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TaylorMade’s New Driver is Back in Black

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Written by: Tony Covey

Today TaylorMade, in introducing the R1 Black Driver, made what some will see as as one of the least significant announcements in company history.

The R1 Black isn’t a new driver. It’s the R1, except it’s black, and…and…well, that’s basically it.

It’s the same damn club.

The performance of the head is the same. The shaft is the same. The price ($399/$499 TP) is the same.

The difference…the only difference is that it’s black. And for what it’s worth, so is the wrench.

I should probably also mention that while TaylorMade isn’t calling the R1 Black a Limited Edition model, they certainly aren’t doing a full production run either. It seems pretty clear the intent is to all but guarantee there will be more demand than supply.

At least it has its own predictable, hashtag (#backinblack). I guess that’s better than #black-IER.

PRE-Order the TaylorMade R1 Black Now

In fairness, the R1 Black (available June 10th) is exceptionally well done. While I’m sure some would have preferred a matte finish, PING more or less owns that right now, and integrating TaylorMade’s classic high-gloss finish with highly muted R1 graphics strikes a perfect balance that pays deferential respect to the traditional without compromising TaylorMade’s modern approach to crown graphics.

The truth is it’s beautiful.

It would be easy, at least it should be easy, to be mostly dismissive of the R1 Black. Check out the paint, and move along. There’s nothing to see here.

I’m a cynical bastard by nature, but I’ll cop to feeling a little nostalgic when I saw the white TaylorMade logo set against glossy black paint. It’s practically impossible not to think about your first TaylorMade driver, or at least the last one you loved..the 580, the SuperQuad, or the SuperDeep. You know…before all this white nonsense started.

But this is still just paint. Some would call it lipstick on a pig.

If this were anybody else in any other year, painting what was once black, white… and then painting it black again, wouldn’t be any kind of story, but this isn’t anybody else, it’s TaylorMade and it’s 2013, which why all of this is worth discussing further.

Why Black?

It’s almost comical that the golf industry has reached the point where we have to ask why any company would make a black driver, but we do. So at this risk of making a horrible, yet obvious pun, I’ll start by saying that over the last three years TaylorMade has basically painted themselves into a corner.

When the release the R11, TaylorMade put a lot of effort into selling the consumer on the idea that a white driver was better than a black one. They called it The Science of White.

If it’s science it must be real, right?

The story of white wasn’t in the paint itself, it was about the contrast between black and white, the illusion of a larger head leading to more confidence, and that confidence translating to faster ballspeeds.

White is better. It’s that simple. Ditch your Titleist, and your Callaway, and your PING, and your everything else. White is where it’s at. There’s no reason to ever play a black driver again.

If you don’t have white, you don’t have white.

So if white performs better… if white really is, as we’ve been told for 3 seasons now, better, why the hell would TaylorMade release a black version of the R1?

The answer, as I see it anyway, is actually pretty interesting.

The Perfect Storm

It’s reasonable to assume that TaylorMade has kept the black driver in their back pocket since the R11 was released. If it doesn’t work we can always paint it black. And if R11s didn’t work, paint was an option then too. And if R1 – the riskiest of all TaylorMade flagship designs – didn’t work, yup…we’ve still got that bucket of paint in the corner.

And so here we are. The R1 Black is officially scheduled for release, and the natural assumption is that some of what you’ve read in the golf forums is true; The R1 was an unmitigated failure. The graphics didn’t work, and TaylorMade is desperately scrambling to fix the biggest disaster in company history.

For those what have been (im)patiently waiting for TaylorMade to jump the shark, this is the absolute fantastic, feel-good story of the year.

The problem is it’s only half true.

I have it on pretty good authority that the black option has been on the table since before R11s. That’s almost certainly 100% accurate. That other stuff…R1 being a failure, a giant disaster for TaylorMade…it’s a great story, particularly if you’re not a fan of TaylorMade, but it’s not one that’s even loosely supported by reality.

