- Titleist has announced the Vokey SM9 wedge lineup.
- The new models feature higher centers of gravity to deliver a flatter trajectory with increased spin.
- Retail price is $179.99. Available March 11
No matter where you are in the world … U.S. or Canada or Tokyo, Seoul … Vokey wedges are ubiquitous. One out of every two wedges on the PGA TOUR is a Vokey and 60 percent of Tour winners last season had at least one Vokey wedge in the bag. With the release of the Vokey SM9, you should expect more of the same.
Success, of course, isn’t without its challenges. Innovative opportunities within the wedge category aren’t nearly what they are in the driver space. Folks, this is not the era of the Carbonwedge. Advancement, improvement—whatever you want to call it—within the category is methodical by nature. For Vokey, that challenge is further complicated by a roster of Tour pros who would be more than happy with the status quo.
If nothing else, kudos to the entire Vokey team for continually pushing to improve a product for which simply not screwing it up would be plenty good enough.
With that said, let’s focus on what Titleist believes are three big-picture benefits of the Vokey SM9 line.
Vokey SM9 – Distance and Trajectory Control
To summarize the essence of golf club design, it’s manipulating the center of gravity with the hope of finding a location that works better or, in the case of driver design, works for this year’s story.
With drivers, designers often seek to push centers of gravity low and back to deliver high launch and low spin. With wedges, it’s the opposite. Most (though not all) believe the low-launch and high-spin properties that come from pushing the center of gravity high and forward is ideal.
That presents a challenge, particularly with higher-lofted wedges.
Consider the loft on your lob wedge. As you move the center of gravity up the face, the natural trajectory of things also moves it back.
Moving up the center of gravity without moving it back (as Vokey has) results in a design where the mass is effectively concentrated forward of the loft, placing the true center of gravity in front of the face.
We’re digging into some nerd sh*t here but it helps to explain why the Vokey SM9s fly the way they do and, for the casual observers among us, why the hosels in higher-lofted wedges are longer than they are in gap and pitching wedge lofts.
A longer hosel means more weight high and, because the hosel sits forward of the clubface, it helps prevent the CG from creeping back. The benefit is that in addition to flatter, spinnier shots on your clean strikes, a high/forward CG helps prevent those high right squirters that happen when the face hangs open a bit.
The basics of the story haven’t changed since the SM8 but with the Vokey SM9, the company has taken a more aggressive approach that some purists might find controversial. In addition to the progressive hosel lengths which help raise the center of gravity height as loft increases, Vokey has thickened the topline on the higher lofted SM9 wedges.
Oh, the horror!
The extra mass helps raise the CG but some clever beveling effectively hides the extra girth at address. My thinking is that most of you won’t notice and, if the looks don’t bother the Tour guys, the rest of us probably shouldn’t overthink it.
To counterbalance both the progressive hosels and the thicker topline, Vokey puts additional weight in the forward toe section. That leaves the Vokey SM9 with a slightly heel-favoring center of gravity. It has been that way for the last six iterations of Vokey wedges.
To be sure, aligning the center of gravity with the true center of the clubface is a common talking point in wedge (and iron design). It’s one of those philosophical design preferences where there likely isn’t a single right answer. Vokey’s position is that if your goal is for robots to hit great wedge shots, a centered CG is ideal. If the goal is for golfers to hit great wedge shots, Vokey finds a bit of heel bias works better.
So what does all of this design stuff actually mean for you?
It brings us back full circle to distance and trajectory control.
Distance control means hitting your target distance (or at least a reasonable proximity to said distance) with greater frequency. Again … the idea is to take those squirrely ones out of the equation.
Flatter, Higher-Spinning Trajectory
Trajectory control in the wedge space is probably less understood and less discussed.
With drivers, high launch and low spin is the recipe for maximizing distance. With irons, golfers should be looking for playable spin and a steep enough decent angle to create a soft landing.
With wedges, my assumption is that a healthy bit of the population thinks a high shot with plenty of spin is cool and, well, that’s that.
Look, I don’t want to tell you that you’re wrong but look at what Tour players do.
