Cleveland Smart Sole Wedges
A club specifically designed to help mid- and high-handicap golfers hit better chip shots or effective runners around the green is nothing new. Neither is a high-lofted club with a super-enlarged sole to make escaping greenside bunkers easier. However, Cleveland thinks that with the release of the new Smart Sole C and Smart Sole S, which will go on sale Nov. 15 for $99 with a steel shaft and $119 with a graphite, it can help eliminate indecision and make getting the ball close to the hole much less stressful.
The Cleveland Smart Sole C wedge comes with 42 degrees of loft, which is the equivalent of a 9-iron, but its expansive sole width reduces the likelihood of a fat chip shot or digging the club into the turf.
"It's been a few years since we came out with a super game-improvement wedge like this," said Pat Ripp, a research and business solutions engineer at Cleveland Golf. "The interesting thing about it is that we only wanted to have it made in one loft to simply the bag for the high-handicap player."
Ripp noted that the club is reminiscent of Cleveland's Niblick Scoring Club, a wide-soled, low-profile wedge released in 2009 and also about 8 degrees of bounce. However, because the Smart Sole C has such a wide sole, it plays like a wedge with much more bounce. In addition, the new Smart Sole C wedge is only 34 inches long.
"A lot of better players choke down on the club when they're hitting a chip shot to get closer to the ball," Ripp said. "So instead of telling a high-handicap player what they need to do to hit a proper chip, we've built it into the club so they don't have to think as much around the green."
To set the Smart Sole C's sole flush onto the turf, golfers also naturally will put the ball farther back in their stance, which is another necessary technique for hitting consistent chip shots.
Cleveland's Smart Sole S wedge, which is made only in a 58-degree version, looks like a typical sand wedge at address. Though it has a bounce angle of only about 6 degrees, its ultra-wide sole provides off-the-charts effective bounce.
"The effective bounce of this wedge is the highest of any wedge that we make," Ripp said.
Cleveland designers knew that good bunkers open a sand wedge's clubface on the backswing, maintain that open clubface through the downswing and keep the wedge's bottom flange (the bounce) working through the sand. They weren't surprised to see in studies that poor bunker players don't do those things, so Cleveland tried to design the Smart Sole S to compensate. Golfers don't need to twist the face open at address or think about using different techniques; the Smart Sole S was designed to turn a pitching swing into an effective bunker swing.
"We did a lot of turf-interaction analysis and simulations of different bounce angles on this club," Ripp said. "We really tried to dial in the sole width and the bounce angle, and also looked at the camber (the sole's curvature), and tied all three of those things together. We found that it's just great for getting high-handicap players out of bunkers."
According to Ripp, during a recent test of the Smart Sole S, none of the 25 testers in a Cleveland Golf study left a bunker shot in the sand.
"We think that it's really important to have products that target different types on consumers," said Jeff Brunski, the director of research and development for Cleveland Golf. "We have muscleback wedges, we have cavity-back wedges, and for the players who just want to simplify the short game and make it easy, these products fill that target segment. Fundamentally, players with a 15 handicap or higher are well served by playing more-forgiving wedges, and these wedges are as forgiving as they get."