But how about the wedges?
Best Choice Overall
Wedges are often overlooked by many players, especially beginners.
In my personal opinion and experience, they are very important for any skill levels.
Wedges will bring more versatility and variations for better players, especially near the greens.
Wedges will also teach a lot of golf concepts to beginners, and players striving to get better.
Pair that with the fact that wedges are, in my opinion, quite complicated compared to other clubs. With drivers, you wouldn't have to worry about bounce angle. With irons, you wouldn't have to worry about sole grinds.
Pair that with the fact that there are four different types of wedges (and more if you count specialist wedges), each with different purposes and key features.
Best Choice For Beginners
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Not only the basic concept alone, but the best wedges available today are also widely varied in features and technologies. With drivers, you will only need to worry about distance or forgiveness, and the features and technologies that support those emphases. With putters, you will only need to worry about accuracy and forgiveness.
However, there are many factors to determine a wedge's value, and many variations in features to support it.
So, this wedges buying guide will be our attempt to explain the basic concepts behind wedges, along with several products we deemed the best available today. We will start by discussing our product recommendations.
After intense testing of a lot of different wedges released during 2016 and 2017, we have chosen four we deemed the best wedges. These four different wedges are quite different with each other and will cater to different players.
We've excluded the very famous XE1 Wedge, as it received its own review.
Without further ado, let us begin with the first one:
Cleveland RTX-3 Wedge
Pros of Cleveland RTX 3
- Excellent spin thanks to the third-generation Rotex Face
- Excellent control even with the very high spin thanks to the Sole grinds
- Can easily go through any turf faster at impact due to the V-shaped sole and more bounce.
Cons Of Cleveland RTX 3
- The satin finish wears down relatively easy
- Not very forgiving compared to other options, better suited for better players
Cleveland’s 588 range of wedges is among the most prominent, or rather, legendary brands for wedges around. Ever since the introduction of the brand in 1988, Cleveland has sold over 10 million of 588 wedges, an amazing number by any standard.
The RTX-3 wedge, which is the point of our discussion today, is the latest addition to the 588 family, succeeding the very successful Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 (we reviewed the RTX 2.0 in a previous article).
Although the Cleveland RTX-3 wedge dropped the ‘588’ from its name in favor of the new ‘RTX’ brand, it is still a worthy successor to the 588 line, with a lot of great features of the RTX 2.0 carried over.
The ‘RTX’ in the name stands for Cleveland’s Rotex Face, which is updated with the RTX 3. The core technology for the Rotex face is between the grooves, where the face is laser etched to create more friction compared to your traditional club faces. With the RTX3, the Rotex face is perfected even more, with deeper and narrower grooves compared to the RTX 2.0.
So, will the Cleveland RTX-3 Wedge lives up to the Cleveland 588 name? First, let us dig deeper to its key features.
Key Features of the Cleveland RTX-3 Wedge
Key Feature #1: Third Generation Rotex Face
The Rotex Face is vastly improved over the RTX 2.0 wedge.
The new, U-shaped grooves are cut, and then filled with plastic before being sandblasted. This process allows the new Rotex Face to have as much friction as possible without breaking the legal limit.
Between the grooves, there are four laser milled lines for even more friction. These lines will wear down over time, as with the RTX 2.0, but they are quite durable. Our RTX 2.0’s Rotex face is still in good shape after a little more than 2 years with regular use.
The lower lofts, up to 52 degrees, have a straight line pattern. On the other hand, the higher lofts from 54 degrees have angled lines. This way, the pattern has more effect with open face with the higher lofts.
Key Feature #2: Versatile Bounce Options
With the Cleveland RTX 3, you can choose between low, medium, and high bounce for most of the lofts, signified with one, two, or three dots on the sole. So, you can choose between a wide range of lofts of 46 up to 64 degrees and choose the proper bounce for each, depending on your needs and playstyle.
Key Feature #3: V Sole Grind
With the new V-Sole Grind, the RTX 3 is much narrower than the RTX 2.0, causing it to lose up to 23% of speed through impact. As a result, it is easier to go through the turf with the RTX 3.0, even on the tightest lies and thickest greens.
