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Agents on Assignment: MyGolfSpy Forum Members LoftUp at TaylorMade

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Written By: Will Dron

Several weeks ago, before we learned the results of the MyGolfSpy Most Wanted Driver tests and before TaylorMade went all out advertising the SLDR, several members from the MyGolfSpy forums were sent deep into TaylorMade HQ and the Kingdom. The mission was to ask as many questions as we possibly could to various members of the TaylorMade Staff and learn about their new driver.

Since then the forums have been abuzz with Lofting up and 17-1700. You really should catch up on the conversations in the forums because it’s been controversial to say the least, but in case you’re unaware, TaylorMade thinks every golfer in the world, regardless of swing speed, should be increasing their driver launch to 17 degrees and reducing their spin rate to an “optimal” 1700rpm. That’s everyone from tour pro to the guy who takes 5 hours to play a round. Everyone.

It took us a while to absorb it in too. Initially I didn't believe a word of it. We all know there’s an optimal launch angle and backspin rate that varies based on swing speed right? Then, we started hearing it from everyone else too. From the moment we set foot in Carlsbad, California to visit TaylorMade as part of their Loft UP+ experience, this 17-degree launch angle and 1700rpm backspin kept being brought up.

 TaylorMade Golf  on the Callaway Bertha Alpha:
"We have a patent for an adjustable club with screws at the top to do exactly what the Callaway Bertha Alpha does, but we realized no one would ever want to increase weight towards the top of a club"

What the folks at TaylorMade told us is that Loft Up+ was a bit of an accident. They released the SLDR and found everyone had to increase loft. Now, what they’re saying is that all golf companies for the past ten years had been designing drivers wrong. They focused on getting the ball up in the air and forgiveness by pushing the CG low and back on the club, which increases spin. To mitigate the increase in spin, you had to loft down. But spin could never be reduced enough and launch angle couldn’t be raised in this way. Thus, 17° and1700 RPM wasn’t achievable. This is straight from the horse’s mouth; we’ll go into this more in a bit.

Thus, golf spies MBP and WD (Dan Mann & Will Dron) and 6 forum members were invited by golf’s biggest marketing machine to attend TaylorMade events during the week of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. What was the catch? We were sent to TaylorMade’s “The Kingdom” fitting center and put these claims or 17-1700 to the test. TaylorMade also let it be known from the start that no question, other than those related to unreleased technology, was off the table. Although they kept evading one question: Why was only one Canadian was allowed to attend? Well, joke was on them, because WalkerJames, a transplanted Canadian, was also in the mix.

You can read about the initial invitation to this event here.

loftup-event

TaylorMade produces at best decent equipment, they’re just good at marketing

The trip came and went, and we returned to our homes. We originally started writing this piece about everything we learned while we were out there, going over how clubs at TM are designed and manufactured. When we handed our draft to our editors, Golfspies X and T, for their opinion, they told us, “No, no, no, that stuff is interesting, but the real story is how did your perceptions of TaylorMade change on this trip, and how well did they really answer the questions we asked.

So back to the drawing board we went. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about TaylorMade? Is it the driver? Is it their overfueled marketing machine? More so than any other company in golf, TaylorMade generates buzz. Look at the blog articles on this site if you want proof. Anytime TaylorMade is in the title of an article, the number of comments shoots up.

loftup-marketing

Every golf equipment junkie has some perception of TaylorMade. Some think they are marketing whores who will say and do everything to make a buck. Others think they are marketing whores who make good equipment and know how to sell their product to make a buck.

We had several dinners with various TaylorMade employees from marketing, R&D, and manufacturing. Other than discussing future products, at no point were we ever held back in our questioning. We asked everything from product design to competitors to tour van equipment. We asked about drivers, putters, wedges, everything. We got answers to everything, even a few we weren’t supposed to hear about  in advance - like the Tour Preferred Wedges or the Project (a) ball. Hell, at one point Sean Toulon, the executive VP of TaylorMade, admitted he thought the Spider Blade putters were ugly, and they needed to be updated.

But what did we learn beyond what was said?

tmag-lobby

You guys were brainwashed

This really needs to be addressed before anything else. Not only was TaylorMade open and candid with answering questions, they were open with their wallets when it came to meals. We passed around $120 bottles of wine and the final bills were huge: ribeye one night, sea bass the next. We were certainly wined and dined.

We were also fitted with new SLDR drivers with custom shafts and Tour van heads. TaylorMade knew exactly what they were doing when they invited us and set the stage for themselves. We had a damn good time there, and this wasn’t an accident.

Now, with that out of the way, lets get to some of the more common things we hear about TaylorMade…

tmag-yesmen

Perception #1: TaylorMade will say ANYTHING

Probably, but they vehemently argued they and their lawyers back up their numbers across a broad range of golfers. Never one to back down, they flat out stated they were better than some of their competitors on this issue. Callaway (as you’ll find out, TaylorMade isn't opposed to firing a shot at Callaway) claimed a gain of up to 32 yards with their XHot fairway wood off the turf. That claim was based on one golfer. That’s not to say you should believe straight up everything they said. You always need to check the fine print.

Perception #2: (On a similar note) Marketing makes all of the decisions

Make no doubt about it. The marketing department is involved with every step of a club creation, right from the get go of the concept stages. If it can’t sell, then don’t bother. We were told by one of the R&D guys that they prototyped a driver head that was 10 yards shorter, but incredibly forgiving. The project never made it out the door.

Now, that said, the opposite is also true. Marketing wanted a driver with screws to move the CG between the top of the driver head and the sole. R&D responded that no one would ever do that, because who would want to add spin? So that product too, was nixed. That statement was a direct jab at the Big Bertha. TaylorMade's willingness to go after competitor's products was certainly entertaining. For obvious reasons, TaylorMade didn't miss an opportunity to trash Callaway's gravity core.

tmag-ballmold

Perception #3: TaylorMade is a driver company

Nope. Drivers are the top dog, but apparently they hold onto the #1 spot for fairways and fluctuate with a few other companies in being #1 iron on tour. The irons market is a tight. Hybrids they’ve given to Adams (because they own Adams). They were also darn proud of being #2 ball on tour, having completely ceded the top spot to Titleist.

They have a decent amount of putters and were very proud of their TrueRoll inserts. That’s pretty much where it ends for putters though. They don’t see a market for milled putters. Wedges? Really, they don’t seem too invested in seriously competing in the wedge market either. It’s just too small a segment. Even their new Tour Preferred wedges are just prettied-up ATV wedges. Point is though, TaylorMade, like all publicly traded companies, needs to continue to grow, and they’re going to push into every avenue where the see value.

Perception #4: Innovation at TaylorMade is just for show

We had one guy (JBones) who was professionally fitted for a R1 driver and paid nearly $800 for it last year weeks before they cut the price by $200. He was professionally fit for the SLDR while we were there and gained nearly 10 yards. There’s a difference folks.

Perception #5: Products are released in increments, they hold back technology

This is an interesting one. The guys at TaylorMade insisted they were not an incremental company, but in the next breath stated that it will take a few years to get most golfers to 17° and 1700 RPM, so they could see each release in the next few years getting incrementally closer to that goal. In the end though, we had very little insight into what was in the pipeline beyond a prototype driver I’ll mention in the next section.

tmag-3dwedge

Perception #6: TaylorMade doesn’t care about how their products sound or feel

Yes and no. They admitted their primary focus is performance, but they also do a lot of testing on sound and feel. Case and point were the RocketBladez irons, which premiered the slot in iron technology, but sounded like a dying bell when struck. The next iteration, the SpeedBlades, offered improvement by increasing the thickness of the topline of the club.

The engineers create prototypes and iterate through various changes by shooting thousands of balls at each version until they’re satisfied with the sound. The SLDR, for example, was tuned by adding thin metal pipes inside the head. You can see these in the pictures of the SLDR head that was cut open. So they do care about sound and feel, but not at the expense of performance.

tmag-sldrcut

If you read this with the hope that TaylorMade will be releasing more forged clubs though, don’t hold your breath. The engineers there believe they can make a cast club feel the same as a forged club, because the material is the same. I’m not going to get into that debate here, but the point is don’t expect more forged offerings.

Perception #7: You have to buy in a store because stated loft can vary greatly from actual loft

We specifically asked this question. It turns out tolerances for drivers and metalwoods (as measured by TaylorMade) are within a fraction of a degree. The issue is there is no single industry standard for measuring loft, and we’re talking fairly small increments here. Look at a protractor to get the sense in how precise you need to be for a single degree of loft.

Irons and wedges do have a looser tolerance range, however; we learned a little known secret: when you order from the custom department, irons get re-measured and are adjusted within a fraction of a degree from stated loft and lie before being shipped.

Perception #8:  PGA players have access to fitting beyond what the mere mortal has

Fact is, PGA players tend to know what they like. Oftentimes, a fitting for them is simply narrowing down between a few choices. Lucas Glover told us he doesn’t look at launch monitors at all. They send him three head/shaft combinations and he goes with whichever he prefers. Amateur fittings, on the other hand, often are done from scratch and are therefore far more involved. For full fittings, TaylorMade has a proprietary system to create 3D models of a person’s swing called the MAT-T system. For putter fitting they have a second system that uses high speed cameras. Unfortunately, all this comes at a steep cost for us amateurs, but it is available.

loftup-jleonard

SLDR Perception #1: The SLDR driver is only for really high swing speed golfers

So, back to the whole 17-17 thing. As a reminder, TaylorMade feels that to achieve optimal launch conditions, everyone needs to reach 1700rpm backspin with a 17° launch angle. Their answer is the SLDR, and they feel the SLDR is in fact, for everyone. I’m not going to go into details about the club itself, you want read all about the actual club here:

Previous MyGolfSpy SLDR Coverage

Pre Release
Initial Release
SLDR 430
Phil Mickelson bags the SLDR (as a side note, since TaylorMade doesn’t have a marketing deal with Phil, so they couldn’t capitalize on it when he put the SLDR in play last season)

It’s quite possible that the story that TaylorMade was surprised that everyone had to loft up was all a contrived marketing message to boost sales of a driver that was released halfway through last year. Whatever the truth is though, TaylorMade did a damn good job proving what they were preaching.

On Tuesday, January 21, the group of us attended the Loft+ Media event. This started as you can expect all TaylorMade events do. They increased distance for all golfers. Out came Justin Leonard, Robert Allenby, and then Lucas Glover. One after the other, they hit their old driver and then the new one. Every one of them increased their loft, lowered their backspin, and gained distance. None of them reached the magical 17-17, but they got closer.

Contrived right? I agree. Look at the driving statistics from the PGA Tour and you’ll notice driving distance stays more or less the same year after year. The reason is PGA players often have enough distance and optimize for specific distances, shot shapes, or how the ball lands. So of course they’ll gain yards when hitting a driver optimized for distance.

After this little demonstration though, TaylorMade attached a prototype driver to a robot to actually show what they were getting at. The robot swung the club and achieved 17° and 1700 RPM with a very average 146 ball speed (roughly in the 90mph range clubhead speed)…and knocked the ball 264 yards.

