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Cleveland Smart Sole Wedges are Not Stupid

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Written By: Tony Covey

We’ve been pretty tough on Cleveland Golf of late. As you may recall, my colleague wasn’t what you’d call a fan of the new 2 Box Smart Square putter.  To an extent I more or less agree with his assessment.

Look…maybe squares are truly ground-breaking technology. Maybe squares will revolutionize putting. Maybe the Smart Square putter will shock the world and finish first in our 2014 Golf’s Most Wanted Mallet test.

Maybe…maybe..maybe.

I’ll be brutally honest here. Even if what Cleveland is saying makes perfectly good sense (and it actually does), the perception is that a struggling golf company is borrowing heavily from a more successful company, and that’s not so cool.

When you’re the littler guy you have to innovate to succeed, and let’s keep being honest here; the progression from circles to squares looks anything but innovative (even if it is).

If you’re TaylorMade you can borrow from Adams. When you’re Cleveland you can’t borrow from Odyssey; even if you actually improve the product along the way.

I didn’t make the rules. I don’t particularly think they’re fair, but they are what they are. Reality Bites…they should make a movie.

And so…as long as we’re continuing with the brutally honest theme, finding myself feeling a bit suspect toward Cleveland these days, my initial reaction to the announcement of the new Smart Sole wedges was basically, “what the hell are these clowns doing?”.

I wasn’t alone.

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On Second Thought . . .

Just as I found myself falling in line with the early Facebook crowd (getting irate and what not), just before I started my ranting about how no real golfer would every carry a chipper, or how no real golfer would ever want a super-fat-soled sand wedge, I started to think about Polara, and if rumors are true, TaylorMade, and Cobra too; all companies who have more or less made some noise about trying to make the game of golf easier for those of you out there who don’t have endless time to devote to the pursuit.

I’m talking about guys with wives and kids, and jobs, limited incomes, and perhaps physical issues – any number of things that make it impossible to take lessons, hit balls on the range 5 days a week, and play 72 holes on the weekend.

To an extent, I’m talking about guys who really aren’t that different from myself.

So when Polara, and TaylorMade (rumors…just rumors), and Cobra talk about their efforts to make more truly playable clubs (conforming or otherwise), I support them.

I Support Cleveland Too

Framed in the proper context (designs for guys and girls who just want to have more fun playing golf), it’s hard for me to take any sort of issue with anything Cleveland is doing with its fall 2013 lineup, particularly with their Smart Sole Wedge Offerings.

Forced to confront my own hypocrisy, I’ve chosen to climb down off my high horse and stop being a sanctimonious d-bag long enough to take a closer look at the Smart Sole Wedge and what it might tell us about the larger plan for Cleveland Golf.

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Simplifying the Short Game

We all want to hit little skippers that hop and skid, and stop right at the hole, bunker shots that sail past the pin and then suck back, and high open-faced flop shops that land next to the hole, right?

Actually…probably not. The data suggests that the average golfer could give a damn about all that fancy crap the PGA guys do with their wedges on Sunday.

The average guy just wants to have fun…and if he can keep it simple, then all the better.

If I’m reading this right, that’s what this Smart Sole Wedge thing is all about.

“The simplicity of these wedges makes them very appealing for those who don’t want to get overly technical.” – John Rae, Cleveland Golf

You can be overly technical?

Is it possible that there are actually golfers out there who can’t be bothered to agonize over every spec, don’t worry (or care) about whether or not their added distance is coming from jacked up lofts, and don’t lament the fact that the $300 shaft they just popped in their #2 hybrid is producing 150 RPM more spin than is desirable?

Are there guys who just want to hit good shots, and have as much fun as they can playing golf in whatever little window of time they’re allotted?

My God, I actually think there are (insane right?), and that’s where this Smart Sole wedge fits.

“You’re going to hit better shots around the green, lower your scores, and really just have more fun around the golf course.” – Jeff Brunski, Cleveland Golf

What the Hell Is A Smart Sole Wedge?

