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They’re old, but they’re still one of the best things since sliced bread – the Titleist Vokey SM4 wedges are some of the most popular wedges not only among the Titleist fans, but throughout the community, and with good reason. In a nutshell, the SM4 was Titleist’s answer to the new regulations that forbade using square grooves and reverted back to the V-grooves that had previously been the norm. In Bob Vokey’s own words, what Titleist did was not panic, but simply add more grooves to get a little bit more teeth on the ball, which pretty much did the trick (and if the man himself says something, you can take that to the bank). Continue reading this Titleist Vokey SM4 wedge review to find out more about the legendary club.
In a hurry?
The History of the SM4
The SM4 wedges feature(d) 17 regulations conforming grooves (pretty new design when it came out back in 2011, but one that still holds rather well). Of course, they had less spin than the older non-conforming ones, but it was a great step to getting the spin back on track after the 2010 change of rules.
Titleist was very quick to adapt to these new regulations, and they’ve only gotten better with every new generation of clubs – the SM5 and the SM6. What the SM4 wedge lost with the new rule it more than made up with the 17-groove pattern – to put it more precisely, what it lost in spin due to the new shape of the grooves (about 30 per cent) it made up in number by adding more of them.
This definitely went a long way to gaining a good deal of that lost spin and making the change not as drastic as you would’ve expected. Also, it’s one of the reasons that made the SM4 as popular as it is even today.
With that said, the difference in spin isn’t as noticeable as you would expect it compared to the old wedges (or the new ones, for that matter), especially considering the subjective feel when you hit it. On the flipside, it’s a little bit noticeable into the green when it’s stopping, but come to think of it, some players might like it with a little bit less spin, as you do get less chance of the ball spinning backwards on a perfectly distanced shot.
You’ve got three different grinds on the bottom, as well as a few different loft and bounce options (talk about understating things); with the SM4s, Titleist really went for the custom fit, so they introduced loads more specs than they had on the old wedges, and, again, the trend only continued with the SM5 and the SM6.
Titleist Vokey SM4: “Bob’s Greatest Hits”
With the Titleist Vokey SM4 wedges, you get all the four types of wedges to cover all the yardages you need in a range going from 46 to 64 degrees, all in 2-degree gaps. There’s also a great selection of bounces and grinds, which is a feature the company continues into their newer lines – the SM5 and SM6.
This gives you plenty of options that fit into whatever course you want to play and whatever kind of style of stroke you want to put on it, plus it looks great and feels right for a non-forged club. To be honest, if you can’t find a wedge within this range to fit into your bag, then you’ll never find one.
Grooves and the Rule Change
The SM in the SM4, as you may well be aware of, stands for Spin Milled, which pretty much means the grooves are cut using little saw blades, making the edges towards the heel and toe more rounded. The face of the club is CNC machined, which roughens up the surface, giving it more bite and making it more durable. Of course, this technology is not new either in metallurgy or wedge-making, and Titleist’s been using it since 2005.
For those of you not in the know, but eager to learn, the grooves on the SM4 are the 4th series since Titleist started milling their wedge faces, and was preceded by two generations of box cut grooves (now considered illegal on tour and pretty much discontinued all around) and a first generation of regulation compliant grooves (not directly named SM3, but that’s what they pretty much were).
In other words, the SM4 grooves were Titleist getting back in the saddle, so to speak, or the first workable generation of new grooves. Granted, it would take the SM5s to come near the levels of spin you had prior to the rule change in 2010, but Titleist seem to have hit a sweet spot (no pun intended) with the SM4, as many players still hold them in high regard (and their bags).
On that note, many Titleist players argue that the SM5 wedges aren’t nearly as good as the SM4s, and the only redeeming quality is that they instil confidence when you put them down by the ball (also, they’re just fine on chip shots).
In the Way of Grinds
The Titleist Vokey SM4 wedges come with plenty of options in the way of loft and bounce, but what really sells it is the grind selection available. There are five different flavours, each designed with a particular type of player or turf in mind – Full Grind, S Grind, M Grind, T Grind, and L Grind.
The Full Grind, as the name suggests, comes with the fullest sole of all the five variants, which is beauty if you play courses heavy on white sand, heavy rough, or lush grass. It comes with the greatest variety of lofts and bounces – 46.08, 48.06, 48.10, 50.08, 50.12, 52.08, 52.12, 54.08, 54.14, 56.08, and 56.14.
The S Grind was new when it was introduced in the SM4 wedges, has a decent amount of relief on the heel and the trailing edge, but comes with a fuller toe to give you more effective bounce for getting out of bunkers. It’s available with these two loft-to-bounce combos – 58.09 and 60.07.
The M Grind is quite a popular choice due to its versatility. It should suit all types of players, as well as courses thanks to its crescent-shaped bounce surface and relief in the back. You can get it with the Sand and Lob wedges – 54.11, 56.11, 58.12, and 60.10.
The T Grind is a variation on the M Grind meant to give you a bit more relief on the heel, toe, and trailing edge, which should suit sweepers and any players who predominantly play on courses with lots of firm turf/packed sand, but it’s not bad in medium conditions, either. It’s available only in the two highest lofts – 62.07 and 64.07.
The L Grind is another variation of the M Grind with even more relief in the heel, toe, and trailing edge. Whereas the T Grind can play off medium firm turf, the L Grind is designed with firm conditions solely in mind. You can find it on these heads: 58.06 and 60.04.
What’s It Like on the Course?
The SM4 is really a great looking wedge, and with a feel to match. It has a progressive head profile, with higher lofts having more of a straight edge and the higher ones being more roundish and profiled like a teardrop. So, you basically have a longish head in your pitching and gap wedges that becomes rounder as you go up the lofts.
In other words, the shape changes so that the club fits into your set a wee bit better. It has that classic design vibe to it and a nice, solid feel to go along. The sound at impact is also very much up to par (no pun intended), sort of like a muted click.
The progression goes a long way to giving you more functionality depending on the lies and distances you need to play – so you get the squarish leading edge and toe in the heads you’d naturally play on full shots (PW and GW).
Conversely, as you go up the lofts, the leading edge and toe become rounder to accommodate partial and touch shots and maximum playability (in the sense that they allow you to open up or square the face as needed).
The Final Verdict
To sum up – you’ll want to stock up on SM4s before they go out for good. The SM6 wedges are a decent replacement, though the debate is still on, and many are praying that Titleist comes out with SM7s before their stockpiles of SM4 bite the dust, as it were.
On a similar note, more advanced players will prefer them to the SM5s, though you might want to go for an SM5 for touch shots around the green as it has a slightly better feel and a confidence boost at address, or take an SM6 if you want more distance control and lower launch.
Though, overall, the SM4 remains the most popular of the three in the community, whether it be Titleist fans or not, which speaks volumes in and of itself. Whichever way you go, keep in mind that it’s less about the specs and more about how you hit the ball. It’s a funny thing – the more you practice, the luckier you’ll get.