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Our Job is Your Game
It has been 704 days since our last Most Wanted Wedge Test. You might be saying, “It’s about DAMNED time!” Yeah, we know …
With 23 models and 17,480 shots (including some in wet conditions), this is the most comprehensive wedge test of the season.
At MyGolfSpy, our job is to provide independent, unbiased and objective testing so you can make more confident purchasing decisions. We hope our 2021 Most Wanted Wedge Test is an indispensable guide for the off-the-rack buyer or for anyone looking for insight before their next fitting.
About the 2021 Most Wanted Wedge Test
For our 2021 wedge test, 20 golfers tested 56-degree wedges on full swings as well as 50-yard shots in both wet and dry conditions. Using Foresight GCQuad Launch monitors and Titleist Pro V1 balls, we collected data on more than 17,000 shots.
1. Full-Shot Spin Might Be Overrated
It’s not that spin doesn’t matter but we found minimal difference in full shot spin, especially in dry conditions. On full swings (ranging from 65 to 110 yards), the lowest-spinning wedge still produced spin rates in excess of 94 percent of the highest-spinning wedge. It’s every bit as likely that these small differences are as much about manufacturing tolerances as they are about cutting-edge groove designs. You’ll find bigger spin differences between golf balls than between wedges.
The bottom line is that full-shot spin rates aren’t the only factor you should consider when shopping for wedges.
2. Differences in Wet Spin Rates Can Be Significant
Unless you play in the Southwest or Southern California, some amount of moisture is likely going to be present on every shot you play. While we noted smaller differences in dry performance, not only do wet-wedge spin rates vary more significantly but some wedges lost nearly half their spin in wet conditions while other wedges didn’t lose any.
3. Moisture Can Change Launch Angles Dramatically
Because moisture typically reduces friction, even on 50-yard shots we saw a significant increase in launch angle when things got wet. When we wet the turf and ball, median launch angles increased by nearly four degrees across the test pool. The most inconsistent wedges in the test saw launch angle increase by more than 20 percent while the most consistent wedges saw only single-digit (or better) increases.
When relatively common conditions can significantly alter launch and spin, you’ve got a recipe for inconsistency. In golf, that’s never good. And that brings us to …
4. Consistency is Key
Consistency matters with every club in the bag. That’s especially true for your wedges because so many of your shots will be hit with them, often from well inside full-swing distances. Some wedges produce more consistent spin, fly a more consistent distance and generally produce more consistent results. When we looked at consistency across a wide variety of metrics, clear differences emerged. It’s the reason why it factors heavily in our rankings.
2021 Most Wanted Wedge: TaylorMade Milled Grind 3
Best Wedges Overall
- The TaylorMade Milled Grind 3 produced the highest overall score in the test. Across all three of our scoring categories (total spin, accuracy and consistency), it was at or close to the top and was the only wedge in the test to achieve a score above 90.
- The Fourteen RM4 excels in the spin category (which includes both total spin and spin consistency) while producing above-average results for both accuracy and consistency. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an exceptional performance from a Fourteen wedge.
- The Titleist Vokey SM8 was a strong runner-up in the spin category (including spin consistency in all conditions). It was notably among the most accurate on full swings and partial shots in dry conditions while falling within the average range for our distance consistency metrics.
Best Wedges For Spin in All Conditions
Our spin scores are based not only on total spin numbers but also spin retention in wet conditions and spin consistency throughout the test.
- The Fourteen RM4 was a beast across nearly all of our spin categories. It retained more than 97 percent of its spin in wet conditions, produced among the highest spin rates when wet and provided average to well above average consistency across all spin metrics.
- While Vokey hasn’t made any specific mention of improved moisture management, the SM8 performed significantly better in wet conditions than the SM7 did for us in 2019. In dry conditions, the SM8 produced the most consistent spin rates of any wedge in the test.
- As it was during our 2019 test, Mizuno’s flagship wedge (this time the T22) was a strong performer in the spin category. There appears to be something to the Hydroflow microgrooves as the T22 preserved nearly 90 percent of its spin in wet conditions while producing consistent spin rates throughout.
