Friday, September 21, 2012

Scratch Golf 1018 Forged Wedges Review

All serious golfers have some sort of addiction within the game. People have garages full of old putters, while others seem to always have a new driver. My addiction is wedges. I seem to have tried or owned a wedge from nearly every major brand. 
I originally read about Scratch Golf on They are a small company based in Chattanooga, Tennessee that do custom sets of irons and wedges. They offer “8620 Milled” wedges and “1018 Forged” wedges. These are all offered in three different sole grind options (click on link to view). If none of these please your eye, there is an option to have Scratch’s head club makers personally grind you a wedge to any shape or specification that you wish.
Because of the very tight and firm turf here in St Andrews, Scotland, I chose the “Driver / Slider” sole grind for my 50* and 54* wedges. Without getting too technical, this gave me less bounce, therefore discouraging thin shots on the tight fairways.

One thing you will notice is a very straight leading edge on the wedges (seen in the photo below). This is different from the rounded leading edge that is found on Vokeys and Clevelands. While this suits my eye and give me confidence on tight lies, make sure you chose a sole grind that personally suits your eye.
I always look for an aesthetically pleasing finish, a nice head shape, and heavy weight in my wedges. Beyond those obvious factors, I mainly look for longevity in the clubs. How long do the grooves stay sharp? Does the finish completely come off after a few bunker shots? Although I was playing a lot at the time, my first set of Cleveland CG12’s looked years old after only a few months. My spin milled Vokeys always seemed to completely destroy cover of the Pro-V1x’s. This was before the three-month point at which they became dull and began to stop spinning completely.
I have played the wedges this entire summer, which led to fairly heavy use. They have held up incredibly well. The grooves are still very sharp, and at no point did they cut up soft Titleist golf balls. The gun metal finish has held up well despite quite a bit of bunker practice.
Grooves still sharp after four months of play and practice
Scratch Golf allows for a HUGE amount of customization when ordering wedges. Everything can be customized including head finish, shaft type and color, grip type and color, hosel plastic color. Customers are spoiled for choice. My personalized stamping can be seen in the picture below. Without the stamping (a small additional fee), the look is refreshingly simple compared to the flash of many modern clubs.
After four months of play
The 8620 Milled wedges cost 109 US$ with the 1018 Forgedwedges coming in at a more expensive 179 US$. The forged wedges are quite expensive, but they are an extremely good product. They are meant to compete with the likes of Miura, and they do it successfully.
Club soles after 4 months of play
If you want a great simple wedge, or to be able to dictate literally every specification on the wedge, Scratch Golf is your best option. They make wedges that look incredible and perform equally well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Harbour Town Golf Links

The decision to play Harbour Town was last minute. We were driving from Savannah, Georgia to Augusta when my girlfriend, Isla suggested a detour to Hilton Head Island. As we got closer to the Hilton Head, I figured a call to see if Harbour Town could work out a single might be worth a shot. A few minutes later, I was booked to join a threesome at 2:10.
Admittedly, my knowledge of Harbour Town didn’t extend far past its world ranking, course designer, and what I had seen on TV. I was planning on comparing the course to Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, but I found a unique course with a set of challenges not often seen on the PGA Tour. Harbour Town is considerably shorter than most modern PGA venues. Bunkering, narrow fairways, small greens, and a premium on placement create the challenge.
Harbour Town's scorecard is a beautiful painting
The fourth hole, pictured below, is a 165 yard par 3 with water wrapping around the entire green, except for a bail out area to the right of the green. The pin was tucked into a back right portion of the green. While very visually intimidating, this green is larger than others, helping players with the difficult shot.
The fifth hole was a beautiful dog leg left par 5. Having never seen the hole, the tee shot looks fairly unassuming and straightforward (as seen in the below picture). Once at the bend in the dog leg, bunkers and a lake are revealed on the left with trees and green-side bunkers on the right.
5th tee shot
View from the bend in the dogleg 
The ninth hole is a very short par 4 that requires an accurate tee shot. A group of trees narrow the fairway 50 yards short of the green. The green is drastically horse shoe shaped, and, depending on the pin position, left or right can be completely blocked out. The large clubhouse backs the ninth green.
Back left pin position on the horse shoe shaped green
 The front nine at Harbour Town were solid, but fairly lackluster. In the words of our forecaddie, Derek, “The course really comes alive after the 12th hole.”

One of the weakest and most "tricked up" holes on the course came at the 13th. The front of the green is guarded with 5 foot high railroad ties. According to our forecaddie, the hole was designed by Ellis Dye, Pete Dye's wife. She is also said to have had a hand in the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, another ridiculous hole.
Click on the picture to see more detail of the green complex 
One of my complaints about the course was a lack in variety with the par 3s. The 14th hole was a reverse of the 4th, with the water being on the right instead of the left. The 7th hole was very similar to these aforementioned par 3s, but was merely surrounded by sand instead of water.
The 17th hole, seen below, was one of the more challenging holes on the course. It is a long par 3 with an alarmingly small green. If players aren't intimidated by the water on the left, bunkers guard the left and right sides of the green. 
 The famous view up the 18th is striking in person. The fairway is extremely wide, but the green is very small (see a theme?).
Harbour Town was a very enjoyable golf course. Nearly every hole is lined with condos and houses. Some people find this attractive, but personally, I felt it detracted from the course. 
I loved to see a design that, while short, can still provide a challenge for the pros. The course is 7,100 yards from the tips. The Ocean Course at Kiawah can be stretched to nearly 8,000 yards. Harbour Town shows its difficulty with tiny greens, narrow fairways, and great bunkering - more modern tour courses should take note.

*After 2:00PM, there is a large price cut in the greens fees at the course. If money is a concern and you don't mind the afternoon heat, play after 2PM!