In case you haven’t pieced it together, the Smart Sole Wedge is the latest wedge offering from Cleveland Golf. Unlike the Rotex Series where the focus is on control, spin, and versatility, the Smart Sole Wedges are designed with a simplicity-first approach.

The goal of the Smart Sole, which is available in lofts of 42° (C Wedge) and 58° (S Wedge), is to provide a very simple set of tools that offer the recreational golfer more consistency, and by extension, more fun on the golf course.

More fun on the golf course? Why would you want that? I know…more crazy talk.

“The size, shape, and geometry of the sole have been designed to promote consistent contact, regardless of whether you have the most consistent swing” – Jeff Brunski

The Smart Sole is designed to prevent digging (how can anything that big dig?) and make it easier to hit crisp greenside chip. Short story…no more fatting and skulling.

If you find yourself getting all worked up about the Smart Sole Wedge, and how it’s a crutch, and how it’s going to ruin golf, then chances are it wasn’t designed with you in mind.

Why does everything need to be about you? It doesn’t. Get over your dang self already.

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Yes . . . It’s a Chipper

It’s reasonably safe to assume that the ‘C’ in the 42° (a degree stronger than the 9 iron in Cleveland’s 588 CB Irons) offering stands for Chipper (oh the horror!), and no doubt some will see that as an abomination.

Chippers have no place in golf. Learn to chip with a 9-iron. Am I right?

Unless you don’t really want to…or you’re tired of blading balls across the green, or flubbing chips, or whatever it is you do.

There’s no practical reason to suffer. Golf is a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

My point is that if you struggle with your chipping, and you don’t have time for lessons, or you don’t care enough about golf to take lessons, then fine…use the C wedge. It doesn’t impact my life one iota, and chances are, even the most irate of you out there; it doesn’t impact your life either.

Even the USGA is good with the chipper.

The whole truth of the matter is that Cleveland has done this before (the Niblick didn’t happen that long ago). I hated the notion of it when it launched, but over time I’ve softened my feelings about this whole actually enjoying golf nonsense.

There’s a rebirth of sorts happening with this golf made easy/fun/enjoyable/less frustrating thing, so it’s as good a time as any to reinvent a club that a lot of golfers actually loved.

That’s A Big-Ass Sand Wedge Right There

The second offering in the Smart Sole Wedge lineup is the 58° S wedge. It’s not the only über-wide soled wedge on the market, and like the others its primary purpose is to help guys who can’t escape bunkers to get their damn ball out of the bunker.

Still having friends who would rather cut off a finger than play out of a bunker, I get it.

I can tell you with absolutely certainty that there are plenty of recreational golfers who treat bunkers as Ground Under Repair.

When the ball goes in the sand, you take it out of the sand, drop it next to the sand and hit it from there. If you’re semi-scoring, you do so without penalty.

Why let a bunker ruin the fun (or kill your shot at breaking 100…more or less)?

So my thinking as a guy who probably wouldn’t play the “S” wedge (my sand game isn’t that bad) is that if it gets the guy who refuses to play from the sand to finally start playing from the sand, well that’s progress, and progress is usually good.

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Two Wedges are Simpler Than 3 . . . or 4

“For those golfers who want a simpler, more consistent short game, the Smart Sole Wedges are game-changers.” – Jeff Brunski

Let’s go back to that reality I dropped on you a bit ago. Not everybody wants to hit towering flop shots with their 64 degree wedge. Not everyone wants to carry the pin and then suck the ball back 30 feet. Simply put, not everybody who picks up a wedge aspires to be Phil freakin’ Mickelson.

Granted, I do.

I’m not a guy who does simple (even if I should), and you might not do simple either, but we are the minority…the loud, obnoxious, online, minority.

Cleveland Smart Sole Wedges offer a very simple approach for the golfer who really just wants to keep it simple. They’re not designed for me, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The Clevleand Smart Sole Wedges are designed for guys who just want to keep it simple.