Our Verdict: Cleveland RTX-3 Wedge
The keywords for the Cleveland RTX 3 is balance and consistency. In fact, it is one of the most consistent wedges around, if we are talking about performances.
The Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 is already an excellent wedge, so the RTX 3, being a significant improvement is saying a lot. The biggest improvement comes from the new Feel Balancing Technology, which essentially moves the center of gravity closer to the center of the face, compared to the RTX 2.0.
As a result, the balance of the head and face is superior, and the RTX 3 consistently produces more distance than the RTX 2.0, which again, is saying a lot.
The RTX 3 also produces 500-600 RPM more spin, and has a relatively low launch angle. It also sounds and feels a bit better than the RTX 2.0, giving you a classic Cleveland sound and feel. Very accurate wedge with great playability and feel.
TaylorMade M2 Wedge
Pros of TaylorMade M2 Wedge
- The most forgiving option in this list, very decent forgiveness due to the face slot technology
- One of the longest wedges available today, consistent performance in distance
- TaylorMade sound and feel: modern and loud with dynamic response
Cons Of TaylorMade M2 Wedge
- With the very high spin, it might be require more practice to properly control/stop the ball where you want it
TaylorMade is definitely one of the hottest brands for golf clubs nowadays, especially for their excellent drivers and woods.
The ‘M2’ is TaylorMade’s current flagship brand for their game-improvement clubs, so we can expect some form of forgiveness from the M2 Wedge, which is the point of our discussion now (we reviewed the other M2 clubs previously: here for the M2 Irons and here for the M2 Hybrid).
The TaylorMade M2 Wedge is, admittedly, not as popular as the M2 Driver or Irons, however, it is still one of the best high-end wedges out there.
Being a TaylorMade club, we can also expect the M2 Wedge to be built with distance in mind, and the M2 Wedges are indeed, some of the longest wedges in the game today.
The concept behind the 2017 M2 clubs is launching the ball as high as possible and as fast as possible to achieve maximum distance, with enough forgiveness and steep landing angle. That concept stays true with the wedge.
The key behind those deadly combinations of height, speed and forgiveness is the well-proven face slot that first appeared in TaylorMade RSi clubs a few years back and the low center of gravity position. The face slot reduces the loss of ball speed during mishits, indirectly improving the forgiveness.
On the other hand, the lower CG position helps with increasing the ball speed and flight trajectory.
Let us now discuss the key features of the TaylorMade M2 Wedge.
Key Features of the TaylorMade M2 Wedge
Key Feature #1: Face Slot
The biggest highlight for the M2 clubs is the Face Slot, designed to preserve ball speed on mishits. Meaning, if you struck a shot toward the toe or heel, your performance in distance won't dip as much as with regular wedges.
The face slot indirectly improves forgiveness, while also making your well-struck shots even more satisfying.
The face slot has been around a few years back starting with the TaylorMade RSi clubs, and there used to be one major downside: the face slot sacrifices the signature TaylorMade sound we all love.
However, it is vastly improved with the M2 clubs including the TaylorMade M2 Wedge, thanks to the new ribs going across the back of the club.
Key Feature #2: Ultra-Thin Speed Pocket
TaylorMade's Speed Pocket enables the face to flex more during impact, which translates into a higher ball speed. With the 2017 M2 clubs, the speed pocket is made thinner than before of around 33%, which further increases the flex, and thus the ball speed.
Our Verdict: TaylorMade M2 Wedge
Distance and height is the emphasis of the TaylorMade M2 Wedge. Being a cavity back wedge paired with the Face Slot technology, the M2 Wedge is also quite forgiving, which is definitely a plus point.
However, the M2 Wedge lacks the versatility and playability of the previously reviewed Cleveland RTX 3.0, as the two are built with different emphasis. If you are looking for a forgiving club with great natural trajectory, speed, and ultimately, distance, the M2 Wedge is simply one of the best choices available.
