Cleveland Golf Wedge Reviews
Cleveland 588 RTX-3 Wedges
Since its inception in 1979, Cleveland’s No. 1 focus as a golf company has been the short game, and since that time it has carved out a reputation as a dominant force in the wedge market.
Whether it was the original 588 (the No. 1 selling wedge of all-time), the popular CG series, or the more recent Rotex line, Cleveland has created wedges year after year that flat out perform for players of all ability levels.
Just how dominant has Cleveland been with wedges?
Since the introduction of the iconic 588 in 1988, Cleveland wedges have been in the bag for 350 PGA Tour wins, including 26 major championships, and they’ve been played by 11 players who ascended to No. 1 in the world rankings at one time or another. In all, during that time frame, the company has sold more than 10 million wedges.
Despite all of its success, Cleveland believed in some ways that it needed to rededicate itself to the ultimate goal when it comes to designing wedges, that being to create products to help players hit full shots and shots played from around the green closer to the hole.
And it was that mindset that proved to be the driving force behind the new RTX-3 line.
"For RTX-3, we went back to the fundamentals of wedge design,” said Brian Schielke, Cleveland/Srixon Golf Senior Product Manager. “We have three key technologies in this wedge, each aimed for more consistency and to help players get the ball closer to the hole.”
RTX-3 WEDGE Review. Technology No. 1: Feel Balancing
Cleveland RTX-3 Wedges-Feel Balance
As Schielke mentioned, three unique innovations highlight the design of the RTX-3 wedges and fuel their performance.
The first of those innovations is Feel Balancing Technology, which was accomplished by moving weight away from the hosel and closer to the center of the clubface.
Engineers accomplished that task by using a shorter hosel design than is usually seen in wedges, and the hosel also utilizes a microcavity that helps save weight.
“The long hosels typically used in wedges pull weight toward the heel,” Schielke said. “But average players usually miss out toward the toe. We moved nine grams of weight away from the hosel and the CG is now closer to the center of the clubface. It took a lot of design work to keep that Cleveland look and shape, but that really has created a tighter dispersion.”
The CG being moved away from the heel has multiple advantages as it relates to feel and performance.
From a feel standpoint, with the CG now being more in line with where players are striking the ball, the result is a softer, more crisp sound and feel at impact.
In terms of performance, the new location of the CG has created more stability at impact because there’s less twisting of the face at impact, which results in the tighter shot dispersion that Schielke mentioned, as well as more consistency in terms of trajectory, spin, and distance.
In testing, when compared with Rotex 2.0, Cleveland found that the overall dispersion area with RTX-3 decreased by 14 yards, while shots ended up on average more than three feet closer to the hole.
RTX-3 WEDGE Review. Technology No. 2: New V Sole Grinds
Cleveland RTX-3 Wedges-V-Sole
In an effort to improve consistency and help players get the ball closer to the hole, Cleveland engineers also felt that improved turf interaction would be a key component in RTX-3, which is why a new V Sole was incorporated into the design.
To call this innovation “new,” however, doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The second new thing with RTX-3 is the V-shaped sole grind, which we’ve been testing on Tour for two years,” Schielke said. “We added bounce to the leading edge, where you need it most. And we ground off the trailing edge for more stability.”
Adding bounce to the leading edge and utilizing a narrower sole, even in high-bounce models, makes the RTX-3 wedges more versatile in terms of their use around the green.
Additionally, because of the improved turf interaction created by the new sole design, which Cleveland engineers measured as 23 percent better than Rotex 2.0 in terms of speed retention, clubhead speed remains more constant from shot to shot, leading to more consistent results as it relates to distance and trajectory.
And finally, because the V Sole moves so efficiently through the turf, the improved feel that was created by moving the CG away from the hosel is only enhanced on full and short-game shots.
RTX-3 WEDGE Review. Technology No. 3: New Rotex Clubface
Cleveland RTX-3 Wedges-Rotex
Also playing a crucial role in the impressive playability and performance of RTX-3 is the new face design.
