Exclusive Podcast – Jeremy Stone – Titleist Golf

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The Marketing Director for Vokey Wedges at Titleist Golf, Mr. Jeremy Stone, joins us for episode #259 of the Worldwide Golf Shops Insider Podcast to talk about the latest wedges in the Vokey line.

In this episode, we discuss the all-new Vokey SM7 wedges, the technology behind the new SM7 wedges, the different grind options available including one new option, the importance of getting custom fit for your wedges and much more!

Take a listen to our podcast. You can do so by our Soundcloud link below, on our website or subscribe free on iTunes.

Tom Brassell: Welcome to the Worldwide Golf Shops Insider Podcast, episode 259. Hello everyone. Tom Brassell here. Thanks so much for joining us. If you’re a first-time listener, a longtime subscriber or maybe find yourself somewhere in the middle, doesn’t matter. Either way, we’re just glad that you joined us and especially glad that you joined us today. Our special guest is out in Southern California. He’s become a little bit of a regular on the show and he brings so much to it. We’re excited to have him today, from Titleist Golf, the Vokey Wedge Division, Mr. Jeremy Stone. Jeremy, thanks so much for joining us, man. It’s great to have you with us.

Jeremy Stone: It is fantastic to be back, ready to talk some wedges.

Tom Brassell: Before we do that, I want to say thanks on behalf of everybody at Worldwide Golf Shops for setting us up with Voke at the show. It was great. I tried to talk to you, but you were like, “No, no, no. We’re going to save this for later because we’ll have more to talk about later,” but hey, thanks for doing that. That was special.

Jeremy Stone: It’s our pleasure. I’m glad you got to spend some time with Voke. He was thrilled to do it and really enjoyed the conversation.

Tom Brassell: Well, let’s talk SM7. I have SM6 in my bag. I can’t imagine anything better than that, but obviously, you guys have done it. Share with us a little bit, Jeremy, about some of the technology packed into it, and also, some of what went into the design of the SM7s.

Jeremy Stone: For sure. Your sentiment is actually one that the R&D team and Voke’s whole crew shared. Gosh. How are we going to improve on SM6? I think whenever you have a product that is so successful, we reach new heights out on the PGA Tour in terms of a number of players and wedges being used on Tour. We reach new heights in golf shops like Worldwide Golf, because of the performance of SM6. I think this is really what makes Voke different in the category of wedges is, his north star is not, “How can I get better over SM6?” That’s not how he goes into the development cycle.

His north star is, “Okay, my objective is to help folks hit better wedge shots,” and his belief is, “If I can improve the wedges and give players more versatility, better distance and trajectory control, and more spin, I’ve made a better wedge,” and then, so that becomes his criteria. With SM7, he really addressed each of those. He developed new and improved grinds to give players the ability to be fit and have more versatility. We continued to push the boundaries where progressive center of gravity can be located, getting lower in the low lofts, higher in the high lofts to give better trajectory control and distance control.

And then we’ve made some changes to our grooves. We’re cutting our grooves now uniquely by finish to deliver maximum spin. And other than that, you know, that’s how he’s really gone about improving over SM6.

Tom Brassell: We see a lot of Tour players in some of the instructional videos on flighting your wedges down, with a width that improves CG and all. I’m sure that’s going to make that a lot easier for the average player to do as well, correct?

Jeremy Stone: That’s exactly right. So when you watch Tour players hit their wedge shots, there’s two things that they want to make sure are occurring. In the low lofts, they want to hit their number consistently whether it’s out of the fairway, the first cut or the rough, and by lowering the center of gravity in the low loft, 46 through 52 degrees, we create a better energy transfer. We basically increase ball speeds compared to prior generation wedges, and that allows for a more seamless transition from your set of irons into your wedges so that you’re hitting your number, and it’s a consistent number.

And then the second component, as you mentioned, is flighting the wedges. Most Tour players, when they hit a 60, they’re actually flighting it a lot lower than most of us would think. And by getting the CG higher in the club, that really allows the player to control the trajectory to hit that low, one hop and stop shot more easily. And so, as Voke would say, he’s crafting the wedges based on how the best players in the world want to see them work.

