I’ve been playing golf for around 30 years, but have only bothered with a handicap and playing club competition golf in the last 10 years.
I currently game a set of Sterling Single Length irons, which, I have only just started to get used to and they are starting to make a big difference in my game and scoring in general. I’ve found the adjustment mainly to be just in my head and to get used to swinging on the one swing plane for each club. I’m currently a 17 handicap, who relies on good tee shots and wedge play to score well. My long irons are not great (though they are getting much better with the switch to single length irons) and some of my approach shots go a little wayward and I end up on the right side of greens – having to pitch or chip onto the green. If I don’t score, well, it is usually because I’ve had a bad tee shot or my approach shots have gone more wayward than usual. That said, I have had a handicap as low as 14 for a while and have shot a best score of 81.
As far as wedges go I have previously used Cleveland RTX wedges, Vokey SM4 wedges and Mizuno MP-R12 and S5 wedges.
The 56 degree wedge that was in my bag before I bought the rake wedge was the Mizuno MP-R12 (I found a brand new one on sale) . Before that it was a Cleveland 56degree wedge with 16 degrees of bounce.
That Cleveland 56/16 was great out of bunkers – but I found it was a one trick pony and found it difficult to hit it from the fairway, especially on the hard pan fairways on the links style course at the Longyard Golf Club here in Tamworth. If I hit slightly behind the ball, the bounce would cause the head to bounce up and I would blade the ball down the fairway. On softer fairways, like those at the Tamworth Golf Club, there was less of an issue, so it would be the sort of wedge to use if you have issues getting out of bunkers and have soft fairways.
The Mizuno MP-R12 is a 56/13 . Whilst it can be laid flat due to the narrow sole and Mizuno grind on the heal so that I could do flop shots with it – on courses with soft fairways… I couldn’t do it on hardpan fairways. It was a good wedge if I was playing well, but around the greens – I found that it demanded a precision of strike that I don’t possess and don’t have the time to practice to get that good. It certainly is a great quality built wedge, but sometimes when manufacturers say that their irons and wedges were designed with a lot of input from the tour players. Well, what suits a Pro golfer, may well prove to be a bad choice for the average amateur.
As I currently don’t carry a lob wedge, I also found the MP-R12 wedge very difficult to hit those “uncomfortable distances” with any real consistency. Like feathering a 30m pitch shot into the green. I would either come up too short or too long all the time.
Then a friend of mine, Graham Seaman, raved about the RAKE wedge he bought from PnP Golf in Canberra. After some research on their website and reading the reviews on the internet as well as Youtube videos, I still had my doubts if this wedge would work. Heck, it had 20 degrees of rail bounce, though the sole bounce is 10 degrees. That 20 degrees kept bugging me, especially since I had used the Cleveland wedge that was 16 degrees of bounce and it never worked for me, unless I was in a bunker. But as my friend Graham had been gaming the club at several courses in Canberra, that he plays at – he kept saying to me that I shouldn’t worry about the bounce, the wedge works.
So, after a phone call to Craig at PnP Golf, and waiting 3 days for Australia post to make the delivery to Tamworth, I had a brand new 56 degree rake wedge in my hands.
Initial testing on the skytrak launch monitor I have, showed that spin was great and I loved the look of the on-set leading edge and in fact I really like the grip to the point where I would love to have those golf grips on all my clubs. I found that the shots where I had to try and feather a shot into the green – well, they just worked and I was constantly inside 12 feet or better to the pin all the time. Now, I have to say that I am not a high spin golfer and tend to struggle at times to generate spin, but this wedge made that job a lot easier as well. The micro grooves on the face do a great job.
But as they say, the launch monitor is one thing, on the course can be a very different situation with the ball never being in a perfect lie. So I jumped into the deep end and instead of going out for a social game with my son, I thought, what the heck, let’s play a club competition and test the club out when score really matters.
We decided to play at Tamworth Golf Club, it has generally soft fairways with some areas of hard pan rough. Well, the wedge didn’t disappoint me at all, in fact it exceeded expectations. Throughout the day I had a variation of different lies, from soft fairway to hard pan rough, long rough and green side chipping both with and against the grain of the grass. The thing I was disappointed in was the fact that I had not landed in any bunkers until the 16th hole, as I wanted to test out the Rake wedge in a bunker. With Tamworth Golf Club, no longer having a practice bunker, the only “practice” I can get is to be in bunkers on the course.
Short Range Pitching
Several times during the day I was left with around 30 to 50 metres into the middle of the green, my uncomfortable distance area. Each time the wedge performed very nicely, carrying very close to the number I needed and allowing for a small amount of roll out, I was usually left with putts that were at worst 12 feet, after rolling out to the pin. This allowed me to save several par’s on the day, it would have been more if not for my poor putting on the day.
Hard pan fairway or soft fairway made no difference. In fact, after several shots I took a look at the divot I left and could see the grooves that the rails had cut into the ground. More so with the soft fairway, but even on hard pan, I could see the grooves that the rail had cut into the fairway. The wedge really works in the way that the designer said it would.
I also found that I could quite easily change the ball flight height with this wedge for any given distance. If I want to play a lower pitch shot into the green or a high shot, I could do both without too much trouble. The rail bounce certainly wasn’t hurting my shots at all and not once did I blade a shot, even from the hardpan rough.
