Titleist’s Jeremy Stone on Wedge Groove Wear – Podcast #230

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Vokey Spin Wear Black 5x7

Titleist recently conducted a study on the effects of wear on wedge grooves and the results are pretty incredible.

Jordan Spieth changes his 60 degree Vokey wedge every couple of tournaments (photo Titleist)
Jordan Spieth changes his 60 degree Vokey wedge every couple of tournaments (photo Titleist)

Everyone knows that real good player that has the wear spot on his wedges the size of a dime or a nickel.  Well, according to Bob Vokey and his team’s results, that player isn’t doing himself a favor if he continues to use that wedge in play, that is if he wants the ball to stop on the green.

After 75 rounds of play a golfer may be losing as much as 1,000 rpm of spin, resulting in almost double the roll out

Simply put, over time and use wear on the wedges directly relates to the ability of the ball to spin (and stop on the green).  Hence, the reason Jordan Spieth says that he changes his wedges every couple of months and his “go to” wedge (60 degree) every few tournaments.

national-3In 2016 Vokey & his team introduced SM6 wedges, featuring Progressive Center of Gravity, enhanced grinds, and 100% Inspected TX4 Grooves. In addition to these innovations, the Vokey Team also takes an extra step in the manufacturing process. The team applies a proprietary, localized face heat treatment, which doubles the durability of the grooves, without any discernible change in the feel of the wedges. This extra step produces best in class groove durability.

Jeremy Stone of the Vokey Wedge division of Titleist joined us recently in our GolfBetter Podcast to discuss this in detail.  Take a listen to the interview in our Soundcloud link below, on our website or subscribe to the free GolfBetter Podcast on iTunes.  You may find that it might be time to change out those wedges in your bag.

Tom Brassell: Welcome to Golf Better at Worldwide Golf Shops, episode 230. Hello, everyone. Tom Brassell here. Thank you so much for joining us, whether this is your first ride or you’re a frequent flyer here on the Starship Golf Better. Either way, we are glad you joined us.  Our guest today has become somewhat a regular on the show. He is part of the wedge division out at Titleist Golf. He joined us a couple times last year. Back again this year, Mr. Jeremy Stone.   Jeremy, thanks so much for joining us. Great to have you.

Jeremy Stone: Yeah, absolutely, Tom. Great to be here.

Tom Brassell:  You guys do so much research when it goes into building clubs at Titleist and you guys, specifically, in the wedge division. You recently did a lot of research of the effects of time and wear on your wedges. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jeremy Stone: I’d be happy to. We spend a lot of time figuring out how to make the best clubs for golfers who are serious about their game. Golfers who are looking to play their best.   Whether that means you’re trying to break 100 for the first time, 90 for the first time, 80 for the first time or you’re looking to break par every time out, our commitment to you is that we’re going to do the research to make sure that you are at least armed with information and can make an educated choice about your clubs.

In the wedge category, there are so many things going on in wedges these days, whether it’s progressive center of gravity in SM6 wedges or Bob’s grinds that allow players to be fit. One area that we spend a lot of time in over the last, call it, 9 months is what happens to a wedge after a player has been using it for a period of time. Really, what we tried to do is quantify it, not by the calendar, but by the number of rounds played, because everyone’s calendar year is not the same. There’s some golfers who are fortunate to play 100 rounds of golf in a year. Some of us only get to play maybe 20 or 25 times per year. The wedges, and the grooves on those wedges, are going to wear down based on the rate of play.We found some really interesting data that … We would encourage all golfers …. Around 75 rounds of play, it’s really time to start thinking about testing your grooves.

Really, all we’re trying to do is encourage golfers to find a location where they can test their grooves so they at least know what they’re performance looks like, based on their grooves and the groove where they’re experiencing.

Tom Brassell:  Correct me if this statement is wrong. It used to be such a badge of honor to have that little dime spot on your wedge, where you hit it over and over again. You’d put your chest out and say, “Look at this. Boy, I’m all over it.” This really does affect your rollout and the ability to stop the ball on the greens, right?