Tom Brassell: Jeremy, when we were at the show interviewing Voke, on the background behind us were two sentences. “Know your letter. Hit your number.” Talk about that.

Jeremy Stone: Yeah, you’re going to see hopefully a lot of that this year. Our goal is to continue to emphasize the importance of fitting, and I know, when we take a look at golfers out in the world, we see and we’re thrilled to see that a majority of golfers are starting to realize the importance of fitting. Most notably, we see about 50% of golfers having been fit for their driver. About 60% have been fit for irons, but only about 20% have been fit for their wedges. And to Bob, he looks at that and goes, “Boy, there’s just a world of opportunity out there for us, because of how often most golfers have to use their wedges.”

And so, our focus is around this concept, and this is really the heritage of the Vokey brand. He has always been designing these grinds based on how golfers swing their wedges. His view is, “I could fit every golfer based on their swing type and their course condition,” so we’d love for every golfer to figure out a way to know their letter in terms of the grind, and we believe that once every golfer figures out the right combination of lost, bounce and grind for their wedge set, they’re going to hit their number more often and they’re going to lower their scores.

Tom Brassell: You can’t guess on that. You really need to invest the time and do it, correct?

Jeremy Stone: Exactly, and I think there’s really three key steps to any great fitting. I think this is something that’s really important, as the world of irons continues to evolve, and you start looking at the world of pitching wedge loft in particular. The iron designers today are getting so good at creating distance at a playable trajectory. And by that, I mean, they’re strengthening the lofts, but I look at our AP3 for example, it has a 43-degree lofted pitching wedge, but it’s also still launching the ball incredibly high so that it stops on the green. But, that has ramifications for the rest of the wedge set, because no matter how far you hit that pitching wedge, from there to the hole, you still have to be able to cover all of those yardages.

So, in this world, it’s becoming more and more important to get gap fit for your wedges. And by gap fit, I would say, use 10 to 15 yards between each wedge as a benchmark. If you have a 43-degree pitching wedge and your historical wedge set started at a 52-degree gap wedge, nine degrees of loft separation for most golfers is going to turn into 20 to 30 yards of separation. That’s a big gap to be able to cover. I don’t know about everyone else, but those half shots are really tough for me to execute, and I know most folks dread over that little three-quarter touchy-feely wedge shot would rather have a stock swing. So that’s why gap fitting is just so critical.

Tom Brassell: Yeah, and Father Time has really changed the game in gap fitting. It used to be, as you mentioned, you had that 48-degree wedge in your bag. You threw a 52 in there and you were good to go. You had a 52, a 56, and your gaps were fine. Not so much anymore.

Jeremy Stone: Yeah, exactly, and so, we’re starting to see the evolution. One of the changes Voke made with the grinds in SM7 is he added bounce to the 46 and 48-degree wedges. He did it, one because the players out on Tour who used that as a pitching wedge replacement really preferred a little bit more bounce. It helped them flight their wedges. But two, we’re actually starting to see the 48-degree Vokey design wedge become a gap wedge, not a pitching wedge replacement because of the strength of pitching wedges. And so, adding a little bit of bounce eased the transition, for example, from a set of AP3 irons into the set of wedges.

You could go from that 43-degree pitching wedge right into the Vokey design 48 and have pretty seamless gaps and that extra balance really kind of normalizes that turf interaction.

Tom Brassell: How about getting fit indoors, Jeremy? Is there a minus to that, or can you get fit indoors, in an indoor facility, just as easily as outdoors?

Jeremy Stone: Yeah. So, we’ve been talking gap fitting, and that’s the first step of any fit, whether you’re indoors or outdoors, and this is the area where an indoor fitting is just every bit as good as an outdoor fitting gap fitting on a great facility with a launch monitor that can tell you, “Here’s your carry yardage,” identifying those 10-to-15 yard gaps is step one no matter where you are. And so, that’s definitely an opportunity for any golfer to go to any facility, to be properly gap fit. If everyone will go get gap fit, I think we’d all have better wedge shots.

