TGW’s TaylorMade Tour Goes In Depth With New 2016 Golf Clubs
The year was 1979, the location McHenry, Illinois. Gary Adams, with the vision of transforming the golf industry, took out a loan against his house, leased a local building, and founded TaylorMade.
The company had just one product at that time, unveiling a 12-degree driver that was made of stainless steel instead of wood. The first metalwood in the golf industry, which became known as the “Pittsburgh Persimmon,” was a hit with professionals and amateurs alike, as it provided unprecedented forgiveness and higher launch angles. From there, TaylorMade Golf was on its way.
Fast forward 37 years and TaylorMade is still king when it comes to the driver, having owned the distinction of “#1 Driver in Golf” for multiple years. Driver success, however, is now only a part of the company’s overall success, as TaylorMade has emerged as a giant in the golf market.
The company ultimately made the move from Illinois to California, and TGW made the trip on March 9 to TaylorMade’s headquarters in Carlsbad for a tour of the facilities and to learn more about the company’s 2016 product offerings.
Tom Kroll, who’s been with TaylorMade for 28 years and serves as Director of Global Product Creation, was our guide. The company has been headquartered at the facility it’s in now since 1997, but this location is actually the fifth California location that TaylorMade has called home. Located across the street from the corporate headquarters is “The Kingdom,” a world renowned testing, fitting, and performance center. We spent our afternoon there, but more on that later.
As Kroll led us into the lobby, we were greeted with displays featuring TaylorMade’s newest products, as well as a wall devoted to the numerous professionals who are part of the TaylorMade roster, including household names like Jason Day, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, and Dustin Johnson.
After receiving our guest badges for the day, we entered another lobby area where an amazing collection of many of TaylorMade’s driver offerings through the years was on display in a glass case. Leading the way, of course, was the Pittsburgh Persimmon from 1979, and at the end of the line was the new M1 driver, which can be seen on television weekly as a fixture on every professional tour.
Some of the others in the historical lineup included the original Burner driver, with its “Bubble” shaft, the R510 TP, which dominated Tour play for years, the R7, which was the first driver to feature moveable weight technology, and the R11, which unveiled the white crown that forever changed the game when it came to driver looks. It was a fun trip down memory lane for our staff members, as we all recollected times when we had played those various drivers through the years.
Upon leaving the second lobby, we headed out to the facility’s production floor, and what a sight it was, as countless employees were hard at work building clubs in a factory setting filled with inventory. There were seven different manufacturing cells in use at one time and at each cell, working in the form of an assembly line, multiple employees handled different tasks ranging from installing shafts, to adjusting lofts and lies, to finishing clubs with the proper grip.
Kroll informed us that approximately 1 million golf clubs, which equates to roughly 25 percent of total production for the United States, are built on that floor and shipped from the facility annually. He also said that so far this year, 40-50 percent of the clubs being built are custom orders, numbers which continue to rise each year as more and more consumers uncover the benefits of custom fitting.
Off to the side of the production floor was TaylorMade’s Tour Department, a separate room where clubs were being assembled for members of the TaylorMade playing staff who compete on various professional tours around the globe. In this room, typically it was one employee assembling and modifying a club to spec from start to finish.
We didn’t want to interrupt the work being done, but we were able to spot an M2 fairway wood that had been built for former professional tennis player Mardy Fish, who has turned his attention to golf and was victorious in the Diamond Resorts Invitational celebrity golf tournament in January. The Tour Department also served as the site where we recieved the inside scoop on TaylorMade’s 2016 lineup of drivers, fairway woods, rescue clubs, and irons.
Presenting first was Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade’s Senior Director of Product Creation for Metalwoods. Bazzel walked us through the M1 and M2 driver first, and made one thing very clear about the two products. “The M2 is not a replacement for the M1,” he said. “It’s a complement to it.”
Both drivers feature the same composite crown and look basically identical at address, although the M1 also comes in a 430cc head that has a smaller overall profile than its 460cc counterparts. The difference between the two models is on the bottom of the club and how the weight saved by using lighter materials in constructing the crown is redistributed.
In the M1, there are two T-Track weight systems that allow golfers to make adjustments to achieve their preferred ball flight and trajectory. In the M2, meanwhile, the weight was moved lower and further back on the sole to lower the center of gravity and create higher ball speeds. Along with the M2’s redesigned Speed Pocket, the lower CG delivers exceptional forgiveness and keeps ball speeds high on shots struck at different impact points on the face, making for a club that offers high launch and low spin.
So how should golfers choose between the two? Bazzel said that each driver would fit a wide variety of player, pointing out that Tour play between the two drivers right now is “roughly 50-50.” He added that, “Some guys that I thought would have gone for the M1 have gone for the M2.”
But at its most basic, Bazzel said it comes down to wanting customization versus forgiveness, and that “golfers who know they’re inconsistent and are looking for max forgiveness can go straight to the M2.”
In terms of the M1 and M2 fairway woods and rescue clubs, Bazzel said the thought process in creating the M1 and M2 driver remains intact. With M1, the focus is still customization, while maximum forgiveness is what M2 was designed to create. More specifically, the M1 fairway woods and rescues feature moveable weights and adjustable loft sleeves that allow golfers to achieve exactly what they’re looking for in terms of trajectory and shot shape.