Jeremy Stone:   No question. I gotta tell you, sometimes I wish I had that badge of honor on my wedges. It’s a little more scattered these days.  You’re right. When we see a better player’s wedge or irons that have that nice dime sized, or nickel sized, mark, where it’s just like, “Gosh, that guy makes impact in the same place every time.” One, look out because that player’s going to be pretty darn consistent. Two, what that means is, because you’re hitting it in the same spot of the same face and the same grooves every time, you’re wearing out those grooves in the same spot.  For a lot of times, in order to have earned that badge of honor, those golfers are putting in some serious practice time, as well. Practice time weighs into this. The types of shots you’re hitting. By that I mean, bunker shots, where you are truly sand blasting your wedge, those bunker shots are going to wear out the grooves more quickly than, for example, a gap wedge that might only be hit … You know, “Hey, that’s my 115 club. I’m only hitting it out of the fairway and the rough.”

Not all wedges wear out at the same rate, either. There’s some complexity here that we tried to simplify down to, “Hey, around 75 rounds of play, start thinking about testing your grooves.” If you’re out 100 plus, 125 plus, we really have some information to share with you that I think most golfers would like to see some better performance out of their wedges.

Tom Brassell: Yeah, just looking at some of the data you guys have. With fresh grooves, you’re looking at maybe a 10 foot roll out with a normal shot. You’re talking 125 rounds, where that face is worn down, you’re up to somewhere near 25 feet. Is that right?

Jeremy Stone:  Yeah. Let’s take step back and look at how we went about doing this research. One of the things we wanted to identify is, what do real golfers’ wedges look like?We went out and collected wedges from a bunch of golfers that are serious players, avid golfers. There were some that are double digit handicap, some single digit handicaps. What we did is, we collected their wedges and we asked them, “How many rounds have you played? Could you quantify the number of rounds you’ve played?”

We also asked them about their practice habits. On average, we find that an avid golfer, they might be practicing once a week and playing golf once a week. That was a good starting point for us. We then did a face map of their wedges. We looked at exactly what the angles of their grooves are, the depths of the grooves, all the different things that change how a groove spins the golf ball.

Then, once we understood what this looked like, at various states of play … We actually measured fresh grooves, about 50 rounds of play, 75, 100, 125. Ultimately, we ended up sharing 75 and 125 rounds. Once we knew what worn grooves looked like, we then went about recreating that exact wear patter on SM6 wedges, that way all of our testing was done with identical wedges. The testing I’m about to tell you about was done with a 56 degree F grind with a tour chrome finish and an S200 wedge shaft. We went back East to our test facility, the Manchester Lane Test Facility, in Massachusetts, where they’ve actually built a wedge robot. Our golf ball team is so committed to short game performance, that they felt like traditional swing robots weren’t doing enough to evaluate short game shots. They built a wedge robot.

We’re fortunate … We, on the Vokey team, we get to partner with them on a lot of research. We went back East. We took all these worn grooves, that we’d recreated with SM6 wedges, and we started hitting them. We wanted to learn what would happen. Everything we did, all the data that you can see on vokey.com, all the data we’re going to talk about today, I’m going to focus on a 56 degree wedge with fresh grooves, 75 rounds of play and 125 rounds of play.

We were hitting about a 60 yard golf shot. Partial shots can be where groove wear really starts to show up. It will show up in full swing shots, but certainly, when you’re in those partial, precision shots, you’re going to notice this the most. On that 60 yard shot, what we noticed was that a fresh set of grooves, brand new grooves, you get that nice drop and stop that everyone’s looking for. Golf ball hits once, takes a hop forward and stops on a dime. When you get out to 75 rounds of play, your launch angle starts to increase a little bit because the golf ball’s rolling up the face. The grooves aren’t grabbing it effectively. Launch goes up, spin is coming down and when that golf ball lands on the green, it’s releasing a little bit. Instead of that nice drop and stop, at 75 rounds of play, in the conditions we were testing, we saw the golf ball roll out about 18 feet, instead of 10.  When we transitioned to the 125 rounds of play wedge, now that golf ball not only hit … It didn’t one hop and stop. It was one hop, another hop and a little bit of roll out, out to 24 feet.This was all done on a robot. This was all done with pretty robust testing, where we were doing these … These are all averages we’re talking about. When you think about that, in golfer terms … Let’s think about that go to wedge. That wedge that has that nice nickel sized spot, dime sized spot, on it. That’s the one you’re probably laying up to on a Par 5, right? That’s that precision shot you know you can get close.