Callaway Mack Daddy 3 Milled Wedge
Pros of Callaway Mack Daddy 3
- Smooth, responsive spin thanks to the progressive groove
- Relatively low flight trajectory, ideal for players with shot-shaping playstyle
- Three different grind options: S Grind, C Grind, and W Grind
Cons Of Callaway Mack Daddy 3
- The sound and feel is relatively muted due to the drilled holes on the back sole
Callaway is another high-end brand in the world of golf clubs and equipment. The Mack Daddy itself is a very prominent brand for golf wedges, with the name 'Mack Daddy' comes from Phil Mickelson himself when describing the high spin grooves synonymous with the brand.
With the Mack Daddy 3, the famous groove is still intact.
The shape of the grooves varies between the lob wedge, sand wedge, gap and pitching wedges, with the aim to regulate the generated spin with each wedge.
The higher the lofts, the more aggressive the grooves are to increase the spin.
On the other hand, the lower lofts have more lenient grooves to encourage trajectory control, while still providing enough grip.
One thing you will really notice from the Mack Daddy 3, however, is the looks. In our opinion, it is one of the best-looking clubs out there, a combination of Callaway's classic feel and the high-tech design of current trends.
The highlight of the Mack Daddy 3 design is the four holes drilled in the back of the sole, covered with green tinted glasses which looked pretty cool. They are, however, not entirely cosmetic, as the holes are designed to remove weight from the sole, moving the center of gravity to keep a lower flight trajectory.
So, let us take a look at the key features of the Callaway Mack Daddy 3 Wedge.
Key Features of the Callaway Mack Daddy 3
Key Feature #1: 3 Different Grinds
There are three different grind options available for the Mack Daddy 3: the S Grind, W Grind, and C Grind, which are available for all of the lofts.
The S Grind is the traditional, versatile sole with all-around purpose, signified with a little relief in the heel area. The C Grind features a slightly wider sole, which means more forgiveness and flexibility. The W Grind is even wider with slightly more bounce, giving you even more margin of error.
Key Feature #2: Progressive Groove Optimization
The Mack Daddy 3 features different grooves as the loft goes higher. The progressive groove is designed to optimize spin, while also helping with the transition from your irons to wedges.
Key Feature #3: Advanced Weight Ports
The four holes drilled behind the sole surely look cool and high-tech, however, they are not solely for cosmetic purposes. The drilled holes repositioned the center of gravity, with the purpose of lower flight trajectory, better shot shaping, and better forgiveness on the deep rough.
Our Verdict: Callaway Mack Daddy 3
While the TaylorMade M2 is built with distance in mind, and the Cleveland RTX focusing on consistency, the Callaway Mack Daddy 3 will fit players with shot-shaping needs. Although it is not technically a beginners' wedge, the Mack Daddy 3 is still pretty decent in forgiveness, especially with the S or W Grind options.
The key highlight of the Callaway Mack Daddy 3 Wedge is the progressive groove, which is designed for optimized, smoother spin for shot shaping and shot stopping purposes. If shot shaping playability is your playstyle, the Mack Daddy 3 is simply an excellent choice.
Bottom Line and Conclusion
The three different wedges we have covered are very different to each other. To further understand the key differences, here is our summary:
- For consistency and all-round overall quality, the Cleveland RTX 3 is the most balanced choice
- For maximum forgiveness and distance, the TaylorMade M2 is the best choice
- The Callaway Mack Daddy 3 is also a good choice for shot-shaping purposes, with better forgiveness
Additionally, if you want a wedge for beginners, we recommend to check out the Square Strike Wedge.
Popular Questions & Answers About Golf Wedges
Here, we will cover some of the frequently asked questions for wedges. By answering these questions, we hope you can get a better picture regarding key values of the wedge and can make a better purchase decision.
What are the different types of wedges in golf?
Wedges are generally divided into four main types as follow:
Wedge Type #1: Pitching Wedge (PW)
The pitching Wedge is the most common type of wedge, and generally, every player will always carry one. As the name suggests, the pitching wedge is most commonly used for full shots into greens and longer chip shots. Pitching wedges are commonly, although not always, included in an iron set.