Here’s what is real…

Winter Was An Unmerciful Bitch

Talk to anybody at almost any golf company and they’ll tell you what TaylorMade and others have told me. The unusually long winter took a huge chunk out of the retail market. A good portion of the country got a late start, guys in Minnesota and New York’s Adirondacks are still shoveling snow, and even those of us who have it pretty good, are still dealing with 50 degree temps and occasional frost delays. Did I mention it’s almost June?

Somebody get Al Gore on the phone. Global warming, my ass.

So yeah…everybody, including TaylorMade got off to a slow start at retail.

Unsustainable Momentum

This time last year TaylorMade owned more than 52 percent of the metalwoods (drivers, fairways, hybrids) category.

FIFTY TWO FREAKIN PERCENT

Think about that for just a second. Titleist, Callaway, PING, TourEdge, Mizuno, Nike, Adams, Bridgestone, Cobra, and everybody else…these are all companies that make a perfectly good metalwood, and despite quality products, and the whole strength in numbers thing, TaylorMade sold more metalwoods than all of those companies…COMBINED.

That my friend is the very definition of unsustainable, and I can assure you that there’s not enough Kool-Aid in in all of Carlsbad for the guys at TaylorMade to think that FIFTY TWO FREAKIN PERCENT would be the long term reality.

R11s more than held its own, the Rocketballz fairway wood was a retail juggernaut, and the rest of the TaylorMade lineup (RBZ driver and RBZ hybrid) rode its coattails to phenomenal, and let’s be honest, unrepeatable success.

Declining Market Share

This year, predictably, TaylorMade’s share of the metalwoods market is down. That’s not in dispute. And it’s not just down; TaylorMade is double-digit down in the category. It sounds bad, really, really, bad right?

Let me be really definitive about this: It is bad…and it isn’t.

If it had been my call to make, I wouldn’t have gone all-in with crown graphics. Go crazy with one, but diversify – leave the other normal. That said, I’m probably not as smart as I think I am, and it probably wasn’t paint that hurt TaylorMade this season.

“Everybody’s stuff is just a shitload better this year” – Highly-placed industry insider

The reality is that 2013 is an absolute banner year for metalwoods. It’s almost certainly the best I’ve ever seen.

Callaway gained ground with Xhot, Cobra made a statement with AMP Cell, PING and Titleist are steady as ever, and even Nike made some early season noise with Covert. And that’s just the beginning of what’s out there this year. Basically everyone took a page out of the TaylorMade playbook, and actually finally built some product buzz of their own.

It’s not that TaylorMade has bad product, or is performing poorly. As one highly-placed industry insider explained it to me, “Everybody’s stuff is just a shitload better this year”.

For the first time in recent memory, TaylorMade is being challenged – and according to TaylorMade’s Product Evangelist, Tom Kroll, that’s actually a good thing.

“They’ve closed the gap…it’s going to drive us to run faster, run harder, and get better ourselves” – Tom Kroll

Early Season Desperation

While I’m sure there were some uncomfortable days, nobody at TaylorMade is going to use the term desperate, (I tried…they didn’t bite), or convey that there was any sense of panic inside the walls at HQ when metalwood sales got off to a slow start.

What TaylorMade has been upfront about is that in the interest of jump-starting sales, they did some things they would have preferred they not have to do.

They went absolutely full Wal-Mart in April; rolling-back prices on the entire RBZ Stage 2 lineup. We’re talking about a brand new club line with less than 2 months of shelf time. Everybody cuts prices…eventually. Nobody does it in April.

You never go full Wal-Mart…not when you’re the biggest name in golf…and definitely not in April.

But that’s exactly what TaylorMade did. And sure, there was plenty of forum chatter about both R1 and RBZ Stage 2 not selling. Desperation was the buzzword and the story we heard from retailers is that TaylorMade was doing some very un-TaylorMade-like things (larger sales incentives, discounts on wholesale pricing, relaxing new product pricing policy, and not forcing retailers to take on more inventory to offset price drops) to hopefully get their 2013 product moving.