Two wedges and you’ll have all the short game tools you’ll need – Jeff Brunski

Cleveland is still talkin’ crazy, but I get it.

A Different Cleveland Golf

We’ve heard to stories about Cleveland Golf recently. The first is that they’re on their last legs and might not live to see 2015. We’ve also heard from a well-placed insider that Cleveland is far from done.

We’re told they’re almost literally flipping the equation that defines the traditional relationship between golf companies and retailers. They’re introducing new product lines, trying to reach different golfers, and at least for this fall, making a real effort at making the game more enjoyable.

Like any brand in golf, Cleveland’s success is still largely dependent on the Tour. I don’t expect you’ll see them drop Keagan Bradley or Graeme McDowell any time soon. Those guys, along with the rest of the Clevleand/Srixon staff, are critical to any future success.

That said, the issue with Cleveland Golf over the last few years has been stagnation. They’ve had a couple of noteworthy products, but for the most part they haven’t done much of consequence, much of anything different. Srixon balls notwithstanding, they’ve done little more than exist (even if I think the Classic Series is pretty cool).

With the Fall 2013 lineup, there are signs of a pulse, maybe even some vigor at Cleveland. Perhaps it’s not what some of us were expecting to see, or hoping to see, but it’s something, and I really do believe this effort to make golf more fun for the masses is going to catch on.

Cleveland, with their Altitude Driver and Smart Sole Wedges is laying the ground work that could set it up to be a major player when it does.

Pricing and Availability

Cleveland Smart Sole Wedges will be available beginning November 15th. Retail price is $99.99 for steel, and $119.99. For more information visit ClevelandGolf.com

Have Your Say

What do you think of Cleveland’s Fall 2013 Lineup? Even if they’re not for you, do you believe these new products will find a receptive audience, or will they simply fall flat?

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

mygolfspy October 17, 2013 at 9:07 am

Q: What do you think of Cleveland’s Fall 2013 Lineup?
A: Worst I have personally seen from Cleveland since being in the business.

Q: Even if they’re not for you, do you believe these new products will find a receptive audience?
A: No, if you are going to change your business model as drastically as they plan for 2014 you need to ramp up marketing to inform the consumer. And even then this would be a major gamble. And even if this gains market share for them, it dilutes the one sector they do well in, wedges.

Q: Will they simply fall flat?
A: They are losing the serious golfer as a Cleveland buyer. Yes, this will always be large OEM’s minority, but has a huge impact on its majority. I expect it to fall flat as a Dekalb corn field.

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JORO October 17, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Why would anyone want anything that works and easy to hit when you can look cool and spend a lot of money on “name” brands. This does work, and work well. You surprise me.

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mygolfspy October 18, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Working and selling are two very different things in this industry. I think some of the worst selling clubs have been some of the games best performers for the average golfer.

BUT

Remember perception is reality and these types of clubs have never been perceived well my a major OEM trying to make a move up the ladder and grow their market share. Cleveland’s market share is in the tank overall and this does nothing to change that in my opinion.

So does it work as a wedge almost doe not even matter if the consumer perceives it as a gadget. Have to be a realist. The golf industry and the golf consumer are finicky.

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Stogiesnbogies May 15, 2014 at 10:58 am

This was not really a review of the wedges but a discussion -dare I say, indictment of Cleveland Golf. And, of course, a put down on “chippers” and “those people” who would use them or any form of super game improvement equipment.

I am a senior player and my bag consists of Cleveland HB3 hybrid irons and Cleveland Niblicks. They are by far the best performing clubs for the average player as I have now lowered my handicap to 16 -and I’ve only been playing golf for 7 years. I have also broken 80 on several practice rounds and flirted with the magic number in competition. This is largely due to my much improved game courtesy of Cleveland Golf.

You went on and on in this “review” yet never did provide any substantive data or results from actually testing the wedges. Your rather patronizing “review” is sadly just another example of the long running snobbery and indeed at times contempt for those who are willing to legally innovate in order to attain super game improvement results.

