Wedges Test: Titleist Vokey SM8 vs Cleveland RTX ZipCore

When it comes to golf wedges, Vokey and Cleveland are top of most club golfer’s shopping lists. But, with both brands releasing new models for 2020, should the Titleist Vokey SM8 or the Cleveland RTX ZipCore be going in your bag? We tested them head-to-head to find out.

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Should I buy Cleveland or Titleist Vokey golf wedges? It’s a question thousands of club golfers ask every year when updating their bags.

Cleveland have a massive heritage and reputation, while Titleist will say tons of European Tour, LET, PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players use their product and they have the legendary Bob Vokey in their corner.

With both brands revealing new tour-level wedges this year in the Vokey SM8 and the RTX ZipCore, now seemed like the perfect time to pit the two head-to-head.

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Meet our golf club test pro

Today's Golfer test pro Neil Wain.

TG Test Pro Neil Wain (below) is a highly-experience PGA Professional based at Keele Golf Centre in Staffordshire. For added consistency we work with Neil on all of our club tests and all clubs that feature in each test are hit on the same day.

Watch the video of our Titleist and Cleveland wedges test

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Titleist Vokey SM8 wedge

RRP: £160.  Lofts: 46-62° in 2° increments.  Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold S200.  Head options: Six sole grinds (F,M, S, D, L, K).  Finishes: Tour chrome, brushed steel, jet black, raw

What you need to know

While Cleveland can lay claim to getting people talking about forgiving wedges, Vokey own the high ground when it comes to shifting mass higher in a wedge to create a progressive centre of gravity. The idea is that golfers hit lower lofted wedges lower in the face, where more lofted models are typically impacted higher.

Titleist Vokey SM8 wedge.

How the wedge looks

With lots of tour players (paid and unpaid) opting for them, Vokey wedges really can’t be put down. But if there’s been a criticism over the years, it’s how the blade length (toe to heel) has been on the longer side.

In our book the SM8 is the best looking Vokey wedge for a while, and it sits beautifully behind the ball.

Today’s Golfer score: 10/10

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How the Vokey SM8 feels

Our test pro was a little more enthusiastic about the feel and flight of the Cleveland (it was the first time he’d hit them compared to the Vokeys), but he did say in a blind test he’d struggle to tell the difference between them.

Titleist resist talking numbers with new models, so while the SM8’s new tungsten toe weight ups heel to toe MOI, Vokey don’t say where the centre of gravity is positioned in relation to the centre of the face. Our guess is it’s still a fraction heel side of centre.

Today’s Golfer score: 9/10

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Wedge spin numbers

Vokey inspect the grooves of every wedge leaving their factory, which they say ensures maximum spin. We’re talking fractions but the SM8 was three per cent in front of the ZipCore for spin on a full shot, which for some will be a headline grabbing number.

We see it much more neck and neck, as it’s worth factoring in half shot spin, and spin differential (the ZipCore was ahead on both), if you’re looking for consistency and repeatability.

Today’s Golfer score: 10/10

Titleist Vokey SM8 wedge.

SM8 pricing and options

Many Titleist products are pitched at the very top of the pricing tree (TS drivers, Scotty putters, Pro V1 balls). It’s not surprising SM8 follows the same structure.

We’ve deducted a point as it’s possible to find very similar performing wedges for less.

Today’s Golfer score: 9/10

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Overall verdict

We tested the SM8s as part of our Best Golf Equipment winter testing programme and felt they deserved a place among our favourite five wedges of 2020. They still get that thumbs up, so long as ‘tour level’ wedges are the right option for your game.

Bearing in mind the extra cost, tons of sole grind and loft options, a proper fitting is crucial if you’re set on the SM8s.

Today’s Golfer total score: 38/40

BUY IT NOW: Get the Titleist Vokey SM8 wedge from Scottsdale Golf

Cleveland RTX ZipCore wedge

RRP: £139.  Lofts: 46-62° in 2° increments.  Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Spinner.  Head options: Low Sole, Mid Sole and Full Sole grinds.  Finishes: Tour satin, black satin

What you need to know

Cleveland started the ‘forgiving wedge’ conversation with the original CBX back in 2017. The theme now spreads to Cleveland’s tour-level model, the RTX ZipCore.

Cleveland RTX ZipCore wedge.

How the wedge looks

Cleveland have made great looking wedges for years, and their engineers have pulled off a magic trick here by upping vertical MOI without changing how the wedge looks at address.

The ZipCore has a super aggressive milled face pattern and grooves, which give the immediate impression of having the most shot-stopping tech at your disposal.

Today’s Golfer score: 10/10

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How the RTX ZipCore feels

By edging the centre of gravity 1.4mm closer to the centre of the face (Cleveland say their two biggest competitors are 4mm and 1mm further away), feel is improved.

Our test pro loved the feedback and when that CG finally hits the centre of the face (no wedge has had a centred CG yet) on subsequent models, Cleveland can expect a 10/10 from us.

Today’s Golfer score: 9/10

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Wedge spin numbers

With wedges being such personal pieces of equipment, you should never buy on our spin numbers alone. Our data shows how the pair are very closely matched for stopping power. If there’s a gain to be had, ZipCore’s spin drop off consistency was 11 per cent tighter for full shots and 50.3 per cent tighter on half shots.

What does that mean? Well, shots drop onto the green with the same amount of spin each time, improving consistency.

Today’s Golfer score: 10/10

Cleveland RTX ZipCore wedge.

ZipCore pricing and options

Splashing out on a set of three new wedges is a costly business, so while price won’t be everything for some, there’s no hiding that a set of three ZipCore wedges will save you £63 over the SM8s.

Options-wise, Low, Mid and Full Sole grind choices plus two finishes is plenty for most golfers. The Dynamic Gold Spinner shaft is also an interesting stock model to help maximise stopping power.

Today’s Golfer score: 10/10

Overall verdict

Our test pro doesn’t often get excited by the equipment he’s hitting, but it’s fair to say he was mightily impressed with how the ZipCore gave a slightly lower ball flight and got shots spinning like a cat on a hot tin roof.

It’s hard to pick holes in the ZipCore, especially when they come in for significantly less than the SM8. If tour-level wedges are your best option (if you use cavity back irons it’s likely the cavity back CBX will be a better fit), then you’ll struggle to find better.

Today’s Golfer total score: 39/40

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Data comparison: Titleist Vokey SM8 vs Cleveland RTX Zipcore wedges

Data comparison between the Titleist Vokey SM8 wedges and Cleveland RTX Zipcore wedges

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