New Wedges Have Lofty Ambitions

When St Andrews Golf Co.’s first wedges emerged from the oven, we developed a new taste for “fantastic.”

 

Every golfer has at least one favorite club. There is the go-to club currently in the bag. There may be the framed 5-iron that powered the memorable Ace or the hand-me-down from grand-dad that’s tempting to play but probably better off staying well-preserved for future generations.

For Ewan Glen, co-owner of the St Andrews Golf Co. (and a right-handed golfer), one such club is a left-handed wedge created in the late 1960s. Glen says the club has stuck with him for years, mainly because of the quality presented in specific areas of its design. The club, in fact, proved to be the initial basis for the design of the first series of original STAG wedges created in decades.

“I couldn’t say initially what attracted me to an old wedge I can’t even play, “says Glen. “Eventually, when I was thinking about working on our own new wedges, its appeal came into focus and found something of a purpose.”

The connection between past and future for the organization’s new George Nicoll Signature wedges will become immediately evident for club historians and craftspeople. There are subtle yet distinctive curves bordering the hosel, for example, that speak to the defining performance clubs of yesteryear.

Then there are the modern (and conforming) features of today’s materials and designs. Specialists may well identify the components of this set; golfers will “experience” them.

That, at least, is our conclusion after spending the last few months with what turned out to be the first set of George Nicoll Signature Wedges to appear outside of Scotland.

Eyeing the Past

Design inspiration, of course, can come from anywhere. The father of the modern sand wedge, Gene Sarazen, who was himself a customer of St Andrews Golf Co. nearly a century ago, reportedly came up with his wedge design while looking at the tail fin of the Spruce Goose during a flight with Howard Hughes.

“By exploring the efforts of our own company’s leaders, we feel we can address design decisions we make today with confidence that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Whether the results of Glen’s inspiration will prove as significant will require decades to pass, but it only takes moments to recognize the new wedges comprise an equal mix of innovation and experience, largely drawn from STAG’s enormous library of club-making intelligence.

The oldest continuously operating club-making organization in existence, established initially in 1881 when clubmaker George Nicoll first opened for business, didn’t achieve its stature by hunches alone. STAG is all about leveraging the successes and failures of past attempts and applying old knowledge to new contexts.

“Our predecessors were ambitious craftsmen and inventors who were no strangers to either success or failure, ” says Glen. “By exploring the efforts of our own company’s leaders, we feel we can address design decisions we make today with confidence that we’re heading in the right direction.”

George Santayana said: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. What he left out is that some things are worth repeating. STAG’s rich history and supporting library allows the organization to choose between the condemning and innovating.

A Leap Forward

The development of the finished product was as much about innovation as it was inspired by a look back. With the support of engineers from the University of Dundee (UoD), the initial shape of the wedges was derived from a 360-degree 3D scan of “old lefty” (LinkedGolfers’ nickname), which then was imported and refined in CAD to include specific design characteristics Glen concluded were most desirable after performing a significant analysis of the wedge landscape.

While unrelated in direct terms, at least one standout anecdote testifies to the sophistication of an organization generally known for history and to the engineering partners it assembled with an eye to an innovative future:

During the process of designing George Nicoll Signature Wedges, UoD and St. Andrews Golf Co. engineers collaborated on another project that resulted in an unprecedented first and hinted at a new age of design, prototyping, and manufacturing. I will write at length on the topic soon, but in short, while analyzing historic irons on loan from a British museum, both teams managed to become the first in golf to print a precise, detailed metal copy of an old original club head, right down to the dents, patina, and scuffs accrued during the 125 years since it was originally forged.

Glen, who has a sizable amount of 3D printing experience–albeit using materials other than metal–was astounded by the level of detail displayed in the reproduction.

“It’s a challenge to the imagination to be able to print a 3D metal object to begin with–but reproducing details that extend right down to ultra-thin layers of oxidization showed we are at the beginning of a major manufacturing shift that will affect all corners of life.”

 

 

Signature Specs and Spin

George Nicoll Signature wedges are made from super-soft 1020 carbon steel and come in models ranging from 50- to 60-degrees. Very few companies use 1020 steel as the material for their “irons.” Fewer still use the soft metal in wedges. The reasons why are simple: the material is more expensive and, being what we call “soft” in composition is also quicker to wear.

Buyers of premium clubs are well aware of the cons. They’re also well aware of the benefits–and they’re significant.

We all hear about feel and “feedback,” for example–the latter being in my opinion a significantly under-covered yet important trait of golf clubs. A shot should feel pleasant. The feel of a shot should also provide the kind of feedback that helps a golfer improve from one shot to the next.

In these wedges, the soft 1020 carbon steel delivers an unprecedented buttery feel regardless of whether you’re facing a full swing from 100 yards or merely clipping a ten-footer from the fringe. Coupled with the right shaft (ours came with KBS Tour wedge shafts), the material produces a chipping experience that’s tangibly superior to the large majority of clubs produced every year.

As the photos show, George Nicoll Signature Wedges have a head shape  that has a classic, timeless appearance with a narrow sole and low bounce profile. The face is CNC milled for grip texture and features fully conforming V grooves.

Forged at a small shop in Taiwan specially selected for precision, performance, and the capability to “print” small runs, these new entries into the wedge category are simply outstanding. With a base price of roughly $190, they’re more expensive than most wedges, but they’re worth every penny.

The only bad news for golfers is that STAG’s George Nicoll Signature Wedges may be very hard to come by. Even though this is the first story published about the line, from what we understand word-of-mouth has already translated into a lengthy waiting list.

Unless you’re down with waiting a while, we strongly encourage you to get an order in as soon as you can. If you see an “out of stock” notice, we highly recommend you send an email requesting a spot on the waiting list.

If you do pick one or more of these short sticks up, be sure return here after you have had the chance to give them an adequate whirl. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

St Andrews Golf Company‘s George Nicoll Signature Wedges are available in even-numbered lofts between 50- and 60-degrees.

 

Take Me to the Wedges

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Sean T. Kelly

Owner/Director at LinkedGolfers
Sean T. Kelly is a writer, editor, and content director who has nearly 25 years' experience developing material in print, online, and over the air. His work has appeared on the New York Times "Best Seller List," international magazine covers, and the Today Show, among others. Sean is currently focusing on the intersection of travel, lifestyle, and mobile technologies. He is the owner/director LinkedGolfers.
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