The M2 fairways and rescues, meanwhile, rely on a lower center of gravity and utilize TaylorMade’s Speed Pocket to enhance the size of the club’s sweet spot. The result is high launch, low spin, and a clubface that keeps ball speeds high even on shots that are struck off the heel or toe.
Unlike the M1 and M2 driver, however, there are cosmetic differences when it comes to the fairway woods and rescue clubs. With M1, the clubhead has a smaller profile and a slightly deeper face, both of which, along with the adjustable weights and loft sleeve, promote the ability to shape shots more easily. M2, meanwhile, features a slightly larger clubhead but a shallower clubface designed to help golfers launch the ball with ease.
After Bazzel finished his presentation, we were joined in the Tour Department by Tomo Bystedt, TaylorMade’s Senior Director of Global Irons, to talk about the company’s 2016 iron lineup. The discussion was interesting, as Bystedt explained that while tour play inevitably inspires the technology utilized in drivers and fairway woods, when it comes to irons, technology is driven by the average golfer, who needs the additional help in an iron far more than a tour player.
For 2016, TaylorMade has two very different products available, the M2 and the PSi, both of which also feature a tour version. To put it most simply, the M2 offerings would fall into the “game improvement” category while the PSi offerings would qualify as “players clubs.” There is, however, some crossover with the products that will appeal to a wide variety of golfers based on their needs and look preferences.
In terms of M2, Bystedt said the ultimate goal was to create an iron that launched high, flew far, and offered unmatched forgiveness. Those goals were accomplished by creating an extremely low center of gravity and expanding the sweet spot on the clubface to keep ball speeds high on mis-hits. “This club is for the player who wants more distance and the ability to hit the ball higher,” Bystedt said.
What TaylorMade didn’t want, however, was for M2 to only be seen as an option for higher handicap players, which led to the M2 Tour. Said Bystedt, “We like to describe M2 Tour as small profile, small package, big distance.” The M2 Tour still features a low CG for high launch and max forgiveness, but the clubs have less offset and a thinner topline than M2, as well as a smaller overall profile that provides more of a players club look in a game-improvement iron.
As far as PSi is concerned, TaylorMade set out to deliver on all of the needs and wants requested by better players. PSi Tour is a product that was created directly from feedback from TaylorMade touring professionals. It features a thin topline, thin sole, and minimal offset, all of which maximize workability. Additionally, the PSi is forged and delivers exceptional feel and sound. Make no mistake about it, this is an iron that is definitely for a lower handicap player.
PSi, however, is a different animal. The profile is slightly larger than PSi Tour and the topline is a little thicker, but this club maintains all of the typical aspects of a true players club, especially in terms of feel. That said, the Face Slots and Cut-Thru Speed Pocket create distance, launch, and forgiveness not often found in a players club. In short, for the mid-handicapper who wants a clean, compact look, the PSi would be a great option, but it would also be a club that a scratch player would enjoy.
After finishing up our iron presentation, we headed across the street to the aforementioned “Kingdom.” The facility was impressive to say the least. The inside, from a decor standpoint, looked like the locker room at an upscale country club. It also featured a putting lab, a fitting studio, and a covered hitting bay equipped with cameras to record every aspect of a player’s swing from multiple angles. Lockers in this area featured names like Dustin Johnson and Paula Creamer, among others. Outside, there was a pristine driving range with multiple target greens, as well as a short game area.
One of the exciting aspects of the day’s events was being joined in the afternoon by four TGW customers who were invited to test out TaylorMade’s 2016 products. Bob, Neal, Chris, and Mike, whose handicaps ranged from 2 to 18, made the trip, and after enjoying lunch with TaylorMade and TGW staff members, everyone headed out to the driving range.
We set up on the top level of the range and there were three Trackman devices in place to help the testers evaluate the clubs they were hitting. TaylorMade also provided professional fitters to work with each of the testers, and Bazzel and Bystedt were also on hand to answer questions and offer recommendations related to the woods and irons, respectively.
The testers started out by hitting the different irons being offered for 2016 before moving to drivers, fairway woods, and hybrids. They were consistently hitting into a 10-12 MPH wind, which provides great feedback in terms of the stability of the ball flight with each product. Given their differing ability levels, each tester seemed to have his own personal favorites, which you can see in the videos we recorded, but reviews on the M2 irons and M2 fairway woods seemed universally positive.
After hitting full shots for close to two hours, our testers took a much-needed break and headed down to the short game area to try out some of TaylorMade’s 2016 wedges and putters.
Our testers came away impressed not only with the new products they had a chance to hit but with the attention they received from the TaylorMade staff as well. From our end, the experience gave us far more insight into the inspirations for the 2016 product lines, as well as a better understanding of what type of player would benefit most from the new products being offered by TaylorMade this year.
And at the end of the day, that’s why we made the trip. TGW customers have plenty of choices when it comes to the clubs they choose to play, and we feel it’s our job to help them make educated decisions. And how can we expect to fill that role if we’re not experts on the products ourselves? That being the case, this trip proved to be a tremendous success.