Titleist Introduces New Vokey Design SM4 Wedges
Posted: 21 November 2011
Born from the unique artistry and clubmaking experience of Bob Vokey and his longstanding dedication to true craftsmanship, Vokey Design Wedges have earned the reputation as the game’s finest short game tools. Since 1998, Vokey Design wedges have earned overwhelming success as the leader in the marketplace and the unmatched favorite of players across the worldwide professional tours. In fact, Vokey Design wedges have been the #1 wedge on the PGA Tour in terms of count and wins for eight consecutive years.
Now, for the first time since the U.S.G.A. and R&A instituted a rules change in 2010 governing golf club grooves, Titleist introduces a completely new line of Vokey Design Spin Milled wedges designed to maximize performance within the limits of the new regulations. The 2011 SM4 Vokey Design wedges feature Tour Extreme (SM4) scorelines – 17 precise, individually cut and 100% inspected grooves that aggressively approach the very ceiling of groove edge radius limits under the new specifications. Using computer aided design (CAD), 2011 SM4 wedges also feature new head designs, inspired by Bob Vokey’s tour-proven 200 series wedges. With twenty-one loft and bounce combinations and five different sole grinds that Bob Vokey developed through his research and work with the best players in the world, the 2011 SM4 Vokey Design wedges represent the next evolution in the most renowned scoring clubs in golf.
In 2009, when the U.S.G.A. and R&A announced their joint decision to limit groove volume and the sharpness of groove edge radii, club manufacturers including Titleist scrambled to develop clubs (particularly wedges) that would satisfy the new “Condition of Competition” requirements that would go into effect on January 1, 2010. Titleist’s response came in the form of the Vokey Design Spin Milled C-C wedge, a modification of the popular Spin Milled 2 wedge that already anchored the Titleist wedge line. C-C wedges featured new scorelines with rounder edges that imparted significantly less backspin, launched the ball higher and added more run-out to shots that the standard Spin Milled 2 grooves. Because there was so little time to retrofit existing designs, Titleist necessarily took a conservative approach to the new C-C pattern.
“During the whole rule-change process our number one priority was to protect our players,“ explained Steve Pelisek, GM Titleist Golf Clubs. “We had to ensure that 100% of the Vokey wedges used in competition would comply with the new regulations. So, we weren’t able to pursue as aggressively the outer line in the sand that the ruling bodies had established. What is so exciting about SM4 wedges is that we’ve now had adequate time to prepare and develop a thorough solution to the performance challenges that the new rules presented.”
Much of the success of the Vokey SM4 project can be credited to the decision by Titleist to invest in technology that establishes 100% inspection of every groove on every Vokey SM4 wedge that is produced. Each groove is evaluated using computer-guided plotting technology in which a sensored stylus is piloted to trace the contours of each groove. Three-dimensional coordinates are recorded and plotted as the stylus moves. This data can then be translated into measurements of the groove’s total volume and edge radii. “Our development of an automated, absolute inspection process is significant,” said Dan Stone, Vice President, Research and Development, Titleist Golf Clubs, "because it enables us to machine our grooves right up against the edge of the maximum allowable 0.011-inch radius specification. We can now push the envelope on performance, giving players the highest possible spin and trajectory control without fear of non-compliance.”
NEW ADVANCES IN THE SM4 VOKEY DESIGN WEDGES
Like their Spin Milled predecessors, 2011 SM4 Vokey Design wedges are made from soft 8620 carbon steel and feature Titleist’s industry-leading Spin Milled construction technology that provides superior performance regardless of groove configuration. 2011 SM4 Vokey Design wedges have a CNC-machined perfectly flat face and precisely cut groove geometry using a new formed cutting tool that creates a tighter tolerance on both the groove size and edge radius. The face surface is also precisely machined with a series of milled micro edges resulting in higher face friction than with a polished wedge face. The resulting additional ball spin retention achieved from this higher friction is particularly advantageous on partial shots, where grooves have much less impact on spin.
2011 SM4 Vokey Design wedges also undergo a unique localized face heat treatment that substantially increases the durability of the wedge’s groove edge radii. In tests that compared heat treated faces to untreated, Titleist found that the heating process, though it created no discernable difference in feel, did substantially impede the loss of spin due to wear. In the tests, treated and untreated wedges were used to hit bunker shots to simulate normal wear over time. After 400 bunker shots the spin rates for each wedge type were then compared. The untreated wedges lost over 2,000 rpm of backspin while the heat-treated wedges lost less than 1,000 rpm. Another positive effect of localized face heat treatment is better launch angle retention. During the same 400-bunker-shot period, the launch angle on the heat-treated wedges increased less than one degree. In contrast, the untreated wedges experienced an increase of three degrees, a substantial jump that results in meaningful deterioration of both distance and shot control.
Another innovation that players will find in the 2011 SM4 wedges is a change in groove configuration. After the original C-C wedges were released, the Vokey Design team continued to investigate ways to recapture some of the spin and performance that was lost under the new groove guidelines. In 2010, a conforming prototype groove design was tested and manufactured for use on Tour only. This prototype maintained the 14-scoreline pattern of the C-C wedge, but each groove was deeper and narrower in cross-section and utilized more aggressive groove edge radii. This prototype regained 600 rpm of backspin as compared to the original C-C wedge, which, in turn, had lost upwards of 3000 rpm of backspin on full shots hit from the rough as compared to the 2009 Spin Milled 2 groove pattern.
