OUR JOB IS YOUR GAME
Whether it is a full shot, a flighted three-quarter approach, a delicate pitch, a tricky bunker shot or the simplest of chips, wedges offer a plethora of reasons to be in your bag.
Unfortunately, with every shot, your golf wedge’s groove life diminishes incrementally. Titleist recommends replacing your wedges after 75 rounds. However, cost is always a concern. Most golfers, especially recreational ones, aren’t buying new wedges after 75 rounds.
So how can you keep your grooves fresh?
Groove sharpening tools.
Do they really make a difference? Let’s take a look.
HOW WE TEST
For this test, shots were hit with two 56-degree golf wedges:
- Titleist Vokey Design 256
- Callaway Golf X-Tour Vintage
Both clubs were, shall we say, well used.
- 15 testers hit 15 shots with each club under each condition.
- There were two conditions: unsharpened golf grooves and sharpened golf grooves.
- Testing conditions were indoors at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
For this test, we utilized two different groove sharpeners with two different price points.
- HIFROM Groove Sharpener ($10.99) – A six-headed groove sharpener featuring “V” and “U” shaped sharpening heads.
- GrooVex ($79.50) – The first “precision solid carbide groove” re-sharpener on the market which claims to offer conforming groove geometry.
Both sharpeners claim their tool will not breach or compromise USGA and R&A groove regulations for depth and width.
For added clarity, we checked in with Paul Wood, VP of Engineering at PING, who told us, “as soon as a golfer uses a tool to alter the grooves, it does bring in the risk that they are non-conforming.”
So, before we dive any further (or you pound the Buy It Now button), keep in mind that sharpening the grooves on your wedges introduces the risk of running afoul of the Rules of Golf.
GROOVE SHARPENER DATA
Prior to getting to the nitty-gritty, we ran both wedges through a protocol to determine baseline numbers. During this portion of the test, the Titleist Vokey 256 produced a higher spin on average and a lower launch angle on average.
For the Vokey 256, backspin was 345 rpms higher on average versus the X-Tour Vintage. As for launch angle, Vokey 256 was 0.74 degrees lower than the X-Tour Vintage.
Again, these are well-used wedges. Our objective here was to establish a pre-sharpened baseline.
Time for the fun.
The results were shocking.
The Callaway X-Tour Vintage’s backspin increased from 6,312 rpms to 7,297 rpms—an 985-rpm post-sharpening increase. On the flip side, the Vokey 256’s backspin decreased by 400 rpms.
GROOVE SHARPENERS – KEY TAKEAWAYS
1. Post Sharpening Results
The results are surprising, to say the least.
The HIFROM increased spin while we saw a decrease in spin with the GrooVex. In a sense, it brings to light the truth in Wood’s statement: proceed with caution when using a groove sharpening tool. The data suggest it could further diminish spin performance.
2. Groove Sharpener or The Wedge
The data suggests the GrooVex decreased spin on our old Vokey 256.
Groove geometry may have played a role. Did the conforming design of the GrooVex cause harm to the older “U” shaped grooves of the Vokey 256? If we stacked up two identical wedges, would we get the same results?
What percentage of golfers, would you guess, know whether their wedge has U or V grooves?
3. Groove Sharpener Usability
In the battle of usability, the GrooVex is a clear winner. It is easy to hold and to apply pressure. Each tool (sharpener end and cleaning end) has guard rails to help against accidental scratches. Furthermore, it made the sharpening job quick.
On the other hand, HIFROM works but it creates some awkward angles and doesn’t have guard rails. Plus, it took more time to finish the sharpening process. That likely increases the likelihood of user error.
Above and beyond doing more harm than good to your wedge, the risk is that the resulting groove will be non-conforming. There’s no way to tell by looking and it’s not like you’ll be submitting your wedge to the USGA for inspection but if strict adherence to the rules matters, you’re better off avoiding sharpeners entirely.
That said, we suspect most golfers won’t care.
ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS AND TESTING
1. A NEW WEDGE IS THE BEST OPTION
It is 2022. It’s likely that none of our old wedges are conforming (that was probably true before we sharpened them). In a sensible world, they wouldn’t be in anyone’s golf bag. But this is golf and sentimentality sometimes leads us to hold on to things longer than we probably should.
If you cling to old wedges, it’s worth considering whether sharpening the grooves can help your “past-its-prime” wedge.
For the sake of comparison, we selected three new wedges. On average, the new options produced 9,467 rpm of spin. The lowest rpm we saw of the three was 8,510 . This was still significantly higher than the results collected with the older, sharpened wedges.
The highest-spinning wedge was one of the three newer models tested which registered 10,854 rpm was observed, 3,652 rpm higher than the sharpened SM5.
With that in mind, what makes more sense?
Do you stick with ol’ reliable and use a groove sharpener? Or do you bite the bullet, spend the money and buy something that actually spins like it should?
2. GROOVEX and CONFORMING GROOVES
Needless to say, our initial findings were surprising. Therefore, we found it necessary to conduct additional testing with the GrooVex. The goal was simple: to see if it worked positively with pre-existing conforming grooves.
For this, two wedges were utilized: Titleist Vokey SM5 and Titleist Vokey SM6. Both were manufactured after the 2010 USGA groove rule.
The same testing procedures were implemented. However, we used the GrooVex on both Vokeys.
As you can see, GrooVex creates a positive outcome for preexisting, conforming grooves, a result that may entice you to give the product a try.
Can groove sharpeners make a difference? Yes, both positively and negatively, as we saw with our testing.
They have the potential to increase backspin but it would appear that, in some cases, they can actually reduce spin. The risk-reward will always be present with using groove sharpeners. Again, there is no guarantee sharpeners won’t make your grooves non-conforming, however, that is the potential risk.
The bottom line: A new wedge is your best bet to increase spin.
Have you ever tried a groove sharpener? Drop a comment below and let us know.