Let's take a look at the Cleveland CG14 Black Pearl wedge. Your short
game needs help if you think all wedges are the same. The short game is a
crucial part of golf, and you need at least one good-quality wedge.
Some wedges are simply better than others. Is this wedge one of them?
I tested two versions - the 54-degree and the 60-degree - to see if its performance justified the rave reviews this wedge has received. I have to tell you right up front: it plays beautifully. It even looks great.
Let’s start this review of the Cleveland CG14 Black Pearl wedge by talking about its appearance. The club’s black, non-glare finish makes it look like a club Darth Vader would use if he was into golf instead of light sabers. It looks like the golf club equivalent of a stealth bomber. Or whatever else you can think of that brings to mind a combination of strength, power and finesse. It looks just that good.
So, its appearance makes it stand out from the rest. But what about the performance?
It sets up nicely at address, and its stealth-bomber look definitely inspires confidence. It comes with a stock 125-gram Cleveland “Traction” steel shaft, and it’s heavier than the clubs with graphite shafts that I usually play. But, the club’s extra weight stopped bothering me within just a few practice swings. That’s how nicely balanced this wedge truly is.
Cleveland says this wedge has been engineered to provide the ideal combination of three essential aspects of short-game clubs: performance, forgiveness and versatility. After hitting the clubs, I believe them.
The Cleveland CG14 Black Pearl wedge incorporates Cleveland’s sophisticated groove technology (more on this a bit later) into a club head with a hint of offset and a wide sole, a design developed with the input of PGA Tour pros. The wide sole and slightly oversized head provide some protection against the dreaded "chili-dip," with some added forgiveness if you do happen to hit the ball fat. The sole’s constant heel-to-toe width is also intended to promote better performance out of the sand, and its “tour grind” promotes versatility from a wide range of lies. The club’s slight offset is designed to enhance control on full shots and integrate the club into any set of cavity-back irons.
According to the company, the famous Cleveland “Tour ZIP grooves” on the face of the Cleveland CG14 Black Pearl wedge are created with a revolutionary new milling technology that produces sharp, consistent groove edges. Their purpose is to promote consistent ball-striking and optimal spin, even from bad lies. Before the face is sandblasted (a normal production process), Cleveland protects the integrity of the ZIP grooves by applying a proprietary coating to their surfaces. The groove dimensions of the Cleveland CG14 Black Pearl wedge are the maximum permitted by the 2011 USGA groove rules, so you can play this club even if you’re a pro.
But feel is just as important as grooves in the short game. So, what type of feel does the Cleveland CG14 Black Pearl wedge deliver at impact? Well, a proprietary, lightweight “Gelback™” material is positioned directly behind the sweet spot, in the head’s back cavity. This Gelback ™ technology is intended to dampen harsh vibrations on miss-hits but still provide the feedback we all need. In my experience, the club felt soft (unexpectedly so when I missed the sweet spot) but solid and reassuring on good hits.
The Bottom Line: The soft feel provided by the Cleveland CG14 Black Pearl wedge is almost unprecedented, in my opinion rivaled only by Titleist’s Vokey Design® wedges – perhaps. The club’s breakthrough Tour ZIP grooves provide amazing stopping ability on approach shots by providing much more spin and distance control than I usually see. And this is all despite the USGA’s new groove rules, designed to reduce wedge spin.
I always felt in complete control of these clubs, whether I had a perfect lie or something much worse. I never worried about digging when I was hitting a finesse chip from a soft fringe, whether it was a gentle bump and run or a high, soft lob. And both lofts I tried worked surprisingly well out of bunkers. My only complaint is a lack of feedback on miss-hits.
Cleveland Golf claims it makes the sport’s top-ranked wedges. After hitting the Cleveland CG14 Black Pearl wedge, I understand how the company can make that claim. These wedges are available in lofts starting at 50-degrees and going up through 60-degrees, in 2-degree increments. I only tested two of these lofts, but I’d recommend any of these wedges to golfers who care about their short games – and who doesn’t?