TaylorMade readily admitted they weren’t there yet, but 264 yards for the average golfer? TaylorMade says it can happen. From my experience, despite the occasional forum phenom, the average golfer can barely hit their driver 200-220 yards. The prototype technology was cool to see and very impressive because there is literally nothing on the market that can do this. Unfortunately they said they were still 2-3 years away from reaching the goal. The SLDR is just the first step.

In the spirit of this article, lets go over some of our other preconceptions about the SLDR:

SLDR Perception #2: You need enough backspin to keep the ball in the air

This is only true if you don’t have a high enough launch angle. When a ball shoots forward and stays low, it's true backspin keeps the ball in the air. If you try to hit a 9 degree SLDR when you really need a 12 degree, you’re certainly going to have issues keeping the ball in the air.

SLDR Perception #3: You need more backspin if you have lower clubhead speed

This is similar to the above preconception, but slightly different. Again, loft mitigates the need for backspin. However, the thing that fitters were avoiding with high swing speed players was a ballooning affect. The higher the swing speed, the easier it is to balloon the ball. TaylorMade’s answer is to never have enough backspin to balloon.

jbones-nofit

SLDR Perception #4: I don’t need to be fitted; I’m an average golfer and can buy right off the shelf!

Part of our trip involved a trip to the Kingdom so we could put SLDR's hype to the test ourselves. Originally, The Kingdom was created as an internal R&D facility and club-fitting facility exclusive to Tour Staff Professionals. Since 2005, however, it was opened to the public, for a price, as the ultimate golf experience. Here and now I will let it be known; The Kingdom IS golf nirvana. Yes, I think I pee’d a little when I let out the squeal walking through the front doors to the sight of our names on the big screen.

kingdom-tour

We were given a quick tour of the facilities, showing their high tech 3D analysis fitting system, putter fitting system, and club building shop where our drivers would be put together. It wasn’t a large place. Really just the size of a small home, but what we were there for was outside at the range behind the facility so we could put the whole “Loft Up” thing to the test.

We would spend the next 4 hours outside, hitting balls with our current gamers with a group of fitters watching our swings. Each one of us was matched to a head and shaft combo based on our swings. Our swing speeds were all over the place, ranging from high 90s to 120. Here were the outcomes:

tmfitting

Some quick notes about the fittings:

  • HighFade has the smoothest swing in the world. That’s a regular flex shaft with a 104mph clubhead speed. Feel free to still call him a bitch for using an R-flex shaft though.
  • JBones distance really was 304.5 #freakofnature.
  • dru, MBP, Theoo, and Walker were not fitted with a LM.
  • Everyone who was fitted with a LM believes it wasn't necessary. The fitter knew which shaft would work ahead of time. The LM simply confirmed it.
  • We simply did not have time to confirm all numbers. However, there were multiple witnesses to confirm everything above.
  • Dru had his head weight reduced by removing the weight port to get to a D3 swing weight.
  • Draw/Fade setting was changed for various people.

Like Leonard, Allenby, and Glover, every single one of us gained yards. A lot of that did have to do with having professional fitters on hand. Every one of us decreased backspin way lower than previous conventional wisdom would have suggested, and they pushed us as close to the 17-1700 as they could. A year or even a month ago if someone told me I could increase yards by killing my backspin I would have laughed in his face. After this trip, it was pretty hard to not buy into 17-1700 ourselves. There’s only so much proof even the more cynical of us can take.

sean-kingdom

By this point we’ve seen the results of the MyGolfSpy Most Wanted Driver test. Does that mean you should run off and by a SLDR? Hell no. Remember that all of us were fitted. That said several of us were fitted with our current drivers and still gained yards. The SLDR is certainly worth giving a try and if you can go to a fitter, make sure they understand how to fit for the SLDR and do not use the traditional approach of more backspin as swing speed decreases.

Some final preconceptions about the SLDR:

SLDR Perception #5: Low spin makes it hard to shape the ball

This is certainly true. I used to be able to hit fade shots fairly easily, if not necessarily every time I wanted. I simply cannot hit those kinds of fades anymore.

SLDR Perception #6: Low MOI and low spin will make the SLDR very unforgiving

On paper, I agree with you. Fact is, not a single one of us could complain about the constantly straight and long shots we were getting. I was amazed just how forgiving of a driver the SLDR was. That’s not to say more MOI is not more forgiving. The results from the PING G25 in the Most Wanted test prove this, but the SLDR is by no means unforgiving.

SLDR Perception #7: Smaller heads are for better players and larger heads are more forgiving

While testing the 430 and 460 heads and asking questions, what we found out was there was only about 100 RPM spin difference between the two heads. It really came down to personal preference when choosing which head. Go with whatever gives you the most confidence.

 kingdom-range

Conclusions

We’re home now and several weeks later, it’s still hard not to enjoy the numbers we get from our fitted drivers and memories of teeing it up at La Costa Resort with fellow members of MGS. The members of our forum proved to be a great crew, though we never did get an answer about why only one Canadian was allowed to attend. We did find out how several of us were sober and not so sober though, so we’ll take that as a consolation prize. We also found out that the group of us could go through every single meal without pausing between questions. It must have been exhausting for the TaylorMade staff, though they did seem to enjoy it as well.

We certainly learned more about TaylorMade’s marketing message and their current club design strategy. It’ll be interesting to see how they continue to follow this plan over the next 2-3 years as they try to push everyone closer to 17-1700. In the meantime, we learned their business strategy was more aggressive than any of us had realized.

Remember the 5-year war from Callaway? It was never mentioned directly, but clearly TaylorMade is up for the fight.

"The Gravity Core is little more than an attempt by Callaway to distinguish themselves from the crowd." - TaylorMade Golf

TaylorMade's Executive Vice President, Sean Toulon, readily admitted the golf market was shrinking. This meant the only way TaylorMade can grow was at the expense of their competitors, and they were not shy about it. From the onset of our dinners with the crew at TaylorMade, you could tell they smelled blood with the release of the Big Bertha Alpha. On several occasions they mentioned that TaylorMade has a patent for an adjustable club with screws at the top to do exactly what the Bertha Alpha does, but (in their words), what they realized was that no one would ever want to increase weight towards the top of a club. In TaylorMade's estimation, the Gravity Core is little more than an attempt by Callaway to distinguish themselves from the crowd.

There is no doubt that TaylorMade fully intends to take business from Callaway.

So the question to Callaway, Nike, Ping, Wilson, Mizuno, Titleist, Adams (oh wait, nevermind), Cobra, Cleveland (nearly forgot about them): what are you going to do? We now have a clear cut plan from TaylorMade along with admission that they are gunning for your marketshare.

{ 112 comments… read them below or add one }

MFB March 3, 2014 at 9:47 am

I have a SLDR and like it, but I am sorry if you are gaining 10 to 20 yards over you previous driver then your specs for you old driver are way off.

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GolfSpy WD March 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I couldn’t agree more. A lot of us played off the shelf or self fitted drivers. Turns out that’s not the best idea in the world…

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Adam March 3, 2014 at 10:07 am

Maybe I should have tried more shaft and loft options ( I had no fitter and a scantly supplied fitting cart for x shafts) …but personal experience with the SLDR was not positive. Seems to me an unforgiving and less accurate model when compared to some of the other offerings out this year or last. I would be interested to hear more on the accuracy and forgiveness seen since your Kingdom experience.

Thanks for the write up.

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dru_ March 3, 2014 at 10:46 am

Well, the first couple of rounds on my own with the SLDR were ‘ok’ but not really stellar. Most of that was a lack of confidence from changing, but there was some errant behavior that stemmed from what I think is part of the TaylorMade marketing problem they face.

Comparing the SLDR directly to pretty much anything you are playing today is, in many ways, and apples to oranges comparison. The flight path, sound, feel and visual windows are all different. Not bad, just different, and the behavior of misses take some adjustment.

Prior the SLDR, I pretty consistently hit a fade, that would turn into a full on slice about 10% of the time, and that was usually paired with a ballooning flight that started nice, but would apex, and turn right. With the SLDR I have learned a few things in playing with it that have really eliminated the worst of my driver woes. There remain some things that require some adjustment though.

1. the sound of a pure contact can sound a lot like the sound of a high face miss on an older driver.
2. the sound of a good miss can sound just awful.
3. the feel of a good miss can feel like you just hit a soul crushing miss.
4. most people will need to adjust tee height with the SLDR from whatever they were playing ( I started taller and am now actually teeing it about .25″ lower than with my previous driver)
5. it is hard to overcome that pit of your stomach feeling of ‘uggh what a moon shot’ seeing the ball come of the tee so ‘up’. It gets easier when you are 10 yards longer and straighter though.
6. your playing partners will also note your moonshots, until they realize that you have out driven them for the last 9 holes.
7. a low on the face miss will very rarely hurt your score, but it might hurt your hands on a cold day.
8. an out on the toe miss just might come out high and draw hard. It will also send shudders through your hands.
9. both 7 and 8 will still travel a very long way despite your gut telling you you are in trouble.
10. tees. OMG I need to buy stock in a tee vendor or switch to brush style tees, I have started sheering plastics tees off and go through about 4-5 plastic tees per round with this thing.

But to answer your question directly. Pre SLDR, I was hitting 47% of my fairways with the driver, with 36% of my misses being right, and 12% being more than 10 yards off the fairway, and 9% being OB. In the last month, (discarding the first two adjustment rounds), I’ve played 11 rounds of golf. I am hovering at 63% fairways, 25% right, 4% more than 10 yards off the fairway, 2% OB. If it is left, there is no club in the world that would save me, because I turned my hands over and duck hooked that sucker left. So yes, accuracy is up. As for forgiveness, well, I’d say it is about the same all over the face, but certain misses are better than others. A low face miss will carry and roll a long way, and in my case fade a little. I high face toe slap will moonshot and draw a little, but still be long enough that I generally don’t care. I high face miss will take high launch to a new record though, and if your miss is in close to the shaft, the sound a feel is unpleasant as hell.

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Adam March 3, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Thanks DRU.

I appreciate the careful description. I think the tee height difference is something I might have missed in my test. I was and am a person that is affected by the sound a club makes on center strikes and misses. Its like a rifle without a buttpad,, couple shots ring my bell and I get jerky on the trigger. I had several opportunities to hit this driver, my first was some time ago but not in a shaft that would fit me…it went ok but I never saw the low spins. The last at my fitting for the year started with a low on the face miss and I never recovered. Anyway feel is definitely a subjective factor and an important one in my bag.

I’m certainly glad to hear when anyone has been able to improve and a jump like you have seen in accuracy is hard to argue with.

Thanks again for the response,

A

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JB March 3, 2014 at 10:16 am

TaylorMade is so full of it. The want you to “LOFT UP” because they have so much weight on the sole of the retail SLDR that the average golfer can’t get it airborne..ha

I’m currently playing a TOUR SLDR with a lighter weight (11grams) and its noticeably different than the retail version with the 16 gram weight. So how’s that any different than what Callaway is offering? At least Callaway gives you an option to increase or decrease your launch/spin.

