Born in Canada in 1939, Bob Vokey’s wedge designs have been the overwhelming favourite among Tour players since 2004, with close to 40% of all sand, lob, and approach wedges in play each week.
While the PGA Tour is the ultimate proving ground, Bob always has the amateur golfer in mind when he goes to his design table. His philosophy has resonated in the marketplace where Vokey Design wedges are best-sellers with golfers of all skill levels.
We spoke to the man himself to get some of his insights into his latest designs and what gets him into his design lab day-to-day.
* * *
What drives you to continually innovate and push your wedge designs forward?
Golfers. Whether it’s PGA Tour players or amateurs that I’m fitting at the Titleist Performance Institute, they are all looking for a better short game. There is nothing more satisfying than when a fan at a PGA Tour event sees the back of my hat, that says ‘Voke’ on it, and they call out: “Mr. Vokey, your wedges have helped my short game so much.” That is what motivates me every day, and I’m still searching for that perfect wedge.
What is so special about your new SM7 wedges?
SM7 is a combination of a lot of elements all coming together. First, we have what we call “Bob’s greatest hits”. The grinds really help us fit golfers into the right wedges for their game. Then, we have the progressive centre of gravity. We have aligned the CG with the impact position, and the ball flight and feel are so good as a result. Finally, we’re always working on improving spin. The new spin milled grooves are so precise, providing the most spin that we can generate.
Why did you decide to create the new D Grind?
I’d like to take credit for all of the grinds in our lineup, but they all have come from working with the best players in the world. The D Grind is no different. Aaron Dill and I have been working with some players that like the versatility of the M Grind, but really need more bounce. That is where the D Grind comes from. It was the most popular lob wedge on tour that wasn’t already in the grind line-up, so it made sense to include the D Grind in the SM7 lineup.
How much does what you hear and see from the tour impact your designs?
The tour is so important to our designs. We spend a lot of time testing prototypes out on tour, and Aaron and I are always providing custom grinds for players based on their swing or certain conditions. All of this information is critical to continuing to improve our wedges.
Why should amateurs put the SM7 wedges in their bags?
Amateurs should go get fit for their wedges. I’m confident that if they find a club fitter that they trust, that has a bag full of SM7 wedges, we’ll find the right set of wedges for their swing type and course conditions. I may be a bit biased, but I think wedges are the low hanging fruit in a player’s bag, a quick way to improve.
How has your way of working on your designs changed over the decades?
I have a lot more help now. When I first started making wedges for Titleist, I had one grinder back in the shop, and I was on my own each week. Bringing a bag of wedges out to tour Monday through Wednesday, and then in the shop Thursday through Saturday prepping for the next week. I’m fortunate now that I have a great team that I get to work with. Aaron Dill has been working with me for over ten years, and he has the players’ trust.
When I was first starting out, there was no CAD design. It was all done on the grinding wheel with my hands. I still think no computer can do what I was able to do with a wheel and a player, but it has been fun to learn about the improvements we can make with new technologies.
Is there a limit to how far wedge technology can go?
Well, the USGA and R&A do a nice job regulating equipment. We always conform to the rules. But there is still a lot we can do to help golfers hit better wedge shots. We are always working on new ideas and there are still a lot of golfers out there that haven’t been fit for wedges. We’ll keep working at it and I think there is still more to learn.
What does the future hold for Vokey wedges?
We’re having a lot of fun. Whether it’s travelling to meet with golfers and educated professionals about wedge fitting, or working on the next generation of Vokey Design wedges, we’re going to keep getting better at what we do. I have a great team working with me, and it’s a lot of fun to share some of my knowledge with the team and see them learn and grow.