It’s certainly not the position you want to be in when you’re the number one company in golf – not in April (did I mention it was only April?).

It’s bad, but, it’s not.

Whatever early ground TaylorMade gave up with metalwoods, they’ve mostly made up for in other places. The big picture includes tremendous success in the iron category (up 35% on the strength of RocketBladez), gains in the ball category (up 21%), and the best-selling shoe (adizero) in the history of adidas golf.

So while stiff competition and declining market share in the metalwoods category does suggest a down year for TaylorMade, the fact of the matter is that right now, TaylorMade still enjoys a comfortable lead. The R1 driver is the best-selling driver in golf, and the RBZ Stage 2 is right behind it at #2. All that and they’re diversifying. The beast might actually be getting stronger.

It’s enough to make a TaylorMade hater give himself a swirly.

More importantly as the season has progressed, the numbers suggests that going full Wal-Mart (FYI, in case there is any doubt, that’s my phrase, not TaylorMade’s) absolutely paid off. They now have the two best-selling drivers in golf, and the anecdotal evidence suggests that while TaylorMade’s competition is losing momentum, TaylorMade is actually gaining steam.

When Callaway announces a $50 price drop on 2013 drivers, you’ll have all the proof you need that TaylorMade has rebounded but good.

Demand and Supply

I know what you’re thinking…if everything is really rainbows and unicorns at TaylorMade, why would they go against their own science and release a black driver? It looks desperate.

TaylorMade isn’t oblivious. They do market research. They read things. They know there’s a pent-up demand for a black driver – and TaylorMade believes that demand will produce an over-sway of sorts to the black model.

Simply put, the damn thing is going to sell…and sell fast.

We can talk about science, and performance, and one-hundred other things, but regardless of anything that’s quantifiable, golfers simply want what they want, and there’s a segment of the market that just wants a black driver. There’s no need to go super-special limited edition, paint it black, and it’s gold.

When we put up our Black vs. White post, a staggering 87% of people who voted told us they prefer black over white. Now granted…the R1 Black we used wasn’t the actual TaylorMade version (that one was matte black, the real TaylorMade is traditional high-gloss). Nevertheless, the results are compelling.

TaylorMade’s Tom Kroll told me that the company “spends a great deal of our time with our finger on the pulse of the 0 to 4 golfer”. TaylorMade’s own research has shown that a measurable percentage of that group is never going to play anything other than a black driver.

TaylorMade isn’t about to abandon those guys. Kroll made it clear that TaylorMade wants all golfers to experience the performance of R1.

“We didn’t want paint color to be the barrier for those guys never to try this club” – Tom Kroll

I’d be remiss if I didn’t continue to point out the ongoing disconnect between some of what TaylorMade says and some of what TaylorMade does. We continue to hear about TaylorMade’s focus on the 0 to 4 market, and yet the huge majority of their products are clearly designed with the average golfer in mind. The R1 Black is no different.

You can’t fault them for it. Zero to four is the performance story nearly every golfer wants to hear, but the money will always be in the middle.

The Timing Is Right

If you look at what has happened with the golf equipment market so far this season; a brutally long winter and stronger competition leading to a double-digit drop in metalwood market share, it’s easy to look at the R1 Black and see it as TaylorMade’s desperate (there’s that word again) attempt to right the ship.

They’re getting killed, right?

Like I said, it’s a good story, but the latest retail sales data suggests that TaylorMade has weathered the worst of it. While some of its competitors remain strong in areas where they traditionally perform well (Titleist, for example, continues to dominate the ball market), amazing as it may be considering the slow start, TaylorMade has perhaps the industry’s only real momentum right now.