It’s all a big game…

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John Barba March 3, 2014 at 10:36 am

Nice read Will – you really bring the experience home to those of us who were in a New York blizzard at the time ;-)

I think the notion that TaylorMade is a marketing company first and foremost, as the expense of R&D and performance is pervasive, but as you indicate, false. Just because they’re outstanding at marketing doesn’t mean they ignore or are poor at the other key components of their business.

Success in any business has to involve an aggressive, innovative and sustained marketing effort. And when marketing, R&D and manufacturing are working in perfect harmony, well, the rest of the industry better watch out…

Be VERY interested in how the competition responds. I very much like the message behind Callaway’s 5-year war – and with all the outstanding equipment out there it’ll be interesting to see where the battlegrounds are and how the battles are fought.

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JBones March 3, 2014 at 10:38 am

Lets get one thing straight, that was a 304.5 AVERAGE. LOL

Great write up, gents.

Again, thank you, MGS and TMag for sending us on this trip. I believe we all stayed true spies and didn’t let all the wining and dining sway us. It just so happened that a great product was put forward and we all saw great results.

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Mr_Theoo March 3, 2014 at 10:49 am

Great article Will! This was an experience of a lifetime and I’m extremely thankful to MGS and taylormade for having us out.

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Alex March 3, 2014 at 10:54 am

One question I have and have not been able to test yet, is how the driver performs in windy conditions?
Wind in the face, with a launch that high does it drastically drop your distance? Or since spin is so low, the wind doesn’t really bother it?
Side wind, how does the ball hold its line?

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dru_ March 3, 2014 at 11:07 am

In both instances the answer is probably going to be more confusing than helpful.

My answer is simply this, it depends upon the ball. What I have found in the last few weeks is that some balls track better in the wind of the SLDR than others, and TaylorMade balls with TaylorMade SLDR’s is a compelling combo. The Tour Preferred balls are excellent and perform very well off the SLDR, as does the Pro-V1, the Srixon Z-Star and Bridgestone B-330. Where things turned less friendly is in the mid range. The NXT-Tour and Tour S just do not behave well in the wind off the SLDR (though they are fine off every other club in my bag). The E6′s faired better, while the Q-Star is arguably the best of the three.

I did play this weekend with the new TaylorMade Project (a) balls and found them to play very nicely in breezy conditions off the SLDR and every other club but the putter. Love the Project (a), but it might be the softest putting ball on the market, and that includes almost all of the pro balls. Really hard to explain. I am planning to document them later this week.

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Alex March 3, 2014 at 11:45 am

Thanks dru_.

For a confusing answer, you explained it well.

In your opinion is it the low spin balls that performed better off of the SLDR overall (not just counting windy conditions)?

Thanks for the response!

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dru_ March 3, 2014 at 12:35 pm

That is what is curious to me, and the TaylorMade folks alluded to it several times during our conversations. The road to 17/1700 is paved not just in the driver market, but also in ball technologies changing, with balls that spin less under high compression, but still spin well off wedges and feel soft on the greens. These are things that are going to appear at the high end first, but I get the feeling that TaylorMade wants to make sure their products work exceptionally well together, hence the Project (a) coming to market and performing well in that mid level price point.

My initial impression (and while I have no hard numbers to back this up) is that spin is part of the dynamic, but not the whole story. I have a sneaky suspicion that we are going to find that dimple shapes and patterns *do* have a direct impact upon the flight characteristics in the wind, and that different vendors are attacking the low spin off the driver from different directions, but that we are seeing the results at the top end of the product lines first, and won’t see trickle down from the other vendors for another couple of seasons.

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Hula_Rock March 3, 2014 at 11:07 am

It was great to follow the trip with you guys in the MSG forum ! Great read, must have been a once in a lifetime experience !!!! To be honest I think Taylormade has a winner here BUT, and there is always a BUT…… I am guessing the purpose of the Loft Up campaign and the trip was to show how lofting UP brings a golfer closer to the Magical numbers of 17/1700. That being said, and by looking at the head, and especially the shafts they had to fit you guys with in order to get those types of numbers,changes the price of that driver from 399.00 to 500.00+.

I know “Most” of use change the stock shaft immediately after purchasing a new stick, BUT what about the average “Joe” who picks one off the rack, lofts up, and gets subpar distances because the stock shaft does not fit him? Can those numbers be attained with the stock shaft ? OR does “JOE” have to shell out another $400.00 on a Tour AD DI-6…..

Get my point ? it’s kind of misleading…..

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dru_ March 3, 2014 at 11:08 am

No question, I believe the stock shaft is simply too light for most players.

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AWOL March 4, 2014 at 3:48 am

I think that has been and continues to be the wrong approach still. I too believe the lighter shafts and weaker torque are really hurting average golfers. Im one of those people that have to buy a $300 Diamana or worse a $400 Oban to get the right launch conditions. I have had light whippy shafts turn my natural fade into a 40 yd slice. But if TMag can get to the point where 90mph swings can get 264yds then it will be lights out for the competition.

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GolfSpy WD March 3, 2014 at 11:18 am

I actually hit the SLDR before going out to California. I was playing a 9.75* head and asked the guy at the store for a 10.5* since I knew I should add loft. I hit it great, not as well as a fitted driver, but still fairly well compared to my previous driver.

The reason we didn’t worry too much about the stock offerings was the Most Wanted Driver test already covered it. This article was geared more about perceptions of Taylormade and pushing as close as they could to 17-1700. We had golfers who were 70s shooters and 90+ shooters, and the 17-17 objective remained constant regardless of skill or swing speed.

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marty March 3, 2014 at 11:08 am

nice piece. very interesting results! thanks!

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Shane March 3, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Nice write up! Can’t argue with the shown results but when oroperly fitted you should always see better results. I’m your average golfer who loves it whole heartedly but got off the TM wagon due to the many releases and marketing, which they do very well by the way. In my parts the Sldr is sight unseen and local shop only special orders if you want one. I’m curious and don’t want this to sound harsh, but does the Sldr sake as they thought it would? It’s hard to prove science wrong but how does the Sldr become only driver in history to score 100% perfect in the Hot List? I’ll stick to my D100 cause I proved to myself it works for me and it’s only dropped $50 in a years time instead of half in 6 months, sorry TM, you do make great products but I’m out! Once again, great article!!

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2clubs March 3, 2014 at 12:29 pm

One more time…Not sure why u guys deleted my first comment…How ca u compare a Nike stock shaft against a Fubuki shaft?..Seriously…I think in order 2 test loft…we need matching shafts…

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GolfSpy MBP March 3, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I was kept within the same brand/family of shafts (Mitsubishi Kuro – Fubuki) by the Kingdom fitter based on what he assumed was my affection for the feel. This did obviously work out at the end of the day. He did start me with the same Kuro shaft in the SLDR which quickly demonstrated that the same shaft indeed DOES NOT work in all heads. What a hook machine combo disaster that was.

And I will add that Covert driver is the most accurate I’ve played to date.

But there really is no need to go into your question as our readers had all this addressed on the forums many months back,

http://forum.mygolfspy.com/topic/9899-sldr-vs-covert-taylormade-player-development-center/

http://forum.mygolfspy.com/topic/10104-sldr-vs-covert-revisited/

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mr_theoo March 3, 2014 at 6:01 pm

The first shaft they tried to fit me into was the exact same as my covert and it performed horribly in the sldr.

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jf March 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Were those yardage increases all measured by carry only? Did I miss that info somewhere?

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GolfSpy WD March 3, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Total Yards. The SLDR gets a lot of roll.

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jf March 3, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Meaning most if not all the increased yardage was from roll?
Not sure how to interpret “a lot of roll”.

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hckymeyer March 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Of my 15yd gain about half was roll and half was carry. I really fought spin with my previous drivers so I was not used to seeing any roll from a driver.

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mr_theoo March 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm

My gain was all carry. With my covert I was about 260 carry with the sldr I’m up to 270

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Eric March 3, 2014 at 1:29 pm

It seems kinda of lame to claim more yards with the SLDR when the old drivers were not fitted properly. Plus I bet most 15 handicappers are playing the wrong ball, get fitted for a ball, gain 10 yards. And lastly if my ball flight went straight up off the tee, I do not care to gain 10 yards off the tee, wind would destroy my tee shots. That being said I continue to hold onto my $ j40 430.

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Nic S March 3, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Stated in the article above…

“Perception #4: Innovation at TaylorMade is just for show

We had one guy (JBones) who was professionally fitted for a R1 driver and paid nearly $800 for it last year weeks before they cut the price by $200. He was professionally fit for the SLDR while we were there and gained nearly 10 yards. There’s a difference folks.”

Just sayin..

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GolfSpy WD March 3, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I’ll probably need to repeat this a few times, but no where was it said that the SLDR was the best driver and the longest driver. Stock results can be found in the MGS Most Wanted Driver results.

The fitting results showed two things:
A) Low spin drivers can work for a variety of players.
B) Get fit if you really want to add yards.

The real takeaway is how to optimize a low spin driver vs a traditional rear-CG driver. You need more loft for the former and oftentimes big box store fitters don’t follow this approach.

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2clubs March 3, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Eric…I’m with u 100 %.. That was well said…I will continue using my 09 Tour Launcher…10.5..ust proforce v2 tipped shaft (3 inches)… (43 inches long)..xxxstiff…and
swing speed of 90…and let the posers play the latest technology…

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JBones March 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm

When I was fit for the R1, I tried every lower spinning head on the market, including heads that were a model old, from multiple companies. When I was fit for the SLDR, I was in the same shaft, but 10g heavier to cut even a little more spin to get to the ideal numbers. The 8yd gain was on average and was all roll, as my carry yardage was 4yds shorter with the SLDR; longest to longest, the SLDR was 15yds farther.

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jf March 3, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Why are the spin reduction numbers missing from half of the fittings?

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GolfSpy WD March 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Not everyone was able to get onto the launch monitor. Some of the yard gains were measured on the course (with gps) or later when we got home. This is why approximate numbers were used and I agree it’s not ideal, but we had to work with some time constraints.

Reality though is the launch monitors simply weren’t necessary for the fitters on the TM staff. They could look at your swing and ball flight and provide a few shaft options. Then you would try a few shafts, they would look it over again, and pretty much nail what you needed.

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jf March 3, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Love to see all you return to TaylorMade (when they introduce the new SDLR 2, eta 3 months?) next year with your current SDLR’s and get fit again.

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Chal March 3, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Count me as a frim believer in the 17/1700. I recently started using a SLDR 430. I have always tried to find the lowest loft possible and still could not get spin numbers down under 2800 or so. I have used a Titliest 913 7.5 set as low as possible, RAZR Fit Extreme 8.5 set as low as possible. Never mattered. I set the 430 at 7.5 and was extremely surprised. I ended up back at 9 to get the launch at 16 and spin at around 1800. I was fortunate to play golf last week. Missed one fairway by about 15 feet and played from the short stuff the whole day. I had no issues with forgiveness and also hit some of the longest drives I have ever hit. The club must be fitted properly and whatever loft you think you need, you should go higher.

