Pitching wedges are no longer always just an immediate extension of your chosen iron set. More manufacturers are now offering irons to be selected per club, which gives golfers the ability to choose a specialist pitching wedge instead. Additionally, most leading manufacturers now offer specialist wedges up to 46-degrees, which is a standard pitching wedge loft.
Why would you want to do this? Well, more on that in the buyer’s guide below. But, the simple answer is that you will get better grooves and more greenside versatility with a specialist pitching wedge. However, there are also negatives to be considered and it will depend on your personal preference as to which you should choose.
In this article we take a look at the best specialist pitching wedges to buy if you decide you want to replace your iron set model as well as discussing which might suit your game best.
Table of Contents
- 1. Callaway Mack Daddy CB
- 2. Titleist Vokey SM8
- 3. Cleveland CBX2
- 4. PING Glide 3.0
- 5. Cleveland RTX ZipCore
- 6. Callaway MD5 JAWS
- What is a specialist wedge?
- Specialist pitching wedge pros & cons
- What pitching wedge will suit my game better?
- Does a specialist pitching wedge have to be the same as my other specialist wedges?
- Terms to look out for when choosing a specialist wedge
- Loft Gapping
1. Callaway Mack Daddy CB
Spin Control: 90 | Forgiveness: 95 | Versatility: 80 | Style: 80
Best for golfers that use game improvement irons
An ideal wedge for golfers that want additional forgiveness from a model that has been a Tour favourite for a number of years. Mack Daddy CB benefits from Callaway’s JAWS groove technology for impressive spin control, but in a larger and more forgiving profile. The Mack Daddy CB has a deep cavity as well as a thicker topline and bigger clubface, which should inspire more confidence from golfers that play cavity back and game improvement style irons.
Callaway have simplified the bounce and sole grind options by just giving the optimal choices based on the loft of the wedge. The 46 and 48 degree options both have 10 degrees of bounce and the full sole grind. The full sole is noticeably wider, which greatly improves turf interaction and can help golfers that struggle with making a heavy contact.
Although it does remove some of the versatility. Higher lofted wedges also come with full face grooves and more bounce, which are perfect for tricky lies and slightly mishit strikes. Mack Daddy CB is a great option for mid-to-high handicappers to use for all their specialty wedges or for any golfers wanting a specialist pitching wedge that transitions into their higher lofted bladed specialist wedges.
2. Titleist Vokey SM8
Spin Control: 100 | Forgiveness: 80 | Versatility: 100 | Style: 100
Best for low handicappers
One of the most played wedges on Tour for several years, Vokey wedges have long been considered the benchmarks for most other wedges. The SM8 wedges certainly maintain the Vokey standard and will be another favourite among low handicappers and elite golfers. As technology in many areas advances one element of the Vokey wedges remains constant, their Spin Milled grooves. They provide tried and tested performance that offers exceptional spin control and feel.
One new element of technology in the SM8 wedges is the use of high density tungsten, which is designed to push the CG forward from the clubface. The idea is to provide a more forgiving strike and improve stability when striking the ball. The SM8 do offer more forgiveness than some previous Vokey models, but they definitely still target the low handicap golfers.
There are over twenty different combinations of loft and bounce, to go along with six different sole grinds and three different finishes. It is easy to get lost in all the choices, but there is immense versatility here and you can explore all the different options to find what suits your game best. The pitching wedge, 46 and 48-degree, come in the F sole grind for a traditional pitching wedge feel on full shots.
3. Cleveland CBX2
Spin Control: 85 | Forgiveness: 95 | Versatility: 85 | Style: 85
Best value for money
Cleveland’s CBX2 is a cavity back wedge with a gelback insert and a Hollow-Cavity design, similar to what you expect to see in modern game improvement iron. This provides excellent forgiveness, but also good distance and feel on longer approach shots. These qualities make the CBX2 another specialist wedge that perfectly bridges the gap from cavity back irons when you are looking to replace your iron set wedge.
The CBX2 features Cleveland’s fourth generation of Rotex Face featuring a triple groove design. Tour Zip grooves, laser milled grooves and Rotex milled grooves all lay one on top of each other to promote maximum spin. CBX2 wedges come with Dynamic Sole, so that the optimal sole grind and bounce is chosen based upon the loft. The pitching wedge lofts feature a V-shaped sole, designed to cut through the turf on full shots. You can choose from standard Tour Satin or anti-glare Black Satin finishes.
