“While it probably won’t get the attention of the Cleveland and Vokey offerings, it’s clear to us that this wedge belongs in any conversation where the best wedges on the market today are being discussed...nearly all of our testers told us they’d seriously consider purchasing the Callaway X Series Jaws CC Wedge“
Callaway X Sereis Jaws CC Wedge Review
I have a confession to make. I love wedges. Seriously. Unlike most guys who are hung up on one particular club, I don’t fixate on putters. I barely care about putters (a necessary evil, but not much more), but wedges…what’s not to love? They are, beyond question, the most versatile club in the bag. I can’t get enough of them. In the last two years alone, I’ve ventured out on to the golf course with wedges from Cleveland, Callaway, Vokey, Bobby Jones, Solus, Boccieri (Heavy), and TaylorMade. By the time this season is over, I expect I’ll be adding 2 or 3 more names to that list as I begin my search for the perfect 64° wedge.
From what I gather, most people don’t really think of Callaway as a wedge company. When it comes to wedges, the trendy think Scratch, but most think Vokey and Cleveland. The latter is particularly ironic given that Roger Cleveland, the guy who made Cleveland wedges what they are, sold his company in 1990 and has been designing clubs for Callaway since 1996. My point is, few if any know more about wedge design than Roger Cleveland, and he’s the guy behind Callaway’s forged wedges. You want a real Cleveland wedge? Buy a Callaway.
With a solid year of “new groove rule” changes under their belts, OEMs have developed a few new ideas for generating more spin; all within the confines of the USGA regulations, of course. While the industry guys I’ve spoken with have quietly acknowledged that raw spin numbers aren’t what the were with the old grooves, most of the talk we’re hearing focuses on improved spin from the rough and under wet conditions. Callaway has entered that particular fray by claiming their new wedges out spin competitor’s wedges from light, wet rough. There’s some fine print associated with those tests, but the point Callaway is trying to make is that wedges didn’t stop creating spin when the new rules went into effect.
The Callaway Approach
While not 100% unique, Callaway was the first on the scene with a more grooves = more spin approach to overcoming the limitation of the 2010 groove rule. The new wedges feature 21 grooves, which amounts to roughly 40% more grooves than previous models. Also unlike the more traditional current way of forming grooves (usually CNC milled after forging or casting), Callaway’s grooves are stamped into the club head during the “Triple Net Forging” process as Callaway calls it. The simple fact that Callaway’s wedges are forged is, in my mind, a very positive point of differentiation between market leaders Vokey and Cleveland.
Lots of Options
Two things really stand out about this year’s wedges from Callaway. We’ll cover the slate finish when we examine our looks ratings, but now is a great time to talk about options – and there are lots of them. If you prefer a satin chrome finish, Callaway offers 7 options from 52°-60°. The stock graphite shaft offering (with slate finish) brings another 7 options (from 50°-64°), and the slate finish (Dynamic Gold steel), which judging by the number of options, Callaway must expect will be the biggest draw, is available in an additional 14 configurations ranging from 50°-64°. As you might expect, the offerings are a mix of different, loft, bounce, and grind combinations (the C-Grind is now available in every loft offered). As you’ll quickly learn about me, I love 64° wedges, so I’m obviously pleased to see two 64° models offered by Callaway. You can expect to hear me complain about any and all manufacturers that don’t offer the 64. As much as I love seeing what some call the spatula wedge, perhaps the most compelling, or at least unique clubs in the lineup, are the zero bounce offering available in both 58° and 60° lofts. If you play on a lot of hardpan, or have the type of swing that calls for less bounce, few if anyone else in the industry will offer you a zero bounce lob wedge.
