Roger Cleveland founded Cleveland Golf in the 1970s on the strength of his wedge designs. They've long been renowned as some of the best in the game, but Cleveland has been slipping in this category since Roger's departure in the mid-1990s. Bob Vokey at Titleist, Roger's new employer Callaway, and even TaylorMade have made great inroads in the wedge game and the top spot now belongs to Titleist's Vokey line of wedges.
That has not stopped Cleveland, of course, and they're looking to get back on top with their new CG12 wedges with "Zip Grooves™" - deeper U-grooves than found on previous models (like the CG11s we reviewed) that aim to add juice to your wedge shots much like TaylorMade's "Y" grooves, Callaway's "Mack Daddy" grooves, and Titleist's Spin Milled grooves.
As a long-time Vokey fan, I put these wedges to the test: I took my Vokeys out of the bag and played with these for a month straight. Did they pass the test? Read on to find out…
Despite the addition of one to the name, Cleveland's CG12 wedges are not successors to the CG11s. In fact, determining the CG12's parents are difficult: the wedges resemble the CG10 and even the revered 588, but with a bit more of a square leading edge and toe. They're likely updates to the CG10: the CG11s are the forgiving models and the CG10s and CG12s are for slightly better players.
The hot feature on the CG12s is the addition of the "Zip Grooves." The grooves on these wedges are milled to the current maximum conforming dimensions using a proprietary CNC mill bit.
Once milled, the clubs undergo an "innovative plating process [which] preserves [the] absolute integrity of [the] grooves by application of proprietary coating for protection during face sandblasting process." In other words, the grooves shouldn't be softened or rounded by the sandblasting process, resulting in grooves that remain consistently sharp, pristine in appearance, and shiny.
The wedges are stainless steel, which marks an interesting departure. Cleveland previously used a "carbon metal matrix" (CMM) in their CG10 wedges, which supposedly led to a softer feel. The CG12 ditches CMM in favor of a softer stainless steel that can be bent or adjusted for both loft and lie up to about two or three degrees.
I've stayed pretty far away from Cleveland wedges. At one point, I got it into my head that Cleveland wedges were all shaped like spoons, with large, rounded leading edges, low toes, and tall heels.
The CG12 maintains a bit of the "rounder" appearance my brain wants to attach to all Cleveland wedges, but in reality, these wedges are fairly modern shaped and look a lot like wedges from Titleist, TaylorMade, and Callaway. The leading edge has been flattened and the toe is a bit higher.
The CG12 is available in both chromed and black pearl finishes. As you can tell by the pictures, I played two chromed wedges. The chrome versions are quite shiny - I often saw hot spots of reflected light around my ball when playing on sunny days. The face is attractively sandblasted from top to bottom and around every groove, resulting in a satin appearance that helps to minimize glare.
The long hosel and two-ring black and white ferrule are simple enough, but I wish the same approach had been taken to the rest of the club. The Cleveland logo appears on the back of the club, but designers thought it necessary to include the scripted word "Cleveland" on the sole of the club. It not only complicates what would otherwise be a fairly clean design, but proves difficult to clean with just a towel.
Other markings on the club include the stamp "CG12" on the back of the blade along with the "Zip Grooves" logo. The lofts are marked on the toe side of the sole, and the bounce is written in both degrees and with Cleveland's typical "one-, two-, or three-dot" markings on the back of the hosel.
I tested two models of the CG12: the 60° wedge with 10° bounce and the 54° with 12° bounce. My normal Vokey wedge setup pairs a 54.10 with a 60.04. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about hitting the 60-degree wedge in particular with six degrees more bounce.
First, I sought to test the Zip Grooves that Cleveland is touting with these wedges. The grooves promise to put a lot of spin on the ball from all conditions. Unfortunately, in my testing, they fail to live up to the hype. In fact, I didn't feel as though I got any more spin from the fairways than I would from the CG10s or the 588s I borrowed for comparison and only marginally more spin from wet lies or thick rough. I found it virtually impossible to check the ball on partial greenside shots.
I wasn't expecting Vokey Spin-Milled type spin, either. When the Vokeys are new, they spin way too much and it can take a month or two to wear down the grooves a little. I was expecting at least as much spin from the CG12s as a worn-down Spin Milled wedge provides, but was still disappointed. I couldn't even get as much spin with the CG12s as I could with my one-year-old Vokeys.
I'm quite capable of spinning back a sand wedge from a dry lie in the fairway, but in side-by-side testing with my year-old 54.10 Vokey wedge, the CG12 couldn't pull a ball back more than about a foot. This compared poorly to the 15 to 18 feet I averaged with my Vokey. In side-by-side testing with the CG10 and the 588s, the Zip Grooves on the CG12 did perform slightly better from the rough - balls would stop a few feet shorter than they would off the older wedges. With anything less than a full swing, performance was nearly identical.
That being said, not many people can take advantage of modern "über-grooves," and the CG12 is still a very capable wedge. And, for those who like to look on the bright side, there's this: the Zip Grooves didn't shred my golf balls nearly as much as the super-grooved wedges from the "other" companies.
I use my 60° wedge around the greens and from bunkers, so I was apprehensive about moving from four degrees to 10° bounce. While the change did require a different approach from tight lies, the extra bounce did come in handy - as extra bounce should - from fluffy lies in the rough, soft sand, and wet fairway conditions.
Once I adjusted to the lack of spin or check, it became quite easy to control distance, and the clubs responded incredibly well to my attempts at hitting balls at varying heights.
The CG12 feels a tad heavier than the wedges I'm used to and about the same as the CG10, but I came to like the feel of the increased weight - I knew where the clubhead was at all times and felt it helped me control impact better. Impact itself felt a tad firmer than off Cleveland's other wedges, but not so much that the club in any way feels clunky.
All told, I simply can't figure out what's up with the Zip Grooves. Clearly they look different, but the look and Cleveland's approach don't seem to result in increased spin. Others seem to agree in this forum thread (disclosure: I started the thread).
The CG12 are available in both chrome and black pearl. Lofts ranging from 46° to 60° in two-degree increments are available. The four highest lofted wedges - 54°, 56°, 58°, and 60° - are available with multiple bounce configurations, including a 60/4 and a 54/8 for players (like me) who prefer a tad less bounce on their wedges to deal with firmer sand and tighter lies in the fairway.
The wedges are all 35.5" or 35.25" in length with a lie angle of 64° and a swing weight ranging from D3 in the 46-48° wedges, D4 in the 50-52°, and D6 in the 54° wedges and up.
Cleveland's Zip Grooves are an interesting move for the company, but not for the right reasons. Released shortly before the USGA deadline for comments on the grooves proposal and well after similarly deep-grooved wedges from folks like Titleist, TaylorMade, and Callaway, these wedges are caught in a sort of no-man's land. Better players may only get to use them for about a year. And unlike the wedges from those other companies, I simply couldn't get the Zip Grooves on the CG12s to do much of anything beyond a "normal" wedge, including several earlier Cleveland models. The Zip Grooves… don't.
That being said, the CG12 wedges offer several advantages. The lack of "über-spin" provides a level of consistency that is tough to find on some of the spinnier wedges out there. The CG12 won't render a golf ball useless by shredding the cover, the weight feels good, and the clubs look and perform well in the hands of skilled golfers looking to play a variety of shots from all sorts of lies.
In the end, at about $20 more than the CG10s and perhaps as little as a one-year life span, I'm just not sure they're worth the extra cash.