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Tom54 March 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm

TM can pooh-pooh the Gravity Core all they want but my buddy just got the Alpha. He has about 172 ball speed and has the core at the higher setting because he actually needs to create more spin. So there are people out there who would turn up the spin.

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Tony Covey March 3, 2014 at 3:04 pm

It’s interesting from a trajectory model. Don’t take TaylorMade’s word for it, look at the numbers independently.

If you use FlightScope’s trajectory optimizer to play out several “what if” scenarios…in general terms, changes in launch angle have a greater impact on overall distance than do changes in spin rate. Those same models show that at higher ball speeds in particular, higher launch and lower spin always produces greater distance than the traditional models, 12°/2500 RPM for example. Simply put…when distance is the ultimate goal, the less spin, the better. The ball flight models suggest that’s indisputable fact at 172MPH.

So why would anyone want the gravity core up?

Two reasons, I suppose. The first, from a tour perspective (the guy who already has all the distance he needs), spin to a degree can be equated with more control – and when it comes to shaping shots (for those who have the ability to do it precisely), it makes sense. In that scenario, spin is not necessarily the enemy. If, however, you equate control with hitting the ball straight…then once gain, low spin is preferable.

Here’s the rub…from a distance perspective, you absolutely cannot beat high launch with low spin…and when I say low spin, the FlightScope models suggest you don’t get diminishing returns (too low spin) until you drop below 1300 RPM (give or take). So if you’re intentionally adding spin, it’s for 1 of 2 reasons. The first is that control thing I just discussed.

The 2nd…if you can’t achieve the loft necessary to maximize distance (which most won’t do with Alpha’s 9° offering – there’s a reason why SLDR is available in 12° and 14° heads – and it’s not simply to fit old men) you’re forced to fall back on the old models where the idea of “too little spin” exists.

I’ll concede control for those who want to argue that, however, for distance, the need for more spin is necessitated ONLY by the inability to achieve a high launch angle.

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jf March 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm

“Look at the numbers?” Was Trackman used? if so did you get the numbers? too few numbers posted here to make any true conclusions……

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jf March 3, 2014 at 3:33 pm

besides they all went farther, would like to see more numbers.

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jf March 3, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Would like to compare Smash Factors, Height, Time and Descent angles.

Tony Covey March 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Was referring to the numbers from FlightScope’s trajectory optimizer as it relates to TaylorMade’s claim of 17/1700 as ideal. The point is the INDEPENDENT trajectory models support TaylorMade’s claim, and would suggest that there really isn’t much practical need to raise spin (unless you can’t get sufficient loft).

So rather than argue a point I haven’t made, I’m saying go play with the FlightScope optimizer and see what you find out for yourself.

It’s amazing…readers love smash factor as if it’s the be all and end all performance indicator, and yet, in the last 2 weeks I’ve talked to two current R&D guys for big golf companies, and 1 former R&D guy (also big golf company) who now works for a leader on the launch monitor side of things, and each without prompting has told me that smash factor basically tells you nothing of any real consequence. Did you know the club actually is moving faster at the toe than the heel?

We consistently see the highest smash factors when guys bounce the club immediately before impact. Head speed drops, ball speed drops, and the ball goes nowhere…the smash factor numbers look great though.

Angle of descent is tied to the old model. What’s “ideal” under something close to the 12/2400 model (which incidentally nobody has believed in years), won’t be the same as ideal for 17/1700.

GolfSpy WD March 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm

As mentioned before, we do not have the numbers. We had a very limited time constraint and everyone reported the numbers in the end. I barely had a chance to glance at the results from the LM because during the fittings they intentionally hide these so people don’t get wrapped up in the numbers. Also, many folks did not get on the LM and only have GPS numbers for distance.

The question is though, what would the numbers tell you? Maybe you could say you have similar numbers as a certain tester, but even then so what? The point is if you are interested in TM’s approach, then make sure you get fit appropriately by adding loft as necessary rather than decreasing loft to decrease spin.

If you really want numbers. Look through the MGS Most Wanted Driver test. You’ll get plenty there.

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jf March 3, 2014 at 10:42 pm

I have a Flightscope X2 and use it daily for lessons and fittings during my season, well aware of it capabilities. The Optimizer was just built into the iPad app, should be nice.

“Angle of descent is tied to the old model” Far from the truth tour players and their teachers are looking at “angle of descent” for max roll out, iirc it is around 40 degrees.

“Did you know the club actually is moving faster at the toe than the heel?” of course was reinforced to me by Fredrick Tuxen when I went to Trackman University last February. http://1drv.ms/1cpvvwV

Use this all the time.
http://wishongolf.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/TrackMan-Driver-Optimization_2010.pdf

GolfSpy WD March 4, 2014 at 9:33 am

jf,

This is a nice tool:

http://flightscope.com/products/trajectory-optimizer/

Put in any of the numbers on that chart from wishon’s site and find the distance. Then change to 17/1700 and you’ll gain yards. Again, this is a distance optimization and not necessarily the best optimization depending on the environmental effects of the course.

RoverRick March 3, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Nice article.

I think there may have been too many Canadians and not enough Texans, but perhaps that is sour grapes. Haha.

I have been on a quest to reduce spin and increase launch for the past few years. Shafts have come a long way in the past 5 years. I have had some success and was very excited about the SLDR, but with the stock shaft I did not achieve better results than I have with current set up. At the time that was a TMag product but have since found a better combo (for me) with Titleist. Not saying that mated with the proper shaft I would not see better results, but just did not with the stock offerings.

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Mike March 3, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Did any of these mgs forum members participate in the most wanted driver tests?

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Tony Covey March 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm

No. Completely different set of guys.

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SMRT March 3, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Nice write up. This was a very entertaining read. I really like the fact that TM has a plan (17/1700) and shared it with you. It will be interesting to watch that theory unfold over the next couple of years. Will others get on board or will TM be all alone with a lot of left over “lofted up” drivers?

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Duncan Castles March 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm

“Tolerances for drivers and metalwoods (as measured by TaylorMade) are within a fraction of a degree.”
Hmmm. That’s not what the clubfitters who regularly measure actual loft on TaylorMade (and other OEM) drivers tell me.

As for supposed the 17/1700 holy grail. The following forum discussion from Wishon Golf provides some telling perspective. http://wishongolf.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=12068

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GolfSpy WD March 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm

I had the same reaction. What we were told was there are many ways to measure a metalwood. TM has their way though and tolerances are checked in the factory. You’ll have to take them for their word their. They were fairly insistent on this point.

I won’t stand here and argue Wishon, though the 17/1700 is purely a distance optimization. T wrote in these comments why someone would want to increase spin (increases control/shot shaping). Wishon is arguing about how PGA players optimize their driver fitting. PGA players and many folks who simply have enough distance often do fit their drivers to get the shot shaping ability they like as opposed to maximizing distance. As mentioned in the article, when you go too low in spin, it does get harder to hit slices and hooks at will.

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Tony Covey March 3, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Duncan – this is not a TaylorMade phenomenon, it’s basically part of the worst kept secret in golf. What we’re dealing with is the difference between stated loft and intended loft. That’s a very important distinction, and while the evidence suggests the difference between stated and intended varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, for most there’s a reasonably significant difference between the two.

But you can bet, tolerances are set to intended loft, not stamped.

I won’t mention any names (except to say it wasn’t TM this time), but I was speaking to the guys at another OEM a couple of weeks ago, and when the subject of loft came up, I asked point blank “What’s the intended loft, not the stamped loft…your intended loft”. They weren’t specific, but they did say that it was higher than stated because they know they need to help out the guys with big egos.

So yeah…I suspect that if you were to measure a 9° RBZ Stage 2 for example. you’d probably end up with something north of 10°, but again…that’s not a TaylorMade thing…that’s an almost everybody thing. Most everyone in the industry is within tolerance for the INTENDED loft.

Also worth a mention…lots of guys have opinions about what tolerances should be, but whether it’s TaylorMade, Mizuno, or Titleist, tolerances come at a price. The consumer won’t pay the extra cost that the foundries command for tighter tolerances, so there’s very little practical benefit to be gained through improvement…and that’s before we start talking about whether or not 1/4 or 1/2 a degree in either direction really makes much differences to the average golfer.

As for the Wishon site…Richie is a smart guy, but you have to draw distinctions between tour pros and average joes. The average tour guy doesn’t want (or need) 10 or 20 more yards. He wants control. He wants to hit fairways, he wants to shape shots. In that model, you’re not trying to maximize distance. Under those conditions, the old ideas of optimum are still applicable.

It’s a different model for the consumer. Distance sells…and for many is the only thing of consequence. It might not be the smartest thinking, but it’s what sells.

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Duncan Castles March 3, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Tony. Fair and important point on difference between stated loft and intended loft, though forgive me if I doubt the veracity of any company (and my questioning of OEM tolerances is not TaylorMade exclusive) that intentionally and systematically misstates the loft of a product and then tells us that its manufacturing tolerance are within a fraction of a degree, ie better than industry standard. Frankly, I’d be amazed if TaylorMade are producing golf clubs to better than industry standard manufacturing tolerances because as you say, tolerances comes at a price.

17/1700? The discussion on the forum not only questions the value of this combination for shotmaking, it also indicates that if 17/1700 works at all it will certainly not work for all swingspeeds. That directly contradicts TaylorMade’s reported claim “that to achieve optimal launch conditions, everyone needs to reach 1700rpm backspin with a 17° launch angle”.

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Duncan Castles March 3, 2014 at 6:35 pm

From another thread on the same Wishon Golf Tech Forum, a more direct comment on 17/1700 from Tom Wishon:

Wishon writes: “This recent commentary from Taylor Made about the 17* launch and 1700 rpms spin is chiefly done to try to help market their Loft Up campaign to go with selling more of their currently offered SLDR driver model.

Purely from a theoretical standpoint, it can be said that 17* launch with 1700 spin is an ideal combination for distance. But the key word is “theoretical”. From a PRACTICAL standpoint, as you said in your post, such launch numbers would require a very upward angle of attack which is simply impossible for 99+% of all golfers to even come close to. Even in TrackMan’s research, for 100mph to 120mph clubhead speeds with +5* upward A of A, around 1700 rpms is optimum for spin, but the optimum launch runs from 12.4* at 100mph down to 10.3* at 120mph. So to get all the way up to 17* launch and still maintain 1700 spin would require something closer to a +10* upward A of A. And that is quite impractical – so impractical that this is why you can look at this Taylor Made 17/1700 campaign and label it as marketing, purely marketing in trying to fool golfers into spending their money for this latest SLDR driver.

Give them 6-9 months and the SLDR will be history and something else will have taken its place in the marketing hype.