Material Composition: 1024 Carbon Steel (Forged)
How We Tested
The 6 golfers for whom we collected detailed performance data were asked to hit a series of shots on our 3Track Equipped simulators from aboutGolf. As usual, testing was done at Tark’s Indoor Golf, a state of the art indoor golf facility located in Saratoga Springs, NY. Detailed data for each and every shot for which we collected data is now viewable in the interactive portion of this review. This data serves as the foundation for our final performance score. As a supplement to our 6 performance testers, a subset of additional golfers were given the opportunity to test the Callaway X Series Jaws CC Wedges and provide feedback in our subjective categories (looks, feel, perceived distance, perceived accuracy, perceived forgiveness, and likelihood of purchase). This information, which we also collected from our performance testers, is used as the foundation for our total subjective score.
New Radius-Based Scoring
For wedge reviews, we use a radius-based scoring format. Instead of simply asking our testers to hit the ball as long and as straight as they can, testers are asked to stick their shots as close as they possibly can to a pin set at 100 yards. Because distances can very, even for wedges, testers are given the opportunity to hit several shots to determine the best loft for the target distance. At the 100 yard distance, our golfers tested with a mix of 52°, 56°, and 60° degree wedges. Though testers were given their choice of sole grinds, most didn’t seem to care one way or the other. I personally chose the 52° C-Grind model because I generally play on hard dry fairways where too much bounce can be a problem. I also tend to open the face up quite a bit around the greens and the extra heel relief keeps the leading edge closer to the ground allowing me to slide the club under the ball with a bit more ease.
80% of the total performance score is calculated based on where each shot fell in proximity to the hole. Closer is obviously better.
As we do with irons, we apply a formula to normalize the data across varying handicap levels. Our scoring attempts to account for difference in ability levels between high and low handicap golfers, and makes a reasonable attempt to level the playing field (much like the Handicap system itself), so that it’s possible to achieve similar scores for all golfers. Details for each and every shot hit during our tests is available to you in the interactive portion of this review. Definitely check out that page, and let us know what you think about the new scoring system.
At some point in the future we may look to enhance or wedge tests to include pitch and chips shots, from the fairway, rough, and potentially even the sand. For now, however; we’ve decided to focus on full shots from a fairway lie.
When you’re dealing with wedges from only 100 yards out, dispersion patterns tend to be a bit tighter (although you still see the occasional wild miss). Still, when 4 of our testers post an average miss of somewhere inside the 36 foot range, we think we’re probably looking at a solid wedge. One tester, Nick, posted an average miss of under 24 feet (94.87 score). What’s more impressive is that a nearly 1/2 of Nick’s shots came to rest inside of 20 feet. While that’s not PGA level dart throwing, the average golfer would likely be more than pleased with the results.
While I wasn’t as accurate as some (my test included a shank that came to rest a full 91 YARDS away from the hole), I still put up A- level numbers. What I don’t want to get lost in the averages is that 6 of my test shots ended up inside 0f 20 feet, and 3 of those were inside of 10. Obviously I’m plenty satisfied with the way the wedge performed.
MGS Accuracy Score: 87.61
Let’s get this out of the way right now…guess who posted the lowest consistency score of our testers? That’s right…this guy. Per usual, the golf club couldn’t overcome my ability to spray the golf ball in every imaginable direction. Everyone else faired much better, including a pair of 96+ scores, and another pair in the 94-95 range. Of the 6 testers from whom we collected data, I was the only one not to crack the 90 mark (I wasn’t close). Quite obviously, hosel shots, no matter what the design of the club, won’t produce the same type of launch conditions as balls struck with the grooves. When facts like those are removed from the equation, the scores our other testers posted with Callaway X Series Jaws CC suggest it is an extremely forgiving wedge, which could be due, at least in part, to the above average amount of offset – which we’ll touch on several more times in this review.
MGS Consistency Score: 94.60
You can’t talk about wedges without talking about spin, so we decided it absolutely had to be part of the scoring equation. Of course, ultimately spin itself doesn’t matter, what really matters is how close you can put the ball to your target.