If you lay up to your favorite number with that go to wedge, that might be a little more worn than the others, and you see a front pin, the difference between 10 feet and 24 feet is a good look at Birdie versus, “Man, I now hope I’m two putting for par here.” It’s a very real scoring difference for golfers.

Tom Brassell:  You’re doing this testing with the same texture, the same green. If you’re going from course to course and you play greens that are a little more hard, your roll out could be even more, correct?

Jeremy Stone: That’s exactly right. One of the benefits of Manchester Lane Test Facility is those folks, they decided they were going to build 100 yard long green for all roll out and short game testing. It’s perfectly flat. They’re ideal conditions for doing this time of testing because there’s no slope, there’s no undulation. You can basically minimize the amount of variables that can influence your testing.  It was relatively firm. It was last September that we ran this testing, so end of Summer. You’re right. If you get on to firm, fast greens, similar to what our tour players talk about, the roll out could be even more.  Really, all of this was grounded in what Voke sees out on tour, week after week. As soon as tour players start seeing the launch go up, what they say it, “When I hit a wedge and it’s not in my window, it’s higher than I expect, that’s when I know I need to go see Aaron Dill or Bob and get a fresh set of wedges. I know they’re not going to perform on the greens the way I need them to.”

Tom Brassell:  The wedge used to be a real, it still is, a prize possession of a golfer. First of all, there only used to be one of them, right? The sand wedge. Back in the day, it was like a prize putter.  I remember Gary Player saying, “If it’s between my putter and my wife, I’d tell my wife I’m going to miss her.” It’s kind of the same thing with the wedge. Nowadays, like you said, you’ve taken this to the tour.  I’ve read where the tour players, they’re not hesitant to change these things out. Jordan will change out his 60, what? About every couple tournaments?

Jeremy Stone:  Yeah. Jordan, he’ll tend to change out that lob wedge probably a half dozen times a year. I think there’s a couple things we can learn from tour players.  The first is, you’re exactly right. They won’t necessarily be afraid to get fresh grooves because they recognize the performance opportunity of fresh grooves. I also think it’s important to realize that those guys, they don’t come in looking for different options every time. Once that player’s been fit into the right loft, the right bounce or the right grind, they come in to Aaron Dill and they say, “Hey, Aaron, I need a new set of wedges. I need a new 60.” Jordan comes in. He goes, “I need a new 60-04 L Grind.” He’s not messing around with the loft, bounce or grind, he’s just getting an exact replica. That’s why the consistency and quality of the wedge is so critical.

That’s why we, for example, 100% inspect every groove on every head, so that you know if you come back, you’re getting the exact same wedge that you love. That old reliable. The sole and the turf interaction’s going to be the same. You’re just going to get all the benefits of fresh grooves. The other thing we can learn from tour players is, they don’t replace all their wedges at once. It’s not a wholesale change. A guy like Jordan really represents part of the average. He might replace his lobber more than average.

What Bob tells us about wedge replacement is, on average, a tour player follows the four, three, two, one rule. He’ll replace his lob wedge four times per year, their sand wedge three times per year, the gap wedge twice per year and, if they play a Vokey designed pitching wedge or the set pitching wedge, they might replace that one only once per year.That’s an indicator to us that not all wedges wear out at the same rate. It’s really important to understand, how do I use my wedges? Which one’s the one I warm up with? Which one’s my go to wedge or my bunker club? Those are the clubs that are going to wear out more quickly.