As to the 919, we consider it a medium spin driver, definitely not high. I’m going to do an article in the next ETECHreport about how way too many golfers have become OCD with spin numbers, WAY TOO MUCH.

Sadly way too many people hit shots on a launch monitor, see their spin is over 3000, ignore the launch angle and smash factor, and then obsess how to get their spin under 3000 to be like the tour players have. This is SO WRONG. First of all, only the Doppler Radar launch monitors can even read spin with decent accuracy. Second, 98% of the time the golfers are hitting RANGE BALLS when they get their spin number from an inaccurate launch monitor.

Launch angle is KING when it comes to optimizing a driver for any golfer. And launch angle is most influenced by the loft. So if you focus on finding the right loft that brings about the best launch angle for a golfer’s clubhead speed and angle of attack, you simply do not worry about spin because if a golfer has a spin problem it will be caused far, far more by swing errors than by anything related to the equipment.”

http://wishongolf.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=12922

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Scott March 3, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Guys like Wishon,Oughton,Thomas write articles that shed fact. I enjoy reading their stuff!

Tony Covey March 4, 2014 at 9:39 am

Prefaced as always with I respect the hell out of Tom Wishon. He’s a fountain of knowledge, and we consult with him quite frequently on a variety of things.

With that said… Here’s what we’re dealing with:

TaylorMade’s claim is that 17/1700 is the optimal recipe for distance. Factually, the trajectory models bear that out. Remember—Distance—Only distance. That’s the extent of the claim.

Is it actually attainable? Your post talks about impossible angle of attack that are theoretically necessary to achieve the results, and yet, JBones came very close to hitting that *ideal* target. His angle of attack is certainly greater than what most see, but the point is, despite the suggestion that it’s basically impossible, he’s almost there…with a first generation product. We have theory, and that we have what was actually attained.

As for the future…you’re going to see 15, 16, maybe even 17 degree driver heads. TaylorMade’s ultimate goal is to keep pushing spin down, while pushing loft up.

Right now 17/1700 is, by all accounts – including TaylorMade’s (people seem to ignore that piece of it) not attainable for every, even most golfers. My angle of attack (slightly negative) won’t allow me to get there with current technology. One of our tester’s very negative angle of attack won’t allow him to get their either.

Here’s the rub in his case. With most 12° drivers he ends up in the ballpark of 9° and 3400°. With SLDR set at 13.5° we were able to get him closer to 12° and 2600 or so. Much better, right? Not 17/1700, but still better than with most “conventional drivers”.

And again…language matters. Optimal for DISTANCE. We can talk about control and forgiveness, but the reality is the average consumer doesn’t care (especially when practically speaking, “forgiveness” really equates to an additional 5 yards lost on a mishit. Almost everyone will take that for the +10 or +15 for perfectly struck balls. If you’re an excessive spin golfer, the end result is actually greater distance and usually more accuracy.

TaylorMade doesn’t talk about MOI for 2 reasons. 1) Almost nobody cares. 2) Those who do care don’t fully understand how MOI actually relates to the performance of a golf club. If you’re missing left and right with a club, that’s not a MOI problem.

One of the primary reasons TaylorMade is so successful is that they run their golf company like a business. They figure out what the consumer really wants, and they give it to him. Some others run golf businesses like philosophical think tanks. You can tell someone what they need until you’re dead, but ultimately, he buys what he wants, and in this case what he wants is distance.

Tony Covey March 4, 2014 at 9:48 am

Should also suggest that just because someone you trust says something, it doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

“First of all, only the Doppler Radar launch monitors can even read spin with decent accuracy.”

I’ve spoken with a half a dozen R&D guys (guys with ungodly expensive systems to secondarily validate what is and is not accurate) who would tell you otherwise. Modern camera-based launch monitors are every bit as reliable (and in some cases more so) for launch and spin data.Every OEM I know of is heavily invested in camera-based launch technologies.

BTW…have yet to meet an R&D guy who will tell me radar is accurate for club data. Consistent, yes, but not accurate. The consensus among the guys we’ve talked with is that camera systems do a much better job in that regard.

golfer4life March 5, 2014 at 10:45 am

You got it. And why it will never happen for 99.9% of golfers. Anyone believing that achieving the same launch and spin (17/1700) for every golfer to be optimal is fooling themselves. I believe in order to get those numbers the shaft would have to be such a low spin (tip stiff, high kick point, low torque and higher weight) that the golfer would then loose distance do to a shaft that would be to stiff (profile) Have done way to many fittings to know there are to many variables. I agree 100% with Wishon.

GolfSpy WD March 5, 2014 at 11:36 am

“Give them 6-9 months and the SLDR will be history and something else will have taken its place in the marketing hype.”

Talking to several folks at TM on the trip, I don’t see this likely. Every one of them had bought into the 17/1700 story and they outlined a plan with their prototype of trying to get there in the next 3 years. Doing an about face would be a PR disaster.

So if we do see the story change altogether, there’ll be questions that need to be answered. Skepticism of TM is surely warranted on this topic based on their history.

jf March 3, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Its why I get all the Ping Drivers I get for myself Digitally Lofted, cost an extra $8 or $10 but so what.

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GolfSpy WD March 4, 2014 at 10:10 am

I’m curious about your findings here. Come to the forums and share what you’ve seen as far as tolerances go:

http://forum.mygolfspy.com

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Duncan Castles March 5, 2014 at 9:58 am

Tony.
Agree entirely that language matters. In that regard the reported TaylorMade clam in the article is not that 17/1700 is “Optimal for DISTANCE” it is “….that to achieve optimal launch conditions, everyone needs to reach 1700rpm backspin with a 17° launch angle”.

I would also argue that you’re dissection of Tom Wishon’s comment on the Wishon Tech Forum slightly misses his point. Tom’s warning about fitting according to launch monitor spin rates isn’t aimed at the “ungodly expensive systems” that OEMs can afford to use. How many amateurs are fitting their drivers according to spin rate using camera-based systems? Tom is warning that a) “Launch angle is KING when it comes to optimizing a driver for any golfer”, and b) most of the commonly used launch monitors can’t calculate spin rate properly anyway.

And yes, I take your point on why TaylorMade are successful as a business: “They figure out what the consumer really wants, and they give it to him.”
However, one of the reasons I enjoy your articles and value this website is because you try and separate out what delivers profit for golf companies from what offers the best performance to golfers. Ideally they’d overlap, but we both know they don’t always do so. In that regard, it’s all very well to praise TaylorMade for delivering what they believe the consumer wants, in this case distance. But it’s also important to note that the consumer’s obsession with distance can often lead them to buying a club that delivers that distance for most averagely skilled golfers on the occasional centred hit, and does it at the cost of accuracy and consistency.
How do I know that’s the case with SLDR? Because this website recently delivered a fantastically detailed study of 23 drivers which concluded that SLDR delivered just 12.46 yards more distance than the SHORTEST of the 23 drivers, but ranked just 17th on accuracy, hitting 11% fewer fairways than the most accurate driver. In other words, just about a club longer than the shortest driver but at the cost of two fairways a round.

Final point. You say: “As for the future…you’re going to see 15, 16, maybe even 17 degree driver heads. TaylorMade’s ultimate goal is to keep pushing spin down, while pushing loft up.”
Tom Wishon predicts: “Give them 6-9 months and the SLDR will be history and something else will have taken its place in the marketing hype.”
Tom may be over-egging it, but do you genuinely believe that TaylorMade are going to spend the next five years of product development and marketing pushing driver spin downwards?

PS. My trust in Tom is based on several factors, but most importantly he went out of his way to advise me AGAINST buying one of his own club designs. Instead of the small-blade size forged head I’d been fitted in to, he recommended a) a far cheaper cast design, b) failing that a cheaper, more forgiving, forged design, and c) the set make-up included more (and cheaper) hybrid heads than iron heads. You know you are receiving sound advice when it reduces the seller’s profit!

Scott March 3, 2014 at 9:21 pm

I work in a pro shop, I am seeing about 1 to 3 SLDR per week being traded in. The overwhelming reason…. Not forgiving. I do not play a SLDR so I cannot comment on this, but with a forward COG is this not a accurate complaint??

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dru_ March 5, 2014 at 9:11 pm

In practice, the SLDR is not that unforgiving, but dang it sounds and FEELS unforgiving, though the results are far more forgiving than the sound, or feel. That said. it also takes some adjustment. Here I am almost a month and a dozen rounds later, and I still struggle with the feel of the mishits.

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Steve March 3, 2014 at 10:25 pm

I heard you guys hooked up with Taylormade…Its obvious now! what a joke.

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AWOL March 4, 2014 at 5:23 am

I swear the ignorance that spills out of this forum is mind blowing sometimes. Really Steve….? How much do you think TMag paid everyone at MGS to say that the SLDR beat their current driver? Its funny not only did this driver get top marks from Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, My Golf Spy, Golf WRX, Hackers Paradise, and The Sand Trap, but it also has numbers to back it. It shows that the theory is sound, albeit not flawless. The numbers are there to support it. And the equipment critics like it. Some of you don’t know a good thing if it jumped up and bit you in the ass…………..like right now………………..Taylormade is biting you in the ass. Now i’m not so ignorant to claim this driver is the be all end all driver but at least give it a try. Do that at least before you start spewing out conspiracies and other dialog diarrhea that has no merit or meaning.

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MCoz March 6, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Threads like this are exhausting. AWOL you are correct! Facts are ignored by those whose “wills” are different. It is incredible how many try to insinuate that TM products are all smoke and mirrors. They ignore the facts, they ignore those who actually spend the time (and in some cases the money) it takes to actually find out what does work. They have an agenda and some of the haters work for other golf companies but appear here in disguise.
Last week at the Honda on Tour, there were 66 TM drivers in play only a little more than half have any direct affiliation with TM. A little more than 60 (non TM) players had another club sponsor that would not allow them to play anything other than their sponsors drivers (such as TM). Overwhelming numbers supporting the TM drivers in an event where the big money comes from how you play not what you play. By the way TM had 88 fairway woods in play, staggering numbers when you see that more Tour players only carry one FW wood and a much smaller number that use two.
I have been accused me of being a TMAG shill (including a friend 500 miles away). While I play the best clubs for my game (HDCP ranges from +4 to 1 past 20 yrs). They ignore that I have three rooms of golf clubs, I have had close high level contacts with owners and Mgmt of at least 5 or 6 major golf equipment companies. My bag has always had between 3-5 different companies in my bag. I get to test stuff from everyone almost always fit to me. But if I have more clubs from TM in my bag people feel that is my affiliation. I have always made it clear that “what works best is in play, period”.
Now as for the SLDR, I was immediately impressed with the 460 when I received one last summer, it kicked out the R1 which previously I was very happy with. It was better with the first shaft I tried. I continued to experiment though always looking for the best. I went from 9* to 10*. In January I received a 430 SLDR I went from 10 to 11* with that one. The best shaft for the 460 did not work in the 430. I have found them both to be surprisingly accurate and forgiving. Towering shots into the wind keeps surprising me as to how far they go. I have shared the clubs (mostly the 460 with other shafts I have) with four friends (3 -good players) and each one found the club better for them than their favorite gamer and have switched. Another, a short 16 hdcp, went to Golf Galaxy to test all of the new drivers. I thought before hand that he might do the best with the G25. His initial fitting eliminated that one, the Nike, Cobra, Titleist and a couple of others. He thought he liked the Big Bertha the best (at least that was what he wanted). The fitter was not sure but I was visiting his city so I went back with him for another look. So I just wanted to watch. First the Callaway, then the SLDR (which the fitter originally thought was best the first time). The trajectory of the TM was higher, the ball speed was higher and the dispersion was narrower. I found out that he hit two shots in the earlier testing further with the Callaway, two! He then went one more round with both and the gap widened. He really had no choice as he didn’t get any of Callaway shots near the TM in distance or control. He bought the SLDR (stock shaft!) and we played twice after that, It was the best he has hit a driver in years.
This club and it’s new technology is the real deal! For those who want to deny it, well they will have a disadvantage when playing those who embrace it.
Frankly I would rather that those who I compete against keep playing other stuff, advantage—Me.

