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arizona golf arizona golf arizona golfThe Titleist Vokey
Sand Wedge: Come
Forth and Witness Genius

By Jeffrey A. Rendall , Staff Writer

Titleist's Bob Vokey says he's not a genius; but he sure knows how to give a scholarly clinic on sand wedges.

I asked Mr. Vokey what it is that makes the world's best players want to play his wedges. I didn't expect what he gave me--quite a humble answer: "I'm not a genius or anything, but I was fortunate during my early days to work with some very good players, namely Trevino, Mark O'Meara, Dave Stockton-good sand players. I pride myself on good note taking and listening to those who know--and I've incorporated what I've learned into what I make."

"Tour players are very picky-and precise. So I've taken their suggestions, and do what I call 'tweaking' to get their wedges to where they want them to be. Along the way, I've picked up some tips to make wedges for everyday players that are very useful in their games too."

The things Bob Vokey looks for in a wedge are bounce and sole width (flange)--I never knew it could be so complicated. Vokey continues, "I start with the profile-to make the wedge look good. Then you build in design characteristics. That's why at Titleist there's a 200 series, a 300 series and a 400 series. Gives it a range. The 200 is for what I call my 'under forty crowd,' and the 300 and 400 is for the 'over 40 crowd.'"

Then he got technical: "Bounce angle is defined as-the distance between the leading edge of the blade and the trailing edge of the blade. The way I look at bounce-- it's almost like the rudder on a ship. You turn sideways, and what it does--it keeps the trailing edge a little lower than the leading edge so the club just glides through the sand, turf, or any other conditions."

"And there's an angle, which is called degree. If there's a little more bounce (and higher degree), then it would go into the sand or other playing surface and come out a little quicker, because it will dig deeper. If there's a little less bounce, then you'll have more luck with tighter lies."

"You try to come up with a combination of both (loft and bounce). That's why, in the series, I've worked with different formulas to design models with a little less bounce, and others with a little more bounce to give players the option--to take the wedge they need for their particular course."


Vokey clearly knows what he's doing...And he's humble to boot.

I was dying to see if these technical aspects of the wedge played out in the real game. Seeking to prove or disprove the theory, I tried out a 58 degree sand wedge with 12 degrees of bounce, Titleist's 258.12 model. In recent years, I've carried a 56 wedge as well as a 52 degree 'gap' wedge (bounce unknown!), with some shining results as well as some real failures. I've come to realize that a sand wedge is like a three iron in some respects--it's not the easiest to hit if you don't know how.

I tried the Vokey wedge in three ways--full swing shots; short chips and pitches; and, of course, bunker play.

For full swing shots, I found the Vokey wedge to have a very soft feel and be fairly easy to hit--at least more so than my old 56 degree. I've had a tendency in the past to hit sand wedges thin or fat. The Titleist wedge improved on that. And true to Vokey's words, the wedge performed best in soft sand, rough and softer fairway conditions.

On harder lies, I still had the same tendency to hit the ball thin with the Vokey as with my other wedge--but to a lesser degree. But for full swing shots from rough or soft fairway, I'd rate the Vokey's performance as exceptional, and with a noticeable difference from my other equipment. I could still get the same 90 yards with it that I get from my old 56, but with a softer feel and better spin on the ball. The ball even spun backwards on a couple occasions, and I'd never been able to get that result in the past.

For Chips and Pitches, much is the same as with full swing shots. The Vokey was exceptional out of rough and mushy stuff--even tall grass. For hard pan lies, I had less success, but still better than before.

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Vokey explained my differing results: "The 258.12 is designed for soft conditions--soft dirt, sand, or turf conditions; where, in other words, you won't dig as much. And with too much bounce in firm conditions, you'll end up bouncing to the back of the palm-your trailing edge hits first and the leading edge is a little higher on the ball-and that's called a blade or skulling." He also suggested getting a 258.08 for the harder lies.

Sand performance was outstanding. I'd never rate my bunker performance as anything better than below average, but the Vokey's making the thought of being in sand much less intimidating. The club glides nicely through the sand to get just enough ball to clear the lip and land softly on the green--and stay where it's supposed to.

Bunker play was never this easy. In the past, I had a tendency to leave the ball in the sand or hit too thin and sky the target. A big performance jump with the Vokey here-and much less business for my sports psychologist when it comes to sand play. This in itself is worth the price of the club.

In other words, my results with the Vokey wedge were not only positive, they were just as Bob Vokey predicted. He's got the fitting down to a science, even if his humility won't allow him to admit it.

"For your higher handicapper, you'll probably go with a little more bounce, a little bit wider flange to keep him from 'digging in'-because he's probably got a steeper swing. For your better player, he's a 'slider,' a shallow cut player, he likes to take it back and moves his arms and shoulders through the ball. He takes a firm and hard enough swing so that he splices just enough sand and pops the ball out-he doesn't need as much bounce."

arizona golf arizona golf arizona golf "Every individual is different though, and this isn't a science. There're techniques involved too. Every club maker has his own techniques. At Titleist, we try to provide variety-enough of a variety of lofts, bounce and sole conditions-because loft's another determining factor. For some courses-if you've got pot bunkers, you're going to need a little bit more loft."

Vokey clearly knows what he's doing. He's had the practice, the feedback, and the experience to get it right. And he's humble to boot. I'll definitely continue to use my 258.12 model, and look to Bob to provide advice on what other utility wedges might be helpful for my game.

He left me with one thought: "The perfect wedge doesn't exist. It's just not fair."

Well, with the accumulated scholarly learnings of the devoted sand wedge pupil, Bob Vokey's as close as they come to a real genius.

Titleist Vokey Design Wedges

200 Series; 300 Series; 400 Series. Varied Lofts and Bounces to suit playing conditions and styles of play.

Suggested Retail: $115 for Chrome; $125 for Raw Finish
Available at Fine Pro Shops and Golf Retail Stores

Website: http://www.titleist.com/htm/clubs/vokey_200.asp

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