When folks see this research, it’s really important to recognize the message here is not, “Go out and get four new wedges.” The message here is, “It’s important to play your best, to understand how your wedges perform. Make sure you have a trusted advisor, someone you can go to.” Whether you’re going into a Worldwide Golf Shop on their launch monitor, test the spin so that you understand what’s going to happen. You may find that, “Hey, my go to 60, I need to look at a new wedge there, but the 56 and 52 are in great shape.”

Tom Brassell: You mentioned that the test results … You can find a lot of this on The Leading Edge blog at blog.worldwidegolfshops.com. Also, on Titleist’s site. That as well, correct?

Jeremy Stone: Yeah. What we went ahead and did is, we shared a majority of this research on vokey.com. If you go on to vokey.com, you’ll see an opportunity to learn about groove wear and spin performance. If you go to vokey.com/spin-performance, you’ll see all of our research and all of the impacts on what exactly happens. We also have a half dozen tour players talking about when they replace their wedges. Why they replace their wedges. We’ve got guys like Jordan Spieth, and Jimmy Walker, and Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, all talking about, “Here’s what I look for in my wedges. Here’s where I think about replacing them.”

I love Adam Scott’s story. He says, “There’s no coincidence that there are four Majors per year and I replace my wedges about four times per year. I know that in the most demanding tournaments of the year, I need peak performance.” There’s a lot of great content there. I know that on your blog, the Leading Edge blog, we’re going to share some of that date with you guys, as well. There’s a lot of great places to learn about what happens when a groove wears out.  We think there are a lot of golfers that are really fascinated and interested in how their wedges are going to perform.

Tom Brassell: Well, Jeremy, this is very, very interesting stuff. A lot to digest. Certainly, like you said, first of all, go to the eye test to your clubs, but then also, go and get on the launch monitor and check your spin rate.

Jeremy Stone:  Certainly. We look at three key indicators here. The best way to do it is, find a location with a launch monitor. The reality is, this may not have been as easy five years ago, but the prevalence of launch monitors these days, in both off course shops and on course, green grass shops, they’re kind of everywhere. They’re pretty easy to find. That’s the best way to measure your spin rate, because the launch monitor will tell you.

The three indicators that you can look for on the golf course are launch. Is your club launching a little higher than you expected? Are you no longer to hit that low one hop and stop shot? That’s an indicator. Higher launch is one indicator of worn grooves. Golf balls rolling out more, just like we talked about in our testing, that’s the second indicator. The third indicator is, because the golf ball’s rolling up the face and launching higher, it actually doesn’t have the same carry yardage. That’s a result of loft. We’re used to drivers, saying, “Oh, low spin is going to give me more distance.” That’s because there’s not a lot of loft on a driver.

When you get into higher lofted clubs, less spin actually results in less carry, because the golf ball goes up more than it goes forward. Now, all of a sudden, if your stock 100 yard shot is only going 95, and you felt like you nipped it pretty good, that could be a result of worn grooves and that golf ball’s launching not at the optimal launch and spin that you need for that carry yardage. There’s a couple things you’ll notice on the golf course that are good indicators, as well.

Tom Brassell:  Jeremy, you gave us a lot to think about. Hey, thanks so much for joining us. It’s great to catch up with you guys, as always. You’re doing great things out there. You and Voke and your team.  Thanks so much for joining us. Let’s hook up again soon.

Jeremy Stone: Tom, thanks so much. Always a pleasure to be here.

Tom Brassell:  Boy, that’s good stuff again from Jeremy Stone at Titleist. The three things you can notice, other than the eye test, with wear, is checking out your launch, checking the roll out and then your carry yardage, if that’s suffering as well. It might be time to take a look at it.  Again, check out the Leading Edge blog here and also vokey.com. It may be time to replace those wedges.

Thanks, as always, to Jeremy Stone, one of our regulars here on Golf Better and to you our listeners. We’ll do it again next time when we have another episode of Golf Better at worldwidegolfshops.com.

 

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