And then the second component of an indoor fitting, it really does apply some pressure to the worldwide golf shop associates, to make sure they have the skill set to say, “Look, I’m watching this player hit shots. I recognize they’re either a little steep into the golf ball, a little shallow into the golf ball, and as a result, I need to favor a little less bounce or a little bit more bounce,” and that’s really where it’s important to find a fitter you trust and it’s really important to find a facility where you can go and constantly test. But, the only drawback is, we’d always love everyone to be able to hit a shot out of a bunker, but that’s not always the reality.

And so, it’s just a matter of making sure that we’re making the best of it, and this is where I give folks at the Worldwide Golf Shops a lot of credit. We’re actually next Thursday hosting some of the best fitters from all of the facilities around the US, out at the Titleist Performance Institute to provide in-depth training, and so, wedge fitting is a component of that, so that we know the best fitters at Worldwide Golf Shops understand what it takes to properly fit a wedge.

Tom Brassell: That’s good stuff, and it goes back to what Voke told me the first time I interviewed him. When I asked him about fitting, he said, “Ask yourself the question. Look in the mirror. Are you a digger or are you a slider?” And that’s a big difference right there between one of those two. Do you dig your divots or are you more of a slider?

Jeremy Stone: Yeah. That’s exactly right is I think we can self-assess. I think the key there is be honest. Look yourself in the mirror, and say, “Okay, do I take a pretty healthy divot? Or more importantly, let’s assess weaknesses in my game. Where do I struggle in my wedge play?” If you can walk in the door of any fitting and you can tell your fitter, “Gosh, you know what? I really struggle on that 50-yard shot. I really either catch it thin or catch it heavy or I really struggle out of the bunker. I can’t get the ball out of the sand.”

When you can identify the areas that you want to improve for your fitter, that’s critical information to help the fitter put you into the right grind, because any great fitting is going to allow you to hit your go-to shot, but it’s also going to help solve some of those weaknesses. And boy, when you solve some of those weaknesses, you might save a shot or two around. That’s a big deal.

Tom Brassell: Yeah, it sure is. Jeremy Stone, thanks so much for joining us again. I’ve got the SM6s. I don’t know how you did it, but I’m looking forward to it. The release date is just around the corner, correct? Launch date.

Jeremy Stone: Yeah. You know what? Folks can go into golf shops right now and demo and be fit for new SM7 wedges as we speak, and then on March 9th, wedges will arrive. So if the pre-sale goes in the system, now, you’ll get your wedges no later than March 9th. And then March 9th is the opportunity to walk into any golf shop, have a look at all the finishes, have a look at all the lofts, bounces and grinds, but I’d encourage everyone whether it’s now, with fitting tools, or March 9th when they’re in shops, take the time to get fit. It’s where you’re going to really see improvement in your game.

And Tom, I’d like our chances of getting some wedges in your bag, and I think you’re going to really see the benefits of SM7.

Tom Brassell: Oh looking forward to it, as I do this conversation all the time, Jeremy. Hey, thanks so much for taking the time, and thanks so much for all the time you’ve taken with us over the years. It’s always great catching up with you.

Jeremy Stone: It’s our pleasure. Thanks for doing what you do, and by all means, let us know how we can continue to help find folks to the right wedges.

Tom Brassell: Awesome. Thank You, Jeremy.

Jeremy Stone: All right.

Tom Brassell: Well the feedback from testing has been off the charts. It’s right around the corner of the all-new Vokey SM7 wedges. As Jeremy Stone so brilliantly said, make sure to go get fit, go to one of your worldwide golf shops locations and be sure to get fit for these new wedges. You don’t want to pull them out and hit them. You’re going to be doing yourself a disservice. You want to know your letter in order to hit your number, and you will with these fantastic new wedges, from Titleist. Well, special thanks again to Jeremy stone for joining us, and to you, our listeners, and we’ll do it again next time when we have another episode of the Insider Podcast here at WorldwideGolfShops.com. So long everyone.

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