The R1 Black isn’t about saving TaylorMade’s season, or even getting them back to where they were. The R1 Black is the lead foot on the accelerator. It’s TaylorMade full-steam getting back to the business of being TaylorMade.

The bail-out worked, and now they’re refocusing on growing their lead..again.

As simple as the concept is (paint it black), the TaylorMade R1 Black driver is almost without question the most compelling product that any manufacturer has in its near-term pipeline.

The demand is certain. It’s a guaranteed can’t miss.

Begun, The Price Wars Have

What’s coming next is a full-on price war. TaylorMade’s biggest competitors are going to cut prices too, and they’re going to do it very soon. They’re going to do whatever they can to steal back the momentum from TaylorMade.

It’s not going to work. It might have before the R1 Black was announced, but it won’t now. Unfortunately for the industry it is going to take a bloodbath to prove it.

We wondered how TaylorMade would respond when somebody finally stepped up to challenge them. This time around the response was swift, effective, and plenty strong-enough keep TaylorMade comfortably in the number one spot for at least another season.

For those looking for the competitive upside, the proverbial chink in the armor; the difficult start to the season forced TaylorMade to use the biggest weapon in their arsenal. They can do black again next year…maybe even as an out-of-the-gate alternative to white, but the impact will never again be what it is today.

This year, as it was 3 years ago, paint will be the story. Next year they’re going to have to innovate.

PRE-Order the TaylorMade R1 Black Now

TaylorMade R1 Black Driver

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

hckymeyer May 30, 2013 at 11:32 am

Now those are some good looking crown graphics. I’ve been playing white for 2 seasons now and have zero problems playing a colorful driver (my backup is blue). But for some reason I just really love the look of the black R1. Even though other companies still make black, and it’s only been 3 years since TMaG did as well, it feels like a nostalgia play. Like i didn’t really realize I missed black until I saw it again…

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Gary May 30, 2013 at 11:46 am

Great story…very objective (those who bleed Taylormade Black probably won’t agree). I especially liked the line…the company “spends a great deal of our time with our finger on the pulse of the 0 to 4 golfer”. That equates to about 1/100 of 1% of all golfers. I’m sure the stockholders will be pleased about that.

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dru May 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm

The harsh reality is this. TaylorMade builds a very competitive product, and backs it with a marketing prowess that is second to none (in the golf market). The driver market is theirs to do with as they please for the moment, and this season, they have only solidified that stranglehold.

Add to that the inroads they have made into the expanding the irons market, as well as the ball market, and you have a company that has put the rest of the business on notice that their niches are not safe, and despite advances by the other players in the market, they are not afraid to play the price/volume games to compete.

As I have noted before following the Project 5 / Lethal release, I believe that it is only a matter of time before the Lethal becomes the second most popular ‘pro’ level ball. The only protection that Titleist has on the Pro-V1 is the deeply rooted relationships with courses and the onsite pro shops.

I may not be the biggest TaylorMade fan, but at this point, my bag is full of more TMag equipment than anything else… TMag driver and irons, Ping FW and Putter, Adams Hybrids, Cleveland Wedges, and TaylorMade Lethal as the ball of choice.

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gunmetal May 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm

“marketing prowess” must be code for marketing BS. Bottom line is they make a great product and pay absolutely whatever it takes in order to be able to get the Darrell Survey to say TM drivers were used more than any other driver. It’s the exact same with the Pro V1. Titleist couldn’t care less that they’re not the #1 Driver, Irons, or whatever on tour. They pay whatever it takes to ensure that they are the #1 ball on tour. Sure it helps that they have good relationships with the courses and pro shops, but every pro shop I’ve been to has balls from Callaway, Bridgestone, Srixon, etc too. It’s about the Benjamins they shell out to the pros. Bottom line. The Lethal doesn’t really have a shot to ascend to the #2 spot not because it isn’t a great ball (it is), but because TM will retire it after a year or two like they always do. That and they don’t care about ball sales like Titleist does.

