Proto Concept is not yet a familiar brand to most golfers. So, I wouldn’t blame you if the Proto Concept Forged Wedge or Forged CB golf wedge didn’t land on your “must try” list of 2023.
That aside, what Proto Concept offers golfers is access to the quality, craftsmanship, and spec tolerances typically reserved for tour players. But like Kobe beef, refined taste buds require deep pockets.
Rich marbled meat, buttery flavors, and the finest forged clubs. Where do I sign up?
Proto Concept Refresher
Proto-C is a collaborative effort between the Endo forging house and the Golf Partner executive ownership group.
Golf Partner is the largest golf retailer in the world. It boasts nearly 400 retail locations and 550,000 in-stock clubs. It’s something like the Japanese equivalent to Starbucks but for golf equipment. I mention this primarily to illustrate that the company has a unique perspective and breadth of JDM market knowledge. Its leadership has a keen understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and most importantly, what resonates with the target audience.
The Endo forging house is an industry benchmark. Beyond Proto Concept and its house brand, Epon, Endo counts a litany of brands as clients. Srixon, Yamaha, Mizuno, Honma, Bridgestone, Tourstage, S-Yard, Daiwa, Callaway, and Titleist have all, at times, relied on Endo to forge their premium lines of golf irons and wedges. Several still do.
It’s like the auto shop other mechanics go to when they get a problem they can’t fix.
Proto Concept Forged Wedge
Proto Concept asserts that its Forged Wedge provides an optimal balance of ball speed, trajectory control, and spin. You’ll likely note that pretty much every wedge manufacturer touts something similar.
Beyond the basic shaping and purported benefits lie two distinct features. The first is Face Dot Milling. According to Proto Concept, Endo’s precision face score line forging process is more accurate than machining. Beyond that, a series of mini-dots is milled into the horizontal areas between the grooves to help produce more consistent launch and spin in varied lies and weather conditions.
Side note: We started testing wet weather wedge performance in 2019. The best wedges retained upwards of 85 to 90 percent-90 of dry weather spin. However, poor performers lost more than 50 percent of dry weather spin. In 2022, the Proto Concept Forged golf wedge finished in the top half of the field, one spot below the Vokey SM9.
Proto Concept Forged Sole Grinds
The second keystone attribute is three sole grinds: Standard, Wide Sole, and Cut Down. Essentially, this gives golfers three bounce options (high, medium, low), though the Wide Sole and Cut Down grinds are only available in lofts 56° and higher.
The Standard sole offers the most bounce. I had to double-check the specs because with most mainline brands, a “standard” grind tends to be mid-bounce with moderate sole width and enough versatility to fit the needs of most golfers.
Regardless, the Proto Concept Standard sole best suits full-swing shots and chips/pitches played with a square face. There is a school of thought that ascribes to the belief that many golfers would benefit from playing higher-bounce wedges. I don’t suspect that Proto Concept is trying to nudge golfers in that direction here, but it’s worth considering.
The Wide Sole is Proto Concept’s moderate sole grind, which, again, might be slightly confusing for some consumers. Generally, a wide sole is noticeably longer from the leading to trailing edge and accompanied by either very little or quite a bit of bounce. But, in this case, the Wide Sole is built for golfers with an average (neither steep nor shallow) angle of attack looking for a wedge that’s well-suited to most shots from 100 yards and in.
The lowest-bounce sole configuration is what Proto Concept labels a Cut Down Sole. Of the three options, it’s the one where the name gives a good indication as to what the wedge is designed to do. In this case, cut-down approximates what we generally call relief – or portions of the sole that are ground away to allow more creative shot-making. Specifically, heel relief on the Cut Down Sole allows the golfer to open the face without raising the leading edge. Not every low-bounce wedge has aggressive heel relief, though it’s one reason that similar grinds (notably Vokey’s T Grind) are quite popular on professional tours.
Sidebar: What bounce and grind should I play? How many wedges should I keep in my bag? Wedge fitting can be a complicated pursuit, but we have answers.
Proto Concept Forged CB Wedge
The Proto Concept Forged CB wedge is a user-friendly option that’s best for beginning golfers or players who can benefit from more forgiving, perimeter-weighted wedges. The footprint is larger and Proto Concept offers a single, universal grind. Like the Forged wedge, the Forged CB wedge utilizes Face Dot Milling and precision forged score lines.
Additionally, the Proto Concept Forged CB wedge is available in three lofts – 46.5°, 50°, and 56°. The absence of a 60° option is intentional as it’s reasonable that the golfer who benefits from a cavity-back wedge likely doesn’t have much use for a 60° lob wedge. You don’t generally find a quesadilla maker and Tsukasa White Steel chef’s knife in the same kitchen, right?
Other than Cleveland Golf, most leading wedge manufacturers don’t offer a dedicated cavity-back wedge. Several product cycles ago, wedges with exceptionally wide soles and a non-traditional aesthetic were all the rage. Now, beyond a flagship, tour-ready line, companies are moving toward increased customization opportunities for consumers.
Proto Concept officially entered the global golf equipment game in 2019. And as an upstart brand, deciding on a starting lineup is a tough ask. It’s cost aversive to offer the full bevy of bounce/grind options in multiple lofts. But it’s vital to cover as much of your target audience as possible– and really, three grinds are likely sufficient for most golfers.
Plenty of readers are going to notice and comment on the cost. Some of you will be angry about the price tag, while others will accept it. If $300 for a wedge is a bridge too far – and trust me, I get it – the Most Wanted wedge of 2022 is $180, which is now the market rate.
Also, consider that of all pieces of golf equipment; wedges have the shortest shelf life. We’ve referenced Vokey’s 75 rounds as a reasonable estimate. My approach is the “two grip” rule. I’ll play a wedge and re-grip it once. If the grip wears out again, it’s probably time to buy a new wedge.
It’s inevitable that golfers will compare Proto Concept wedges to more familiar market leaders (Titleist/Vokey, TaylorMade MG3, Callaway JAWS, Cleveland RTX and others). While the wedges look and might perform similarly, the target audiences aren’t. Proto Concept isn’t designed to operate in a mass market, where reviewing the Darrell Survey is part of Monday morning staff meetings.
Proto Concept is small by design, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interested in selling equipment. That said, Proto Concept isn’t willing to compromise quality for price. If anything, when you demand advanced designs, precise spec tolerance and high-grade materials from arguably the industry’s premier forging house, price isn’t your top priority, nor is it your competitive advantage.
Pricing & Availability
Proto Concept wedges are currently available through authorized dealers.
For more information, visit protoconceptgolf.com