December 21st, 2009 by Kristofer Anderson
Roughly two weeks from today the USGA will adopt the new groove rule. It essentially limits the size and shape of the grooves that will be allowed in USGA sanctioned competitions. While the PGA Tour, golf club manufacturers, and many players contested the rule change, the USGA refused to budge. We recently had the opportunity to test and photograph the new conforming J38 wedge line from Bridgestone Golf.
The J38 line is a continuation of the Bridgestone J series, which started with the J33 line, and continued last year with the J36 line. Bridgestone has long been known for their high quality clubs and superior array of performance golf balls. With the previous release of the West Coast Design wedge, they also became a serious contender in the wedge market. The J38 continues this move with a similar design, new finish, cleaner looks, same great feel, and conforming grooves.
Like most companies today, Bridgestone has ditched the chrome look and gone with the popular black oxide finish. Everyone that has played with a chrome wedge on a sunny day knows it can be extremely distracting. The black oxide finish takes care of the problem. The thing that first caught my eye is the simplicity of the graphic design. Too many companies are creating clubs that look more like a billboard than a golf club. The J38 brings us back to a time where a brand, model, and loft were enough. It makes for a very classy wedge.
Grinds & Design:
The J38 series has the same variable bounce technology that the West Coast line featured last year. This grind creates low bounce areas in the heel and toe of the club allowing for a more versatile wedge. The J38 is made from soft heat treated 8620 mild carbon steel and incorporates a milled face. The heat treating makes the metal 13% softer than a Vokey wedge. The micro-milling process actually increases spin when the wedge face is open for shorter shots and lessens spins on full swings. As stated previously, Bridgestone has incorporated V-Grooves to conform to the upcoming USGA rule change.
The 52, 56, and 60 wedges were tested in a variety of lies from the sand, rough, and fairway. All three wedges exceeded my expectations. Whatever concerns I had about being able to spin the ball out of the rough were quickly dismissed. I had no problem putting spin on shots out of freshly watered two+ inch rough. The wedges performed well from the sand and fairway but the variable bounce is what won me over. Testing shots with the face wide open, closed, from buried lies, and from a flat surface were all met with great results. Overall the J38 line was everything I expected and more. After more golfers test these wedges, I believe the bickering regarding the new rule will quickly fade. As many of us will be forced to look at wedges, along with irons, I strongly recommend testing these before making any decisions.
The J38 series wedges will be offered in lofts of 52, 54, 56, 58, and 60 degrees. They will be shafted with a True Temper Dynamic Gold shaft and Golf Pride Tour Velvet grip. Custom options will be available as well.