This prototype testing continued and evolved into the SM4 design. In the SM4, each groove is narrower in cross-section than the 2010 Tour prototype, but as deep. The SM4 groove radius is also sharp; tight manufacturing tolerances allow the grooves to approximate the 0.011-inch edge radius limit of the U.S.G.A. and R&A. The SM4 groove was designed to be narrower in order to accommodate more grooves. The SM4 makes use of a 17-scoreline pattern, a combination that proved optimal in player testing. In fact, the SM4 groove pattern outperforms the 2010 Tour prototype pattern, reclaiming over 1,000 rpm in backspin over the original C-C design.
“Seventeen scorelines gives us more teeth on the ball, but it doesn’t impart so much spin that you lose versatility, ” said Master Craftsman Bob Vokey. “I honestly think this pattern strikes a perfect balance. At first, when the new groove regulations were announced most folks were very reactive and wanted to hold on to every rpm of spin they could get. But in truth, a lot of players were hurt by the old big grooves. They spun too much and there were certain shots that could not be executed, like a full shot that would land and release to a back pin. It was very difficult to take spin off those wedges when you needed to. With the SM4, you may lose a little of what I call that “false” spin that you could get out of the rough with the original Spin Milled wedges. But overall, the SM4 gives you back a whole lot of additional shots that will really round out a complete wedge game.”
NEW SHAPE, EXPANDED OFFERINGS
2011 SM4 Vokey Design wedges are inspired by Bob Vokey’s 200 Series designs. Created by Vokey for Titleist in 1999, still widely used on Tour and recently made available to Vokey enthusiasts through Vokey.com’s WedgeWorks custom shop, the 200 Series features a classic teardrop head shape with a high toe peak, shallow heel and a soft trailing edge. Like the 200s, the heads of the new SM4 wedges are slightly larger than the original Spin Milled and C-C wedges and feature dimension and shape progression through the lofts.
“We consider wedges a distinct set of clubs,” explained Vokey. “Take your iron set. You’ll typically have about a 20 to 22-degree difference in loft between your 3-iron and 9-iron. And a 3-iron head looks nothing like a 9-iron head. Same with wedges. You can now have as much as an 18-degree difference in loft from a strong pitching wedge to a weak lob wedge. Your pitching wedge should have a different shape, topline, bounce and leading edge than your lob wedge because you’re asking each club to perform very different jobs. This is where CAD has been so valuable.”
The Vokey Design team uses Computer Aided Design (CAD) to dial in proper dimension and shape progression as the models advance in lofts. In SM4 wedges, the clubhead size increases and toplines grow rounder, as do the leading edges of the wedges, as the lofts move from the new SM4 46-degree strong pitching wedge up to the 64-degree lob wedge. This progression follows functionality – squarer toe and leading edge in the wedges that are used to play more full-shots, and rounder toe and leading edge in wedges that are frequently used for partial and touch shots where the club must perform well when played in either an open or closed orientation. Using player feedback and input from Vokey himself, CAD designers proportion the shapes of each SM4 wedge, using simulated testing in the CAD environment along the way to create predictive MOI and center of gravity locations. CAD allows the Vokey Design team to blend the visual features that players require in designs that also deliver functional performance.
In addition to the new 46-degree SM4 pitching wedge, higher bounce models in lofts of 48, 50 and 52 degrees are now part of the SM4 line. All SM4 models now feature a small ribbon of trailing edge relief on the flange, a refinement made by Bob Vokey that results in better sand performance and more consistent turf interaction on full shots. Ten models, ranging from 54 to 64 degrees, will now be offered with specialty sole grinds that Vokey developed on Tour. In addition to the popular “M” grind (a versatile design suitable for many playing styles in a variety of course conditions that is characterized by a crescent-shaped forward bounce surface and relieved wrap surface), the “T” grind as well as the new “S” and “L” grinds have now been added to the stock offerings. The “T” and “L” grinds are aggressive modifications of the “M” grind, offering greater heel, toe and trailing edge relief for less effective bounce. These models are suitable for players with shallow angles of attack and/or firm playing conditions. The “S” grind is named for Titleist Brand Ambassador Steve Stricker, with whom Bob worked to create a sole with heel and trailing edge relief but with a fuller toe to provide added bounce for bunker play.
A full listing of available SM4 Vokey Design models is summarized below:
NEW SM4 VOKEY DESIGN WEDGES
FEATURES AND BENEFITS
High performance wedges with tour validated shapes and soles designed by master craftsman Bob Vokey featuring Spin Milled face technology for maximum spin and shot control.
MAXIMUM CONFORMING SPIN through tour extreme grooves that feature 100% inspected, tight tolerance, aggressive groove edges at the limits allowed by the Rules of Golf
SUPERIOR FULL SHOT CONTROL from precise individually cut Spin Milled grooves that deliver optimal spin and predictable launch and flight
MAXIMUM PARTIAL SHOT SPIN and control from the milled micro edge face texture that provides grip on less than full shots
DURABLE GROOVES from a localized heat treatment in the impact area that preserves the precise milled grooves and micro edges
IMPROVED TURF AND SAND PERFORMANCE through a neutral entry angle, trailing edge ribbon and tour validated sole designs taken straight from Bob’s tour grinds
MORE CHOICES of models, lofts, bounce and sole grind options to cover yardage gaps and all designed to help you hit it close
IMPROVED APPEARANCE with a slightly larger teardrop profile and CAD generated progressive leading edge, toe profile and topline radius
GREAT LOOKS in three distinct finishes: Tour Chrome, Black Nickel and Oil Can
If you have any further questions on the new SM4 Wedges, feel free to email us at asktitleistSEA@acushnetgolf.com