The average golfer’s proclivity towards blade wedges has always been a curiosity. While maximum forgiveness has crept into every other type of club, and seeking that forgiveness has become commonplace, it’s not uncommon to see 20% of a typical amateur’s bag occupied with blade wedges. Not only do they lack the same perimeter weighting utilized from driver to putter, but they often possess soles that punish anything other than perfect contact. We could spend hours pontificating on the reason for this, but golfers are a finicky bunch and it’s hard to nail down solid rationale.
Cleveland Golf has long championed cavity back wedges for amateur swings, and their technological evolution has been quite remarkable. The CBX4, their newest offering in this space, takes an already solid platform and adds some key refinements that we found extremely useful in real-world scenarios with real-world swings (in all their imperfection).
Key Technologies – CBX4 Wedges
We talked about Cleveland’s dual identities in the equipment industry in our recent ZipCore XL iron review. They’ve managed to build a reputation for both Tour-level performance in wedges while still appealing to higher handicaps with the bulk of their line. The CBX4 brings these two identities closer together.
Cleveland really leans into the “anti-chunk” properties of their new wedges, which is reasonable when you consider both the target audience and sole design, but there is much more to the CBX4 line when it comes to technology.
Introduced on the RTX6 wedge in 2023, HydraZip is a fantastic technology that we’ll explore in greater depth later in the review. This face blast and laser milling applied to the face is designed to help players retain spin in wet conditions, which can occur almost anywhere at any time on a golf course.
Cleveland varies the pattern and roughness of the HydraZip treatment based on loft, as lower lofted wedges don’t need the same amount of friction as higher lofted ones.
ZipCore is increasingly ubiquitous in the Cleveland lineup now that it’s been introduced in the ZipCore XL irons, and most readers should already understand what it is. For those that don’t, weight is removed from the hosel and replaced with a lightweight, low-density core that allows the center of gravity to shift slightly toe-side of center. In conjunction with the Gelback insert and cavity, this works to improve feel and increases forgiveness. Cleveland shows the tangible benefits of ZipCore in the graphic posted above.
UtilZip is Cleveland’s proprietary groove pattern and it’s been a consistent winner for the company. They describe it as a tightly packed, “specialized sequence of sharper, deeper, and tighter grooves to provide ultimate short-game spin, control, consistency, and bite.”
Dynamic Sole Grinds
Specialized sole grinds have evolved from a custom option to an expected feature in a very short amount of time. While the highest level of sole customization is only available with the Tour Rack version of the RTX6 wedge, the CBX4 offers three different options, the V, S, and C soles. Each provides a different benefit, so Cleveland places each one of a different range of lofts. We’ll discuss the sole designs and how they perform later in the review.
Looks and Feel – CBX4 Wedges
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so your feelings may be different than ours, but we are here to give opinions. In what seems to be a general trend for Cleveland in 2024, the CBX4 offer a cleaner, more attractive look when compared to previous iterations of the line. The redesigned Gelback insert is probably most responsible for the improved looks. Rather than a black plastic interruption in the cavity, it’s now capped with a metallic finish that blends in more seamlessly with the rest of the club. While the feel benefits are still there (improved actually), we prefer it as a less-visible technology.
The CBX4 is obviously oversized compared to a blade wedge, which can be seen as a benefit or detriment, depending on your point of view. Where it really becomes a positive is how well these wedges blend into a game improvement iron set. Whether we are talking about Srixon’s ZX4 MKII irons or the new Cleveland ZipCore XL’S, the CBX4’s blend in perfectly with the PW when it comes to topline, blade size, and length.
With their familiar satin finish, the CBX4 wedges do a nice job of mitigating glare in the sun. New to the face is the aggressive face milling on the toe and the HyrdaZip blast, both of which inspire confidence that spin will be plentiful and easy to come by.