Pitching wedges are commonly 44-48 degrees in loft, although the current trend prefers lower lofted pitching wedge of 44-45 degrees to blend with longer-hitting irons.
Wedge Type #2: Gap Wedge (GW)
The Gap Wedge is used to fill the 'gap' between the pitching wedge and sand wedge. Gap wedges are also often called Utility Wedge (UW) or Attack Wedge (AW) and are usually lofted at 50 to 53 degrees.
Gap wedges are better suited for fuller shots, to bridge a distance gap or offer more variety especially near the greens.
Wedge Type #3: Sand Wedge (SW)
The sand wedge is originally designed to escape from sand straps and green side bunkers. The sand wedge has a relatively wider and heavier sole and comes in the range of 54 to 58 degrees in loft.
Before the lob wedge was invented, the sand wedge was the go-to club for chip shots and bunker shots, so using the sand wedge for those purposes is also viable if you don't carry a lob wedge.
We've recently released an in-depth review of the best sand wedges, in case you decide to opt to buy a sand wedge.
Key Feature #4: Lob Wedge (LW)
The newest wedge invented, and the highest lofted at around 60 to 64 degrees (and even more). So, the lob wedge is utilized to produce more height and spin, especially near the green. With that feature, the lob wedge is commonly used more for chips and flop shots rather than fuller shots.
What are the different wedge shot types?
There are many different types of wedge shots, however, in the end, it can boil down to just two broad groups:
Wedge Shot Type #1: Fuller Shots
The main principle for fuller shots is that it has a relatively low flight trajectory and the ball will run out a little after landing. Pitching wedges and gap wedges are better suited for this type. The aim with fuller shots is to get the ball closer to the hole, and that is a good thing to remember when practicing this shot.
Wedge Shot Type #2: Lob Shots
The lob shot, with a higher flight trajectory, lands closer to the pin and stops abruptly. The aim with this type of shot is trajectory, mainly to escape traps or tough lies. There are several different subtypes for lob shots like chip shots, flop shots, and bunker shots. However, the basic principle and mission are retained.
Mainly, the subtypes are simply tweaking the flight trajectory and distance to your needs. So, if you have a good command of the two techniques, you are basically good to go.
It is very important to learn the two different type of shots and commit some time to practicing with your wedges. The key for a good wedge game is versatility, and by having a good basis for the two different shots, you can make better judgments on the fly.
What loft angle should I pick?
To answer this question, we must first understand the principle behind the loft angle, which is commonly misunderstood. There are two simple principles we should understand:
- The bigger the loft number, the higher the angle
- The higher the loft angle, the shorter the distance, less roll, and more overall control
A common mistake is to assume that a higher loft angle equals higher flight. While it is true for most of the case, there are other factors to determine flight trajectory. However, the principle stays true that the higher the loft, the shorter the expected distance.
Here are the common loft angle options for the four different wedges:
- Pitching Wedge: 50 to 54 degrees
- Gap Wedge: 54 to 58 degrees
- Sand Wedge: 55 to 58 degrees
Lob Wedge: 58 to 64 degrees
So, how should we choose the right loft angle? There are a few factors you should consider:
- Remember the first principle that the higher the loft, the shorter the distance and more control. Determine your playstyle and your needs based on this principle
- Another thing you should consider is to make the lofts balanced between your irons and wedges. Meaning, there shouldn't be too big of a gap in your set. This way, you can have more versatility in all distances.
- You can only take 14 clubs at once. So, determine which wedge(s) you will need. If you only carry one or two, you must go back to the previous consideration that there shouldn't be any distance gap in your set
- With different brands and models, there are other factors and features that can determine distance, control, and height. You might want to adjust the loft angle depending on those other features.
By holding to those sets of principles discussed above, you can easily determine the right lofts for your wedges, depending on your needs and playstyle.
What Grind Should I Pick?
