Thursday, July 22, 2010

GOLF EQUIPMENT REVIEW: Scratch Golf 1018 Wedge

We've all heard the phrase "Drive for Show, Putt for Dough", and chances are we've all uttered it at some point during our rounds. It is both easy to relate to and entirely misleading all at once. The truth is that every shot during a round is as important as the next. Bad drives can not only change your entire approach to a hole, but can also cost you stroke and distance if those dreaded white stakes are stationed near your errant shot. Good putting can definitely save you strokes, especially if you are making everything inside 6 feet, but putting for dough is reliant upon both good ball-striking with the irons, and perhaps even more so upon deadly accurate wedge play.

For me, scoring well seems to be most dependent on good ball-striking and hitting lots of greens in regulation. This takes pressure off of my putter and wedges, helping me gain confidence in the rest of my game. I play to an 8 handicap, which means that I am capable of playing any hole very well and generally strike the ball well, but also means that I still suffer through bouts of inconsistency when I will miss bunches of greens during a round. Regardless of whether I am hitting a lot of greens or not, one club I hit as often as any other is my 58 degree wedge. I feel very comfortable with this club, and hit it from all kinds of lies be it sand, deep rough, chips to tight pins, pitches from 75 yards in, and full shots inside 100 yards. I love to manipulate the openness of the face to achieve different results depending on what the shot calls for.

For the last 14 years I have played exclusively Cleveland wedges in various styles and loft combinations. Most recently I settled on my trusty Cleveland CG10s. For a few years I used a 52/56/60 combination, but wanting to get an additional hybrid in my bag, I decided to switch to a 52/58 combo in addition to my Mizuno MP-32 P-Wedge back in 2007. In early 2008, I received a Cleveland CG14 as a gift, and after putting it in my bag for 5-6 rounds, the CG10 quickly reclaimed its spot where it has remained until three weeks ago. The problem for me with the CG14 was the "over-engineering" in it. I have grown to love the feel of a simple and solid forged clubhead, and with the vibration dampening inserts and different sole grind, I just never felt comfortable with the CG14.

So, as much as I love my CG10s, they were beginning to suffer a loss of spin as I had hit 1000s of balls with each. I had been coveting the new Cleveland CG15s, but had been more than a bit infatuated with Scratch Wedges since "discovering" them late last year, then meeting their team at the 2010 PGA Merchandise Show where I got my first face-to-face hands on look at their beautifully spartan designs. I was impressed that corporate sponsorship averse Ryan Moore not only chose to play Scratch clubs without being paid to do so, but also was sporting their logo cap while playing on tour. Of course, a highlight of this year for Ryan was his ace on #16 at Augusta National during the 2010 Masters using his Scratch SB-1 Irons. I decided with some trepidation to give the guys at Scratch a call, and get myself a couple of new wedges. At least, I thought, I could write a legitimate review of them if I put them in play for a while, and if they played well, it would be great to get a few of you to come buy them from on my recommendation.

So, while I did get the wedges at a discount, I did purchase the clubs with my own money, lest you think I am simply a shill for Scratch Golf. I bought the 8620 model in 53 degrees bent to 52 degrees in the Driver/Slider TNC Grind. I  also bought the 1018 model in 58 degrees with the Driver/Slider EGG Grind, and this is the club I'll be reviewing today. I use the 58 degree club at least 3 times as often as I use the 52 degree, so have already gained a great deal of experience hitting the 58, thus a better review. Also, the 8620s are not available until mid-September due to higher than expected demand.

The special thing that Scratch Golf does is create clubs that are shaped and ground to better match your current swing and shot preferences. While they do offer a full fitting experience which requires you to visit their facilities down in Chattanooga, TN, they have plenty of options available in their standard line of wedges to fit most of our swings. The first thing one needs to determine before shopping for their new Scratch wedge is to determine what they use their wedges for most, and what the most common results of good shots and bad shots are in terms of divot size and fat versus thin contact. The steepness of your attack angle when swinging from various lies generally determines the characteristics of your wedge play that need to be better accommodated by a custom grind.