With wedges in their hands, especially as you get into partial-shot range, the best players prefer a flatter trajectory with a healthy dose of spin. In the wedge game, that’s the definition of control and if you’ve ever stumbled upon it (either with intent or by accident), you understand the magic.
The heart of Vokey SM9 distance control and trajectory story is this: relative to SM8, the new SM9 will give golfers a flatter trajectory with high spin and do it without looking goober-ish in your bag or at address.
This is observational only but hitting the SM9 side by side next to SM8, trajectory, particularly in the higher-lofted wedges, was noticeably flatter. It’s what they’re supposed to do and while one guy’s opinion doesn’t make a fact, I think most golfers will experience the same.
Vokey SM9 Versatility
Within the Vokey universe, versatility boils down to the grind. “The grind,” says Corey Gerrard, Marketing Director for Vokey Wedges, “is the shape of the sole.” Man, that’s so simple I feel a little silly putting it in quotes but it’s kind of a big deal.
We typically talk about bounce and grind almost as separate things. At a minimum, they work in concert, though I suppose there’s a case to be made that the grind is the thing and the bounce is really just along for the ride.
One of the educational objectives with the Vokey SM9 (and probably every Vokey release I can remember) is to advance the wedge-fitting conversation beyond low, mid or high bounce and to get golfers thinking about (and ideally fitted for) grinds that provide a better result.
When the shape of the sole—the grind—isn’t right, it can lead to digging and fat shots that come up short. When the grind isn’t helping you get into the turf enough, thin shots can become an issue.
The right grind. I would expand that to the “right grind for the right shot” results in a more consistent strike which is why you can also think of the grind as the thing that provides forgiveness in a wedge.
If you’re still with me, let’s take the definition of versatility and extend it beyond a single wedge. Let’s consider versatility as it relates to the totality of your wedge setup.
The Right Tool For the Job
In your quest for the perfect wedge, you’ve probably stumbled across the idea of classifying your swing as either a digger, driver or slider. The thinking behind those terms is that you can look at the depth of your divot and decide whether you need a high- (digger), mid- (driver/neutral) or low- (slider) bounce wedge.
In a world where things are often simplified to the point of disservice, that kind of approach makes sense but let’s take a step back.
Think about the wedge shots you hit over your last several rounds. Were you a digger, a driver or a slider?
Dollars to doughnuts, I bet that you were all three.
One of the Vokey fitting tenets is that you should fill your toolbox (golf bag) with tools (wedges) that let you hit whatever shot the course presents. Whether you’re a digger, a driver or a slider is ultimately dictated by the lie. Real versatility is provided by the tools in your toolbox.
With that in mind, the reality is that many golfers will benefit from having a mix of grinds at their disposal. With the SM9 wedge lineup, Vokey gives you 23 loft/grind (and, I suppose, bounce) combinations from which to choose.
While that gives plenty of opportunities to be as versatile as you like, I should point out that the catalog hasn’t changed since SM8.
As a whole, the Vokey SM9 wedge lineup leans a bit towards middle and high bounce. That makes sense given that low-bounce options tend to be a bit more niche. To an extent, these are the options the market wants. It’s the mainstream.
If history is any indication, you should expect additional SM9 options to be offered through Wedge Works as the season progresses. My hunch is they’ll provide a bit more balance to the lineup.
The T-grind is my favorite low-bounce option. With a narrow sole, the T-grind (not actually named for me but it could be) is perfect for dry, firm conditions. It’s my go-to for tight lies.
If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the return of the bunker-busting low-bounce K grind as well. The more obscure stuff (A, W, V grind—that sort of thing) likely isn’t a priority but with a two-year cycle, you never know.
SM9 Wedge Fitting
According to Vokey, only about 10 percent of golfers have been fitted for their wedges. Ideally, more of you would get fitted and you’d do it outdoors and … well, good luck with that. Ideal wedge fitting environments are few and far between.
Thinking in terms of good, better and best, I suppose an outdoor fitting is best and the Vokey wedge selector tool is good. Somewhere in between lies better. More on that in the future.