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dru May 30, 2013 at 12:36 pm

It’s more than the BS they spew ( which, like any marketing, a large part of what they say is BS ). They have shown the ability to get the word into the right hands, and when needed to do what it takes to win over their most vocal critics. In this case it goes far deeper than just the message they are talking, but also whom they are getting to reinforce that message.

As for the ball situation, I get the impression that TM has decided to get serious about the balls, as it is an incredible recurring revenue stream. That may well translate into retaining a name for more than a season. Time will tell, but I think they’ve spent the last couple of years laying the naming groundwork there.

The thing about TMag (IMO) is that they are first and foremost about revenue, and the ball revenue is too big a market for them to continue to play at half assed. It is also the area of the game with the most potential for improvement for a company with their ability to invest in research

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Mitch May 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm

My bag has seen nothing but a TaylorMade since the days of the 580, I’ve been a loyal follower ever since. I was going to pull the trigger on a new weapon this year, but frankly the white driver held no appeal. The new R1 in black cinches the deal though, I’m putting in the pre-order now! Thanks TM, I’m back in the fold!

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Steve P June 1, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Meat-Mitch?

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gunmetal May 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I’m shocked it took them this long. Would have preferred the matte finish, but this is infinitely better than marshmallow.

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Rex May 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Phone rings….it’s 3 am.

Herbert (insert German accent): “How v’are we doing Mark”

Mark: oh, hi Herbert…..it’s you!……I was just thinking about you……errr….there is tremendous success in the iron category (up 35% on the strength of RocketBladez)….gains in the ball category (up 21%), and the best-selling shoe (adizero) in the history of adidas golf….cough, cough….we still enjoy a comfortable lead in woods….cough, cough… The R1 driver is the best-selling driver in golf, and the RBZ Stage 2 is right behind it at #2…..cough, cough…errr umm….we might actually be getting stronger!!!!

68.9 seconds of the German silent treatment.

Herbert: “How v’are we doing Mark”

Mark:…..I, errr, I….just….don’t…..know.

Herbert: My fight arrives on Monday….you pick me up.

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Dude May 30, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Finally, a driver from Taylormade that isn’t butt ugly.

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blstrong (SeeRed) May 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Pretty, but I’m still not drinking the kool-aid. Interesting decision on the part of TM, though.

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blstrong (SeeRed) May 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Oh, and nice article, T.

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Thomas C May 30, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Very good article, great insights. Would also be interesting to hear how the non-Taylor Made 48% of woods was broken out among the other manufacturers. The photography is good, but the busy background seems to put some strange reflections on the crown, almost making it look like a crown insert. Thanks…

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Tony Covey May 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Year to date I can confirm that Callaway and PING are 2-3 respectively. After that I’d be guessing.

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GIO ZANNIN May 30, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Can you let me know the cc difference from the tp version to non tp?

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Tony Covey May 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm

No difference. TaylorMade uses the word “Tour” to differentiate between heads and “TP” to differentiate shafts. More often than not “TP” is what people like to call a “real shaft”, where as the non TP model is a designed for variant.

There is no R1 Tour (only one head is available at retail), but they do have a TP offering.

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GIO ZANNIN May 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Is it a 460cc head?

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dick May 30, 2013 at 1:34 pm

By the numbers
Bridgestone 2
Callaway 2
Cleveland 1
Mizuno 1
NIke 6
Ping 3
Taylor Made 4
Titleist 2
Wilson 1

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Barbajo May 30, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Bought an R1 about 3 weeks ago – just before the price cuts (smart, savvy move on my part!). Gotta say, after two or three swings, the graphics went away. Don’t even notice ‘em, nor do I care about ‘em anymore. Flat out – I love this driver! My pro did the fitting with help from the TM rep and man, it flat out performs. I like to think I would have bought it even if it was pink with yellow polka dots, but seriously, for me the graphics are virtually invisible.