Here are the short explanations of the three swing types as defined by Scratch Golf:

Digger / Driver: Players in this swing profile tend to be very “steep and deep” with the club at impact. Their aggressive angle of attack causes the club head to dig into the ground requiring greater bounce angles to get the club head back out of the ground and maintain contact between the face and golf ball. Miss-hits for this profile are commonly fat.

Driver / Slider: This swing type encompasses a vast majority of golfers. These players will try and trap the ball between the clubface and ground, taking a shallow, even divot. Driver/Slider’s moderate angle of attack requires a mid-bounce angle providing assistance in maintaining the club head’s path through the turf and ensuring crisp, clean contact. Driver/Sliders tend to miss both thin and fat.

Sweeper/Slider: Often a favorite of course superintendents, Sweeper/Sliders have a very shallow angle of attack and take little to no divot at all. This swing profile requires a low bounce angle, which helps combat the thin miss-hit for Sweeper/Sliders.

Chances are that you can accurately fit yourself into one of these three types of swings, but that isn't where they stop. In each of the three swing type categories are two different grinds for the lower and higher of the wedge lofts. As I mentioned above, I am a Driver/Slider, so got a grind that fits my swing tendencies and allows me to open up the face of my 58 degree with the leading edge remaining closer to the ground.

So, on to the point of the has the club performed? Well, the first shot I hit with it during an actual round was a 35 yard pitch on a long Par 5 after my decent drive and excellent 3-wood finished there. Good swing, solid contact, flew to the front edge of the green, bounced twice, then rolled out about 20 feet downhill and directly into the hole for an eagle! OK, great start, I thought, but that was just luck. Well, no more eagles over the next five rounds, but this club is staying in my bag for a long time.

It took me about 9-10 shots to get used to the extra feedback this club gives me with its forged head and KBS Tour shafts, but now that I have, I love it. I have been able to hit both tight fairway shots as well as from the deep rough with spin from all kinds of distances inside 100 yards. My favorite shots with it have been from 60-75 yards when I just open the face slightly and take about a 90% swing. The ball lands, bounces twice, then checks up...awesome! The sound off the face is solid and confidence-building.

If I have a knock on this club at all, it might be out of greenside bunkers. It is likely that is due more to my sand game than the club because the last couple of years I have been dreadful in the sand, but it is possible that I sacrificed too much bounce in opting for the ability to open the face more. I am going to work on it and give it a few more rounds, but I might need to grab a 56 degree with more bounce to use out of the sand. I also may try hitting the 52 degree more often out of the sand to see if that helps. My guess is that the customized grind will assist most players with their bunker shots despite my troubles.

The Scratch 1018 forged wedges are for sale right now at for $169.99. That is a savings of $10 off the $179.95 MSRP! Of course, with a single wedge exceeding our $75 shipping threshold, you will not pay a penny for shipping on these wedges either. While there, make sure to check out their irons and Hybrid clubs as well.

Wedges are a very personal thing, and I play with lots of people who have been using their same wedges for a very long time because they have developed a comfort level with how it performs. While I can understand and relate to that, I think for most people, a wedge with new grooves and better matched to your own swing can only help your scoring...and closer wedge play means you'll make more putts. So, instead of "putt for dough", shouldn't it be "wedge for dough"?

Fairways and Greens! 


WindyCityGolfer said...

Great review Dave. I love my CG15's but Scratch would be on my short list if I had to replace them. A lot of players I've talked to rave about Scratch wedges. They have a huge cult following.

In regard to the sand issue, I would definitely look for something with more bounce. With a 52/58, you're kind of in no man's land. It's one of the reasons why I opted for a 50/54/58 setup. I hate giving up an extra club for that third wedge, but it's worth the extra versatility I get around the greens.

David said...

Hey WindyCity, thanks for the comment. I really wish they would just let us carry 15 clubs, y'know.

Anonymous said...

Actually their testing facility is in Chattanooga, TN, My son was fitted there, college golfer go him two new wedges, got a chance to hit some and they are sweeeeeeet!!!!

David said...

munk24, thanks, it is in Chattanooga. Thank you for the correction.

Shreejana said...

look for something with more bounce. With a 52/58, you're kind of in no man's land. It's one of the reasons why I opted for a 50/54/58 setup. I hate giving up an extra club for that third wedge, but it's worth the extra versatility I get around the greens.


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