One component of the improved performance being delivered by the New Rotex Clubface is the use of new Tour Zip Grooves.
“The new Tour Zip Grooves are a little bit deeper and a little bit narrower,” Schielke said. “The goal is to maximize consistency from the rough and get more consistent spin from the rough.”
What you won’t see in RTX-3 that you will see from some manufacturers is the use of different grooves in different wedges depending on loft.
“The grooves are all the same (in all models),” added Schielke. “The purpose of grooves is to primarily channel dirt and debris away from the face for more consistent contact. We’ve found the optimal groove to do that for all lofts.”
What is different, however, is that depending on the loft of the wedge, different micro-milling is utilized in the RTX-3 design.
“The micro-milling pattern in the higher lofts (54-64 degrees) is angled so that players can still get maximum spin around the greens when they’re opening the face,” Schielke said. “On the lower lofts (46-52 degrees) the micro-milling is straight for maximum performance on full shots.”
Laser milling is also utilized in the design to provide maximum surface roughness across the face for increased friction and higher spin rates on shots played closer to the green.
Picking The Right Wedges For Your Game
Cleveland RTX-3 Wedges-Dot System
As has long been the case, Cleveland is again utilizing its dot system to help players identify the right wedges for their game. One-dot wedges are low-bounce models, while three-dot wedges are high-bounce models.
Low-bounce wedges typically work best for players with shallow angles of attack (pickers) or from firmer turf and sand conditions, while high-bounce wedges are best suited for players who have steeper angles of attack (diggers) and work well from softer turf and sand conditions.
The two-dot models, meanwhile, are designed for more neutral angles of attack and will work well with a wide variety of turf and sand conditions.
What is new with RTX-3 is that Cleveland is also using an additional stamp to further clarify the grind/bounce of each model. The three options are V-LG, V-MG, and V-FG. More specifically, the “L” means low, the “M” mean mid, and the “F” means full, letters that equate to the bounce angle of each wedge.
As one might surmise given their descriptions, all V-LG wedges are one-dot models, all V-MG wedges are two-dot models, and all V-FG wedges are three-dot models.
All told, RTX-3 wedges are available in lofts ranging in two-degree increments from 46 to 64 degrees. Two-dot models are available in every loft, while the one- and three-dot models are available in sand and lob wedges at lofts of 54, 56, 58, and 60 degrees.
Cavity Back Option and Finish Choices
Cleveland RTX-3 Wedges-Cavity Back Version
As has been the case with Cleveland wedges in recent years, the RTX-3 line does feature a Cavity Back model.
The CB maintains the classic Cleveland shape, albeit in a slightly larger profile that was designed to deliver more forgiveness for the player who needs it.
“These wedges are not one size fits all,” Schielke said. “I think that’s one thing that separates us from a lot of competitors. We do wedges for different players, and I think the cavity back wedge is a great option for the golfer who’s playing more of a game-improvement iron.”
Cleveland RTX-3 Wedges-Finishes
The CB model is available only in a Tour Satin finish and is also offered in a ladies’ version at a lighter swing weight.
As for the standard RTX-3, in addition to Tour Satin, two other finishes are available as well.
The first is the Black Satin finish, which has been designed to be significantly more durable than what was typically found in black finishes in years past.
The second is the Tour Raw finish, which as the name might suggest is a favorite among touring professionals. Of note when it comes to the Tour Raw finish, which will rust over time, is that recreational golfers will get the exact same finish that Cleveland staffers are playing on Tour.
While Cleveland has enjoyed incredible success with its wedges for decades, there’s a palpable excitement around Cleveland headquarters as it relates to the official release of RTX-3.
That excitement comes not only from what has transpired with the design and the performance that’s been seen in testing, but also from early returns for the new line.
What specifically is Cleveland hearing from players who’ve had the chance to put this wedge into their bags?
