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TaylorMade rolls out wedges with “exchangeable face technology”

Interesting that just as Stephen Ames wins playing irons with the new grooves, TaylorMade announces new wedges designed to keep their grooves as sharp as a knife… no word on a Canadian launch yet.

Here are the details:

Carlsbad, Calif. (November 16, 2009) “ TaylorMade Golf has introduced the TP wedge with xFTtp xft wedge (Exchangeable Face Technology), which allows players to easily remove a worn clubface and replace it with a new one to maintain peak performance in terms of spin and control.
“Though the face of a typical iron is sturdy, it isn’t impervious to wear,” said Bret Wahl, senior director of iron, wedge and putter development. “A wedge’s face wears from contact with the ball and from the dirt and sand that’s often sandwiched between the ball and the face at impact. Every time you explode from sand with your wedge it’s like rubbing a piece of sand paper on your clubface. Over time the face wears down and the edge-radius of the grooves becomes dull. In addition to the normal wear and tear a face suffers from normal play, it can be nicked and damaged in a variety of other ways such as when clubheads bang together when you put your bag down or when you walk or drive your cart, or when you hit out of waste areas, or when you unintentionally scrape the clubface against debris when hitting the ball from poor lies off the fairway.”
The negative effect is three-fold: 1) The groove’s edges lose the ability to grab the cover, reducing spin. 2) The groove loses volume into which moisture and debris once were channeled. Less groove volume means that more substances will come between the ball and the clubface, further reducing the amount of spin that can be imparted, especially from the rough. 3) The texture on the surface of the face (from milling or sandblasting) is reduced, which limits the face’s grip on the ball.
How quickly does the face of the average wedge show signs of wear? TaylorMade studies indicate that after about 1,000 shots the edge-radius of each individual groove changes and the roughness of the face surface is worn away. For players who play with reasonable frequency, 1,000 shots add up pretty quickly; they add up even faster for players who practice between rounds.
tp xft wedge2

Tour Pros and “Fresh Grooves”
Tour pros are exceptionally mindful of the importance of wear on their wedges, and because of that they replace them frequently to get “fresh grooves” and a rough face surface for the maximum spin they deliver. Certain pros, including those in the top-tier, put new wedges in play every week, while some players change every three or four tournaments. Two members of the TaylorMade Tour Staff, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, ask for a new 60° wedge every month. Other tour pros trade out at least three or four times per year.
 
One popular reason why many pros don’t retire their wedges more often is because they’ve become accustomed to the club’s look, weight, feel and sole grind, which influences the way the sole reacts with turf, rough and sand. And sometimes they have great confidence in a particular wedge that they’ve performed well with under pressure. Yes, such pros would like fresh grooves, but they don’t want to give up the wedge they’ve become attached to. Occasionally you see a pro with a wedge so well-used that the lower-middle part of the face is worn almost smooth; a clear case of sentimentality keeping the club in the bag.
Meanwhile myriad amateurs would like to put new grooves in play with greater frequency, but can’t justify the expense of buying new wedges once or more per year.
xFT: Keep the Clubhead, Exchange the Clubface
xFT is a simple, cost-effective way to give tour pros and amateurs fresh grooves while allowing them to keep the same clubhead. Our new Exchangeable Face Technology (xFT), which is incorporated into our newest TP wedge design, allows you to quickly and easily exchange an old, worn wedge face with a brand new one. The xFT face is held in place with two screws located on the back of the clubhead that can be loosened and tightened with a white R9 torque wrench. Simply loosen the xFT screws to remove the old face and tighten the screws to lock in the new, fresh face. Each xFT face is backed with a thin layer of Poron®, which is a soft, urethane, microcellular foam to facilitate a tight fit within the clubhead and to cushion the face from metal-on-metal contact, and which also promotes superior feel. The clubhead and particularly the wedge face and the pocket the face fits into are precision-milled to fit snugly and securely together. The tolerances in terms of length, width and depth have to be extremely tight to ensure a tight fit, so that the TP xFT wedge feels the same, sounds the same and performs the same as a traditional one-piece clubhead.
 
Each TP xFT wedge face is forged from soft 304 stainless steel, then completed with a four-step CNC precision-milling process. First, the surface of the face is milled flat. Second, the back and perimeter of the face are machined to ensure a precise fit into the pocket in the clubhead. Third, texture is milled onto the face surface. Fourth, the grooves are milled into the face with care taken to ensure that the depth, shape and edges are perfect.
 
TP xFT Wedge and the USGA Rules Change on Grooves
Two types of xFT wedge faces will be available for purchase, either with our new ZTP groove design that conforms to the USGA’s new rules change, or with our current Z groove that conforms to the pre-2010 rule on groove design. (Older groove designs will be disallowed in high-level professional competitions starting January 1, 2010 by ruling of the USGA. However, recreational golfers aren’t required to adhere to the groove-change rule until 2024). In 2011 and beyond, xFT wedge faces will incorporate only grooves that adhere to the new USGA rule, such as the ZTP groove.
“In a nutshell, the rules change stipulates that new groove designs must have less cross-sectional area and their edges must be less sharp,” says Wahl. “Most players won’t experience a dramatic reduction in spin from dry fairway lies, but will see a decrease in spin by up to 50% from the rough. All the more reason to keep the clubface of your wedge fresh and at peak performance. Our new ZTP groove is the most aggressive, spin-inducing design we have that conforms to the new USGA rule.”
Each TP xFT wedge head is fashioned in a classically beautiful teardrop shape made of stainless steel and milled for precision, including the pocket into which the clubface fits. The clubhead is plated in nickel-chrome for durability, then given a beautiful pearl finish to reduce glare. Availability in stores and online will begin December 1st with the 56° loft and 12° bounce only, with nine more combinations to follow in mid-February, 2010 — 50.09, 52.11, 54.12, 56.16, 58.09, 58.12, 60.06, 60.10, 64.06. The 58.12 and 60.10 both incorporate TaylorMade’s new C-grind sole, which was developed by our tour technicians and which is highly praised by tour pros for the multitude of greenside shots it permits you to play.
 
TP xFT wedges are equipped with KBS High-Rev shafts, which are slightly heavier and feature a slightly longer tip parallel region compared to other wedge shafts. KBS’ data indicates that the High-Rev shaft promotes increased spin because of its weighting, its kick and the way it presents the head to the ball. The High-Rev is new, making us the first brand to use it. We expect it to be played on tour, especially since the change in the groove rule will have players anxious to find ways to keep their spin-rates as high as possible. Because the shaft’s unique design promotes additional spin, we expect the TP xFT wedge to gain wide acceptance on the PGA Tour.
Each TP xFT wedge will sell at a street price of $129 per club and will come equipped with a Z groove face (conforming to the pre-2010 USGA rule). Individual xFT wedge faces with either the Z groove or ZTP groove (conforming to the new 2010 USGA rule) will be sold separately at a street price of $39.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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