4. PING Glide 3.0
Spin Control: 90 | Forgiveness: 90 | Versatility: 90 | Style: 90
PING’s cavity back Glide wedges are renowned for their forgiving qualities, but provide enough versatility and playabilibilty for most golfers. The Glide 3.0 has many of the same features from the previous model, with slight improvements to upgrade the performance. The elastomer Custom Tuning Port insert that was also used on the Glide 2.0 model has been carried over, but this time made larger and softer to improve the feel and offer more forgiveness. Perimeter weighting has also been expanded, which is designed to produce a lower-launching, high spin trajectory more associated with bladed wedges. The grooves have also been upgraded, with a sharper edge radius to increase increaction with the ball at impact and impart more spin.
Despite being a cavity back wedge, the Glide 3.0 has an appealing captured look at address which ensures it does not look bulky. The pitching wedge lofts come in the Standard Sole grind, however if you want a complete set there are four sole grinds available. Higher lofts come with an additional half groove for enhanced spin as well. You do not have a choice of finishes, but the Glide 3.0 does come with a Hydropearl 2.0 Chrome finish to wick away water and help the club glide through grass. Overall, I think the Glide 3.0 makes a perfect complete set for mid handicappers and there is no reason why that should not include the pitching wedge.
5. Cleveland RTX ZipCore
Spin Control: 95 | Forgiveness: 85 | Versatility: 100 | Style: 100
Best overall specialist pitching wedge
The second Cleveland wedge on this list, the RTX ZipCore is a bladed wedge aimed more towards the lower handicappers than the CBX2 model reviewed earlier. New ZipCore material creates a lightweight core and has allowed the CG to be repositioned so that more weight is directly behind the sweet spot. This technology, combined with a slighter more rounded leading edge actually makes the ZipCore surprisingly forgiving for a bladed wedge.
New UltiZip grooves have been added to the RTX ZipCore, which Cleveland claim are their sharpest and deepest ever and they have also packed the face with two extra grooves. These grooves ensure that you will be able to produce great spin rates as well as offer more consistent control from poor lies. The RTX ZipCore wedges come in three different sole grinds, which offer good versatility. The Full Sole is going to be the most suitable for a specialist pitching wedge, because it offers more stability on full shots. You also have three finishes to pick between, Tour Satin, Black Satin or Tour Rack (raw). Overall, the Cleveland RTZ ZipCore is my pick for the best specialist pitching wedge. It offers great distance consistency on full shots, excellent spin control and has the versatility for your short game.
6. Callaway MD5 JAWS
Spin Control: 100 | Forgiveness: 85 | Versatility: 95 | Style: 100
Best for maximum spin
Callaway’s Mack Daddy (MD) range of wedges have been considered as some of the most aggressive spinning wedges for many years now. The newest model, MD5 JAWS, is a wedge that definitely lives up to that hype again. The new JAWS grooves retain the groove-in-groove design from the previous MD4 model, but have been sharper for more spin. New microfeatures have also been added to further enhance spin control. These wedges are not just all about spin, made using mild carbon steel the MD5 JAWS has an excellent soft feel when striking the ball as well.
Natural head progression throughout the lofts ensures the MD5 JAWS would make an excellent complete set from pitching to lob wedge. Similarly to the Titleist SM8 earlier in this review, there are over 20 different loft and bounce combinations with five different sole grind choices as well. The medium width S-Grind sole is the only one available in pitching wedge lofts, but you have plenty of versatility throughout the rest of the range. There are also two different finishes to pick between, Platinum Chrome and Tour Grey.
What is a specialist wedge?
A specialist wedge simply refers to any wedge, usually with degrees from 46-64, that is made outside of a standard iron set. Every golfer will probably have at least one or two of these wedges in their bag already.
Iron sets will often come down to a pitching wedge or gap wedge as standard. Meaning most golfers carry a specialist sand wedge and/or lob wedge. For example, a Titleist Vokey or Callaway Mack Daddy.
The main difference of a specialist wedge is the way that the grooves and clubface are designed. Specialist wedges will usually have grooves machine cut into the face so they are tighter and more precise sharpness for maximizing spin. They will also have CNC milled grooves and sometimes faces to create microgrooves for a rougher surface and further enhance the spin.
Specialist pitching wedge pros & cons
The benefits of a specialist designed wedge lie in its versatility for use around the greens. Built for improved spin, you will have greater control over shorter shots. Specific sole grind and higher toe designs are also made for better turf interaction, meaning you will be able manipulate the clubface to play a wider variety of shots.
Lower handicappers and bigger hitting golfers may not want to use a set wedge, because you will commonly get more ‘jumpers’ or ‘fliers’ where the ball comes off the face with more ball speed than intended. A specialist pitching wedge will reduce these shots.
The downside is that you will be making some sacrifices when playing full shots. Set wedges will have a deeper centre of gravity to launch the ball higher and will offer more distance and forgiveness than a specialist wedge.
What pitching wedge will suit my game better?
