August 20, 2019
By Andrew Tursky, PGATOUR.COM
- The radar moniker actually goes all the way back to Justin Thomas’ college career at the University of Alabama. (Andrew Tursky/PGA TOUR)
Take a look in the “Winners Bag” for Justin Thomas at the 2019 BMW Championship, and you’ll see there’s a “radar” wedge stamping on his 56-degree Titleist Vokey SM7 wedge. He also has three other wedges in the bag, each stamped with “radar” on them in some way.
The radar moniker actually goes all the way back to Thomas’ college days at the University of Alabama, when he was doing club testing with Titleist. Recently, PGATOUR.COM caught up with Aaron Dill, the Vokey wedge representative on TOUR and genius behind Titleist wedge stampings, to get the full story on Thomas’ radar wedges.
“The radar thing has always been his thing,” Dill told PGATOUR.COM. “When he was in college, and he was out at our test site with one of our reps, we would watch him hit wedge shots and he would just pepper flags. Just one after another. And we jokingly said, ‘This guy is like a radar.’ And that stuck.”
When Thomas turned professional, however, Dill encouraged Thomas to change it up and get creative with his stampings. After collective brainstorming, and a few ideas that remained on the cutting room floor, Thomas and Dill decided to use music lyrics, mostly drawing inspiration from popular Lil Wayne and Drake songs at the time.
The hip-hop-inspired stampings lasted for about three or four sets, according to Dill, but something wasn’t right with Thomas’ short game.
“My short game’s not very good,” Thomas said to Dill one day. “I think I need to go back to radar.”
Since that conversation, Thomas has been using wedges stamped with different variations of radar. As for the multi-colored, intricate stamping made to look like a target, Dill says he stamped that wedge ahead of the 2019 U.S. Open, thus the red-white-and-blue color scheme.
According to Dill, Thomas switches up his higher-lofted wedges quite often, but lower-lofted wedges less frequently.
“He will keep his pitching wedge and gap wedge for a year,” Dill said. “That’s a long time, because he will hit balls constantly -- range balls, balls out of the bunker, chipping, and they’re playing tournament rounds plus practice rounds. So he might keep the pitching wedge for about a year, the gap wedge could last a year. He might play between 4-6 sand wedges a year, and 4-8 lob wedges a year.”
For some players, Dill said, a dull wedge can be beneficial in the lower-lofted wedges to keep spin down on full shots, but spin remains key with the higher-lofted wedges for the touch shots where more control is necessary.
Before THE NORTHERN TRUST earlier this month, Thomas had a problem with one of his wedges -- it was rusted beyond belief. Thomas uses raw wedges; according to Dill, the raw finish not only allows for alterations to be made to the wedges without effecting the appearance, but golfers like the way it looks, too. The problem, though, is that if a raw wedge gets wet and isn’t dried properly, it shows rust.
“Because he lives in Florida, there’s a lot of humidity there,” Dill said. “If he gets it a little wet and doesn’t dry it off, that steel is going to rust. It’s just the way it is, and especially there. You get it wet, it’s going to get pretty brown.”
As it turns out, it was actually a new wedge.
“His case was really extreme,” Dill said. “And that wedge was brand-new. (laughs) So I brought him in and cleaned it up for him and I told him he has to keep it dry. He’s like, ‘I know, I know, it’s my fault.’”
Of course, no matter how often he changes wedges, or whether they’re rusted or brand new, they’re all stamped with the same thing: radar.