I have some news for you however, golf as a game, is in serious trouble ; the future does not look good as the majority of young people are not enthusiastic about a time consuming, difficult and expensive pastime. The majority of actual golf equipment consumers fall into my demographic; older men with the time and money to play regularly. Cleveland, wisely recognizes this marketing demographic and targets the majority of consumers in sharp contrast to say, Titleist which seems obsessed with marketing products to “better players” and consequently relies almost entirely on golf ball sales for revenue.

I was excited to discover that mygolfspy had posted a review of the new Cleveland Super Sole Wedges but vastly disappointed to learn that the clubs did not receive the usual thorough vetting associated with a Mygolfspy review but instead were used as a prop for yet another contribution to the Puritanical anti-chipper, anti super game improvement catechism.

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tider992010 October 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

Q: What do you think of Cleveland’s Fall 2013 Lineup?
A: I like Cleveland. I play the Black driver, and Classic fairways woods and love them.

Q: Even if they’re not for you, do you believe these new products will find a receptive audience?
A: I don’t know if they will hit the right audience because I think all manufacturers are struggling now. Golf industry is way down and little to get excited over. Bad Economy is kicking in.

Q: Will they simply fall flat?
A: I hope not.

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gary October 17, 2013 at 11:09 am

I have a BEN HOGAN “sure out” club circa 1975 that I still use on occasion. It has a large rounded sole not unlike the new Cleveland Smart sole.
New idea?
Not really!

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drbloor October 17, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Yeah, that was my first thought as well. Homely, but one guy I knew who had one swore by it.

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drbloor October 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm

A two-club, highly-forgiving wedge set up like this would be perfect for about 99% of weekend golfers. My ability to keep lightening the wallets of guys who hit it fifty yards further off the tee than I do depends on their not realizing this.

Keep chunking those Vokeys, boys.

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Will o'the Glen October 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I have a pair of late-model (circa 2007, I think) Hogan Sure Out wedges – SW 5406 and L 6006 – that I wouldn’t take out of my bag if Bob Vokey himself walked up and offered to custom-make replacements for me. The wide flange design is not a crutch at all, it is a sensible design feature which greatly increases the versatility of the club.

That having been said, I think that Cleveland is doing it wrong with the step at either side of the flange on their Smart Sole wedges, especially the one nearest to the shaft, because it limits your ability to open the face for big flop shots.

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Dave Sanguinetti October 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Not a far cry from Pat Simmons’ Alien or his new Great Escape- I reality a great wedge player gets even greater results with a true “game improvement wedge”!!!! It is just their ego that gets in the way. I played a round at Birmingham CC on day in 1998 with Loren Roberts and Jerry Pate- asked JP where his Alien was and he said that all the shots he took in the Alien infomercial were one-takes! When he noticed my Alien he couldn’t stop trying shots on every hole. After two especially good shots by me even LR was trying my Alien. At the end of the round we went to the practice area and I hit my 53 gap, and their 58′s and 60′s and hit excellent shots with them, both asked why I opted for the Alien and I said I was a very good short game player with traditional equip, but exceptional with the Alien, furthermore I asked why they, who played for cash, wouldn’t use a club that could save them 1 to 2 shots per round or 4-6 per event. Both answered that their peers would laugh them off the tour!! Personally I look at the score in the box, that all the validation I need!

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Robert October 17, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Every thing old is new again that why I keep my old ties. Ever hear of a Console Wedge?

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JORO October 17, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Yes, the console. Vokey has just “designed” a new secret wedge that is a copy of the Console.

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Ivano October 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

There’snothing new under the Sun…
I do prefer PRGR GOLF, take a look…
http://www.prgr-golf.com/en/product/wedge/Wedge-r45.html

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DB October 17, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I think it’s smart, and I really like the quote “Two wedges and you’ll have all the short game tools you’ll need.” I can’t tell you how many times I hear people asking which wedges they should buy. They have no idea, and would probably be better off with a simple two-club combo like this.

