Six Degrees of Separation

Words and Photos by Jeremy Kehler

Last winter while recovering from having a kidney removed, I spent some time conjuring up what I needed to do to fill some of the gaps in my game. I’ve always been a marginal driver of the ball at best and have relied on my short game to get the ball in the hole. So, naturally, I decided to attempt to improve upon something that I was already decent at.

It wasn’t that I was unhappy with my current short game set up at the time, which non iron set wedges consisted of a 54º TaylorMade EF and a 58º Callaway PM Grind. I knew I could do better. But how? After analyzing some of my best and worst rounds, it was pretty obvious. My issue was consistency from 75 yards and in and my apparent ability to short side myself at any and every given opportunity.

IMG_20190629_093743

Even though the Callaway PM Grind is VERY workable from a variety of lies, it still didn’t give me the utmost confidence on tight 50 yard approach shots. I will stress this loud and clear, this is not about a wedge under performing, but instead not suiting my desired outcome.

After trying several wedges, I settled upon the Taylormade Hi-Toe series to do my little test. I was able to buy a matching 58 and 64 degree pair, with the same shafts and grips. I had the wedges come with Nippon Modus Tour 130X flex and the standard Lamkin Crossline 360 grip. Since they were a custom order, the wedges took just under 7 weeks to arrive.

The Hi Toe wedge are part of the Milled Grind lineup and has a milled sole, which helps with consistency in the manufacturing and production process.

IMG_20190629_093606

If you are not aware, TaylorMade has a wonderful collection of no upcharge custom options available to their top of the line clubs. At $219 CAD a wedge, having not to pay extra to set up the club the way you want it is a nice touch. The only drawback is the longer time it takes for the clubs to arrive compared to other OEM’s I’ve dealt with.

For bag setup, I had to remove a club to make space for the 64º. Since I had a 16, 18 and 20 degree Adams Red hybrids in my posession, removing the 16 and 20 degree clubs I was gaming and using the 18º instead made the best, and most obvious, choice. The 18º hybrid also morphed into its own story which will be available to read here.

So, onto the clubs. The reason why I chose the TaylorMade Hi-Toe wedge over the new Callaway PM Grind 2.0 is several reasons. As stated, the custom options were great but what really stood out to me was the way the club appeared at address. The Hi-Toe has a little less offset compared to the PM Grind 2.0 and an ever so slightly rounder shape. TaylorMade offered two distinct sole and bounce options in the lower lofts, which initially separated it from the competition. No doubt Callaway took that into consideration when they released the 2.0, as it also had similarly designed sole options.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My only complaint about the OG PM Grind was that the grooves seemed to have a little less bite compared to the MD3/4 series.

As I’ve been able to spend some time on the ranges at various PGA Tour and PGA Tour Canada events, it’s very obvious that most professionals don’t use an off the shelf grind. While the ATV grind found on the stock 64º wedge isn’t a bad idea, having a more traditional sole provides familiarity to golfers who don’t like changing grinds between events to suit the turf conditions. While both sets of grinds (TM and Callaway) are of similar concepts, the Hi-Toe has a more angular and less fluid “P” (channelled sole) grind.

Using the 64º wedge in a variety of lies and situations, it quickly turned into my go to club around the green. My confidence in the club soared once I knew how to best make use of the sole with it.

IMG_20190629_093621

There have been several of “AHA” moments, those moments when you realize you couldn’t do something if it wasn’t for what was in your bag. One of those moments was during a competitive round, where I was shortsided, on a down hill lie and had to play a flop shot to keep the ball on the green. In my mind the best case outcome was that the ball would roll past the hole and I would have a 7-10 ft comebacker uphill. After hitting the shot, much to my inner delight, the ball was still above the hole and 6 feet short. After draining the par putt and walking to the next tee, it dawned on me having that club not only allowed me to pull off the shot, but I could be more aggressive in doing so! That shot was made possible due to the ATV sole.

IMG_20190629_093821

My max distances with the 64º is 75 yards and the 58º is 100 yards. Compared to my 58º PM Grind, I’ve gained 10yards while still retaining decent spin. The Hi-Toe definitely feels like it grabs more, especially on the lower hop and stop shots.

IMG_20190629_093805

If you like your gamer clubs to looks like they just came from the factory, the copper finish is not recommended. The finish wears rather quickly but has no effect on performance or feel. I kinda like the wear pattern as it shows me how the club is interacting with the turf and the clubface. The picture below give a good indication of what I’m talking about.

IMG_20190920_135556

With the 2020 lineup of traditional wedges now available from most OEM’s it will be interesting to see what TaylorMade has up their sleeve to improve upon the Hi-Toe. They have already released several different finishes to the club, including a raw option, which was previously tour only. For $300 CAD, the My Hi-Toe option is available, allowing the consumer to personalize their club even more. Besides the Copper and Raw finishes, Black and Chrome are also available to via the higher cost option.

Overall, I’m extremely happy how this experiment turned out. Experimenting, and testing different products, is a part of the game of golf which I enjoy immensely. Having one of those crazy ideas actually turn out to be a success makes it even better.

So, now that you’ve read this, I now have to find a way to make the wedges even better, so in the coming months, the Nippon’s will be pulled and several other shafts will be tested in its place. Just because….