You may have noticed all of the dark wedges used on the PGA Tour. Turns out, they're more than just an aesthetic choice; many of those wedges have a raw finish. “Raw means that there is no additional finish applied to the wedge,” says Bob Vokey, master craftsman at Titleist. “It has what I like to call a satin appearance that will start to rust after some use. Tour pros just love the look of that raw steel – some like it even more as it rusts.”
Great looks aside, what’s the advantage of playing a raw wedge? For starters, it’s easy to grind and modify without having to worry about any chrome plating flaking off. And Tour pros frequently fine-tune their wedge specifications from one tournament to the next to account for playing conditions — making these a natural fit for their bags.
But there are other benefits as well. Because there’s no finish coating the face, the groove edges are sharp — helping create more backspin. Plus, the dark matte finish reduces glare from the clubface under bright conditions. So you won’t be temporarily blinded by the sun’s reflection, as can happen with chrome-finished wedges. Many Tour pros and better players prefer raw wedges that, over time, experience some corrosion which keeps the face roughness fairly high. “That’s particularly valuable on Tour, because it typically results in a little bit more spin and consistency over the life of the wedge,” says Tom Olsavsky, vice president of research and development at Cobra Golf.
Raw wedges also tend to create a softer impact. Jordan Spieth, three-time Major winner and Club Champion ambassador, says he’s been playing Vokeys for years now — always with the raw finish. “I love the look and the feel of the raw metal, especially when it starts rusting,” he adds.
There are downsides, too. Because the metal tends to be carbon steel, the rate of darkening depends on any moisture in the air. According to Olsavsky, golf retailers generally don’t like selling raw wedges because they experience pre-rusting while the wedges sit on club racks inside the store. Another drawback is that they wear out faster than finished wedges, in terms of face roughness and grooves. That’s also why the pros switch them out more often than amateurs. After all, they’re hitting a lot more balls during the year, which accelerates erosion.
If you decide to play raw wedges, be prepared to give them a little TLC. “Typically you just get some light oil that’s safe to the touch and rub it in, and that oil helps protect them against rust,” says Olsavsky, who advises using 3-in-1 oil, olive oil, vegetable oil or avocado oil. “But you don’t want oil on the face when you play them. That’s where a caddie comes in handy, because he will wipe the faces clean before you hit them and keep them well-maintained. And pros’ wedges are not sitting in a car trunk for a few weeks or in a garage for a few months during wintertime.”
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