I still vividly remember back about 14 years ago when I finally decided to get serious about my golf game. That meant getting more serious about my golf equipment as well. It was time to look into getting some decent wedges and not just the PW that comes with whatever set I had at the time. I can still picture the conversation I was having with the salesman at my local golf retail store, “when it comes to good wedges there are only two options for you, Vokey or Cleveland.” As crazy as that statement sounds right now, it was actually true as recent as maybe a handful of years or so ago. Things are much different now as several companies have decided to get into the wedge market. This is great for golfers everywhere because we all get to enjoy the benefits.
Bridgestone Golf is one of those companies; the undisputed king of ball fittings has a lot more to offer for those of us needing more than just a great golf ball that fits our game. In 2011 Bridgestone Golf has launched their new J40 line of equipment. The J40 line includes drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, two iron options and of course wedges. The J40 wedges are available in two finishes, Black Oxide and Satin Chrome, which is what Bridgestone sent over for us to test.
Looks and Feel
The very first comment out of my mouth on the THP Forum when these wedges arrived for my testing was “gorgeous”. The simple and understated look of the J40 wedge immediately grabs your attention and makes you realize that you must hit this wedge. Personally, I am a big fan of the clean and simple look and Bridgestone has nailed it with this wedge. The design is just a “B” etched into the back of the wedge, no loud colors or distracting designs, just a great classic looking club. Beyond the smooth lines and subtle design the shape of the wedge really works great as well. It’s a nice classic shape that Bridgestone Golf came up with in conjunction with their tour staff. I like that they opted for a traditional shape wedge and didn’t try to overdo it with something dramatically different like we’ve seen from other companies trying to get into the wedge market. Immediately after unboxing these wedges I said if it was a beauty contest for wedges Bridgestone Golf would win with the J40 wedge.
The feel of the J40 wedge to me is every bit as great as the looks are. Made from soft 8620 mild carbon steel these wedges return a very addicting little “click” of a sound and a phenomenal feel to go right along with it. I’ve used wedges that feel great on short chip and pitch shots but when you need to take a full swing that feel becomes quite harsh, that is definitely not the case here. The feel you get from a short shot is that same great feel you get from taking full swings with them as well.
Technology and Performance
Obviously this is not just a beauty pageant here, if the J40 wedge is going to score high marks in a review then there has to be some technology packed into this pretty package. In order to compete with the big dogs on the block in a market they have dominated in the past Bridgestone Golf had to really bring it with the technology and performance of this wedge. First of all yes the grooves are conforming U-Grooves. I can hear the guys in my Men’s Club now… “oh man, I need non-conforming grooves, I can’t spin those.” The fact is yes the grooves are conforming but Bridgestone has incorporated a lot more technology to counteract the less spinning grooves. The face is machine milled for increased surface roughness to help add spin. Looking at the face from arm’s length you might not even notice this, but get up close and you’ll see and feel exactly what they’ve done here. Another thing we’ve got here to help with that spin is a stock offering of True Temper DG Spinner shafts. For anyone who has had a chance to use the DG Spinner shaft you’ll know that conforming grooves or not your wedge can definitely still be a spin machine. Lastly on technology the J40 wedge features Bridgestone’s Variable Bounce Technology. What they’ve done here is develop a way to use the same wedge bounce but by varying the bounce you’re going to get lower bounce on the heel and toe areas of the wedge. This allows you the ability of hitting these from any lie you’ll encounter on the golf course.
Performance is where it all really matters. You can have the prettiest looking wedge on the market but if the performance isn’t there then what’s the point? First of all the way the J40 wedge sits behind the ball at address builds so much confidence prior to even executing the shot. Confidence with the wedges makes everyone a much better wedge player and that is exactly what I found while using the J40. In my testing I used them a lot from right around the greens, mostly from the fringe or fairway so I’ll touch on that first. The Variable Bounce Technology in the J40 allowed me to have a good clean strike on the golf ball without worrying about the higher bounce of say a normal 56 degree wedge interfere with my shot. Those clean strikes also allow for the spin of these wedges to work very well. I found I was able to predict the check, short hop, slight roll out of those chip shots from the short grass very accurately the more I used these wedges. We all can agree that predictable spin and roll out is very helpful in getting up and down.
From the rough I like to open the face of my wedge a bit and get the club to slide under the ball getting it to pop up as quickly as possible. Here again the Variable Bounce Technology of the J40 allows you to do that. Even out of some pretty heavy rough I was able to get the ball to stop quite nicely once on the green. Here is another area that I really had a lot of confidence with this wedge in my hands. The J40 seems to slide though the turf with ease and I never really had any kind of a lie that I wasn’t able to get the wedge to perform for me. Just like out of the rough, I had absolutely no issues with using the J40 out of greenside bunkers. I prefer to use the 56 degree that has 12 degrees of bounce so that I could get some of that leading edge to help me pop the ball up and out of the sand with very little trouble.
I rarely take a full all out swing with a wedge in my hands but I did find the 52 degree gap wedge very useful for shots in that 110 to 115 yard range. My preference on shorter shots into the green is to take more club and take about a 75% swing so that I can keep the ball flight under control. I had a lot of success hitting a ¾ swing with the 52 degree; these are the shots that I was able to see the benefits of the DG Spinner shaft. Even on some pretty dried out greens around here lately I had absolutely no issues with getting the golf ball to stop whether from the fairway, light rough or the occasional deeper rough shot.
I love testing out golf equipment, but I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s difficult to sound objective when the equipment is this good. From the stunning looks to the absolute outstanding performance there is hardly a negative thing to be said about these wedges. Whether I was trying to get up and down from a missed green, if I needed to hit one tight after a big drive on a par 4 or trying to save par from a greenside bunker these wedges delivered every time I called on them. Don’t fear that moving to conforming grooves will have an adverse effect on the spin that you can put on the ball with your wedges, Bridgestone Golf has proven with the J40 wedge that when a wedge is put together this well you will not sacrifice in the least making this switch. A couple of times I have mentioned the confidence I have when using these wedges, for me that is the biggest difference between being a mediocre wedge player and a good wedge player. Knowing how to hit the shot is just half the battle, having the confidence in your ability and your equipment to execute the shot is the other half. The Bridgestone J40 wedge has helped build that confidence to an all-time high and I’m seeing better wedges shots than I’ve ever hit because of that. The Bridgestone J40 wedges feature a street price of $109 per wedge and will be available October 15, 2011 at golf specialty stores and on-course retailers nationwide.