The best golf wedges of 2019: Make your short game instantly better with these options

March 26, 2019
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Drivers and putters are popular buys each year, but don’t forget about the wedges. If you play 40 rounds annually and practice regularly, you need to switch out your wedges every season or two. But switch to what?

After all, wedges are the Swiss Army Knife of your set, called upon to do just about anything imaginable on a course. That traditional eight-iron sets are compacting down to six, even five clubs puts all the more onus on a wedge’s versatility. With a wide range of lofts and bounces, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But the 2019 Hot List wedge winners have something for every part of your game.

As you go through this process—and it should be a process, with trial and on-course experimentation—the wedges should work together with your iron-set construction. Meaning, if you hit your pitching wedge 110 yards, make sure there’s not a large, or small, distance disparity with your gap wedge. A good rule of them is to view your wedges as an extension of your irons.

And while we preach the virtues of fitting, perhaps no club warrants as precise tailoring as the wedge. The amount of choices you have regarding grooves, sole grinds and face designs are engineered to optimize spin for how a club is used. So a wedge you primarily use around the greens and out of the sand may be drastically different in construction than a wedge you pull for full swing 90-yard shots. Or, maybe you are one for simplicity, and want the same type of shape and sole to help with consistency. Luckily for you, the bevy of choices at your disposal will ensure that all your needs are met.

Most importantly, choose what instills the most confidence for you. The wedges might be a Swiss Army Knife, but without a steady hand, they're not much of a tool.

Gold-medal winners:


Story: Spin technology is abundant here. To help you induce shot- stopping spin on all swings, there are two types of milled grooves, depending on the loft. Callaway also uses a new process for increasing surface roughness between grooves. Milled ridges provide more than 80 contact points for grabbing the ball’s cover for maximum spin, especially on those touch shots. The line’s 21 options, including nine lofts and four sole grinds, are the company’s most ever.

Lofts: 21 options (46-64 degrees, four sole grinds)

Street Price: $150

Story: Cleveland designed the CBX to fit a variety of forgiveness needs to better serve the skill levels of most golfers. The line features meaty, cavity-back, iron-like shapes for the lower lofts and chunk- fighting, wide soles in the higher lofts. Plus, a lightweight shaft serves the speed-challenged. Of course, these average-golfer tools aren’t generic where it matters. You’ve still got Cleveland’s top-flight groove and face technology for greater spin consistency.

Lofts: 8 options (46-60 degrees)

Street Price: $130

Story: Played as a prototype for a year by its tour staff, this is Cleveland’s most complete “players” wedge ever. First, the three- tiered milling process for the grooves and surface roughness has resulted in sharper edges. There’s also a new fourth sole grind (XLow) designed for shallow attack angles, extreme tight lies and flop shots. The tour input also led to a more compact shape, and the shape of the lower lofts blends perfectly into your shorter irons.

Lofts: 18 options (46-62 degrees), 4 sole grinds

Street Price: $140

Cobra King Black

Story: Groove action on short shots is where the King grabs its crown. Wider, shallower trenches on the higher lofts create more effective groove volume for cleaner contact, and a variable milling pattern improves surface-roughness consistency for additional spin. This King has feelings, too. The face has been thickened to minimize vibration. Finally, a chamfer on the topline provides a more traditional look.

Lofts: 12 options (50-60), 3 sole grinds

Street Price: $150

Story: Forged from a 30-percent stronger, boron-infused carbon steel, the S18 is optimized for the typical shots played by each loft. Those elemental changes include loft-specific bounce angles, sole grinds, grooves and center of gravity (CG) location. Example: In the higher lofts, there is more mass at the top of the blade, lifting the CG for better trajectory control. Also, the grooves get wider on the higher lofts for better spin on less-than-full swings.

Lofts: 9 stock (20 custom) options (46-62 degrees)

Street Price: $150

Story: All the little things work toward ideal spin. First, a hydropearl-chrome finish repels water for a cleaner, consistent interaction between club and ball. But the real story deals with grooves. Precision-milled and varying by loft, they optimize spin and control for the demands of each club. Higher-lofted wedges even have two more grooves than the original Glide. They’re milled with a sharper edge for more grab on short shots.