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Tony Covey March 4, 2014 at 8:23 am

Steve, regardless of what you’ve *heard*, let me give you the facts. TaylorMade has given us $0 (that’s not for this article, that’s forever). In fact, let me give you the sum total of dollars accepted from major golf companies (TaylorMade, Titleist, Callaway, PING, Mizuno, Nike, Cleveland)…still ZERO.

$0. I’ll round that up for you: $0. We operate on a budget that’s pennies on the dollar to what everyone else does, and we do it by choice. And that choice allows us to cover the industry on our own terms. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative, but it’s always on our terms.

If you can find any other media golf media outlet even half the size of MyGolfSpy that can state similar as actual fact, we have something to talk about. Otherwise, I’d politely ask that you dispense with your baseless accusations. As the adage goes, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

Contrast what we accept in big company advertising (one paragraph later, still $0) to what’s being paid out everywhere else. In some cases, we’re talking 6 figure deals that don’t include banners, and other obvious forms of advertising. What do you think that’s buying?

Seriously. Think about it.

We do work with TaylorMade. We visit with TaylorMade at their HQ on what you’d call “official business” roughly once a year. We do the same with Nike, and Cobra. We’ve visited Callaway, and will likely do the same with PING in the not so distant future. While there’s always an element of fun, these are basically R&D/Product visits that are indispensable when it comes to understanding product and planning for the coverage season.

Simply put, they are part of the job.

We attend media events (launch parties, whatever), because, well…they’re events, and media (our competitors too) cover the events. Good, bad, or otherwise, the events themselves are stories, and we’re not about to concede those stories to anyone.

Once again, they are part of the job.

We also work with R&D teams to help improve our testing methodologies. Their experience and input is invaluable. In the past we’ve spoken with Callaway’s team. We are currently working with TaylorMade, Cobra, and will likely very soon talk with PING as well. The point is, we solicit input from everyone…not just one company. We leverage every relationship we have to do what we do even better.

Trips like the one written about here…fairly common for most media of our size to do these things. The ironic thing is – largely due to way we cover things (good or bad, we tend to be honest about the experience), despite our size and influence (or perhaps because of it), no other golf company has yet to extend an invitation to our readers. So basically, if there’s an imbalance, it’s not because TaylorMade pays a dime, it’s because the other golf companies are largely risk averse when it comes to working with MyGolfSpy.

When you’re not paying for coverage, you have no control over the coverage. For many, that presents serious issues.

So if you want to try and read more into this than there is, let me spell it out for you. We can’t force anybody to work with us. We can’t force other golf companies to bring our readers on trip. We can’t force anyone to provide product for review, give us access to their internal resources, or basically anything else. As with anything else…it’s basically an open invitation to any company who wants to do something with our readership. Thus far, only TaylorMade (and to a smaller extent Cobra) have been willing to open their doors to our readers.

In the time it has taken me to write this, the sum total of money accepted from TaylorMade in the history of MyGolfSpy remains $0.

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jf March 3, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Will also say:
The angle of descent, which is the biggest single factor in how far the ball runs after landing.

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dru_ March 4, 2014 at 8:44 am

Angle of Descent is a factor of backspin though. high backspin produces steeper descents, so again, total distance increases as backspin decreases. Just think about those topped worm burners that run for a country mile all because of the massive top spin on the ball.

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jf March 4, 2014 at 10:31 am

Certainly, just an fyi
I have a Flightscope x2 and am a certified Flightscope instructor and fitting, also have been to Trackman University. I know the numbers and their consequences. Just wanting to know more is all, always curious and like question things.

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dru_ March 4, 2014 at 8:11 pm

no worries, I was just mentioning it. I angle of descent/impact is one of the most important numbers out there in terms of going for control. What I think gets lost in these discussions is that consumer golfers seem to buy for maximum distance (I’lll call it the ego purchase) while the near scratch and competitive golfers optimize their entire kit to target distances and control over distance at any price.

In this discussion, the SLDR provides distance, without a doubt, but that distance has a price. You aren’t going to be playing a hop and stop landing. You aren’t going to be swinging too many Bubbagolfl draws & fades on command, though you certainly can get these results, I feel that it takes more work to get there.

Though I love my SLDR, and am fascinated by the perceptions of TMaG, I have a hard time taking it on faith. Before we went out, I spent two sessions on launch monitors comparing every driver I could lay hands on to an off the shelf SLDR. I got on the plane to San Diego expecting not to see better results than what I was taking with me ( a fitted, original RBZ ). I quite happily gave up my RBZ after the fitting for the SLDR, less because of the distance, but because I hit it straighter and got some roll, which I haven’t seen in a long time (Adams Speedline before my fitness allowed my swing speed to get into solid 95+ mph ranges).

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Cody Faught March 3, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Sounds like you got paid an awful lot of money to write this. That last statement what are other companies going to do? Mizuno is the most innovative company on the market. Don’t kid yourself just because your drinking the Kool aid after being wined and dined.

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Tony Covey March 4, 2014 at 8:28 am

See above. Also…since we’re disclosing everything as far as how much money we accept, perhaps you should also disclose the pertinent details that influence your opinions.

I would think that working for Mizuno, for example, would significantly bias your perspective.

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Dave March 4, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Funny. Busted!

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I_golf March 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Cody works for Mizuno so his opinion isn’t valid. Gotcha. This comment makes the “Putting Myth” article from a couple days ago so much funnier. It must be hard to wear so many hats

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dru_ March 5, 2014 at 9:13 pm

it doesn’t invalidate his comments, but he didn’t disclose that he was a Mizuno employee, that is the issue.

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MCoz March 6, 2014 at 9:33 pm

I thought he was joking about Mizuno was the “most innovative”!
He really thinks this? Sounds like a good company man but to be effective, one must have some sense of reality. Hey I like their irons, I have played a couple of sets in the past and I always test their new stuff. Very solid, good, and efficient, but I wouldn’t call them innovative in any way when compared to TMAG, Callaway, Ping, Nike, Cobra or even Acushnet or Cleveland/Srixon which are both more traditional than innovative than the others mentioned before. This definitely challenges his credibility.

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Eric March 4, 2014 at 12:40 am

17/1700. So do I want this on a windy day or just on a launch monitor? And if I take this 17/1700 to a links course with a 3 club wind in my face will my tee ball come backwards? Sometimes I don’t want to hit my driver high, what good then is this 17/1700? I would rather have 12/2400. All this talk of distance always leaves out that the game is played outdoors. Gee sometimes I hit my driver 250 other times 235, the difference is not the clubs fault. That being said I am keeping my j 40 430.

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dru_ March 4, 2014 at 8:46 am

FWIW, I don’t see wind as major factor with low spin/high launch with most good modern balls. I have seen some impact with some balls, but certainly not across the board.

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Tony Covey March 4, 2014 at 9:19 am

A couple things here…when you consider what causes problems in the wind, it’s actually nature conspiring with high spin to hold the ball up. Less spin = better results in a head wind.

Crosswinds are more of an issue. It’s certainly a bit harder to work the ball against the breeze (draw into a slice wind to keep it straight for example). So that’s valid.

There’s also nothing inherently magic about the SLDR, so physics still apply. Want to keep the ball down, tee it lower. Want more height still, tee it higher. Point is that the ways we control trajectory now, still work with the SLDR.

With that said…still love the J40 430 myself.

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JBones March 4, 2014 at 10:01 am

Some of us were fit with Trackman, but it was still outside on the range. We were hitting directly into about a 10-12mph wind and I was still putting it out around 290, as opposed to 275ish with my R1; that was launching the SLDR 1* higher (16.8*), but with 600rpm less spin (1900rpm).

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19th Hole Blog March 4, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Sounds like a really nice experience. I plan to buy new clubs this season, sounds like it would be a good idea to have them fitted.

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dru_ March 4, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Yes, fitted, 1000 times yes. A good fitting is not cheap, but the results are worth the money in most cases. I don’t think most people are well served by stock sticks, and the stock offerings vary so much from vendor to vendor. I do however admit that I am playing bone stock irons right now. Funny thing though, they have the same shaft I was fitted for not too long back, at the same length, with the same grip setup. The only change that my fitter is looking at is some slight adjustments to the heads in my 9-AW to even out my gaps.

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PlaidJacket March 4, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Hey. Is it just me or is Sean Frazier chicken winging it in that photo above? Haaaaa

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JBones March 5, 2014 at 9:52 am

Actually, he has a pretty damn good swing, for just starting to play the game. I have a chicken wing in my follow through, because of some injuries, but I’ll still bomb it by most and beat them by 10+ strokes. This is what is wrong with golf; new players can’t play without being picked apart and laughed at by those that THINK they are good.

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RoverRick March 5, 2014 at 10:18 am

It is just you. This picture was taken at the moment of impact. We have no way to really know but it looks to me like Sean has two choices at this point in the swing. He has delivered the club face on what appears to be a good line and is holding it square. He has a nice spine and should angle, the face looks square, hips have cleared and there are a lot of good things happening here.

We will never know from this picture if he chicken winged or not, but I doubt it. he did the hard part already, now it is just rotating his forearms and staying balanced. I would say he is as likely to chicken wing as he is to levitated, which he would have to do to some degree to chicken wing from there.

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I_golf March 5, 2014 at 1:05 am

Jesus, another ad? MGS just dropped the mic, walked off the stage, and signed every contract put in front of them… never has a site sold out more quickly

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Tony Covey March 5, 2014 at 8:43 am

I love these type of comments, especially when they come from someone whose only contribution to the site and the community is 4 comments worth of ignorant accusations. Seriously, you have no idea what you’re talking about, and rather than ask well-reasoned questions, you carry on like a petulant child.

