Do Cavity Back Wedges Perform Better? – Golf Myths Unplugged

What’s Best for Your Short Game?

When it comes to wedges, golfers have more choices than ever before.  There are traditional blade-type wedges, cavity back wedges, wedges that match irons, and even super specialized wedges like chippers.

In this edition of Golf Myths Unplugged, we’re pitting traditional wedges against cavity backs and set-matched wedges to see which one performs the best.

The Myths

Myth #1 – Blade wedges are less forgiving

Myth #2 – Blade wedges are less accurate

Myth #3 – Blade wedges create more spin

Myth #4 – Blade wedges launch the ball lower

How We Tested

For this test, we brought together five golfers with handicaps ranging from scratch to 12.  Each player hit three wedges: the gap wedge from a game improvement iron set, a cavity back wedge, and a blade wedge.  All three wedges were built to the same loft, lie, length, and swing weight with the same shaft.  Each player hit seven full shots with each wedge, and every shot was recorded.

All testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.

The Results

To judge forgiveness, we looked at distance dispersion, the gap between a player’s shortest and longest shots.  The blade wedge finished in the middle – less forgiving than the set-matched wedge but more forgiving than the cavity back.

With the set-matched wedge, our testers had an average distance dispersion of 9.2 yards.  That was 2.5 yards better than the blade wedge and 3.7 yards better than the cavity back.

Looking at the individuals, three had their best distance dispersion with the set-matched wedge, two with the blade wedge.

It surprised us that the blade wedge outperformed the cavity back, but it’s possible, perhaps likely, that the cavity back would come out on top in a larger test or one that involved higher handicap players.

This result surprised everyone involved in the testing: the blade wedge was the most accurate for three of our five testers.  For the group as a whole, the blade wedge had the best average and median accuracy.  To be clear, we are referring to accuracy in terms of distance from the center line.

To be fair, the differences in accuracy were not huge, but every foot matters in the short game.  We have no clear explanation as to why our testers were more accurate with a lower-MOI club, but the results are unambiguous.

Busted!  Not one of our testers posted their highest spin numbers with the blade wedge.  In fact, the blade wedge was the lowest spinning wedge for each tester.

The spin that players lost with the blade wedge was substantial.  In comparing the blade wedge to their highest spinning wedge, our players lost an average of 1,940 RPM (median: 1,700 RPM).  That’s almost 20% less spin!

Surprisingly, the set-matched wedge proved to be the highest spinner for four of our five testers.  It was also the most consistent for three.  The other two found more consistency with the cavity back wedge.

This one is clearly confirmed.  Every player in our test had their lowest average launch angle with the blade wedge.  On average, our testers launched the ball two degrees lower with the blade than with the cavity back.

Interestingly, each player also had their highest launch with the cavity back wedge, and the set-matched wedge was in the middle.

What was surprising was that there was no clear pattern when it came to launch consistency.  Two players were most consistent with the blade, two with the cavity back, and one with the set-matched wedge.

Conclusion

The picture we’re left with after this test is hazy.  The blade wedge outperformed expectations in forgiveness and accuracy but was a big loser when it came to spin.  It would be interesting to repeat this test to see if the non-blade wedges made their case more clearly with higher handicap players.

It’s also worth pointing out the obvious: this test dealt with full shots which is only part of the wedge game.  A large part of the appeal of traditional blade wedges is the variety of sole options available and the versatility that brings.

For now, we are left with our standing recommendation: if you want your clubs to perform well for you, spend time with a qualified club fitter.

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Matt Saternus

Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Plugged In Golf. He's worked in nearly every job in the golf industry from club fitting to instruction to writing and speaking. Matt lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

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7 Comments

  1. I like the battle of the wedges, In my own test Callaway Stealhead XR PW with a full swing was better than my Titlist Volkey SM6 M but the Steelhead Gap and Sand wedge the Titlist Volkey works much better control and spin. What works for one person might not for another that’s why the Golf God invented Ebay.

  2. Like the article says, it would be very interesting to see how these clubs perform on true “short game” shots — on a real course, onto a green, measured by distance to the pin.

    Personally, I would define the “short game” as any less-than-full-swing shot taken from off the green. That would include bunker shots, 30 yard fairway shots, 10 yard shots over a creek, chips and pitches from rough 5 feet off the green, chips off the fringe, etc.

    I feel like those are the shots that the blade style, purpose built wedges are designed for, and where they do the best.

    For a lot of amateurs, myself included, it’s not easy to pull off a true full swing shot with a 60 degree wedge with 8 degrees of bounce. But if I’m behind a greenside bunker, hitting onto an elevated green, I *feel like* I get more feel and touch with that wedge than I get from a big, clunky GI wedge matching my GI iron set.

    I honestly don’t know which club would perform the best, on average. I’ve got my hunch, but it’s no more than that — which is why it would make such an interesting test.

  3. Matt, thanks for excellent testing. My take away is that I did correctly to have 48deg wedge matching my Titliest AP, as I use it for full shots and sometimes for plain straight chips and pitches. On the other hand, my 52 and 58 are Vokey blades, and mostly I do all kind of green side shots with them… I was thinking if I would not buy a 48deg Vokey to match them, but this makes me happy with what I have. Higher launch, spin and forgiveness sounds good for my 48.

  4. My wedges are mixed. My 50 is a Cleveland w/10 deg bounce w/cavity back. It launches higher and is a bit more forgiving than my Titleist 50 w/8 deg bounce blade. My 54 & 58 are Titleist are blades. I need the forgiveness w/an 18 hdcp around the green. When the time comes to replace any, it’ll be with a Cleveland, but the 50 will always be a cavity back.

  5. I find the cavity back PW hook the ball a lot more than my vokey wedge. Therefore I throw out the matching pw every time…

  6. For myself the change to cavity backed wedge significantly improved my wedge play. I went from expecting to to on the green to expecting to be near the hole. Wondering how much the irons you play effects your result with different wedge types. So we’re the testers a bunch of single digit blade players or 30 handicap weekend hackers? Just found myself wondering. I play Ping Gmax and the Cleveland cavity back wedge felt great the first time I hit it.

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