Vokey SM9 Wedges—Spin
The third benefit of the Vokey SM9 lineup, as it is with every wedge lineup ever, is spin.
In its pursuit of spin, Vokey is doing many of the same things as its competitors. Its lower-lofted wedges have narrower and deeper (more iron-like) grooves while higher-lofted wedges offer wider and shallower grooves for more spin on partial shots.
With SM9, the spin story stems from refinements to Vokey’s Spin Milled cutting process. According to Vokey, the tweaks to the cutting process significantly improve the company’s already tight tolerances.
For golfers, that means the gap between what the best players in the world get and what you find on the shelves of your local pro shop, whether you’re in London, Paris, Stockholm (or anywhere else in the world), effectively doesn’t exist.
If there’s a weakness (and I think there is) in the Vokey lineup, it’s spin in wet conditions. In our wet tests, Vokey spin retention typically falls somewhere in the average range and, while average is fine, for the No. 1 wedge brand, it shouldn’t be good enough.
With SM9, Vokey isn’t making any specific claims about improved moisture management but perhaps we should read something into the addition of micro-grooves to the face. Micro-grooves are common to many wedge designs. Some last longer than others but the purpose typically is to maximize spin on partial shots. They very well could help with channel moisture as well.
Heat Treated For Durability
With the Vokey SM9, the spin story isn’t exclusively about spin itself; it’s about preserving spin and extending the life of the wedge. To keep grooves sharp a bit longer, Vokey heat-treats all of its faces.
Spin decline is inevitable but the heat treatment helps to slow down the clock.
Do You Need New Wedges (SM9 or Otherwise)?
When a new wedge launches, Vokey SM9 or otherwise, you may wonder, “Do I need new wedges?”
The unfortunate reality is that wedge spin starts degrading almost immediately. That’s true for every golfer and every brand but at what point do you actually need new wedges?
Vokey puts the number at 75 rounds. That’s based on what it has learned testing its products and the purpose of sharing it is to educate golfers. It’s not lost on Vokey that it may come across as a company that is trying to sell you new wedges you may not need.
I’d tell you to do your own research but …
Before you break out the torches and pitchforks, understand that like many things in golf, the 75-round number is simply a guideline. The right number really depends on the conditions in which you play, how often you use your wedges out of the sand and how much you practice.
If you’re out grinding on the range every day, you may need to replace your wedges more often. If you don’t practice much and don’t spend much time in bunkers, you can probably get away with replacing less frequently.
Regardless, at some point, you will need new wedges.
The difference between fresh grooves and worn grooves works out to plus or minus the length of a conference table’s worth of roll. That doesn’t sound like much but golf is a game of inches.
Putting from eight feet, the “make percentage” on Tour is 50/50. At longer than eight feet, it’s not.
As spin degrades, inches become feet, feet become yards. With that, 3s become 4s and 4s become 5s.
A good rule of thumb that will save you from counting rounds: When it’s time to replace the grip, it’s probably time to replace the wedge.
Vokey SM9 Customization
And finally …. It wouldn’t be Vokey without customization options. Wedge Works SM9 customization options include:
- Six unique toe engravings
- Stamping options | 10-character Straight/Freestyle stamping; 15 characters around the toe and two lines of 10 characters each
- Custom paint-filled | Loft, bounce and grind markings and BV Wings logo
- SM9 wedges can also be custom ordered with an industry-leading selection of shafts, grips, shaft bands and ferrules.
Specs, Pricing and Availability
The stock shaft for the Vokey SM9 wedge is the True Temper DG S200. The stock grip is a Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360.
Vokey SM9 wedges will be offered in Tour Chrome, Brushed Steel, Jet Black, and Raw. The glaring omission here is Slate Blue which, as you may already know, is the best finish. The Slate Blue finish is expensive and time-consuming to produce and while I can’t say with absolute certainty that we won’t ever see it again, based on what I’ve heard, it’s unlikely we’ll see it any time soon.
Boo! No kudos this time.
Retail price for Vokey SM9 wedges is $179 each. Pre-sale begins Feb. 17. Full availability begins March 11.
For more information, visit Vokey.com.
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