Women’s Action Ultralight 50 wedge shaft as stock. While only the 52 and 56-degree models are available in stock models for left-handed golfers who are women, the men’s and women’s heads are the same, so any left-handed wedge can be custom ordered with any shaft.
Pricing is $139.99 for steel and $149.99 for graphite. While that is a $10 jump over the original CBX, it’s the same price structure as RTX-4, and still in the middle-lower end of the price curve for 2019/2020 wedges. CBX 2 will be available at retail and on Cleveland’s website starting August 30th.