Another aspect we feel has improved (again, a very subjective area) from previous Cleveland cavity back wedges is the feel and sound at impact. Before diving in too deep, it’s important to note that the CBX4 feel very different than the blade RTX6 line. RTX6 wedges tend to be more solid and responsive, which should be expected given the design. However, some of the almost “artificial” softness or muted sounds noticed in earlier versions of the CBX line seems to have been lessened, giving them a bit denser feel with more feedback. Make no mistake – these wedges will still feel like cavity backs, but we’d be hard pressed to suggest one that feels better.
On Course Performance – CBX4 Wedges
One of the most common tropes we hear regarding wedges like the CBX4 is that they limit creativity or imagination around the greens. While it would be easy to argue most greenside creativity isn’t all that necessary, or even creative, it does necessitate testing.
In November 2023, twelve THP forum members converged on Briggs Ranch in San Antonio, TX as participants in the Srixon Experience. At that time, each person was given a CBX4 wedge to test over the course of 54 holes of golf and then take home, making them among the very first people in North America to see the new line. Other than that whole thing just being cool, it offered a unique opportunity to really put the CBX4 line to the test. Briggs Ranch, a Dormie Network property, is classic Texas Hill Country golf. The Zoysia fairways are firm, fast, and tight, and the TifEagle Bermuda greens and surrounds offer their own challenges.
We admit having some early trepidation. The internet and its anecdotes can be persuasive, and the idea of using a wider sole and larger blade in these conditions seemed like it would never work. What we found was the complete opposite though. I personally had the 50, 54, and 58 degree versions in the bag. As noted earlier, and detailed later in the specifications chart, each of these lofts has its own grind designed to maximize performance based on its most conventional uses. The 50 degree wedge’s V sole made full swings more forgiving by mitigating heavy contact and encouraging clean strikes on full swings. The 54 (S grind) was great for partial swings and pitches, even off very tight lies, and I had no difficulty varying trajectory. The 58 (C grind) was equally good as the 54 in those situations, but also great with open-face shots.
The ease with which clean, solid contact and spin came on tight lies was a bit humbling because it flew in the face of what I felt like I knew about wedges. It shouldn’t have been that easy. Will a standard blade wedge like the RTX6 offer some added versatility? Probably for some people, but maybe not for as many people or to as high a degree as conventional wisdom may suggest. I did notice some challenges adjusting the wider sole in the sand, though that appeared to be a fitting issue, as other players didn’t seem to have the same problems.
While technological advancements are often nuanced, Hydrazip appears to offer a pleasantly glaring example of how the brains at golf companies can help our games. To test Hydrazip’s performance, we conducted a simple test using the new Srixon Q Star Tour golf ball. We used identically lofted CBX4 and CBX ZipCore wedges (54 degrees) and repeatedly soaked the face immediately before hitting ¾ shots on the SkyTrak+. Though finding a perfectly controlled environment is impossible, especially considering the variability in “average” golf swings, we took great care to replicate the same conditions with each shot. For example, the same method of wetting the face was used before each swing, the ball was placed the same way in front of the camera, and so on. What we found was nothing short of exciting.
To quickly summarize, that’s almost a 500rpm, or 7%, increase in spin with the CBX4’s application of Hydrazip, an astounding figure no matter how you look at it. What doesn’t show in the averages is the increased consistency seen from shot to shot with the CBX4. While we saw quite a variation in carry distances with the CBX ZipCore, 9 yards from the shortest to the longest shot, the CBX4 narrowed that down to 4 yards, more than a 50% improvement.
Details and Specifications – CBX4 Wedges
CBX4 wedges are available in nine different lofts for men and seven for women. The stock steel shaft is the 115g KBS Hi-Rev 2.0, which performed and felt great, and the stock graphite option is the UST Mamiya Recoil Dart 80.
- Available January 24, 2024.
- $169 Steel/$179 Graphite
- Custom paint fill and engraving is available via custom order.
For more information, check out Cleveland’s website at us.dunlopsports.com/cleveland-golf.