We’re well into wedge testing this season, and what we’re finding is that nearly all of the wedges we’ve received put up very similar spin numbers. We suspect the new groove rule has leveled they playing field a bit. Of course, we also expect that there will be more separation in spin numbers if we tested from the rough or wet conditions. Unfortunately we’re not there yet, and more unfortunate still is that opportunities for the average guy to actually demo clubs from the sand, and wet rough are even more limited. So with all of this in mind, we’ve decided to post and score spin numbers, but for this year at least, those numbers will count for only 10% of the performance score.
Based on my observations, when a tester can post an adjusted average spin rate of over 10,000 RPMs, we’re doing really well. In the case of the Jaws CC, two of our testers (myself and Nick) managed to exceed that 10,000 RPM average. 3 more testers managed to average above 9000 RPMs, and even low spin tester, Mark, managed a very respectable average of just under 8800 RPMs. We have several wedges undergoing testing at the moment, and while I don’t have all the details on those yet, early indications are, as I said, that the numbers will be reasonably close across the board.
MGS Spin Score: 95.19
Looking at the results of our performance tests, the only conclusion to be drawn is that Callaway has an excellent wedge on their hands (and now in mine). With A-level performance numbers across the board, it not surprising that most of our testers told us they really like (some said love) this wedge. While it probably won’t get the attention of the Cleveland and Vokey offerings, it’s clear to us that this wedge belongs in any conversation where the best wedges on the market today are being discussed.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 89.50
When it comes to evaluating wedges, we’ll throw our numbers at you like we always do, but we understand that the reality of things is that evaluating wedges on an individual basis is only slightly less scientific than it is when the average golfer considers a new putter. Wedges are very much “feel” clubs. They have to look right, they have to feel right, and when it comes time to buy, perhaps it just me, but there needs to be an almost visceral connection to the club. I have to trust that the wedge will allow me to hit any shot, from any lie whether it’s a 40 yard pitch, or a wide-open flopadopolis off hard pan. It’s not something you can really represent with numbers – you more or less just have to trust your gut and go with it, but that doesn’t mean our testers don’t have opinions.
It absolutely kills me that most of the guys who test for us barely take a moment to look at the sole of the golf club. Grinds matter, and yet most golfers are still more concerned with the paint fill on the cavity. Almost to a man, our testers told us they really like the looks of the new Callaway wedges (even if they barely glanced at the sole). While a couple said they preferred the satin finish, most of our testers, myself included, were bigger fans of the new slate finish.
Overall, the scores were a mix of 8s and 9s (with 9′s outnumbering 8′s). Though nobody rated it a 10, 8 was a low as it got, which tells me there a good amount of like mindedness when it comes to the design. Though it didn’t seem to impact that overall score, a couple of our lower handicap testers told us that they weren’t big fans of the comparatively thicker topline and noticeable offset.
Personally, I don’t have an issue with either, and I like the relatively compact sole, particularly on the standard bounce, C-Grind options (the zero bounce soles look a bit funny). If I’m being completely honest, however; though it serves a purpose, I’m not huge fan of the design of the rear of the club, which to me looks like an “X”.
That design of the back isn’t for cosmetic purposes, however. As Roger Cleveland explained via email, “it [the back design] was not for decorative purposes to depict an X, but to move weight higher up the back to raise the CG as much a possible given the loft, which promotes added spin”. Most importantly for this scoring category, Callaway was able to move this weight without creating any visual distractions at address.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a nice looking club, but I do prefer the more traditional design of the X-Forged.
MGS Looks Score: 89.58
Once again, the scores were almost universally high, with several testers commenting that they were surprised that a Callaway wedge would feel this good (although a couple later admitted that they had never actually hit a Callaway wedge before). 9′s and 8′s led the count, with a single 10 (high accuracy tester Nick) thrown in for good measure.
