That wedge on the cover is the phantasmagoric creation of artist Eddie Guy, imagining a composite of the technology that awaits us.
It used to be that old was good. Tommy Armour persimmon drivers from the 1950s were played by many top pros 25 years later. My first big story for Golf Digest back in the late '70s was about Wilson R-90 sand wedges, which were 40 years old then and the most prized clubs on tour.
No more. Old is out. Brought down by science, innovation and the aeronautics industry. Exhibit A: The Hot List, edited by Mike Stachura.
Now even the speed of replacement time grows shorter every year. Padraig Harrington, profiled by Tom Callahan in this issue, changes his wedges every couple of weeks, so obsessed is he with the need to maximize spin rate. Every time you hit a bunker shot, it's like buffing your wedge face.
As part of the Hot List research, we ran tests comparing a sand wedge that has been in use since 1985 with a new wedge right out of the box. The average spin rate on full shots from light rough with the 1985 wedge was 4,120 revolutions per minute. It more than doubled with the 2008 model at 9,715 rpm. Just as surprising is that a one-year-old wedge had an average of 7,390 rpm -- it lost more than 2,300 rpm in only about 40 rounds of use.
__TIP OF THE MONTH:__When you find a wedge you really like, don't just buy one of them. Buy three or four. Every couple of months, replace your wedge with a new one. And another thing: Don't hit practice balls, especially in the sand, with the wedges you use to play. Practice with your old, used wedges. OK, this might sound extravagant, but I consider the wedges my most important scoring clubs -- and if I'm going to spend money anywhere in the bag, it's on them.
The oldest wedge in our test came from Mike Johnson, one of the four equipment judges presiding over the Hot List. "I bought my Cobra Phil Rodgers Trusty Rusty sand wedge in 1985 while working in a golf shop," he says. "It's been with me longer than my wife. I went from a plus-2 to a 10 and then back to a 4. It's been my golf soul mate. The club I could always count on. From 105 in the fairway, it is money. Bump-and-run chip shots are a breeze. I made a brilliant shot with it, in fact, on the 18th hole of my first-round club-championship match last summer, cozying the ball a couple of feet from the hole to win. The wedge has a beautifully compact head with little bounce and a tad of offset. Originally 56 degrees, it now measures 54 because of all the balls I've pounded with it. It's also now permanently out of my bag. I've got something new."
If you're tired of hitting knuckleballs with your wedges, you've got to check out the Hot List.