Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. In the last decade we have seen tons of innovation when it comes to golf and golf clubs, but very little with the exception of grooves in the way of wedges. Part of that is because there is only so much you can do to a wedge and still make it operational and legal. Leave it to Taylormade Golf and their R&D department to try and escape the boundaries of “typical” and come up with something that could be far beyond its years. The xFT wedge was created and the buzz about it early has been a 50/50 debate with half of the people commending the company for making something that is consumer wallet friendly and the other half calling it gimmicky. With all the talk early on, THP was itching to get their hands on one and Taylormade was kind enough to send over a few wedges to try out.
Click on each image for large Hi-Res Picture
xFT & The New Groove Rule
From the Company
Two types of xFT wedge faces will be available for purchase, either with our new ZTP groove design that conforms to the USGA’s new rules change, or with our current Z groove that conforms to the pre-2010 rule on groove design. (Older groove designs will be disallowed in high-level professional competitions starting January 1, 2010 by ruling of the USGA. However, recreational golfers aren’t required to adhere to the groove-change rule until 2024). In 2011 and beyond, xFT wedge faces will incorporate only grooves that adhere to the new USGA rule, such as the ZTP groove. “In a nutshell, the rules change stipulates that new groove designs must have less cross-sectional area and their edges must be less sharp,” says Bret Wahl, Senior Director of Iron, Wedge, & Putter Development. “Most players won’t experience a dramatic reduction in spin from dry fairway lies, but will see a decrease in spin by up to 50% from the rough. All the more reason to keep the clubface of your wedge fresh and at peak performance. Our new ZTP groove is the most aggressive, spin-inducing design we have that conforms to the new USGA rule.”
From the Company
Each TP xFT wedge head is fashioned in a classically beautiful teardrop shape made of stainless steel and milled for precision, including the pocket into which the clubface fits. The clubhead is plated in nickel-chrome for durability, then given a beautiful pearl finish to reduce glare. Availability in stores and online will begin December 1st with the 56* loft and 12* bounce only, with nine more combinations to follow in mid-February, 2010 — 50.09, 52.11, 54.12, 56.16, 58.09, 58.12, 60.06, 60.10, 64.06. The 58.12 and 60.10 both incorporate TaylorMade’s new C-grind sole, which was developed by our tour technicians and which is highly praised by tour pros for the multitude of greenside shots it permits you to play. TP xFT wedges are equipped with KBS High-Rev shafts, which are slightly heavier and feature a slightly longer tip parallel region compared to other wedge shafts. KBS’ data indicates that the High-Rev shaft promotes increased spin because of its weighting, its kick, and the way it presents the head to the ball. The High-Rev is new, making us the first brand to use it. We expect it to be played on tour, especially since the change in the groove rule will have players anxious to find ways to keep their spin-rates as high as possible. Because the shaft’s unique design promotes additional spin, we expect the TP xFT wedge to gain wide acceptance on the PGA Tour. Each TP xFT wedge will sell at a street price of $129 per club and will come equipped with a Z groove face (conforming to the pre-2010 USGA rule). Individual xFT wedge faces with either the Z groove or ZTP groove (conforming to the new 2010 USGA rule) will be sold separately at a street price of $39.
When you first pick up the new wedges there are a couple of things that will stand out to you immediately. The 1st being the 2 bolts that surround the Taylormade TP logo that are used for changing the faceplates. The xFT face can be changed using the R9 torque wrench. Simply loosen the xFT screws to remove the the old face and tighten the screws to lock in a new fresh one. The 2nd thing that stands out is the black rubber like area that is under the TP logo that says what type of face plate you have installed. Each xFT face is backed with a thin layer of Poron, which is a soft, urethane, microcellular foam to facilitate a tight fit within the clubhead and to cushion the face from metal-on-metal contact, and which is supposed to create better feel. The finish seems a little darker than usual and the overall “pearl look” is quite nice. The face of the wedges has circular milling that provides a better aesthetic look to it and the area surrounding the face plate is extremely small. At setup, you cannot tell that this wedge has face plates that detach from any angle.
THP gathered up 10 golfers to try out the xFT wedge on the practice green and see what their thoughts were in terms of performance. Each golfer was given a score card and was asked to judge on 5 characteristics. Looks, Feel, Sound, Spin, and Performance.