Though others at MGS don’t share my affection for the clubs, I’ve been a big fan of the feel of Callaway wedges for a few years now. My current 64° is a Callaway X-Forged, and in my mind, these new CC models offer every bit the buttery soft feel as the earlier models, perhaps more-so - at least for those shots I hit with the face. Not that it should matter, but the hosel doesn’t feel nearly as soft. Shanks not withstanding, our testers seemed to really appreciate, what to some was the unexpected buttery soft feel of the Callaway wedge.
MGS Feel Score: 96.75
I refuse to ask our testers to provide us with their perception of wedge distance, but accuracy, and the perception thereof, matters. In general, I expect that testers will probably rate wedge accuracy universally higher than they will with any other club. While all things should be relative, when you’re consistently landing balls 20 feet from the pin, everything looks pretty rosy. Not surprisingly, the majority of our tests again rated the X Series Jaws CC wedge as a 9 for accuracy. One tester gave it an 8, while one gave it a 10. Overall, the perceived accuracy was just a bit better than the actual accuracy.
Tester Perceived Accuracy Score: 94.96
I’ve already made a few comments about how unforgiving the Callaway Jaws CC’s hosel is, but a single shank aside, our testers liked what they were seeing from shot to shot. Yeah, everyone lost a little bit of distance when they dug into the turf and hit the ball a little high off the face, but in general, distance, and accuracy control were very good, and our testers seemed to notice. More than a couple of our testers told us that this is the most forgiving wedge they’ve ever hit. Maybe that’s the offset, maybe not.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 94.96
Likelihood of Purchase
I don’t mean to diminish the results of our LOP surveys, but I’m quickly realizing that likelihood of purchase is almost directly correlated to accuracy. Most guys have basically indicated they’ll buy a club they hate the looks of, if they consistently hit it where they’re aiming. It wasn’t that long ago I was telling you I didn’t think I’d ever see a LOP score above 90, and now I’m telling you that we’re probably going to see one soon, at least for a wedge.
Getting back to the topic at hand, nearly all of our testers told us they’d seriously consider purchasing the Callaway X Series Jaws CC Wedge, and the few that rated it slightly lower told us that the only issue was the offset. While I’m not sure it should matter when you’re dropping balls inside of 20 feet all day long, I suppose I can understand why some players would prefer a different look.
With several 9s, a few 8s, and only a single 7, the Callaway X Series Jaws CC Wedge came as close as any club to date to cracking the “A” range for LOP.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 87.79
I’m more or less in total agreement with our testers on this one. As much as I love the slate finish, as I mentioned, I’m not crazy about the X design in the cavity. I could take or leave the offset (it had no impact on my personal rating), but I would prefer a thinner top line.
I’m 100% with our testers on Feel, Accuracy, and Forgiveness. The LOP score is as much an exercise in psychology as it is anything else, but I’m one of the 9s, and there’s a fairly decent chance that at least one of these wedges is going to get a field test when my home course opens up later this week.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 93.61
Just as they did when we reviewed the Callaway RAZR Hawk driver, our testers came away more than a little impressed with the Callaway X Series Jaws CC wedges. Considering both the subjective totals, the above average performance, it’s doubtful we’ll see many wedges that score this high across the board – and for what it’s worth, I think the numbers are well deserved. When you factor in the number of stock options that are available (the most we’ve seen this side of Scratch’s custom shop), higher offset concerns aside, even those who might not consider themselves fans of the brand probably should take a serious look at this wedge.
With specific regard to the question/concern over the higher than average offset – I don’t think most players will mind, or even notice. Higher handicappers (myself included, I must begrudgingly admit) would probably benefit from the added forgiveness, which makes the new Callaway wedge an excellent choice for the golfer looking for a bit more margin for error in his wedges, but who isn’t willing to go the full game improvement route.
As it stands, we don’t have any additional Callaway product in our review pipeline, but considering how well what we’ve tested so far as performed, we may have to rethink our plans and include even more from Callaways’ thus far impressive 2011 lineup. Let us know if you want to see more.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 89.91
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