Cleveland Niblick Wedge
The chipper has been labeled by most accomplished players as the sure sign of a hack. I remember back a number of years ago chippers seemed to be all the rage at my local muni. I found many golfers giving them a try only to dump them a short time later. With this kind of stigmatism, Cleveland set out to challenge that image and design a club to truly help any golfer struggling with their short games. I think that most of us fit into this category.
The name Niblick stirs the memory of hickory shafted clubs and wound golf balls. It was the designation of the very high lofted clubs. The mashie-niblick is the approach club from years gone by, now replicated by the Cleveland Niblick.
Before I get to the club’s performance, I found an excellent new feature to ensure authenticity of this club. The influx of counterfeit clubs in the US market is frightening. Golfers want to know that the clubs they purchase are real and warrantied. There is a little decoder window on the grip, which you peel off, and use to look at the silver tag by the head. If it is authentic, little Cleveland logos will be seen through the window. I am glad to see a company doing something to deal with the huge black market clubs showing up everywhere. If you buy a Niblick, make sure to check the label.
At first glance this club looks much like hybrid/iron with a short steel shaft. It has a flat wide sole and a very upright light angle much like a putter. It also has a healthy offset, which might bother some, but I felt it helped with alignment much like a putter might be offset. It comes in two loft options, 37* and 42*. According to the Cleveland website, you don’t necessarily need both lofts, but rather one or the other depending on typical playing conditions. For my needs, the 42* seemed the best option.
It seems that many accomplished golfers feel that this club is unnecessary because you can do the same thing with a hybrid, wedge or 8-iron. This might be true, but what the Niblick has that these three options don’t have are a heavy weight, zip grooves, shorter shaft, and easy alignment. Sure if you practice enough you can do the same thing with another club, but the Niblick is so easy and takes a lot less practice to still get amazing results.
After initially testing this club, I assumed that I would only use it green-side when I got into thick rough or when a bump and run was the best option, but after a more thorough range testing and some on course time, I found I could use it from further away. I couldn’t believe how easy to hit straight it was from even 100 yards. It went much higher than expected and landed with dramatic spin keeping the ball very close to its mark on the green. It had a very solid feel at impact paired with a low stainless click when struck. I really liked the dark smoke finish on the Niblick. It kept the bright AZ sun from reflecting in my face. Although, as much as I loved the dark smoke finish, it did seem to wear rather quickly while playing on the dry desert courses in Phoenix.
What really sets it apart from past chippers are the grooves. The zip grooves really give the ball bite, which now becomes very controllable on those bump and runs. The gel insert behind these zip grooves also dampens most of the vibrations giving the Niblick a little softer feel.
This may be a great club inside of 100 yards and excellent around the greens, but it still will not replace a good sand wedge and lob wedge. There are some shots that cannot be hit with this club. You cannot open up the face for a sand shot or a lob shot, you still can’t get it to spin back like a 60* wedge, but for every other shot it shines. The 42* Niblick will be replacing my 53* wedge. I think that if you play a 3 wedge set-up now, this one can replace that low 50*-53* wedge.
Just because you are a good player, even a talented player with your wedges, this club could still find a place in your bag to shave off a few strokes. I think it is one of those clubs that shouldn’t be sworn off without trying it. I made room for it in my bag to save a few shots on each round.
For more information: www.clevelandgolf.com
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