If there’s a golf club that requires no introduction, it’s a Vokey wedge.
#1 at retail…by plenty. #1 on Tour…also by plenty (and then some). No cherry-picking of numbers required; by any measure, it’s the #1 wedge in golf.
You’ve probably heard of it.
As with many things under the Titleist umbrella, the Vokey wedge franchise is steady and dependable. To no small degree you know what to expect from each iteration, and for that reason, a new Vokey wedge can almost fly under the radar.
The Grind Matters
With the release of the SM7 Vokey is re-emphasizing that the grind matters (it really does). Some of us, to varying degrees, already understand as much. Some of you may have stumbled upon what truly works for your game, but I’d wager some of you chose the grind you think looks the coolest (guilty a time or two) without really understanding its purpose. It’s possible you’ve never noticed that all wedge soles aren’t the same.
They’re definitely not.
Among the company mantras for 2018 is Know your letter, hit your number. The idea is that when you’re fit for the right grind (your letter), you’ll trust what’s going to happen at impact, and ultimately hit better shots (on the number).
That piece of the story is fitting-dependent, and we’ll touch on it several times as we go. The other piece is your requisite evolution story.
Vokey takes a holistic approach to making each wedge better than what came before it. It’s not about making one thing better; it’s about integrating a serious of sometimes small changes in a way that creates a quantifiably better product. Vokey sees the process as both a challenge and an opportunity, and with SM7 it believes the upgrades it has made in three key areas have resulted in a demonstrably better wedge.
At the core of the Vokey SM7 versatility story is that resolute belief that the grind matters. It’s those sometimes-subtle differences in the contours of the sole that allow you, as a golfer, to unlock your personal versatility.
It’s a fitting perspective that carries with it an acknowledgment that different abilities, different swings, and different conditions require different wedges. A one (or even two) size fits all approach doesn’t work (at least not well). For a proper wedge fitting, options are mandatory, and so Vokey is continuing its tradition of offering multiple grind options.
The SM7 line will feature 6 grinds spanning 9 discrete lofts and 5 bounce angles. In total, there are 23 different SM7 options available. It’s a robust lineup that the company believes all but guarantees it can fit every golfer on earth.
Rather than paraphrase unnecessarily, let’s get the info right from the source, here’s how Vokey describes its six grind options.
F Grind: Full sole designed primarily for full swings and square face shots. For that reason, F is the only grind available in the 46°-52° models. The 54°/56° F Grind is the most played sand wedge on the PGA Tour.
S Grind: Design based on feedback from Steve Stricker, the S is best for square faced shots with a touch more versatility than the F Grind. Simple mechanics are best with this wedge.
M Grind: Voke’s favorite, the M grind is designed for players that like to rotate the clubface open and shut to manufacture shots around the green.
D Grind: The player’s high bounce wedge, the new D Grind offers high measured bounce with the crescent shape of the M Grind for shot making versatility.
K Grind: The highest bounce wedge in the lineup, the K Grind is the ultimate bunker club and the most forgiving wedge in the lineup for all shots.
L Grind: The L Grind features a narrow crescent shape allowing maximum greenside versatility, but it is the least forgiving wedge in the lineup.
For anyone familiar with the Vokey brand, a good bit of that list should look familiar. The singular addition to the lineup is the D Grind, and it’s one the Vokey team is particularly excited about.
Available in 58° and 60°, the D Grind is described as a player’s high bounce wedge. You can think of it as a K Grind without the wide sole or a higher bounce M Grind. The D Grind is Vokey’s most requested off-menu lob wedge on tour, and so the Vokey team thought it made sense to put it on the menu (and the store shelf).
Distance and Trajectory Control
Some tour players – and it creeps into the consumer market as well – prefer a traditional (wedge style) pitching wedge over their set wedge. What the Vokey team found in working with tour players is that lower lofted SM6 wedges didn’t generate quite as much ball speed as the loft equivalent set wedge. The SM7 is just a bit longer in the lower lofts, eliminating that tradeoff between scoring (precision) and distance at pitching wedge lofts.
The improvement in trajectory control comes from subtle changes to Vokey’s progressive CG design.
As a refresher from the SM6, lower lofted wedges have a lower center of gravity. As lofts increase, the CG is raised. The idea is to align the CG location with ideal impact location, providing the ideal trajectory and spin rate at each loft. With SM6, the company felt it didn’t go far enough, so with SM7, Vokey has pushed the center of gravity even lower in the lower lofted wedges, and higher still in the high lofted wedges.