“Out on Tour, the guys are really gravitating toward the sole design; they love the way it glides through the turf effortlessly,” Schielke said. “And I think average golfers really like the feel. With the weight in the right place, that’s something they really notice. It’s an exciting product for us and we love the way it turned out.”
TGW Player's Test Review
TGW Staff Writer
Chris Wallace has more than 15 years of experience as a sports writer and editor. He started his career in the newspaper industry, winning three Virginia Press Association awards at the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he covered college sports and golf on a local, state, and national level. Wallace also spent nearly 10 years working for Rivals.com, and he later managed and created content for the GolfChannel.com Instruction Blog. His work has also appeared on GolfAdvisor.com and in Carolinas Golf Magazine. Wallace was a three-year captain of the golf team at his alma mater, Lynchburg College, and spent two years serving as the assistant men’s golf coach at the University of Virginia.
TGW Feedback on the RTX 3.0 Wedges
There are a lot of things that I enjoy about my job. There’s nothing, however, that I enjoy more than being able to test new golf clubs, and I was fortunate to have the chance to demo Cleveland’s new RTX-3 and RTX-3 Cavity Back wedges a few weeks ago in advance of their release date.
Heading into my testing session at Willowbend Golf Club in TGW’s home base of Wichita, Kansas, I will admit that I had high expectations for RTX-3, which is something I usually try to avoid when it comes to new clubs.
Those lofty expectations were largely unavoidable for two main reasons. First, like so many others, I’ve long been a fan of Cleveland wedges. And second, I knew from interviews and discussions with Cleveland staff members just how excited they were about this new product.
In the end, and in spite of my high expectations, my experience with RTX-3 did not disappoint. Here are some more comprehensive thoughts that might help answer any questions you have about Cleveland’s newest wedges.
Cleveland wedges have always had a clean, classic look, and company engineers are committed to staying true to the vintage Cleveland shape. And that’s certainly the case with RTX-3, as these wedges are visually sharp, which took plenty of effort given some of the technological innovation that went into the design, most notably with the hosel.
While the stylish looks might not come as a surprise for the RTX-3 models, given their traditional blade look, the Cavity Back models were also impressive aesthetically. Even though they have a larger overall profile, the lines on the RTX-3 Cavity Backs are clean and they look good at address as well.
Also worth mentioning are the finishes being used in the RTX-3 lineup, all of which look outstanding. The Cavity Back models are available only in a traditional Tour Satin finish, as is the RTX-3. The latter, however, is also available in a Black Satin finish and a Tour Raw finish.
The promise of a more durable black finish was kept, as after hitting numerous shots using that finish, including several bunker shots, there were only minimal signs of wear. In my estimation, however, the Tour Raw finish was the most eye-catching of the three with its unique caramel color. And of course, every amateur enjoys knowing that they’re getting to play the exact same finish as a touring professional, which is the case with the Tour Raw.
Feel Balancing Technology
Cleveland’s decision to move the CG on the RTX-3 wedges closer to the center of the clubface was done for multiple reasons, with one of those being improved feel. That decision, in my opinion, yielded its intended results, as these wedges have a soft, muted feel at impact that you might typically find in a forged club. Even more impressive was that shots that weren’t hit in the center of the clubface maintained that soft feel.
Also of note, while the larger profile of the Cavity Back might lead some to believe that those models would deliver less in the way of feedback, I didn’t find that to be the case at all. In fact, the CB models felt every bit as buttery as the standard RTX-3, both around the green and when hitting full shots.
Aiding in the exceptional feel of the RTX-3 wedges is the new V Sole Grind, which after years of testing was implemented to improve turf interaction. That design feature not only yielded tremendous performance benefits, which will be discussed shortly, but the ease with which all of the wedges glided through the turf on full shots and shots played from around the green only served to enhance their soft, responsive feel.
Also still to be discussed in more detail is the importance of choosing the right bounce or grind for your wedges as it relates to your swing shape and achieving maximum performance. As someone who has a shallow angle of attack, low- or mid-bounce wedges suit my game best, and the one-dot and two-dot models not only performed best, they also felt better.