And say what you want about marketing, but TM now is on the front page of every retail website, taking pre-orders for the R1 Black. Every golf chat room and blog is all over the internet and on Facebook talking about the R1 Black. Having solid equipment that flat-out performs is like jacks-or-better to open in poker. You gotta have it or you can’t play. Once you have that established, it’s about how well you can create a buzz.

In that respect, TM is playing chess while everyone else is still playing checkers.

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Golfer Burnz May 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm

The black R1 looks sleak & mean compared to the white R1. Even if performance is the same.

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Mr_Theoo May 30, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Now the question is will they make the same move with the RBZ stage II?

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blstrong (SeeRed) May 30, 2013 at 3:15 pm

BTW- pre-order the R1 black on GolfDiscount (and others, I imagine) for $325. Can’t remember the last time I saw something discounted before it was actually released.

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Mike B May 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm

The R1 is by far the ugliest driver ever made! As far as aerodynamics? Yeah, right, what aerodynamics? The real reason TMaG went white was for audience recognition in tournaments and on TV. It’s one of the biggest scams of all time perpetrated on golfers! Taylor Made got giddy and cynical when they got to number one and now they’re reaping the benefits! Once they decide to quit with the smoke and mirrors, then they can get back on track. Until then… hello Callaway, Tour Edge Exotics and company.
By the way, have you checked out the Yonex driver? It looks a lot like a Callaway Versa!

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HackerDad June 1, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Yes, I’m almost positive TaylorMade is worried about Tour Edge…

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Mike B May 30, 2013 at 4:52 pm

As far as the next RocketBallz, they should call it RocketBallz Exit Stage Left.

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stephenf May 30, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Woof.

Listen, there are reasons TM bludgeons other manufacturers of very good clubs: They make a fantastic product; most of their models in most years have a better feel and better sound than most other brands, while performing at least as well and sometimes better; and most years, most of their models look at least as good or better. It’s not just marketing. It’s marketing plus substance.

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daves81 May 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Very interesting read , great article as usual Dave

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Ron May 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Its still a piece of junk , I hit it and it feels like a tin can hitting a rock must of cost TM 50 bucks to make tops, However I hit the v2 and thats a nice club but still no different than r9 or r7 same distance , WAKE UP GUYS TAYLORMADE IS A MARKETING COMPANY NOT A GOLF COMPANY.

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Rick June 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

I agree I have been in the golf business for over 50 years. All the manufactures want to do is make the buyer think new is better, it is all BS. there is only so much you can do to a golf club, wake up my poor addicted friends; you can’t buy a swing.

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VMS May 30, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I wish they would bring out a black RBZ Stage 2 as well. For the past three years I have resisted white but I finally hit both the R1 and RBZ Stage 2 three weeks ago. The numbers were staggering compared to my Adams 9064ls – which is a damn good club. I sucked it up and went white by buying the RBZ Stage 2 tour. Have since spoken with my panel beater about getting a paint job. I may not be in the 0 – 4 handicap range but the 4 to 7 range isn’t too bad and I still long for black. Come on TM!

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SPY ZINGER May 30, 2013 at 9:08 pm

While I applaud them for bringing this to market, It’s a slap in the face to guys that prefer the look, but already bought an R1. I got mine just this past weekend, paid full price, and days later this is out.

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Kygolfer1980 May 31, 2013 at 5:29 am

I hear you. I would have held off to get the black crown, now I either have to sell mine and take a loss or pout.

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Blade May 30, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Much, MUCH better looking!

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Tony May 30, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Looks 1 billion times better. Shoots down their claim about crown graphics being helpful, if they were so helpful why are they almost non existent in the black version? I guess a way of not doing a full backflip.

They didn’t need to release a black version, just a version without the hideous crown graphics.