Best Wedges For Accuracy
Our accuracy score is based on how close to the target each wedge finished across all test conditions as well as the tightness of the shot pattern (dispersion).
- The Sub 70 286 was at or near the top across all of our accuracy metrics. While, comparatively, you might say it struggled a bit with dispersion in wet conditions, it still ranked 10th in the category.
- Probably not the first name you think of in the wedge category, the Tour Edge EXS Blade excelled in wet-condition accuracy where it finished, on average, closest to the hole and provided the tightest dispersion as well.
- Our 2021 Most Wanted Wedge, the TaylorMade MG3, finished third overall for accuracy. It was most notable for its accuracy in wet conditions though dry performance was admirable as well.
Best Wedges For Consistency
For this test, our consistency metric looks at the repeatability of carry and total distance numbers throughout the test.
- The category-leading TaylorMade MG3 finished in the top 10 for all of our consistency metrics. Its category score of 93.8, was 4.2 percentage points higher than the second-place wedge in the category.
- The PXG 0311 Forged wedge excelled on shorter shots where it was at the top for the majority of our partial-swing metrics. While it wasn’t quite as impressive on full shots, for those needing help around the green, something about the 0311 just works.
- The Tour Edge EXS Blade was again impressive for consistency. It struggled a bit on the shorter shots but was incredibly consistent on full swings.
Best Wedges For Wet Conditions
While spin retention was included in our spin score, we thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at spin retention (the percentage difference in spin rates between 50-yard dry and 50-yard wet shots).
- First, that’s not a typo—spin rates for the PING Glide Forged Pro wedge actually increased by more than five percent when wet. In fact, 15 of our 20 testers saw launch angles decrease and spin rates increase when moisture was added to the Glide Forged Pro. It may sound absurd (and we certainly don’t believe that adding water will create more spin in most situations) but there are conditions under which the combination of spin loft values and the corresponding coefficient of friction can increase spin rates. We just happen to find one. For now, don’t overthink it. We’ll be looking into this phenomenon more closely in a future article.
- Across the test, seven models retained more than 85 percent of their spin rates when wet. They are the PING Glide Forged Pro, Cleveland RTX, Fourteen RM4, Vokey SM8, Mizuno T22, Cleveland CBX Full Face and TaylorMade MG3.
- Five wedges—the Wilson Staff Model, New Level Tri-Weight, Edel SMS, Kirkland Signature and Cobra KING Snakebite —lost more than 40 percent of their 50-yard spin when wet.
Wedge Buying Considerations
In addition to our performance data, here are other factors to consider when purchasing a new wedge.
Typically, the gap wedge will be the first “specialty wedge” in the bag. We recommend no more than a six-degree gap from your pitching wedge though, for many golfers, four degrees is the ideal number. As lofts throughout the bag have gotten stronger, the once-standard progression of 52-56-60 is increasingly being replaced by 50-54-60. Most golfers rarely hit their highest lofted wedges on full shots so it’s worth considering stretching out the gap between your sand and lob wedge and choosing an option that gives you greater versatility around the green.
Wedge bounce is the angle created between the leading edge of your wedge and the lowest point of the sole (trailing edge). It’s is the part of the sole that makes first contact with the ground as your club impacts the ball. Wedges with high bounce have a leading edge that sits higher off the ground at address. Conversely, a low-bounce wedge will typically sit closer to the ground. Aligning wedge bounce with both the turf conditions (soft or firm) you’ll face on course and how you deliver the club at impact promotes optimal contact, control and spin.
Typically, low-bounce wedges (4° to 6°) are better for golfers who have a shallow angle of attack (take less divot) but can also work in firm conditions and in bare/tight lies. Conversely, higher bounce wedges (12° to 14°) are encouraged for golfers with steep attack angles (take more of a divot) and are better suited for softer playing conditions and fluffy bunkers.
A good fitter can help you sort through the confusion but, if you’re unsure, a mid-bounce option is the safest play.