Using a high-bounce, three-dot wedge changed the feel for me, especially on full shots, with the result being sound and feel at impact that was slightly less muted. I would, however, expect that someone with a steeper angle of attack would find that the high-bounce RTX-3 models provided them with the soft feel that was intended.
V Sole Grinds
As good as the RTX-3 wedges look and feel, it’s from a performance and playability standpoint that they impress most. I’ll admit that I was somewhat skeptical about the CG being moved away from the heel having a dramatic impact on shot dispersion. My doubts, however, were quickly rendered unfounded, as it seemed like no matter where I hit the ball on the face on full shots that my distance control was impeccable. Equally important was that there were only slight variances in terms of trajectory on mis-hits as well.
Additionally, the new V Sole really delivered in terms of turf interaction. With the right grind, which, as mentioned, for me was the low-bounce V-LG, not only did every shot feel the same, the performance was amazingly consistent in terms of distance, direction, and trajectory.
In terms of the Cavity Back models, I enjoyed similar consistency in terms of performance. The one change I did notice was that it seemed like, at least for me, the RTX-3 CB delivered a slightly higher ball flight on full shots. Of course, being able to hit the ball in the air more easily is exactly what candidates for the CB are looking for, which is among the reasons I think they’re an outstanding addition to the RTX-3 line.
As mentioned previously, I do believe that using the right grinds and bounce for your game is imperative and not only in terms of feel. While my results with a high-bounce wedge, which will better suit steeper angles of attack, were still solid, my results were noticeably better with the low-bounce models that were designed for the more shallow swing characteristics of a player like myself. But after extensive testing with all three grinds, I have no doubt that players who get the right dot models for their game will enjoy impressive results and improved consistency.
I also want to mention that as dynamic as the RTX-3 wedges were on full shots, where they absolutely excelled was around the green. In my opinion, the angled micro-milling on the clubface on sand and lob wedges is a game-changer. The amount of spin that I could create from terrible lies in the rough or sand was truly amazing, and there wasn’t a short-game shot I felt like I couldn’t execute with the one-dot lob wedge that would best suit my game.
I’ve certainly heaped quite a bit of praise on RTX-3 to this point, but the simple reality is that there’s a lot to like and I expect Cleveland to fare quite well with its new wedge line.
In short, these are wedges that impressed on every level, starting with the fact that they look great. On full shots, feel was outstanding, trajectory was consistent, and shot dispersion was tight. On short shots around the green, I could get as much spin as I wanted or needed from any lie condition I was faced with in the grass or sand.
The cavity back option is also a great addition to the lineup, and I expect those models will be extremely popular with mid- and high-handicap players given the added forgiveness they provide without sacrificing performance. Cleveland should also be lauded for sticking with its simple but effective dot system, which makes it easy for recreational golfers to understand what wedges will work best for their game.
All said, if you’re in the market for new wedges, there are certainly plenty of great options out there worth exploring. And RTX-3 needs to be on that list.
Smart Sole 2.0 wedges make golf easier for the higher-handicapper
Cleveland Smart Sole Wedges
For higher-handicap golfers, hitting wedge shots can be stressful, and playing sand shots from greenside bunkers can be downright terrifying.
Complicating things even further is that many of the wedges available to golfers today are shaped like a traditional blade, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence for the players who need it most.
On the plus side, many game-improvement iron sets are now being offered with more lofted wedges, but in terms of specialized wedges that have been designed to help high-handicappers address specific weaknesses, there simply aren’t a ton of options.
Cleveland Golf, however, is one company that has devoted significant time and resources to the development of wedges specifically for players who need substantial help around the greens.
“As a company, we believe that you shouldn’t just design a tour wedge and then force every golfer to play that, so we have a much broader offering,” said John Rae, Srixon/Cleveland Golf Vice President of Research and Development.
As part of its current wedge lineup, Cleveland is offering Smart Sole 2.0 wedges, which come in “S” and “C” designs, with the S standing for sand and the C standing for chipper.