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PJ May 30, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Always comical to see the TaylorMade haters ….
Much like the Yankee haters, Cowboys haters, etc.
They have a solid product, they are masters at marketing and the numbers don’t lie.
The RBZ isn’t dead, it’s still a crazy long metalwood. Are others catching up? Absolutely…
Ultimately all this competition is better for us! So, sit back, enjoy the ride.

My two cents…
Which will go into my savings for next years ‘big thing’ in golf.
– P.J.

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Nano-Power May 31, 2013 at 2:05 am

we always believe the game of golf should be back to golfers themselves, not the equipment emphasized as some brand names supply today. As we foreseed the attachment of screw would be replaced years ago , we foresee now the adjustment concept of face angle / loft , will be replaced in very soon future.
Many golfers don’t prefer something like a toy to handle their game.
Equipment will be back to golfers’ needs and their performance , not only by marketing.

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stephenf May 31, 2013 at 3:32 am

…which is why the PGA Tour ought to have a very limited set of acceptable clubs for competition at that level, instead of the array of semi-to-full game-improvement clubs that keep marginal players in the running to stay exempt and become millionaires, just as Nicklaus predicted so many years ago.

I mean, when you need a Jetsons putter because…why? Because you often miss the sweet spot on a PUTTER?! And you’re a pro? Come on.

Can we at least get a _tournament_ now and then where these guys are required to play the no-game-improvement clubs and old ball? Just to get a basis for comparison? Something during the silly season, maybe?

Shyeahh. Right. Watch for it two days after monkeys fly outta your butt. So much of the “appeal” of the Tour has been built around the fantasy notion that today’s players are so vastly superior to those of previous generations. The Tour is not about to do anything to undercut their own years-long “these guys are good” marketing. They’re not about to show that two-thirds or more of the “deep field” they’re always touting is actually not capable of matching or breaking par without game correction and fault minimizing.

It’s too bad, because what you’d see, if they would do this, is a greater separation between the best and the marginal. The guys who can control a swing, who can put the center of the face on the ball more often, would dominate. The guys who need game-improvement technology to correct their substandard contact would shoot 76 like they’re supposed to. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

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HackerDad June 1, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Not sure I understand the rant here. I’ll bite in terms of driver tech. But a vast majority of pros are still playing blades or minimal cavity-back irons. Do you really think they’re “marginal” and that they only thing keeping them on tour is their gear? I couldn’t disagree more…

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stephenf June 3, 2013 at 3:37 pm

A vast majority are _not_ playing blades — but even “blades” today aren’t really blades like they used to be. Basically all forged musclebacks have some game-improvement qualities. But a very clear majority of players are playing clubs with more bad-shot-correction capabilities than that.

No, I don’t think the “only” thing keeping them on tour is their gear. They’re not hackers who, because of shovels et al., shoot 69s and make millions. That’s not what I’m saying. They’re all good players or they wouldn’t be there. I’m talking about “marginal” in comparison to the top players. Even moderately game-improvement-oriented equipment minimizes the consequences of error enough to turn quite a few bogeys into pars and 77s into 71s. I mean, there is just no disputing that this is true. As a former low-level pro and plus-2 amateur who’s done a bit of club testing over the years, in my mind it’s just unbelievable how badly you can hit it and still end up with a playable shot. It makes the difference between a shot that plugs in the front face of a bunker or a green-fronting water hazrd, versus a shot hit the same way that manages to clear the bunker and end up 40 feet away, with at least an 80% chance of a two-putt rather than a 100% chance of a penalty stroke or a 55% chance of a sand save (or whatever). Do that enough times in 72 holes, and you’re many thousands of dollars ahead. That’s in addition to the fact of how these clubs help a player who can’t hit the sweet spot with any consistency on _every_ shot, not just bad mishits.

(Another major factor is course conditioning, but I suppose that’s off-topic. I mean, when you can get two people [Woods and Mediate] tying for the 72-hole lead in the U.S. Open who hit barely over half the fairways — in a U.S. Open — you know something is desperately wrong. Hitting 54% of the fairways in an Open used to mean you were shooting 79-81 and going home. If somebody here tries to convince me that Woods and Mediate are just that much better than, say, Hogan and Snead, or Nicklaus and Watson, well…just try.)

