It’s January and it’s been two years since the last one. The timing is right for Vokey SM8 wedges.
According to Vokey’s Director of Marketing, Jeremy Stone, those two years have been record-setting for the Vokey brand. While remaining a strong #1 in the retail market, Vokey accounted for 49.3 percent of the wedges in play on tour in 2019. Absolutely, some of that was pay for play – everybody dabbles in that. But a few ticks shy of half the wedges in play…that doesn’t happen without some serious credibility.
If nothing else, the volume of Vokey wedges in play each week speaks to the trust players have in Vokey Tour Rep Aaron Dill and the Vokey brand.
Being #1 Has Privileges
Being # 1 gives Vokey the freedom to choose its battles. There’s no need for it to reinvent the wheel or embellish storylines with the desperate hope of differentiating its product in the marketplace. That’s not to say Vokey is doing nothing but, as the saying goes, don’t fix what isn’t broken.
So it’s no surprise that a new spin-enhancing groove design isn’t part of the Vokey SM8 wedge story. The company will keep turning over rocks looking for something better but the feeling inside Vokey is that its current groove is damn near unbeatable. It’s not overhauling its grind selection, either. Already offering a greater breadth of bounce and grind options than any other brand, Team Vokey believes its fitting advantage is significant. The challenge isn’t to increase its offerings; it’s to persuade golfers that getting fitted for wedges can have an immediate and significant impact on their games.
Vokey’s priorities are different. While nearly all of its competitors revise their spin stories with each new release, Vokey believes the truly innovative frontiers in wedge design lie elsewhere. “It’s not spin, it’s CG,” says Stone. If you’ve kept up with our driver stories, this thought process will sound familiar.
Exploration of this particular frontier is what led to Vokey’s original progressive CG design. The concept, which first found its way into the Vokey line with SM6, is reasonably simple. As loft increases, Vokey moves the center of gravity – the sweet spot – higher up the face. The idea is to manipulate the dynamics of the club leading into and at impact such that the sweet spot is where you need it to be to provide the optimal trajectory for a given loft. With Vokey’s design, lower-lofted wedges launch higher while higher-lofted wedges produce a lower trajectory, more spin and, hopefully, a bit more of that hop-and-stop biting action that golfers love.
We’ve discussed it quite a bit lately – inherent to nearly every design decision is a trade-off. With wedges, the natural order of things is for the center of gravity to move along the plane of the face. Consider the shape of a high-lofted wedge. The topline sits behind the hosel so, with high-lofted wedges in particular, moving weight up also means moving it back. When the goal is to lower trajectory, you’re trying to balance competing forces. It’s a bit like arm-wrestling yourself.
In past iterations, Vokey varied its hosel lengths (longer hosels in the higher-lofted wedges) to not only raise the CG but also to keep it from sliding too far back. With SM8, the company is building on those same principles but, this time around, the goal isn’t simply to keep the CG from moving back. It’s to push it more forward.
Why does this matter?
Have you ever put a good swing on the ball with a wedge and felt like the ball slid up the face and jumped? Comes up short every time.
According to Vokey, those shots happen because the center of gravity is too far back. You’re a victim of too much dynamic loft. By pairing its variable-length hosels with high-density tungsten in the toe, Vokey can push the center of gravity forward while still keeping the sweet spot in the center of the clubface.
To put some numbers on it, in 60° models, SM8’s center of gravity location is 2mm (that’s a big shift for a driver – it’s massive in a wedge) more forward than it was in SM7. The CG height remains consistent across generations. Moving forward doesn’t mean moving down.
Unlike the driver where forward CG lowers MOI, in SM8 the result is a 7% increase in MOI. That gives you a wedge that wants to return to square at impact. Vokey says in addition to the trajectory benefits, it has seen tighter left/right dispersion as well.
The more grind and bounce options you have, the greater the probability golfers will find meaningful improvement in their short games.
Vokey is already ahead of the curve so small tweaks to its lineup is all we should reasonably expect. In SM8, Vokey will still offer 6 grinds – F, S, M, K, L, and D. Sorry guys, I whiffed on my prediction of a T grind. That one will remain a Wedge Works-only offering.
I can claim some measure of redemption insomuch as I was right about the expansion of D grind offerings. As you might recall, the D grind was a new offering in the SM7 lineup. It’s described as a better player’s high-bounce wedge that, despite its wide sole, still offers plenty of versatility around the green. In my experience, it can work well for mediocre players as well.
With SM7, the D Grind was available in lob wedge lofts only. Over the last two years, it proved popular enough (because it’s awesome) that Vokey decided to extend D’s reach into sand wedge lofts. With SM8, you can now get your D Grind in both 54° and 56° degrees. That’s in addition to the 58° and 60° options that were available in SM7. All of the D Grind offerings offer 12° of bounce.
The Vokey SM8 wedge lineup is holding steady with 23 loft/grind combinations. That means a pair of less popular configurations – the 54.08 M and 60.04 L – have been jettisoned to make room for the additional Ds. Low-bounce aficionados need not panic. Golfers looking for extreme low-bounce options will likely see something pop up on Wedge Works in the not-so-distant future.
Which Grinds Are Right For Me?