The grind matters. In simple terms, the grind describes the overall shape of the sole. Removing material from heel and toe (common in M and C grinds) can help lower the effective bounce, allowing the leading edge to sit closer to the ground while adding versatility to open the face to hit a greater variety of shots. In nearly every manufacturer’s lineup, individual grinds are limited to a few select lofts and availability will vary based on the bounce (and sole width). The grind is an undervalued and often overlooked aspect of wedge fitting but, to maximize your potential, an outdoor fitting is likely required. Unfortunately, those aren’t readily available in most areas.
Lie angle is a critical part of every fitting but simply matching your iron configuration may not provide the best results. Because a significant number of wedge shots are hit on less than full swings and are often short pitches and chips around the green, the dynamic forces on the head aren’t as great. What that means is that a wedge with the same lie angle progression as your irons will often play a bit more upright. If you find yourself missing left with your wedges, you may want to think about having them bent a degree or two flat.
BEST VALUE WEDGES – TOP PICKS
For golfers on a budget, these are our recommendations:
During each test, we look for trends that provide insight into where the market as a whole is moving as well as what noteworthy changes manufacturers have made to improve year-to-year performance. Additionally, we solicit feedback from our testers. We want to understand what they liked, what they didn’t like and why.
Trends and Tweaks
- Full-face and high-toe wedges are becoming increasingly common. In this year’s test, there were three full-face wedges and one high-toe wedge.
- Finish and groove technology continues to advance.
- Adjustability isn’t quite a thing in wedge category but it’s not for lack of trying.
- Edel’s SMS (Swing Match System) wedges leverage adjustable weighting to optimize performance.
- Past attempts at adjustability in the wedge category haven’t caught on. Will Edel flip the script?
Notes from the Testing Pool
Gathering feedback from our testers is an important aspect of any test. While it allows us to provide you with some insight into the test experience, it does not factor in our rankings.
- Shape can make or break the purchasing decision for a wedge. Cleveland RTX ZipCore, RTX ZipCore Raw, Titleist Vokey SM8, Mizuno T22, TaylorMade Milled Grind 3, PXG 0311 Forged, Miura KG 2.0, PING Glide Forged Pro and Wilson Staff Model all received praise from the testing pool.
- Feedback on the full-face designs was mostly positive. Both Cleveland CBX Full Face and Wilson Staff Model High Toe were favorites of the testing pool. Testers liked the way both wedges looked at address.
- Although testers generally liked the shape of the COBRA KING Snakebite Full Face, the high-shine chrome finish wasn’t generally well received.
- Golfers typically want wedges that offer good (often a synonym for “soft”) feel. The Titleist Vokey SM8, Fourteen RM4, Wilson Staff Model, PXG 0311 Forged, Mizuno T22, Callaway Jaws MD5 and Cleveland RTX ZipCore Raw were all mentioned as offering outstanding feel.
- From a pure tester feedback perspective, they were pleasantly surprised by the Kirkland Signature Wedge. There were a plethora of positives pertaining to feel and looks.
2021 Most Wanted Wedge Data
To filter and compare by club, use the drop-down list and checkboxes to select the only the wedges you wish to compare.
- On full-swing shots, the lowest-spinning wedges still spun nearly as much as the highest-spinning offerings.
- On partial shots in dry conditions, spin rates differed by more than 600 rpm.
- In wet conditions, spin differences on partial shots varied by nearly 3,700 rpm. That’s a massive difference over a short distance.
- The Edel SMS was the highest-spinning wedge on full and partial shots in dry conditions but ranked near the bottom in wet-condition spin.
- There’s little in this year’s test to suggest that “raw” wedges inherently spin more. Though the lack of finish may have some benefit (and, for some manufacturers, some finishes will spin more than others), the decreased durability will cause spin values to depreciate faster.
- Perhaps related to the shape of the head, even though the lie angle was on par with other wedges in the test, 76 percent of shots hit with the PING Glide Forged Pro finished left of the target. That’s 10 percentage points higher than the next wedge on the list and 23 percentage points more than the average of the pool.
- Wedges from value brands Sub 70 (286), New Level (M-Type) and Tour Edge performed well, suggesting there is value to be had in the category.