Seriously, if you want to have a rational discussion, by all means, reach out to one us individually. If you’d just like to vent about how unsatisfying everything we do is, might I suggest that your time would be better spent elsewhere.

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golfer4life March 5, 2014 at 10:27 am

J. Bones. Same shaft gained one yard. Enough said…

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JBones March 5, 2014 at 10:56 am

Wrong. I gained 1* on my launch angle (was 15.8*, now 16.8*), I cut 600RPM spin, and I gained 8yds on the average. Longest to longest, the SLDR was 15yds longer. The R1 was money for me, in fact, when we went out there, I told them there was no way the SLDR was beating my R1…………they proved me wrong.

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golfer4life March 6, 2014 at 8:58 am

I stand corrected. Thank you. Why the choice in a R1 to start with if you don’t mind me asking? Was it a tour van head? Just curious why you would choose such a spinney head for as far as you hit it. (just by looking at your #s)?Can’t say I found a lot of good in them while fitting, but everyone is different.

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JBones March 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Actually, everything seems to be backwards for me. When I was fit for the R1, I tried about every head that had been out for the past couple of years. The heads that were supposed to be low spin where high spin for me. I had decided on a Ping Anser 8.5*, but right before I ordered it, my fitter called and said he had just got the R1′s in and thought it would be a good fit for my swing. Went and compared it to the Anser and it was a hair longer, just as accurate, and was more forgiving. My average spin with both was in the 2350-2450RPM range. If I remember correctly the biggest factor for me was that the R1 was $50 cheaper than the Anser.

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mr_theoo March 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm

He also went up in loft which would be seen as more forgiving, so now not only is he hitting further with better launch conditions he has added forgiveness for those miss hits.

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Dude McDude March 5, 2014 at 11:30 am

I’ll be honest, I really want to like TM but there are still many things that really leave a bad taste in my mouth. They release far too many clubs, use way too gimmicky names and throw out promises that do not apply to AVERAGE golfers. The main problem I have with them is that they are out to become the Walmart of golf companies. Their marketing department is one of the best but I really feel that the “feel” of the older TM clubs are completely gone. I have tried so many newer TM drivers, irons, ext and I cannot get myself to like any of them. Speedblades? Rocketballs? What the f$#% kind of names are those? I would be embarrassed to have clubs that have stupid names like that on them. I miss the old days where things were easily labeled like my favorite driver of all time the TM 360 TI.

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I_golf March 5, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Tony, I read the site because I want to hear about new products. You really don’t get it, so I am just going to make statements and if you don’t agree, please respond with some smarm that indicates us readers ought to know better. In my opinion you asked zero hard hitting questions when with TM, or chose not to report them. The very first report after SLDR was released was a publicist’s nightmare, Howell got DQ’d from Wyndham because his driver broke. Durability has been the consumer’s #1 hesitancy when paying $500 dollars for a mass-marketed product like the SLDR. So why not even ask? Were you too busy at dinner with “Executives,” or too busy getting fitted in TM’s not-for-public engineering department? The perks must be amazing, just continue making sure we don’t think you get a dime from them. If you truly do report on products and manufacturers without any bias and without holding back any of the blemishes, then great. But to contend that we are the assholes in this thread for commenting on your lack of creative questioning is wrong. If you enjoy the trips, and feel like you need to write fluff after you get home to thank them for their hospitality, just say it. All of us would go there, enjoy ourselves, and want to go back so it is understandable. Don’t project this righteous indignation, though, and don’t act as if it is wrong for us to want the articles to address the top issues: durability, product life cycle for any given 500 dollar driver, and the bad with the good. Finally, nice parting shot at Cleveland. Let’s bag on the little guy who is trying to work within their means… Sounds familiar right? I respect them, though, they are trying to earn market share by listening to consumers… You are just being ignorant. Sometimes us “petulant children” might be lashing out because the milk’s gone bad.

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mr_theoo March 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Just FYI anyone can be fitted at the kingdom, and there are also Taylormade fitting centers around the country that offer the same level of fitting.

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Tony Covey March 5, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Clearly we’ve gotten sideways here, so let me see if we can’t get back on track a bit.

Regarding the trip: Those who attended were 1)MyGolfSpy Staff members whose primary responsibilities do not include writing. 2) Forum members who were selected to go on the trip.

The questions you don’t like were chosen by those who went on the trip, based on suggestions from other forum members. The editorial staff had no part of what was or was not asked. The end product here was community driven.

The article was written by Will with plenty of input from the other guys who were on the trip.

I personally had no hand in anything except some final editing, and my initial instructions of “don’t be afraid to ask questions…a lot of questions”.

For your part you’ve done little other than hurl accusations. I should be used to it by now. It happens EVERY TIME we 1)Cover anything TaylorMade related. 2)Write any article about something we see as “good” happening at any golf company. TaylorMade, Callaway, Cobra, Nike, and I guess Aimpoint too now, we’ve been accused of being in bed with all of them at one time or another.

Incidentally negative coverage results in the HATER tag…so you know…damned either way. That’s the job.

Despite what you may believe (based largely on the fact that a piece of content wasn’t what you want it to be), we have never accepted so much as a dime in advertising from any of the companies I just listed. Incidentally, it is our policy not to accept ad dollars from the large golf companies, but absolutely we would accept advertising from Aimpoint, but we have not done so to date.

I absolutely do take great personal offense anytime we’re accused of selling out or taking money from a big OEM. We’ve given up a tremendous amount (we’re likely in the ballpark of low-mid, 6 figures annually) to be able to do things on our own terms and unlike anyone else. Not liking, not agreeing with an article, that’s cool. That’s fair. We can’t be all things to all people all the time. We accept that. We would hope readers would too. Extending your dislike to an insinuation of MGS being “on the take” or “selling out”. That’s not cool and while I can accept life isn’t going to be fair, I’ll add that it’s not exactly fair either.

So within the context of what we give up to do things the way we do…you’re damn right I’m indignant…and righteously so.

We operate transparently. If you don’t choose to believe that, fine…your prerogative.

Moving on…

No one has ever expressed a durability concern to me regarding SLDR. We covered the Howell Jr. situation when it happened, and at that time we explained why it happened. I’m guessing you missed that part of it, and I’m guessing the fact that it hasn’t happened since is of little consequence as far as your quality concerns go.

The short of that situation was 1)Extremely unlikely to happen in a retail/consumer situation (I’ve heard no reports that it has – and would be fully covered if it did) 2)Only came about because of the USGA’s unwillingness to approve the initial design for the weight port cover 3)The potential for problems was resolved in later production runs because the USGA reversed its initial decision and approved the original design spec which uses a screw to keep the weight port cover in place.

If you don’t know the full story end to end, I’m happy to go over it in more detail for you and anyone else who isn’t aware, but for the purposes of Will’s story, why would we ask a question about a resolved issue (or non-issue really) that we covered months ago?

As far as Cleveland goes…seriously…no idea what you’re talking about.

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JBones March 6, 2014 at 11:16 am

Actually I did ask that question, specifically about the CH3 incident. The drivers we were fitted with didn’t have the weight port cover, which is the piece that came off of CH3s driver. Tour Issue heads now have a screw in that port, instead of the cover. The incident was a rarity, so nothing was changed on the consumer version. Quite frankly, I didn’t ask what they were going to do to fix the consumer model, because I didn’t care. Of all the clubs I’ve ever had break, I didn’t ask “why did it break and what are you going to do to fix it?”, I just sent it in for replacement. Also, it wasn’t a question, but a statement made to them from myself about the rate they turn out clubs and the price fluctuation. Last year, I paid $800 for a custom fitted R1 ($400 for head, $400 for shaft) and 2 days after I got it TM dropped the price on the R1, by $100, because a new driver was coming out. As a consumer, I was furious, here I have the latest and greatest and the price is already cut by $100…..right after I paid full price. I contacted TaylorMade and let them know I was frustrated. They could have said “sorry, dude, bad timing”, but they didn’t, instead they sent my $100 worth of their Tour ball (Lethal at that time). Again, this wasn’t a question, but a statement made to TMag executives. They were just as happy to hear about their customer service, as I was to receive the great customer service.

As far as “hard hitting question”, what were you wanting…….
Who REALLY killed JFK?
Seriously, why would you have Justin Leonard demonstrate at a DISTANCE event?
Where is Jimmy Hoffa buried?

Would those have sufficed? This wasn’t an investigative report. We each asked the questions that were important to us.

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GolfSpy WD March 6, 2014 at 11:34 am

Hi I_golf,

First, I wrote the article with feedback from others on the trip, but if you’re going to accuse someone of anything, direct it at me. I spent a lot of time writing and re-writing the article to be as disassociated with it as possible. When you look at it from any angle, they have a very good story and that’s why the article had a positive note. If they were full of shit, you would have heard it. However, I’m not going to force a good story into a negative one just to give the appearance that I didn’t sell out. That’s not to say what I wrote was perfect, there are other things I could have added in, but I wasn’t going to write a 30,000 word book either.

To say we didn’t ask hard hitting questions is a bit odd. As Tony said, we asked everything and more posted on the forum. We literally never stopped asking questions while we were there. The fact is a lot of the questions were to separate the BS from fact. We asked a lot of the same questions to different staffers at different levels in the TM organization at different times. To a man, they stuck to their stories. A few things slipped out, and these were mentioned in the article. In general though, anything in their pipeline got them immediately tight lipped. We couldn’t get anything out of them there beyond what was being immediately released or the prototype they showed.

The question about the TM release cycle was asked. However, they were noncommittal about when they would release their next driver. They did acknowledge the frustration with the release and very quick price drops of the R1 and seemed to indicate they would avoid this in the future.

But really, apart from the R1 debacle, why does it bother people if they release a new club every 6 months? If they really are the same from each other, then buy the older club and save some money. The fact that they are all over ebay also means you can get a pretty good deal on one.

For your other two points…

As Tony and Bones mentioned, the weight port wasn’t a compelling portion of the story. You are the first person to even bring it up and the only one in these comments if that’s indicative of anything to you. However, as Bones said, the question was asked.

Finally, the parting shot at Cleveland was deserved. They are slipping into obscurity from my perspective. They aren’t the little guy like Wishon, Hireko, KZG, etc are. They’re a mid sized company that is fading into the sunset. I really like how their new stuff looks, but I don’t know anyone who actually buys it.

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GolfSpy WD March 6, 2014 at 11:49 am

Oh, and the answer as to why they release clubs as often as they do, it’s all about market demand and appeasing shareholders. I really didn’t have to go to Carlsbad to tell you that though.

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GolfSpy WD March 11, 2014 at 8:00 pm

For any who wanted a full answer for the consumer version of the SLDR, I asked TM. Here is their response:

In the case of Charles Howell, after the swingweight was adjusted the toe cap was reapplied to his driver. The adhesive on the driver did not stick properly and fell off while he was practicing. There was no effect on the drivers performance so he proceeded to play with the toe cap off. Unfortunately, USGA rules state that you cannot have any open ports on the club head. This was obviously done unintentionally, but ultimately what caused his DQ.