As one might expect based on those descriptions, the Smart Sole C has been designed specifically to help players chip the ball more successfully, while the Smart Sole S has been designed specifically to help players get out of the sand. And those are two areas that a lot of higher-handicap players and/or beginners have a difficult time with.
We asked Rae to talk a little bit more about each of those unique options.
“The (S Wedge) is, for lack of a better word, a one-trick pony,” he said. “It’s really, really good at that one trick, though. If you’re a golfer who’s struggling to get out of bunkers, this is the club for you. It’s going to get you out ... give you a good, soft landing every time.”
Keying the performance of the Smart Sole S wedge, which features 58 degrees of loft and a lie angle of 64 degrees, is its unique sole design. More specifically, the sole has been significantly widened to provide maximum forgiveness in terms of sand and turf interaction.
Additionally, a Feel Plaque has been positioned behind the clubface, which in addition to dampening vibrations for improved feel at impact also allows weight to be moved to the perimeter of the clubhead to further increase forgiveness on mis-hits.
As far as the Smart Sole C is concerned, Rae said, “The C is for that golfer who just struggles with chipping around the greens. That C Wedge will allow (them) to get good contact, get consistent contact, and get closer to the hole.”
One of the unique design elements that makes the Smart Sole C so effective is its upright lie angle, which at 66 degrees helps players set up to the ball when chipping more like they would when putting, which helps promote cleaner contact.
The C Wedge also makes it easier for players to get their hands ahead of the ball address, which also helps improve contact. It comes standard at 34 inches, more typically the length of a putter than a wedge, and has 42 degrees of loft, which would correlate most closely to a 9-iron.
And like the S Wedge, the C’s sole shape enables better turf interaction, and its Feel Plaque also improves forgiveness on mis-hits and feel at impact.
Also noteworthy as it relates to both wedges is that they are USGA conforming and completely legal for tournament play.
Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Wedges
TGW Customer Feedback on the Cleveland 588 Wedges
Cleveland wedges have long been a favorite on every professional Tour, and the new 588 RTX 2.0 models were influenced heavily from a design standpoint by players like Graeme McDowell and Hideki Matsuyama. The result of that feedback are wedges that Cleveland engineers believe will meet the needs of any recreational player, regardless of ability level.
One-Dot:The low-bounce grind design in the 588 RTX 2.0 lineup was created for players who like to be creative around the greens, with maximum heel and toe relief making it possible to play a vast array of shots. The one-dot model comes in lofts between 54 and 60 degrees and will work well from firm turf and sand conditions and for players with shallow angles of attack.
Two-Dot:Available in lofts ranging from 46-64 degrees, two-dot models are standard-bounce grinds that will work well from all turf and sand conditions and for players who have a neutral angle of attack. They combine the best of both worlds in in the 588 RTX 2.0 line in terms of forgiveness and versatility.
Three-Dot:The three-dot wedges equate to a full-sole grind, which will work especially well for players who have steeper angles of attack and from softer turf and sand conditions. Additionally, the constant sole utilized in these models makes it easier to play full shots from the fairway or when opening the face.
More On The 588 RTX 2.0 Wedges:The 588 RTX 2.0 line features three unique face technologies that have been incorporated to increase spin, especially from the rough. The wedges come in Black Satin and Tour Satin finishes, as well as various custom finishes. Additionally, there is a CB (cavity back) model available. Those wedges have a slightly larger footprint, wider soles that make them easier to hit, and additional perimeter weighting for increased MOI. Also of note, Cleveland engineers say they have seen a shift toward Tour players using more bounce in their wedges and are encouraging recreational players to experiment with more bounce, which they believe makes it easier to control the ball.
“It’s kind of been trending that good players think they should play a low-bounce wedge, but our Tour staff does a great job of telling young, talented players that bounce is your friend and it’ll help you control the ball around the green.” --Pat Ripp, Cleveland/Srixon Golf Research Engineer