I have to admit that I have always had issues with chipping against the grain around the green fringe. The grass has tended to grab the leading edge of previous wedges I have used or if I have tried to put the bounce of the wedge in play, I have wound up blading the ball across and through the other side of the green. Not so with the Rake wedge. The on-set leading edge coupled with the bounce, had my chipping game reach a new level. I didn’t change anything with my setup or attack angle, but not once did I “chunk” a chip shot, or have the grass grab the leading edge of the club head. The second hole I played, my approach shot left me short and to the front right corner of the green. Using the rake wedge, I worked out the shot I wanted to play and where I wanted it to land, allowing for some run out, I nearly had my first chip in, with the ball rolling out nicely to the pin and in fact curling around the back of the cup and leaving me with a few inches for my par putt. This set the scene for
the rest of my day in fact and I have to admit my confidence grew after each shot and I found myself hoping to be able to use the Rake wedge on every hole.
Again – have to admit that my bunker play would be typical mid/high handicapper. I don’t tend to get out every time with the first attempt, but more around 8 out of 10 first attempts will get out of the bunker, but I have been more the type of player that just tries to get out of the bunker and have the ball fly in the general direction of the pin location. This time around, I followed the instructions from PnP Golf on how to use the Rake Wedge in the bunker. Basically have your body and feet aligned 10 to 15 degrees open to the target (aligned left of the target) then open the club face by the same amount. Impact the sand a couple inches behind the ball. This is the technique I previously used until I had a lesson on bunker play and have since taken a less open to the target line setup, which I have had good success with.
With the PnP recommendations, all I can say is that it works and it works a treat. Looking into the sand (being damp underneath the initial dry top layer of sand) I could once again see the grooves that the rails on the base of the head had left in the sand. The ball came out very nicely and rolled out a small amount towards the pin. Surprisingly, it didn’t roll out as much as I thought it would.
Full Shots into the Green
On the course, I only had one full shot into the green. 80m. The fairway was soft and once again, I could see the grooves that the rails left in the divot. The flight was nice and high, but not too high and the ball stopped after the initial landing bounce. Again, surprisingly as the ball I was using on the day was the new Bridgestone e6 Soft. So I was expecting a small amount of roll out.
After the game, my son and I went out onto the practice range and had a few more shots with the RAKE Wedge. Distance control on full shots was very accurate, even for me as a mid/high handicapper. My son, who plays off 6 was eager to try the wedge and see what shots would work or not work. But he found that the wedge very versatile, which he thought surprising, given that the rails are a 20 degree bounce. He was still able to manipulate shots that he wanted to play, from high to low and working the ball left and right as well as around the greens where he likes to sometimes chip and stop the ball quickly or chip and let the ball run out. He found the wedge to be more predictable than his current 56 degree wedge.
The Rake Wedge is definitely staying in my bag. In fact, I’m now looking at saving some money so that I can buy the Lob Wedge and then the Gap Wedge as well. I think that most players will look at the sole and be concerned about the rails having an adverse effect on the playability of the wedge, but they shouldn’t be. The wedge certainly isn’t going to save a bad swing, you the golfer still have to put a decent swing on the club. But for me, it is a club that will give me serviceable results all day, without the need to practice as much Phil Mickelson or Luke Donald, or needing their skills and precision of strike. The Rake wedge has made the game easier and hence more fun for me and in one 18 hole game, I would have to say that it saved me at least 4 to 5 strokes when compared to the general results of previous wedges I have used.
Thoughts from a 6 Handicapper
My first look at the Rake Wedge – those rails are really quite prominent, being that no other wedge has them. My first concern was that the rails would dig in and have an adverse effect on the type of shots I wanted to play. Especially if I wanted to open the face right up.
My next concern was playing at courses with very firm fairways and a lot of hard pan lies, like the Longyard Golf Course here in Tamworth. How wrong I was.
But watching my Dad use the wedge during a club comp game, seeing the shots that he was able to do, I just had to try this wedge out. My Dad will be the first to admit he has struggled with some wedges at times, but during our game, I watched him produce shots with such a success rate, that he was saving shots, where in previous games he would normally be losing shots. I just had to test that Rake wedge for myself.
Most low handicap golfers will take a look at this wedge and think that it is just for high handicappers and golfers who need a ton of help with their short game. Whilst it has made the wedge game a lot easier for my Dad who is a 17 handicapper, scratch and low handicappers would be selling this wedge short if they thought that it is beneath them to have this wedge in their bag. Just because you have Vokey, Callaway or Cleveland wedges doesn’t mean a thing to me. What matters is that the club works and lets me play the different shots I want and need to play at times during a game.
And work – it does, with outstanding results
After a recent coaching lesson, I decided to then test out the Rake wedge in the practice bunker. Now this bunker is about 4 to 5 feet deep and has a reasonably steep front wall to get up and over. A good test for the wedge. With various pin placements on the green to aim at, both short and long. This wedge can do it all. No matter how open or closed I had the face, the rails didn’t try to force the club in a different direction to what I was swinging in. They simply ploughed through the sand and the ball popped up and landed softly. In fact for the long shots – about 18m to the pin, I simply left the face square and this got me the distance I wanted.
I was also surprised at how much spin the ball was getting as the ball was stopping very quickly. Landing like a butterfly with sore feet, as the saying goes.
Chipping around the greens, again, I was very surprised at how much spin I could generate with the wedge. But best of all I found the amount of spin easy to control. Unlike some wedges I have tried out in the past, where the amount of spin you want is difficult to control, sometimes being too much and other times not being enough. I found that with the Rake wedge I could dial in the amount of spin I wanted. More if I wanted to be aggressive with the chip or if there was no green to work with – needing to stop the ball after the initial first bounce on the green, or less spin if I wanted to take advantage of more roll out and use the slope of the green to feed the ball to the cup.
All in all I felt like I could do any shot I liked with the Rake wedge and in fact found it to be more consistent than my current Callaway MD3 56/10. So the wedge isn’t just aimed at the golfer who needs all the help they can get as it is equally as good for the low handicappers as well. All my testing was done using a Bridgestone B330S ball, which is my normal ball that I game.