Lofts: 17 options (46-60 degrees), 4 sole grinds

Street Price: $140

Story: This is not a Glide 2.0 in a different color. The dark finish does more than provide a compact appearance: It adds durability to the 8620 carbon steel, which is a step softer than the standard Glide 2.0’s 431 stainless steel. Also, by not painting the face, the available groove area increases by 30 percent. A bottom half-groove just above the leading edge on the higher lofts means more contact area with the ball for better spin on the shortest shots.

Lofts: 17 options (46-60 degrees), 4 sole grinds

Street Price: $140

Story: The sole of a wedge sets up the club for solid contact, so TaylorMade engineers sought more control of its shape. Instead of hand-finishing, each sole is computer-milled to make every curve and angle as precise as possible. Those subtleties include a channel in the sole to create two bounce angles, allowing for smooth turf interaction without excessive digging. An increased bevel reduces the leading edge for more flush contact with the ground.

Lofts: 17 options (50-64 degrees), 4 sole grinds

Street Price: $150/$170

Story: New grooves—with sharper edges and matched to certain lofts—are the big improvement. Another one is the internal weighting. The center of gravity (CG) varies across the lofts to improve distance consistency and flight control, an ideal trait for your scoring clubs. For example, by raising the CG two millimeters on the higher lofts, Titleist wedge designer Bob Vokey found shots produced about a four-foot-tighter dispersion.

Lofts: 23 options (48-64 degrees), 6 sole grinds

Street Price: $150

Silver-medal winners:

Ben Hogan Equalizer

Story: Based on Ben Hogan’s theory about wedge design, these forged heads use mass higher in the lower lofts to eliminate ballooning shots and lower in the higher lofts for a higher, softer- landing flight. The milled face features grooves with a sharp U-shape pattern for improved spin, especially on less-than-full shots. The V-shape sole’s softened leading edge prevents digging for a wider variety of players and course conditions.

Lofts: 8 options (48-62 degrees)

Street Price: $100

Callaway PM Grind (2019)

Story: Based on input by Phil Mickelson and famed wedgemaker Roger Cleveland, this club focuses on the shortest shots. The high-toe design raises the center of gravity to promote a lower trajectory. The surface-roughness pattern of raised ridges is canted at a 20-degree angle to the grooves. This results in better contact on open-face shots. More offset offers more control on knockdown shots. The C grind has extra bounce for maximum versatility around the green.

Lofts: Five options (54-60, 64)

Street Price: $160

Cobra King MIM

Story: Instead of a traditional cast or forging, a metal-injection molding process forms these heads. Metal powder is injection- molded into a precise shape that eliminates the need for hand- polishing, delivering a metal that is softer than typical cast and forged steels. The face-milling pattern is a perfect spiral with constant pitch and spacing that rotates out from the center of the face for consistent friction, even on open-face short shots.

Lofts: Six options (50-60)

Street Price: $150

Fourteen FH-V1

Story: For stability in a traditional look, these use a double- reverse-taper blade shape. The head gets thicker from low heel to high toe to increase forgiveness and raise the center of gravity for trajectory and spin control. The clubface is milled twice as much as previous models for a more consistent surface roughness. Finally, wedge-specific shafts were developed for the full swings made with the lower lofts and the touch shots made with higher lofts.

Lofts: 9 options (41-60), three grinds

Street Price: $200

Story: This is Ping’s first forged wedge in seven years. The clubhead—developed with tour-player input—is slightly smaller so better players can manipulate it more easily. A tungsten toe weight increases the size of the sweet spot. Milled grooves result in a sharper-edge radius to create more friction for extra spin and trajectory control. Inspired by the famous Eye2 wedge, the tapered hosel helps the club move smoothly through sand and taller rough.

Lofts: Six options (50-60 degrees)

Street Price: $200