Also, the wide sole isn’t just for GI wedges. Look at the ATV, Gorge WS, Vokey K-grind, Nike Dual Wide, etc… lots of people are realizing the benefits of a wide sole, even professionals.

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Kenny B October 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm

People that have an old, similarly-designed wedge seem to love them. Cleveland must seem to think that there is merit in bringing back a design that obviously helped people. If they stick with it, maybe that wedge design will be around for awhile. I applaud Cleveland for expanding their wedge products to accommodate the average golfer. They are the people from which the golf industry will grow, not the scratch/single-digit handicappers.

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JORO October 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm

No matter what anyone thinks of these,,, they DO work. The “incredible Alien” also works as does my old old old, 588 Cleveland Wedge with the big ole sole. You can laugh at it cause it is not “tour quality”, or use it and have a great Sand game and short game. Your choice. Fact is you can spin the heck out of off any surface, dirt, cement, soft sand, and everything in between.

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Pat Ricke October 17, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Reminds me of the Console wedges back in the 80′s. Same sole design with a modern look.

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Jeff October 18, 2013 at 12:10 am

I keep hearing about the possibility of new clubs to make the game easier, both conforming and non. I have been playing golf for 20 years and I suck! I’ve broke 80 once and I had a stretch of time where I was a 80′s shooter. Before the economy tanked I was playing at least 2 times a week, now about 4 times a month. I’m back to shooting 90′s.

I want to see some golf clubs developed that look like nothing that has ever hit a golf ball before! I could give a rats azz what it looks like at this point! It may just be me but the golf club is a very complicated confusing piece of equipment to swing!!

I want a revolution!! not wider soles. I want something outrageously different!

Snowboarding changed skiing forever, Freestyle MX changed motocross etc…

PS. purist types relax.

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JimmyO October 18, 2013 at 2:51 am

Cleveland desperately needs to define its identity. “Two wedges and you’ll have all the short game tools you’ll need”??? Wouldn’t that make the rest of your wedge line-up obsolete? Don’t even bother looking at our 588 RTX, RTX CB and Forged Models in 2 degree loft increments from 46-64 with a variety of different bounce options. Oh and we also offer custom finishes on wedges.

I’m not knocking the products in the least- but for better or worse marketing matters. I know this is targeted at a different audience but guess what? Golfers of different abilities often get their information from the same place and this isn’t the message I’d want to be sending…

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BIG STU October 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm

It looks like an Infiniti Assure to me. The Assures have been out for 3 years or so now. I have just switched to them . I was always a devoted Vokey man and before that Clevland. but those Assure wedges are the best feeling and hitting wedges I have ever hit. And like was said I don’t practice all the time like I used to and that style works for me

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pabloheitmeyer October 18, 2013 at 7:29 pm

I’m getting the chipper for my girlfriend as a late birthday present this november!!

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pabloheitmeyer October 18, 2013 at 7:31 pm

and…. it will look good in her bag right next to the Cleveland 588′s in my bag!

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Daniel Stone October 20, 2013 at 1:47 am

Some interesting comments and the usual negative garbage. I think David Sanguinetti, sums it up perfectly with the Pro’s he played with. To embarrassed to put them in there bag.
These clubs will serve a purpose and lot’s of weekend golfers will buy them. Cleveland have
got there marketing right. Why don’t you do a test on the current F2 Wedges being promoted by every ex pro in the land at the moment. Every email I receive is bombarding you with videos about how wonderful full this club is. So is it that good ?????. Daniel.

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Drew October 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I would give these clubs a try if they could save me 2-3 strokes per round!