All of these are somewhat about personal preference and opinions and comparing to what they have tried and what they normally play. Golfers were asked to hit a multitude of shots including but not limited to short chips, full swings, punch shots, and bunker shots. After each golfer completed the task they turned in a score card and we tallied up the votes and here are the results.
Looks – 9/10 – The finish was the 1 thing that people really liked about the looks.
Feel – 8/10 – According to testers the wedge felt soft and responsive.
Sound – 8/10 – Not as clicky as some wedges sound and the sound gave nice tons when struck well.
Spin – 7/10 – Using the new grooves testers hardly noticed any difference in spin on the green in any shot performed including out of the rough.
Performance – 8/10 – All but 2 golfers liked the performance (results of shots) of the xFT compared to their current wedge models.
I was able to take the Taylormade TP xFT wedge out on the course for a total of 9 rounds of golf and countless range sessions. What I have come away with is that you cannot tell that these wedges come apart. The feel is not different, in fact with the backing used, it may in fact provide a softer feel than normal. I noticed no difference in performance from using this wedge in regards to the bolts and faceplate are concerned. I am not sure that there is a person out there that could tell the difference based on that alone. The wedge feels solid, and like I said previously, at address, you simply cannot tell it is 2 pieces. The spin provided with the new grooves is completely adequate for most players and the ability to swap out the two types of grooves in a matter of a minute is a nice and attractive feature to have. The KBS wedge flex shaft is a unique shaft in that it definitely feels slightly heavier than what I am used to, but the feel that the shaft gives off is top notch character trait that most will enjoy quite a bit once they are used to the extra weight. The overall performance of this wedge is very similar to that of previous Taylormade TP wedges in my opinion, but the new TP xFT wedge offered far more in the feel category.
From the Company
Tour pros are exceptionally mindful of the importance of wear on their wedges, and because of that they replace them frequently to get “fresh grooves” and a rough face surface for the maximum spin they deliver. Certain pros, including those in the top-tier, put new wedges in play every week, while some players change every three or four tournaments. Two members of the TaylorMade Tour Staff, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, ask for a new 60* wedge every month. Other tour pros trade out at least three or four times per year. One popular reason why many pros don’t retire their wedges more often is because they’ve become accustomed to the club’s look, weight, feel, and sole grind, which influences the way the sole reacts with turf, rough, and sand. And sometimes they have great confidence in a particular wedge that they’ve performed well with under pressure. Yes, such pros would like fresh grooves, but they don’t want to give up the wedge they’ve become attached to. Occasionally you see a pro with a wedge so well-used that the lower-middle part of the face is worn almost smooth; a clear case of sentimentality keeping the club in the bag. Meanwhile myriad amateurs would like to put new grooves in play with greater frequency, but can’t justify the expense of buying new wedges once or more per year. xFT is a simple, cost-effective way to give tour pros and amateurs fresh grooves while allowing them to keep the same clubhead. Our new Exchangeable Face Technology (xFT), which is incorporated into our newest TP wedge design, allows you to quickly and easily exchange an old, worn wedge face with a brand new one.
I have very mixed feelings about this wedge and very little has to do with performance. The xFT wedge performs great and the feel is better than most that have been put out recently according to our testers. The faceplate makes perfect sense in theory. I replace my wedges yearly because of worn grooves and quite frankly if cost was not a factor, I would replace them more often. The faceplate gives that ability to me and others like me to have a brand new wedge a couple of times a year. While this makes perfect sense from a consumer stand point and it is a refreshing idea that is 100% positive innovation, we are not sure the average golfer will catch on.
The problem that we are struggling with is while most people SHOULD replace their wedges more frequently than they do, they do not and we will not due to cost and many other factors. I firmly believe that wedges are marketed better than any other club and that most golfers are playing the wrong wedges for their game both in brand and style. My personal opinion, but something I have said for a number of years. Because of these things people look each year at innovation and club technology different and with new technology coming out each and every year, the only way to make this work is to make the faces backwards and forwards compatible with future wedge development each year. If this turns out to just be a single line of wedges and the company has other lines, I do not believe that golfers will try them out.
However back to the wedge by itself, Taylormade Golf has something that they should be extremely proud of. I have never been a huge fan of their wedges and the xFT has changed that. The club offers soft feel, great weighting, solid performance, and the ability to adjust and replace the grooves myself for a fraction of the cost of full replacement. For more information on these wedges or any other product that Taylormade Golf has out, check out their website at www.taylormadegolf.com.
Till Next Time