Before beginning this review I want to thank former Marketing and Communications Specialist Eli Miller and current Marketing and Communications Specialist Noelle Zavaleta for the opportunity to test and review the Cleveland Golf RTX-3 wedge. This marked the first time that a major manufacturer in the golf industry took the chance on me to test and review their product for an extended period of time. For that I am truly grateful. Thank-you!
Wedges. They are a part of a golfers arsenal that at times can act as a savior. While so many golfers dedicate their time to focusing on the long game what often gets neglected is the short game. The reality is that golfers can be prone to losing strokes from 125 yards and in (moreso from 50 yards and in). A point so important that choosing the right wedge becomes paramount. Golf in its purest form is a game that is intimate. Other than the putter, there is no other piece of equipment in a player’s arsenal that is more intimate than a wedge. It’s a club that you must be able to trust and lean on at times to get you out of trouble.
Prior to this testing, my time swinging a wedge from Huntington Beach, California based Cleveland Golf was practically nil. For some reason or another I had more or less ignored them (my own ignorance) and was focused primarily on another brand. As a matter of fact my first few swings with a Cleveland Golf wedge wasn’t until the PGA Merchandise Show this past January in Orlando. It was the final day of the show and I visited their booth resulting in a few swings. Thus bringing the brand fully and completely to my attention. The history behind the brand is rich started by patriarch and golf industry legend Roger Cleveland in 1979. Even though I had no experience with it the 588 is one of the best-selling wedges of all time and is in itself nearly a legend.
The RTX-3 wedge from Cleveland Golf is their latest “player’s design” to carry on the legacy of the 588. Offered in three designs featuring blade, cavity-back and a women’s RTX-3 CB version golfer’s have a choice of wedge to best suit their needs. The RTX-3 is offered in three different finishes Tour Satin, a sleek Black Satin and Tour Raw. The stock shaft options are either a Rotex graphite (made for by Precision) or for those golfers who prefer for steel a True Temper Dynamic Gold shaft is offered. While there are a bevy of custom options available including “stamping” and “skins” there is so much more that makes the RTX-3 a very intriguing choice for consumers looking to buy a wedge.
From a technological standpoint the first thing that we have to look at is the face of the wedge. In designing the RTX-3 wedge researchers at Cleveland Golf came up with a third generation Rotex face. With the newest version of the Rotex face the design team introduced a “refined groove shape”, new “Micro-Milling” which is said to “optimize spin performance through launch” . The new micro-milling in the RTX-3 wedges “increases friction and is directionally enhanced by loft: (46º-52º) have a circular pattern oriented straighter toward the leading edge to accommodate full shot performance. High lofts (54º-64º) feature a pattern angled toward the toe to match swing path on open-face shots for optimal greenside performance”. Rounding out the changes to the Rotex face is the introduction of “Laser Milling”. All of these changes to the Rotex face allows golfers to achieve the most spin that they can muster while staying within the limits of being a conforming golf club. Another key aspect to what makes the RTX-3 tick is the introduction of “Feel Balancing Technology” (FBT). FBT is the result of the R&D team removing 9 grams of eight from the hosel and placing it elsewhere in the head resulting in relocating the center of gravity more towards the sweet spot (or impact zone). This change increases the overall “feel” of the head and is said to make for tighter shot dispersion. Cleveland Golf also offered a few different grind options to suit your needs. the grind first of all are “V-Shaped” which allows for better turf interaction and getting through the rough. (Please see graphics below)
V-LG LOW BOUNCE GRIND (1 DOT) •
Cleveland’s narrowest low bounce sole for maximum versatility. The V transition point is closer to the leading edge, making this grind ideal for tight, firm conditions and those with a shallow attack angle. The increased leading edge bounce gets the club in and out of the turf quickly on full shots.
- Increased Versatility
- Narrowest Sole
- Lowest Effective Bounce
V-MG MID BOUNCE GRIND (2 DOT) ••
This V-shaped sole features mid bounce suitable for a wide range of players and turf conditions. The V transition is in the middle of the sole to provide lift through the turf, while keeping the leading edge close to the ground when opening the face.
- All-Around Playability and Versatility
- Mid Effective Bounce
V-FG FULL SOLE GRIND (3 DOT) •••
This full sole shape designed with slight trailing edge relief. The wider sole with the V transition closer to the trailing edge provides the most lift when traveling through the turf. This grind is ideal for softer course conditions and those with steep angles of attack.
- Most Stability Through Turf
- Widest Sole
- Highest Effective Bounce
When the time came to choose which wedge to test I opted to go with a 52* RTX-3 V-MG Mid-Bounce 2 Dot in the newly re-introduced Tour Raw Finish. My reasoning for this choice was quite simple. The first reason was to try this wedge and observe its spin from the rough when you’re out from the green. Secondly, in the area that I live the courses are prone to having totally different conditions (soil types). A course 10 minutes from another can see a mostly sandy base while the other can be consisted of a lot of clay. Not to mention the mixed bag of weather we have here in Niagara. From drought to torrential downpours and soggy conditions. Thirdly, I really wanted a chance to thoroughly test the versatility of the RTX-3 by opening the face as much as I can. Instead of going for the steel-shafted version I opted for the Rotex Graphite (stiff) shaft.