2021 Most Wanted Wedge Product Specifications
* denotes measured value versus manufacturer’s stated spec
BUYING NEW WEDGES
Q: How often should I buy new wedges?
A: Your wedges will take a beating from the various elements you’re bound to face on the golf course. A test completed by Titleist shows that after about 75 rounds of golf, the groove wear becomes significant enough to affect performance. That being said, assess your own game to make sure you’re replacing your wedges often enough. For Tour pros, that’s several times a year. For the rest of us, perhaps not as often, though avid golfers should consider replacing wedges annually. While developments in wedge technology are not groundbreaking from year to year, ensuring your grooves are fresh is one of the easiest ways to maintain consistency.
Q: How do I determine the right wedges for me?
A: The best way to determine which wedges are best for your game is to participate in a professional fitting. Ideally, that’s an outdoor fitting. If you don’t have access to professional fitting, use this test as a guide to help narrow down your demo list. While few fitters offer it, given the variety of shots you’ll need to hit with your wedges, you’ll ideally be fitted from a variety of lie conditions, including bunkers.
If you’re going for a self-fit, be sure to analyze your game to ensure proper consistent yardage gapping from club to club. From there, understand your angle of attack, divot size and typical playing conditions to make the proper selection for wedge bounce and grind. Remember that if you play in soft conditions, wedges with high bounce are useful. On the other hand, if you play in firm conditions, look for low bounce. While a mid-bounce option is typically a safe play, mixing a variety of bounce options across your wedge set will give you the versatility to hit any shot the course presents.
Q: What should I look for when testing wedges?
A: While golfers have been conditioned to consider wedge spin to the exclusion of nearly everything else, we always recommended looking at the little numbers and looking for small circles. The spinniest wedge is not always going to be your best wedge. When comparing metrics like launch angle and spin rates, be sure to look at your standard deviations (the small numbers usually found under the big ones on the data screen).
Smaller numbers mean better consistency. Similarly, look for tighter dispersion ellipses (small circles). We can’t understate the importance of consistency with wedges. Ideally, your wedges should perform similarly well regardless of whether you’re in wet or dry conditions. It’s the reason why we suggest you introduce some moisture into the demo process.
Q: How are the wedges in the test fitted to each golfer?
A: We use a fitting process that we call fit from stock. Wedges are fitted to each tester using the stock, no up-charge options from each manufacturer. With the exception of Inesis 500 (55 degrees at stock), we tested a 56-degree sand wedge of each model submitted. When applicable, we fit to flex for each tester in the pool. Occasionally, manufacturers will send multiple wedges with different stock shafts that we can utilize to improve launch conditions. In this year’s test, Edel SMS features three interchangeable weights. This feature was utilized throughout the test.
Q: How is the “Most Wanted” Wedge determined?
A: To determine the Most Wanted Wedge, we collect performance metrics with Foresight GCQuad Launch Monitors. For wedge testing, we use an “out of 100” scoring system. Points are awarded based on performance for each of our metrics. The top-performing wedge in each scoring category receives a score of 100. Scores are aggregated across our three scoring categories (spin, accuracy and consistency) to determine our Most Wanted winner.
Q: How is the “Highest-Spinning” Wedge determined?
A: To determine the highest-spinning wedge, we consider not only spin rates on full shots but also spin on partial and partial wet shots. Finally, we also consider how consistent spin rates are across all scenarios.
Q: How is the “Most Accurate” Wedge determined?
A: Each wedge is assigned a point value based on proximity to the hole across all of our test scenarios. A score is also assigned based on the tightness of the shot distribution pattern across the test (a tighter circle receives a higher score). Those values are aggregated. The wedge with the highest point total is our Most Accurate.
Q: How is the “Most Consistent” Wedge determined?
A: The most consistent wedge is based on the standard deviations of carry and total yard values across all scenarios in the test. The objective is to identify the wedges that most consistently hit their distance numbers. A point value is assigned to each wedge in each scenario. The wedge with the highest point total is our Most Consistent.
Q: How much does subjective feedback like looks, sound and feel factor into your rankings?
A: ZERO. Our rankings are based purely on launch monitor data and quantifiable performance metrics.