Because of this instance, we started to put a screw in the toe cap to ensure this wouldn’t happen again. Currently, we have fixed this issue with a press machine that secures the toe cap to the open port without the use of a screw.

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ninetails March 5, 2014 at 11:41 pm

I think I read somewhere that more shots were counted in this year’s most wanted driver test versus last year. Can somebody elaborate on that a bit more? What’s counted versus not? Shouldn’t everything count since that’s how it is played in the course? Does each club gets certain number of mulligans per say?

It would be actually be good to know how many shots were dropped for each club actually. That would be nice data in itself.

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Tony Covey March 7, 2014 at 5:49 pm

To simplify what is actually a fairly complicated problem, the goal is to try and find the line between what is the golfer and what is the club.

While on the course, you only get one shot at it, our goal is to quantify performance, and to do that, you have to toss shots that result from bad swings. You can get valid (and repeatable) data from a relatively small number of swings, but to do that you have to cull the crap. Getting good data doesn’t mean everything has to be center of the face, but dribblers, or balls pounded 90 yards left don’t tell you anything about performance either.

We’re starting to look at dropped shots as well. We’re still not sure what to do with them, but it might interesting to see if certain clubs while not the longest produce more consistent results (fewer throw-aways), of if some longer clubs require more swings to get valid data.

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AWOL March 6, 2014 at 5:02 am

Thank you Tony and the rest of the MGS staff for all your works and efforts to give us insider details. I swear i don’t know how you guys do it, even when you are trying to help your own readers, they come at you guys with axes because you said something positive about TMag. I don’t know when or if this TMag hatred will end, but it needs to soon. It is at the point where some of the crap that is being said about them or anyone who is associated with them is just asinine. You have to give props to TMag for being the only company that has opened their doors, the only company that gives away 20,000 irons to allow people to test it, and one of the most innovative companies. And im sure the 300+ pros or whatever the number is, are playing the SLDR because its…..crap? 17/1700 is proven on launch monitors. Yeah it might not be attainable for every swing but think about. If the consumer has a set number to try to fit for doesn’t that make it that much easier to get the proper set up? Especially when something like 80% of most golfers don’t have confidence in getting fit properly. The closer you can get to those numbers the better you are. There is so much tunnel vision in regards to TMag. Even if they showed you on paper that you got better results, people would still say its crap. Or make up some dumb excuse that they tweaked the launch monitors or they are not using radar. For fucks sake how many people buy a club and ask the question if they are using radar to get numbers. Oh and one tour pro got D’Qed on the launch of the SLDR so that means they all break. I have yet to hear or see a broken SLDR driver. Its simple TMag spends a lot of money in R&D to help golfers of all levels, that includes all you idiots that think they are pros and don’t need any help. That includes 99% of the people that read MGS. It includes all you that have some unreasonable hatred towards a company that just gained you 10 yds off your drives. Wake up call people, golf courses aren’t getting any shorter, and you aren’t getting any younger, so you need to hit it longer. Or we could all cry about a company that made a 7i that you can hit 180yds and still have the same ball flight and height of a traditional iron and a driver that just shaved one iron off your most important approach shot. Grow up! And thanks again to MGS you have my full support.

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JBones March 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Sadly, it’s like that with everything. TMag is like the Dallas Cowboys, you love them or you love to hate them. I fall right in the middle of that. I have a bag full of TMag equipment, because I believe in it. The items that aren’t TMag are my wedges (Vokeys) and putter (Odyssey), which are the two clubs that they self admittedly fall well behind the field with.

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AWOL March 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm

I too have almost the same set-up as you. For me the R1 was lower spinning than the others i tried when i got fitted and my bag is full of TMag stuff as well. Of course i had to spend a ludicrous amount of money on a shaft. Except for my wedges which is Vokey SM4 as well. Strange for me because i was a PING guy all the way prior to that. I love ping but they seem to be falling behind with innovation in their irons and adjustable drivers. +/- .5 degree of adjustability seems to be not even worth selling an adjustable driver. I am very glad you guys can review new products with open minds and are able to put any bias aside. Great job enjoy your SLDR!!! I’m thinking of trying one in more detail to see if i can get better numbers, Im so jealous me being a lefty would love a Kingdom experience just so i could actually have a place that has every option for me.

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Bill March 6, 2014 at 9:43 am

Lofting up is the answered to more yards for most of us. I was on a buddy golf trip in Fla. the first part of Feb and we went to a demo day at Rick McCords school on Orange Lake Resort who by the way is Taylormade all the way. He had one of his instructors hitting the new Jet Speed driver and he has bombing them over 310 yards. One question from our group was “What loft is your driver?” The answered shocked all of us, it as 12 degrees. So lofting up does help but you have to be careful doing it. Thanks for the article.

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jf March 6, 2014 at 9:21 pm

from a Facebook post, looking forward to reading his upcoming analysis

TaylorMade is ALWAYS messing with center of gravity. Around 1994, their Bubble Shaft was all about the CG of the shaft. Around 2004, they introduced weight screws for hook/slice bias. Seems like the time is right for their 10-year CG innovation. Their new “low and forward” pitch is indeed what I am working on now. I had most of the work done a full year ago before they were advertising it, but hadn’t had an opportunity to fully check it out and write it up.
You can see my analysis of their weight screws in http://www.tutelman.com/golf/ballflight/gearEffect3.php… My analysis of the Bubble from 1994 is not on the web — but they offered me a job when they saw it. The analysis of “low and forward” will probably be within the week.

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Chuck Ludwig March 8, 2014 at 7:20 am

Why didn’t you cover the Average length of the Drivers the PGA Tour Players use vs the length of the Driver the Golf Companies sell to the golfing public? Why is the average length of the Drivers the PGA Tour players use shorter?

What distance, Spin Rates & Accuracy would the non tour player golfer get with a shorter driver?

I can’t believe Taylor Made didn’t address this..???

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Tony Covey March 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm

There are three separate arguments getting lumped together here. Allow me to try and dissect a bit.

The independent trajectory models suggest that 17/1700 is near optimal (for distance) at any ball speed. I say near because it’s actually a range 16-18° and 1600-1800 depending on ball speed. That’s real. Nobody is fooling themselves. On the numbers alone (what is really a theoretical vacuum) what TaylorMade claims is optimal, actually is optimal. I think what you’re arguing is whether or not 17/1700 is achievable. Nobody, TaylorMade included, is saying that it is right now.

When/IF achieved, those conditions will produce more distance than the 12/2400 model, or the more recent 14/2100 that some of the R&D guys I know throw around. I’m not basing that on what TaylorMade says, I’m basing it off my findings using FlightScope’s Trajectory Optimizer (publicly available on the FlightScope web site).

The 2nd issue is (as mentioned) deals with whether or not those numbers are practically attainable based on 1)The golfer’s swing and 2)Current technology. What TaylorMade has said is that 17/1700 is optimal for distance. They’ve also said, “we’re not there yet”.

Just as I’m not comfortable with anyone who would claim that simply buying a SLDR will get you to 17/1700, nor am I comfortable with anyone who suggests that it can’t be done. Everything is impossible until it isn’t. As I said, JBones is almost there. Yes, he is the exception…maybe it’s a 1% exception, maybe it’s a 10% exception, but no argument here, it’s a minority.

And yes, TaylorMade will release something between July and next February that will promise higher launch and lower spin…something that gets them closer to 17/1700 for more golfers. Maybe it expands the range to 20%…maybe it only gets them to 10% of the population.

As a side note, I think they’d be wise to offer something more traditional with a higher MOI for the guys who want that, but for now anyway, JetSpeed is a close as they’re going.

My angle of attack is in the -1.5° ball park. I can get to 17°. 1700 RPM, not a chance. TaylorMade has never suggested otherwise. There is certainly a divergence between theoretical ideals, and what is practically attainable. TaylorMade’s stated goal is to create products that brings golfers closer to those ideal numbers. That’s the goal. They’re not claiming they’ve done it.

The 3rd piece is the thinly veiled suggestion that if SLDR can’t get you to 17/1700 then it must not be very good. Taking spin and launch out of the equation, on ball speed alone it produced better results than anything else we tested. We can talk about the accuracy if you’d like. We publish numbers as absolutes, and while I wouldn’t suggest that SLDR is as accurate at a G25, it’s better than our results showed. If somebody wants more info on that I’ll be happy to get into it.

My point in all of this is that while I would never suggest that SLDR is right for everyone. When fitting is involved, there are a multitude of factors as to why something works better than something else for any given individual. There were a solid half dozen drivers in our test that I think are well worth a serious look. That said, SLDR remains as capable as anything else on the market of producing ideal launch conditions within the confines of practicality (just because 17/1700 is the ideal recipe for distance, doesn’t mean it can’t be fitted to launch in the 8.5°/2600 ballpark that Trackman suggests is ideal for my actual swing parameters. Most, I believe will see more distance, some won’t like what they see from a forgiveness standpoint. Distance vs. forgiveness, that’s an individual decision and having an understanding of why you miss and where you miss should go a long way towards determining if it’s a reasonable trade to make for the individual golfer.

In the most basic terms, if you can launch higher with less spin you create more distance. And yes…those same flight models absolutely back up what Tom Wishon is saying. If the decision is between dropping loft to decrease spin or add loft knowing spin is going to go up as well…give me as much loft as you can without introducing ballooning into the equation.

A long term target of 17/1700 doesn’t preclude the SLDR from being viable at 12/2400 or 14/2100, or whatever the charts suggest is optimal for the swing you actually have.

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Tony Covey March 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Duncan – No reason not to trust Tom. As I said, we work with him often-enough. Invaluable resource, but no one is infallible.

What I took issue with is a blanket statement that camera-based systems are not as reliable as radar. That’s not accurate. At one time it almost certainly was. Now…not so much. Modern camera-based systems can measure (not calculate…measure) spin precisely (and as accurately as radar). Have you ever looked at the images that come out of Bridgestone’s ball fitting tools for example? The precision is all but undeniable.

The accurate version of the statement is “Some camera systems are not as accurate as some radar systems, and vice versa”. I can show you poorly calibrated camera systems jacked up to sell golf clubs, and I can show you radar systems that are incredibly unreliable for spin measurements. I can also show you both camera and radar based systems that are precise.

Apart from Tom’s point that golfers are perhaps too spin obsessed (certainly validity in that), I hope his intent was to suggest that simply because there’s a number on the screen does not necessarily mean that number is accurate. At the same time, to assume it isn’t simply because it came from a camera-based system wouldn’t be wise either. Unfortunately, golfers don’t understand the technology to the degree necessary to understand what is and is not reliable.

And yes…I do believe you will see TaylorMade continue down this path of low/forward CG, higher loft, etc. for the next 3-5 years. The numbers support the notion that it works (every competitor I’ve discussed it with more or less concedes the distance piece, while raising red flags about the MOI).

I touched on the accuracy piece in my last post. We go by numbers, and I can discuss why SLDR finished lower than its capabilities.

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