How I tested the RTX-3…
- Short game sessions of varying distances greenside out to 125 yards.
- Testing from a variety of lies from tight lies (landing areas) to deep rough (4 inch) that often was very wet.
- Picking targets on target greens and going to a specific location.
- Hitting shots from its standard loft (neutral position) to opening the face wide open
- Comparing the test wedge versus my every day 52* wedge (Titleist Vokey SM4 with newer grooves)
Upon receiving the wedge and unboxing it the first thing that caught my attention was the head itself. I loved the traditional head-shape and the Tour Raw finish. I was enamored by the finish and I cannot wait for this wedge to start rusting and getting some “character and charm” of my own. As I took off the plastic from the grip (Cleveland Blue Cap by Lamkin) I noticed right away that the grip would not need to be changed. I loved the feel of the grip and more to the point it felt great in the hands. I was able to test the wedge right away by the Buffalo International Airport in rainy conditions. At no time did it feel like the grip wanted to slip from my hands. When I waggled the club for the first time I immediately liked the feel in the head… in particular through the hitting area. I really admired the swing-weight (D4) as it was really close to my usual (D7) in my wedges. I wasted no time placing the ball into the thicker stuff outlying the hitting deck and even though my very first swing caught the ball a little fat. The leading edge traveled through the turf without any issue and the result was very admirable. The second swing was much different.. the strike was near perfect and the feel off of the face was pure… like butter. That swing and feel reminded me of the first swing in Orlando. Full swings resulted in nice yardage which yielded tight little draws of about 125 yards. Compared to my Vokey SM4 which sits around 115-120 yards. The length could be attributed to the graphite vs steel. Either way my initial observations was that the RTX-3 was “superior” to my gamer. That first test session was a real eye opener. When I placed the ball down into “nasty” wet rough (see pic) to a short-sided pin, set the face wide open and set the ball back in my stance the golf ball just popped out and settled down gently a foot to the hole. Hitting a shot out of a similar lie with my gamer resulted in a shot that was “chunked”. The rough grabbed the head of my club and just “ate the wedge up”. Advantage RTX-3. First impressions mean everything right??
As the conditions of the season have changed we saw some extremely firm conditions. I took my practice/test sessions to the range at Legends On The Niagara in nearby Chippawa, ON to get more extensive work in. Much can be said of the grind on the sole. The V-shape does in fact give golfers many options for around the green. The grind as advertised makes the RTX-3 very versatile. I felt after experiencing the RTX-3 on both firm and wet turf conditions I could do ‘anything” with it. Open it up… it did exactly what my 58* does. I think what I really liked about the RTX-3 was that I could use my imagination to hit a variety of shots. High lobs… bump and runs etc. The facilities at Legends include a terrific short game area and I was able to test the RTX-3 out of bunkers (firm and fluffy conditions). The results were better than my “gamer” and no matter the soil conditions in the bunker the grind again performed admirably.
As far as testing the spin on chips and short pitches I would hit 10 shots to different pins. Without having Trackman (or similar) it’s tough to get concrete data. But I do take pride in being “organic” and using my senses to make observations. There was no doubt that the RTX-3 was superior during this segment of testing as well. The stopping power was considerably better than my SM4 especially when into the grain or swale on the green. When the pin was on a downslope the spin was enough to consistently stop closer to the pin than the SM4 but as expected there was still a degree of release.
On course testing went extremely well with the Cleveland Golf RTX-3. Full swing approaches felt crisp, pure and “right”. I cannot stress enough how great these wedges feel through the hitting area. As a matter of fact I put the RTX-3 into the hands of other golfers (mid/high handicaps) and they were very impressed with the feel and performance. Enough to give the RTX-3 a serious look as they are currently shopping for wedges. Partial shots into the green make for very predictable results but they aren’t automatic. If you execute a shot bad enough the result will be poor. Truth be told, if I were to look at a variety of misses (both intentional and on purpose) overall the results were more “acceptable’ with the RTX-3 over my Vokey SM4. The RTX-3 has definitely been a shot saver on the course.
In conclusion, there is no doubt in my mind that the Cleveland Golf RTX-3 is a fantastic wedge. The feel is darn near perfect and the “heft” through impact is great!! You can really feel where the head is at all times throughout the swing. The spin is the best I have observed with my naked eye since I became a reviewer of golf products. There definitely is a ton of merit to what the R&D Department did when coming up with this newest generation of wedge/Rotex face. The testing and results were so conclusive that I would put a 60* version into my bag with nary a thought. If you’re looking into purchasing new wedges look at the RTX-3. It won’t take you long to realize that it’s a club that you can trust and develop an “intimate’ relationship with. The RTX-3 has a MSRP of $129.99 USD ($159.99 CAD). For more information please visit the Cleveland Golf website.
Until The Next Tee!