This depends on the primary use of your pitching wedge and what type of golfer you are.
If you are going to be hitting almost completely full shots with your pitching wedge then the benefits of a set wedge are likely to outweigh the specialist wedge. Keeping the consistency from the rest of your irons as well as the improved forgiveness are both important factors.
Golfers that like to use their pitching wedge on shorter approach shots, out of bunkers and around the greens will benefit from the improved grooves of a specialist wedge. You might be sacrificing a little bit of distance and forgiveness on full shots, but the versatility you get with a specialist wedge will be more appealing.
It is worth also noting that lower handicap golfers are more likely to benefit from a specialist wedge than higher handicappers. Certain features, for example the a lower ‘spinny’ trajectory you can achieve on approach shots, are unlikely to be that useful to a higher handicapper.
Does a specialist pitching wedge have to be the same as my other specialist wedges?
Not necessarily, no. There certainly are benefits to getting the same model of wedge, however there are also reasons why you would want to consider other options.
Buying the same speciality wedge as your current ones allows for consistency in performance. Each manufacturer will use technology and designs slightly different from one another, meaning they are likely to perform slightly differently as well. Even between models of the same manufacturer some wedges will travel further or spin less than others. Therefore, if there is not a specific performance-related reason why you want to deviate, then you will benefit from keeping your specialist wedges consistent across the different lofts.
Golfers using cavity back irons may find that a bladed specialist pitching wedge will not offer enough forgiveness on full shots. Therefore, an alternative option is to choose a cavity back specialist wedge. This will provide a smoother transition if you currently have higher lofted bladed specialist wedges, whilst still getting the benefits of sharper grooves and more spin control.
Terms to look out for when choosing a specialist wedge
There are two terms I have already mentioned quite a lot in this article to look out for; bounce and sole grind. Some club manufacturers will simply select these characteristics for you based on what their research suggests is optimal for each loft. However, other manufacturers offer more versatility and it is important to know what you should be looking out for.
Bounce refers to the number of degrees that the leading edge sits off the ground when the club is grounded in a neutral position. Bounce can go from anywhere from 2 to 18 degrees in extreme circumstances, but it is most common to see it range between 4 to 14 degrees.
Lower bounce wedges are ideal for tight lies and suit players that like to pick the ball off the surface without much of a divot. High bounce wedges offer the opposite, suiting softer lies and golfers that have a steep chipping action. Mid bounce wedges find themselves halfway between the two. Certain bounces will suit different players and conditions and having wedges each with different bounces can be useful.
Sole grind refers to the style of the sole at the base of the club head. The sole will commonly have material removed or worn away to impact how the club interacts with the turf. Different styles of sole grind will suit different shot types and playing styles.
Many manufacturers are now offering different sole grind options with their wedges, each with unique characteristics. However, a lot of the specialist pitch wedges will come with a set sole grind designated as the most suitable. This is typically a more traditional sole grind, because it provides the most stability when when playing full shots.
One of the biggest challenges when selecting your wedges is getting the loft gapping correct.
As technology has developed in irons, their lofts have become stronger. It is particularly common in the most popular player’s distance irons. Callaway Apex DCB irons for example, now have a pitching wedge that has a loft of 43-degrees. This allows golfers to hit the ball further, however presents a challenge for gapping the rest of your wedges.
In order to decide what loft of wedges you should purchase, you first need to find out the loft of your pitching wedge. This should be easy enough to find out on the manufacturers website, or if it is an older model you can contact the manufacturer. Then you need to decide how many wedges you want to carry.
Ideally you should aim for no more than six degrees of loft between each of your wedges, however you must take into account the yardage differences of each club and their primary use. If you are going to buy a specialist pitching wedge, you should also consider the yardage gap to your set 9 iron. If you have strong lofted irons, you may need to consider delofting your specialist pitching wedge from 46 to 44-degrees.
Specialist pitching wedges are a great option with plenty of benefits. However, they will not suit everyone. You need to consider what set-up will work best for both your game and your golf clubs.
If you are the type of golfer that enjoys manipulating their wedges and uses their pitching wedge when hitting pitch and chip shots, then it is worth considering the specialist option.
On the other hand, if you are a golfer that prioritises distance and forgiveness then a specialist wedge is likely not for you. In fact, it might even be worth considering a set gap-wedge as well.
Still not sure? Well, as with any golf club purchase you have two useful options. First, it is always best to try it out on the golf course. So, see if you can get a demo specialist pitching wedge or buy a second-hand one cheap, to test out whether it suits your game. Second, have a custom-fit session. Many of the leading manufacturers such as Titleist and Cleveland will offer specialist wedge fittings to ensure you are getting the best options for your game.