Not all wedges are created equal. We’re not talking about groove technology or grinds, but rather the more subtle options available — like the ability to choose between plated and non-plated heads.
If you’ve never heard the terms “plated” and “non-plated” before, here’s a quick explainer: a large majority of wedges in the marketplace feature a nickel chrome plating over the raw steel that keeps the head and grooves from developing a thin layer of rust. Removing the plating (“non-plated”) will cause the head to rust over time and soften the overall feel at impact.
Some golfers claim there’s another benefit to be had by removing the plating — the addition of more RPMs around the green. By adding a layer of rust to the grooves, there’s the potential for more friction. Or at least that’s the gear myth being peddled to weekend golfers.
In our own version of equipment mythbusters, we put a non-plated 56-degree wedge to the test against a plated version, with the help of Gene Parente’s Golf Laboratories swing robot, to see if a noticeable spin difference exists. The non-plated wedge was soaked in water for a week until a significant layer of rust developed on the head.
“The water was looking pretty orange-ish,” Parente said. “You could see it was pretty nasty looking.”
From there, both wedges were hit at 85 miles per hour out of the same center impact location to compare numbers. Even though the non-plated wedge had a rusty face, it still produced nearly identical numbers to the chrome version at roughly 10,000 RPMs. The launch angle, ball speed and total distance were almost the same as well.
“They were within 45 RPMs of each other, which is statistically insignificant,” Parente said. “They look different. But from a launch monitor perspective, from a distance perspective, everything was practically the same.”
What does this tell us about today’s wedges? Groove technology makes a world of difference. In the end, the only noticeable difference you’ll find with a non-plated wedge is a softer feel and grooves that’ll wear out faster due to the lack of plating.
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