Is newer really better?

Is a new $500 driver really that much better than a $50 bargain barrel classic? It's one of our most frequently asked questions.

If you believe what we're told, golf club technology sure has come a heck of a long way in the last 10 years. Seriously, we've got weight tracks, gravity cores, speed slots, turbulators, geo-acoustics and plenty more.

Does any of it make a difference? Are we really hitting the ball any farther, and if so, how much?

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A YEAR, OR 10, IN REVIEW

TaylorMade has long been on the forefront of driver innovation, consistently boasting and bolstering its reputation as the #1 Driver in Golf.

In 2004, with the release of the r7 Quad driver, TaylorMade brought movable weight technology to the masses. 3 years later TaylorMade again revolutionized the market with the introduction of the r7 SuperQuad. With its maximum allowable 460cc head clubhead volume and four movable weights, the driver captured the attention, and to no small degree, the hearts of golfers everywhere.

SuperQuad was revolutionary stuff...26 grams of adjustability was a lot of weight to move back then, and still is today.

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Fast forward 10 years and TaylorMade has evolved driver adjustability from plugs to an advanced system containing not one, but a two track movable weights. All titanium construction replaced by a muli-material amalgamation of metal and composite.

And holy hell, did it perform. The 2016 M1 arguably achieved iconic status as one of the best-performing drivers TaylorMade has ever produced. It DoM1nated our 2016 Most Wanted Driver Test.

But how does today's icon stand-up against the last decade's? We wanted to learn how far technology has progressed over the years, and so we put the M1 and the SuperQuad to the test.

 

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HOW WE TESTED

  • Two TaylorMade drivers were tested head to head to head (M1 and r7 SuperQuad).
  • Both were tested at 10.5° loft (M1 weights in neutral, SuperQuad 12 gram weights forward).
  • Seven golfers with handicaps ranging from 0-15 and driver swing speeds between 90 and 115 mph participated in this test.
  • Each tester hit 12-14 shots for each club from every set (frequently rotating between clubs).
  • Gross mishits were eliminated and are not included in the shot counts.
  • Remaining outliers were identified using Median Absolute Deviation (both distance and offline), and dropped before calculation of the final averages.
  • All testers hit Bridgestone B330-RX Golf Balls.
  • Ball Data was recorded using a Foresight GC2 Launch Monitor.

 

THE RESULTS

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OBSERVATIONS:

The results are what we'd expect, or at least what the consumer would hope. 10 years of technology improvements should yield a better driver, and our data suggests that, in nearly every respect, it has.

  • While average ball speed is up just over .5 mph, Carry and Total Distance increases are substantial.The M1 produced an average a 14 more yards (total distance).
  • This is attributable to better launch and spin characteristics from the M1. Balls launched higher and spun less. Balls flew higher and farther and produced more roll.
  • Although the SuperQuad did not perform as well as the M1, small differences in standard deviations of both ball speed and carry distance suggest that the SuperQuad is marginally more forgiving.
  • Pairing that with shot area as a measure of consistency, the SuperQuad on average produced a smaller dispersion. This isn't surprising as we generally find that shorter clubs produce tighter dispersion.
  • It is also important to note that not a single tester produced a larger dispersion area with the SuperQuad compared to the M1.

 

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THE VERDICT

The data suggests that your buddy who insists on still gaming that SuperQuad (or some other antiquated driver) is hurting his golf game. Next time you see him warming up with that thing, bring the following to his attention:

  • In all but one category, the launch monitor data suggests the M1 is far superior to the SuperQuad.
  • 10 years of technology improvements have increased ball speed, launch angle while decreasing spin; contributing to a significant gain in distance.
  • While we would call these numbers significant, it's reasonable to note the number of drivers that TaylorMade has released since the r7 SuperQuad in 2007.
    • By our count it's 27, and that excludes the SuperQuad, the M1 and any Tour or TP models.
  • With allowances for the fact that different drivers occupy different spaces in the market, over the span of 27 drivers, TaylorMade has engineered an average of 14 yards of additional distance while dropping spin by 800 rpm.  That's an average of 2.7 drivers and 1.4 yards per year.

While both the M1 and SuperQuad featured groundbreaking TaylorMade technology, 10 years is enough to validate the notion of "Out with the old, in with the new."

When there's a decade in-between, we might want to rephrase that as "New out-drives the old."

But by all means, keep gaming the old stuff, leave those yards on the table, while continuing to argue that your Cleveland Launcher still out drives anything on the market today.