Anyhow…just for grins, do you know who some of the players around #125 were last season? We’ll start with Kevin Chappell (he’s doing very well this year, as you probably know, but we’re talking about 2012 performance). In 29 events last year, he had one top-10 finish. One. He missed the cut in 11 of those events. 130th in total driving, 164th in putting, Stroke average a little over 71, but he kept his card by making $647K. If he did that for ten years, he’d make six million bucks for never winning a single tournament.

David Mathis made $736K and kept his card. Do you know who he is? Missed 17 of 29 cuts. Made three-quarters of a million bucks. Jason Kokrak (I am not making that up) and Roberto Castro, more or less the same thing — three-quarters of a million dollars for never sniffing a win. (Well, Kokrak did, with a second-place finish at the Frys.com, but that was one of only two top-10 finishes, and he missed 14 out of 27 cuts.)

I’m not saying these guys aren’t “good” players in comparison to average amateurs, or even good amateurs. They are. I’m saying that the amount of money that can be won by people who never threaten to win a tournament is just stupendous, and that for many of these players, game-improvement aspects of equipment keep them from having the one or two bad rounds a week that would result in a missed cut or an even lower finish.

This was all predicted accurately by Jack Nicklaus and others a long time before it happened. Jack has always said that when you look at the all-exempt structure, the amount of total money out there and its distribution down to players who are finishing low, and equipment changes, you have a combination that leads inevitably to making rich men out of marginal players — “marginal” not in a pejorative sense, but in the literal sense of being out on the margins, not regularly in contention.

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JD May 31, 2013 at 5:39 am

Great story MGS…. I’m a Cleveland/Srixon player and Really biased about Taylormade in a negative way usually. I think they had a hard time topping there R9 line. They were a beautiful set of clubs… driver to irons. When the RBZ line started to kick ass they hit a glass ceiling and now they’re stuck… just a thought

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SkipThisAd May 31, 2013 at 7:45 am

Let Me Guess !! This Black R1 is longer than the White version because of the “Black Hole effect” in space that will absorb all the energy around it to create more speed on the swing , right?
Did I get it right ? the black hole idea may work? I can work for TW now?

Stop swallowing the pill people, wake up !!

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SkipThisAd May 31, 2013 at 7:46 am

sorry I said ‘TW”, I meant to say TM” (Taylor Made)

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TwoSolitudes May 31, 2013 at 9:32 am

Tell us more about the new TM Black Wrench. I am sure there is a story there as well. Maybe the real innovation is in the wrench this time! LOL.

It’s a great looking club. But it does seem pretty insulting after all these years of White being scientifically better.

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Brewski June 1, 2013 at 10:17 am

I would absolutely be buying this If it was matte black finish, even tho I just bought the covert and love it. When I pic on MGS in matte black, I thought it looked awesome, Im surprised the went with shiny black as the regular is matte white. Wonder what made them make that decision, I thought the whole point of matte paint was to reduce glare, you would think they would be consistent with that.

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Tim June 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

The White was non-glare, matte finish. Why not the Black? or is that for the R2 coming out in 6 mo?

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Kmax™ June 5, 2013 at 3:12 am

Is the headcover now black too?

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J Connors June 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Black Matte color would have been better but SO much better then White
We have been waiting for the white clubs heads to be gone.

When will complete sets be available in Canada for Men & women?

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Breeze June 25, 2013 at 6:33 pm

We, at the Golf Lab in Horseshoe Bay, Tx, received our R1 Black’s as a product fill in. The ones we got had a different head than the white…it actually looks like you could hit it. On the range it was much better than the white. We heard a rumor that there was a R1 for the tour only…could this be that model?

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