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Dcorun October 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I like the thought of getting out of the sand in 1 stroke. I will be giving them a try. Now, about Cleveland Golf dying, I’m not sure. I have always played Cleveland clubs and found them to be very well made and very playable with very good Miyazaki shafts in the woods and UST\Mamiya shafts in the irons. I recently purchased the Cleveland Classic Custom XL driver and got fitted (have played the Launcher for several years). I gained about 5-10 yds and seldom miss a fairway. I then bought the Classic 3 wood and if the X-Hot is longer then it might be illegal. Then I got a deal on a used set of 588 MT irons off ebay and what an iron. With the forged face and hollow clubhead I’m hitting these irons better than any I’ve owned especially the 3 & 4 which look like GI irons but, play like hybrids. They still make some of the best wedges out there just look at the tour. They may not come out with a new club every 2 weeks like TM and Callaway but, that doesn’t make them inferior. And give me break on the putter comment when TM has come out with the SLDR which was a blatant copy from Mizuno and that’s ok??? I could go on but, you can guess by now I really like Cleveland Golf clubs. Dan

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Derek October 24, 2013 at 9:54 am

Extremely well written. I could probably benefit from using them and might give them a try in the store. But being someone who wants to improve and takes it fairly seriously, I don’t know if I can get out of my own way. Having more fun and scoring better seems like it’d soften the blow though

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Pro Shop Attendant December 1, 2013 at 1:45 am

Well where I live it is starting to get cold and the ground is getting hard. We play year round as long as there is no snow on the ground. These clubs are perfect for playing in the winter and on tight lies. If the ball comes in high it bounces over the green. These clubs just pinch it off the deck without having to worry about them digging in.

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Rick Dee Strada January 30, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I’ve purchase the Cleveland Smart Sole S Wedge for the express purpose to make it easier to get out of the sand bunkers. So far, I have not failed doing so; successful in my last 8 attempts…in fact, since using this wedge, I no longer fear landing in sand bunkers anymore. My next purchase is the C Wedge.

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Dave Sanguinetti January 30, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Nike sweep sole- the new WORX sand wedge, etc.. Game improvement is starting to overcome the need to carry what the professional tour player does! By the way have any of the commenters ever played a PGA Tour course in pro-am and seen the incredible conditions that tour players are afforded. My grandmother could have played a 60* out of those bunkers- most tour players would be appalled at the conditions we play week in and week out. If it works you should put it in the bag.

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Sam February 12, 2014 at 6:02 pm

I love them. I bought the niblicks also. My golf team makes fun of me but I am the only one who has improved. I dropped my handicap from 30 to 6 in a couple years using “cheater” clubs and playing more. I carry a 3 and 7 wood, 5 and 7 hybrid, 2 niblick now smart sole wedges and a putter. 7 total. The game is fun, I don’t really have to think which club to grab, and I usually beat the people who make fun of me.

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mike edelman March 30, 2014 at 3:33 pm

let me explain something to the golf purists who are not enthralled with cleveland..I have been
playing the niblicks since they came out…reason is physical….a fused back and a prosthetic
hip…now some of you may think i shouldn’t be playing but when i was younger i was a 9
at 135 pounds and 5 8…assistant pros used to turn their backs to the pin when i was
anywhere near the pin off the green..that changed with the multiple surguries and so i tried
both the 37 and 42 degree niblick..and guess what I am still a USGA 13….so for me and i
suspect others like me who either can’t turn because of a disability or don’t understand
how to hit a short shot these clubs are a solution that keeps us interestes.. i have the S wedge on order for sand use….bet i go down to a 10 again….and as sam said I usually
beat high handicappers because they overestimate their own short games…and distance becomes irrelevant….driver driver driver on long par 5/ and up and down is still 5 :)

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Slowstriker May 11, 2014 at 10:49 am

I have been playing for over 50 years and have just purchased a Cleveland Smart Sole S wedge to replace an old Hogan Sure Out I. After all the physical crap that comes along after 70, and having gone from blades and real woods the a full set of hybrids, I am tired with “purists” shouting about game improvement clubs ruining golf. When more players are quitting than starting and courses are closing, it’s time the game changed to bring more people in that are just looking for a great way to spend a nice day outdoors with friends. If not, the purists can all congregate at the remaining few courses and pay $300 a round since the public courses will have been converted to sports people will want to play.

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