Let us discuss the basic principles behind the sole grind. First, what actually is a sole grind?
In its essence, the sole grind is the additional shaping of the wedge's sole, usually around the toe or the heel, or sometimes both.
The term 'grind' comes from the fact that manufacturers machine-grind the soles to suit specific needs, whether turf conditions or specific shots.
So, how will it affect your game? Here are the basic principles:
- A heel grind will remove material from the heel of the sole. As a result, the face will sit lower to the ground. This way, you can have an easier time opening the face at address. This is often called the low bounce since when the face is opened, the bounce doesn't increase by much.
- On the other hand, a toe grind will make the club face looks closer to the ball. This is called the high bounce, since the bounce is dramatically increased when you open the face.
There are many variations of different grinds from different manufacturers. In fact, grinds can get so unique it can be patented. By understanding the two basic principles above, you can make a better judgment of choosing the right grind.
You might want to check this explanation for Bob Vokey's grind designs for a better picture of grind variations.
Chrome or Raw Finish: Which is Best and Why?
Let's first address the elephant in the room: whether it's chrome or raw finish, it is purely visual, and it won't affect feel, sound, and your game in a direct, significant way.
A common misconception is that the chrome finish, due to thicker coating, will affect the sound and feedback. This isn't the case nowadays due to the advanced coating technology.
So, choosing between any of them will mostly be based on visual preferences. However, is there any advantage of one over the other? There is.
The wedges are the workhorse clubs in your bag. They will scratch against thick turfs, they will dig the ground often, and ultimately, the finish will wear off faster than your other clubs.
The chrome finish is designed with this thing in mind, and the thick, hard coating will help combat the wedge's workload. As a result, chrome-finished wedges are generally more durable in the long run.
So, if you appreciate the shiny look of your clubs, the chrome finish is definitely a better choice.
You should always remember to consider the overall finish quality. Some manufacturers have very durable raw finishes, and some manufacturers have cheap chrome finishes. So, when possible, check before buying.
Should I opt for a low, mid or high bounce?
Let's take a quick look at the concept behind 'bounce'. Bounce is the area of the wedge that hits the ground, hence 'bouncing' the club through the surface during impact with the ball.
The bounce angle, then, is the angle between the leading edge of the sole area that meets the ground.
So, how should you choose the right bounce angle? Let us take a look at the three different options, and how they will suit a specific condition or playstyle:
Option #1: Low Bounce Wedges
Wedges with 4 to 6 degrees of bounce angle are considered 'low bounce'. The low bounce wedges are better suited for players with a tendency to sweep the ball, and generally will perform better in firmer turfs, including bunkers with coarse or little sand.
Option #2: Mid Bounce Wedges
For wedges to be considered 'mid bounce', the bounce angle is generally between 7 to 10 degrees. For those who want versatility, mid bounce wedges are generally a safe choice and are suited for a wide range of swing types and turf conditions.
Option #3: High Bounce Wedges
Any wedges with bounce angle above 10 degrees can be considered 'high bounce'. Meaning, the leading edge sits significantly higher when the face is opened to address the ball. High bounce wedges will help players who dig at impact with the tendency of making deep pivots and stances. High bounce wedges also work well in softer conditions and bunkers with deep sands.
Bottom Line and Final Verdict
Here we will choose the best of the best out of the four wedges we have covered. The four different clubs have very different characteristics and features and will suit different types of players. We have to choose one overall best between them.
Hence, our choice goes to:
Cleveland Golf RTX-3 Wedge
The Cleveland RTX-3 is simply the most well-rounded option out of the four wedges. It provides decent forgiveness, very consistent in performance, and very versatile with shot-shaping purposes. Being a Cleveland wedge, you can also expect excellent sound and feel from the RTX 3, and it looks pretty decent, a Cleveland classic.
The TaylorMade M2 is more forgiving and will be a better choice for beginners. On the other hand, better players will appreciate the playability and feel of the Callaway Mack Daddy 3.
Last but not least, if you have any question or suggestion, please don’t hesitate to leave it in the comment section below.