According to Vokey, the change provides more consistent performance. Also noteworthy; while it wasn’t necessarily part of the design plan, player feedback suggests that the change in CG location has resulted in significantly improved feel.
A relevant technical aside – With a high lofted club, raising the center of gravity will also push the CG back (it climbs the lofted blade). The higher CG gets you the higher spin and lower trajectory you want, but a good bit of that can be counteracted because moving up in a wedge, also means moving back. To prevent the CG from moving too far back, Vokey uses a progressive hosel length strategy. The higher lofted clubs have longer hosels which serve to not only raise the CG, but also helps keep it forward.
One other interesting footnote within the larger center of gravity story is that with SM7, the CG locations are completely grind-independent. With SM6, the CG location on a 60° L grind, for example, isn’t exactly the same as it is for a 60° K. With SM7, CG is flatlined across an entire loft spec, regardless of the grind. It’s a small detail, but if you’re a guy who plays different wedge in different conditions, you may notice more consistent performance.
While not long ago spin was the headliner for nearly every wedge story, companies have all but fully adjusted to the new groove spec. As a result, spin-generating advances aren’t nearly as dramatic, and so spin stories have become less about raw RPM and more about consistency from not only shot to shot, but from part to part as well.
One of the equipment industry’s dirty little secrets is that groove cutters wear and if quality control isn’t rigid, you’ll find that the grooves on the last wedge cut aren’t nearly as sharp as the first’s. To ensure consistency from one head to the next, Vokey is cutting its grooves to even tighter tolerances and every groove on every SM7 head is inspected to guarantee it falls within those tolerances.
To ensure your grooves stay fresh longer, Vokey has added a proprietary heat treatment to the manufacturing process. Similar to the benefits Mizuno sees from utilizing Boron in its wedges, the heat treatment doubles the lifespan of the grooves (based on bunker testing).
3 Finish Options
Like its predecessor, the SM7 will be offered in 3 finishes.
Tour Chrome is a staple of every Vokey offering. It accounts for roughly 50% of sales, likely a result of its timeless aesthetic and the durability of the finish.
Jet Black is a QPQ (quench, polish, quench) finish that’s been in the line since at least the SM5. With this release, Vokey made the finish even darker, but the most appreciable change is that all of the engraved areas are filled black (in the SM6 the paintfill was a mix of red and white). The resulting black on black (murdered out) look is dramatic – it’s sinister in the best and most imposing way. The color scheme was a popular request on Tour and so, like the D-Grind, Vokey decided to roll it into the lineup. Good decision.
Brushed Steel is a fresh take on a Black Nickel finish. It’s described as richer and darker than the SM6’s Steel Gray. To my eye, depending on the light, the color exists somewhere between copper and gray. It’s got a polished, buttery smooth complexion that’s glare fee in the playing position. I’m not going to lie; it moves me.
All three finishes are available in every loft and grind.
Know Your Letter, Hit Your Number
Finding the right Vokey wedges for your game brings us back to that SM7 mantra – Know your letter, hit your number. That starts with a proper fitting, a detail that was emphasized several times during my conversation with the Vokey team.
“When a player takes the time to get fit,” says Vokey Marketing Manager, Jeremy Stone, “we can fit them into a better short game.”
It’s not the first time you’ve heard this message, and yet wedges remain among the least fit clubs in the bag. That’s pretty crazy when you consider that wedge play requires a degree of precision and versatility that doesn’t exist elsewhere in the bag. But answer me this; of the places where you demo and buy golf clubs, how many are set up for a proper wedge fitting? How many provide demo clubs in a selection of lofts and grinds or allow you to hit shots off real grass (or out of bunkers), and do it without any tape on the club. How many opportunities do you have to experience the full capabilities of a selection of wedges?
There are barriers to wedge fitting, but I wouldn’t bother to bring it up if not for the fact that Vokey is going to do what it can to knock a few of them down.
This season, Vokey will send out 1400 Scoring Kits. Each kit contains 13 of Vokey’s most popular loft and grind combinations along with 8 dozen Pro V1 golf balls. The idea is to create opportunities for golfers to get fitted for wedges in a meaningful way that will translate to the golf course.
If that opportunity presents itself near you, take Vokey up on its offer and get yourself fit into a better short game.
Availability and Pricing
Retail availability for Vokey SM7 Wedges begins March 9, 2018. Retail price is $149.
For more information, visit Vokey.com.
To see more photos of the Vokey SM7 Wedges, check out the gratuitous picture thread in the MyGolfSpy Forum.