FIRST LOOK: FOURTEEN FH V1 WEDGES

FIRST LOOK: FOURTEEN FH V1 WEDGES

For its entire existence, Fourteen’s RM-22 series of wedges sat largely at the periphery of major golf markets, though the advent of a custom wedge program last season seemed to reenergize this segment of the brand. While the Wedge Wizard has left the company, placing the custom program on permanent hiatus, Fourteen is pressing on with a new generation of wedges.

The FH Forged V1 replaces the RM-22 series as Fourteens flagship wedge offering. What remains is a dedication to the reverse muscle taper technology, which by shoving weight toward the top of the blade, both raises the CG and increases MOI (forgiveness). A more forgiving wedge concept isn’t necessarily novel (See: Cleveland CBX) however, Fourteen aims to do so within the framework of a subtly perimeter-weighted muscle back.

The FH Forged V1 holds over the basics of reverse-muscle taper technology, but evolution has taken the design a couple of steps further.  Officially, Fourteen calls the technology Double Reverse Taper Blade, though I’d contend there are three components to it.

The design starts with weight being pushed toward the top of the blade, forming the signature reverse muscle. From there, weight is tapered away from the heel and towards the toe. A third taper is found in a hosel that narrows as it reaches the heel of the club.

All of this reallocation of mass serves two basic purposes. First, it allows Fourteen to strategically move the CG (center of gravity) higher to give players more control over trajectory and spin. Also, by shifting weight toward the perimeter of the blade, it boosts MOI, allowing the club to be more stable and forgiving at impact.

There’s also a shaft story in play. Fourteen partnered with Japanese shaft maker, Nippon Shaft Co. Ltd., to design a proprietary wedge shaft (N.S. Pro TS114 W) to optimize launch and spin of the FH Forged V1. Similar to other specialty wedge offerings in the shaft market, there are two versions of the shaft – one for finesse shots and one for full swings. Fourteen’s thinking is 41°-50° wedges are used primarily for full shots whereas 52°-60° wedges are asked to cover a multitude of different shots and distances.

The shaft is similar in profile to the stock Nippon Modus 115 wedge shaft (122 grams) and features a butt-soft, stiff-tip design, which promotes a softer feel in the hands, but a tight and predictable trajectory. Roughly 20 grams lighter, the Nippon NS Pro 950GH HT is a second shaft option.

Also new with the V1 is a Mirrored Milled Face where each groove is individually milled to a precise set of specifications for maximum spin. According to Fourteen, this process is more exacting and takes roughly twice as long as traditional methods of milling grooves.

THE GRINDS

Fourteen feels with that more players opting against a set wedges, it made sense to offer the FH V1 in additional lofts to replace traditional 9-irons (41°), Pitching Wedges (44°, 47°), and Gap Wedges (50°). Wedges in this range feature Fourteen’s Bumper Sole grind, which offers a bit of leading-edge relief and is best suited to full swings.

Wedges with lofts between 52°-56° have the Regular sole which is flatter overall but still tapers (there’s that word again) toward the toe. As expected, the nimblest lofts (58°,60°) emphasize shot-making and the T-grind (Twin Sole) offers the requisite heel, toe and trailing edge relief to play most any shot within 100 yards of the green.

TESTING AND PERSPECTIVE

Individual experiences are just that: singular. So, do with the following what you will. The FH V1 are similar to the RM-22 in that it’s unlikely to garner much attention beyond the small percentage of golfers who either already own Fourteen wedges or make a habit of delving deep into internet forums or trite WITB releases.

That said, the V1 has a lot to offer particularly in the spin and feel departments. For better players, the ability to control launch and spin are vital, and perhaps more important than the total amount of spin produced is the predictability and consistency of spin. Both on course and during launch monitor testing (all data recorded on a Foresight GC2 HMT) the V1 produced spin rates consistently on par with other premium wedges from leading OEMs. This held true for both full and partial shots from the fairway and medium-length rough.

Feel shouldn’t be assessed only by the type or grade of metal used. It also isn’t solely a function of whether the club is cast or forged. It’s the total of all elements including but not limited to material, design, shaft, swing weight and total weight. Given this context, the FH V1 wedges struck a nice balance of soft, yet stable. More accomplished wedge players want feedback on each shot without excessive punishment, and the FH V1 offers precisely that.

The finesse version of the TS 114W shaft, as expected, excelled on pitch shots as well as flighted ¾ shots but struggled at full speed. Understandably, this version of the TS 114W isn’t designed around full shots. Players with a quicker tempo or those with a more aggressive transition might want to opt for something with a stiffer butt section.

 

Aesthetically, the V1 might be fractionally larger and more rounded at address than the RM-22. It’s also a conversation of context as both Ping (Glide Forged) and Cleveland (RTX-4) recently released tour-targeted wedges with more compact footprints.  The previous generation of Fourteen wedges (RM-22) found favor with players on multiple professional tours because of its performance, and thus far it doesn’t appear the slight visual modifications have tempered this enthusiasm.

Though it’s historically typical of Japanese equipment, the back flange is cluttered with labels, names, and acronyms. Fourteen would do well to simplify the look and match what consumers see from EPON, Miura, Ping, and Cleveland to name a few.

Objectively, loft-specific grinds make a lot of sense. The trouble is North American golfers have come to expect a buffet of grind options. This isn’t to suggest every player is accomplished enough to make use of the grind options, but the lack of selection may not play well with the current narrative where the loudest voices talk a lot about matching grind to swing type or playing conditions. The likely reality is the grinds offered by Fourteen will fit the vast majority of golfers, but the optics may not fit the premium price point of the V1.

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY

The current plan is to release the FH V1 wedge to North America at the end of August at an MSRP of $250. It will be offered in two finishes, Matte Black and Nickel Chrome Pearl Satin. As discussed, Nippon provides the two shaft options. Left-handed options are limited to 47°, 50°, 52°, 56° and 58°

Fourteen would like to be successful in the world’s largest golf market (North America), though some of its recent business decisions might indicate a clear and viable plan is more a work in progress than previously thought.

With that, what would you like to see from Fourteen? Is the FH-V1 a step in the right direction or is Fourteen now a pace behind the likes of Ping and Cleveland?

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