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting fitted for your wedges. It’s an easy way to see a significant improvement and most of you aren’t doing it. And, yes, I’ll concede that legitimate wedge-fitting opportunities are few and far between. That sucks.
For many, that means there’s some guesswork in finding the right wedge.
There’s a good bit of back and forth around the question of whether bounce choices should be driven by your swing or by the course conditions. The accepted conventions are that steep players need more bounce while shallow swingers need less. Dry conditions call for less bounce while soft courses demand more.
What if you’re a steep swinger playing in dry conditions?
Bob Vokey believes, “Your swing travels with you.” When in doubt, defer to your swing. That said, Vokey is also a proponent of mixing bounce configurations – pairing a high-bounce sand wedge with a lower-bounce lob wedge – to ensure you can handle whatever the course brings your way.
That’s not a bad strategy but, again, there’s no substitute for a proper fitting.
I ruined the surprise earlier. There’s no revolutionary or even updated spin story here. The Vokey guys don’t think there’s another wedge on the market that provides better spin out of the gate and, more importantly, there isn’t another wedge that maintains spin better throughout the life of the wedge.
To all but guarantee that every wedge off the line spins like the one before it, 100% of the grooves on every Vokey wedge are inspected to ensure USGA conformity and adherence to manufacturing tolerances. Microgrooves between grooves are designed to add spin on partial shots. A heat treatment is applied to the impact area to extend durability without mucking up the feel.
That durability piece matters.
When brand new, nearly every wedge on the market will produce at least adequate or better spin but how quickly do your grooves wear and how quickly spin degrades? It’s How does the magic groove du jour hold up after 20, 30 or 50 rounds?
There’s spin. And then there’s spin that lasts. Vokey believes it provides more of both than anyone.
Do Raw Wedges Spin More?
With all the chatter about raw wedges and misleading implications that rust somehow adds spin, it’s worth taking a moment to remind you that the way Vokey cuts its grooves varies slightly based on the finish that will be applied. When you add a finish layer over a wedge, it alters both the edge radii and the groove depth. Vokey wedges are engineered such that the finished wedge matches the design spec. It’s the reason why, unlike some of its competitors, Vokey’s Raw wedges don’t provide any more spin than its finished wedges. In those other cases, it’s not that Raw spins more, it’s that when the finish material isn’t accounted for in the groove spec, the finishing process can cause spin rates to drop off.
It’s a small design detail for sure, but it’s important to understand that there aren’t any performance implications for choosing one Vokey finish over another.
What about moisture management?
The results from our wedge test as well as data provided by multiple Vokey competitors suggests that when moisture enters the equation, spin can fall off significantly. In the conditions under which we tested, we saw clear advantages from moisture-repelling finishes and other water-channeling technologies. Under those same conditions, Vokey wedges were just average.
In the wedge design world, moisture management is only beginning to enter the conversation. For now, you can put Vokey in the Still Looking at It Column. To date, Stone says Vokey’s internal testing hasn’t yielded any statistically significant data to suggest moisture diminishes spin to a degree that extends beyond golfer variability. Other factors such as player type, quality of contact, etc., can play just as much of a role in spin robustness.
Stone says that while Vokey will seek every opportunity to improve its wedges, the data it has gathered thus far is muddy at best. Don’t close the book, however. Moisture management is something the company will continue to look at.
SM8 represents the most significant cosmetic overhaul of the retail Vokey wedge lineup in recent memory. The design challenge,” says Stone, “was to create a modern wedge that honors the Vokey tradition.”
The key element to the design is the elevated prominence of the BV Wings. They are front and center. Taking lessons learned from Wedge Works, the company relocated the Titleist stamp to the hosel, leaving an almost completely untainted back section which provides plenty of real estate for customization.
The Vokey SM8 is intended to be a super-clean wedge that offers an opportunity for those who want to add logos, stamping and whatever else to make it as dirty as they want.
Vokey’s Custom options have been expanded to include six toe engravings, 10-character (straight) or 15-character (around the toe) stamping, and two lines of 10 characters each. Custom paint-fill can also be added to the loft, bounce and grind markings as well as the BV logo wings.
As you would expect, a wide selection of shafts, grips and even ferrules is also available.
As is it has in the past, Vokey will again offer 3 finish options in the retail lineup. Each finish will be available across the entire lineup –all lofts, all grinds, in both right- and left-handed.
The untouched carry-over from SM7 is Vokey’s Jet Black finish. “When you’ve got a good fastball, you throw it,” says Stone. Jet Black is Pedro Martinez’s fastball circa 2000 good.
The fresh take on Tour Chrome is described as softer than the prior generation version. I’d describe it as silky. Generally, I’m as dismissive of chrome as the available options allow me to be but this one is an exception. It’s minimally reflective with no hot spots. It’s perfect for the guy who likes a traditional look without the high polish.
Brushed Steel has been updated as well. The SM7 version had, in my opinion, a slight copper hue to it. The SM8 finish is a bit darker, a bit more neutral, with a more visible brushed texture.
A Raw option (which won’t spin any more than the others, even when it rusts) will be available March 6 through custom.
Pricing and Availability
The retail price for Vokey SM8 Wedges is $159 each. Pre-order through golf shops and Vokey.com begins February 11. Full retail availability begins March 6.
For more information, visit Vokey.com.