Bonus: Why You Will Want a High Launch Driver
Executive Overview: Although this article starts with an historical discussion of Taylor Made Drivers – it is actually about fitting drivers by matching loft and face angle of the driver head with a player’s ideal swing path and angle of attack.
The driver head is more important than the shaft.
That should get your attention. My opinion is contrary to Conventional Wisdom. But a mistake choosing correct driver head loft and face angle cannot be corrected with an expensive shaft. This article explains why. Taylor Made proves my argument with their fitting strategy.
A Tour Van fitting determines a player’s most efficient swing and matches driver specifications to that. How do you find the correct loft and face angle to match your ideal swing?
Why Taylor Made Drivers Work Better
Taylor Made created a miracle with their Driver marketing over the last six years.
When all other golf equipment manufacturers gave up hope for new driver innovation – blaming USGA restrictions – Taylor Made invented the future with AWT – “adjustable weight technology”. Taylor made introduced the concept of weight adjustability with the R5 (2005) – offering two removable weight ports. It was a huge breakthrough to allow players to adjust swingweight – and change club balance – on their own. The TM R5 was a breakthrough design.
The R5 led to the R7 Quad (2007). The R7 took cutting edge technology from 2 weight ports to 4 weight ports at 380 cc’s. The 4 weight ports promised to affect shot shape. Add toe weight, eliminate “lefts”. Add heel weight, eliminate “rights”. Another breakthrough.
The R7 was popular on the PGA Tour. V.J. Sing made headlines when he chose a 10.5* loft R7 “TP”. TM R7′s were very good.
Then Taylor Made increased the head size to 425 cc’s with four weight ports. That was the R7 425 – still a Classic. The R7 425 was a step forward in forgiveness due to size.
Finally – the Coup de Gras - the SuperQuad. The Holy Grail in 2008 – four weight ports and 460 cc size for ultimate forgiveness. The Super Quad was “Maxed Out”. In keeping with Taylor Made practice – the SuperQuad came out in multiple versions – covering the landscape of price points – another example of Taylor Made attention to detail and dedication to smothering the competition.
All that only took three years. 2006-2008 might be one of the most prolific periods in driver design history – given that USGA limits on everything that sent everybody but Taylor Made into depression. Taylor Made owes its success to its Chinese partners who mastered building titanium balloons that stand up to 100+ MPH swing speeds.
Then came the Taylor Made R9 (2009). Taylor Made released a flood of designs that year – Standard, Tour Prefered, SuperTri and SuperDeep – enough to intimidate (and bury) their competitors and make sure you’ll never know exactly what is “best” or even “what is what?”. By the end of 2009, Taylor Made dominated the driver business.
The R9 Series of Taylor Made drivers sealed fate on another subject – “Interchangeability”. In a strange quirk of fate – when other companies were trying to increase their profits by clawing back the exotic, high performance shaft business – Taylor Made went “open source” on the adapters that connect Taylor Made drivers to interchangeable shafts.
Today, a single adapter fits any Taylor Made Driver from the R9 through the R11 and the soon-to-be-announced – R13. As a result, Taylor Made drivers are the best way to test shafts. You can try any shaft in your Taylor Made driver for the price of a $25 adapter. You can do the “testing” yourself on the range or you can get a good partner – Flightscope radar – to tell you how the shaft performs with your swing – with a well-chosen head.
The entire Golf Lab library of over 200 shafts is available for on-course testing in your Taylor Made driver – or in ours. The old days of “buy it to try it” are OVER.
(BTW: We are now extending the Taylor Made shaft fitting system to fairway metals and hybrids. The Golf Lab does not have a Taylor Made account. With TM, we sell “recycled”.)
The “Perfect Storm” – 2011 – 2012 – Taylor Made Domination Continues
And then the most unexpected thing happened. Taylor Made invented “white”.
Nobody knows how or why Taylor Made decided that the color white would be the “Next Big Thing”. But the R11 (2011) and the R11S (2012) have been the dominant drivers on Tour for the last two years.
Did I forget RocketBalls? Another breakthrough – this one based on naming conventions. We love three letter acronyms – RBZ. RBZ come in white.
The “technical breakthrough” in the latest TM versions has more to do with the adapter than the driver head itself. Taylor Made (and aftermarket) adapters are now supplied with a more extreme “knee bend” in the adapter.
The most recent adapters now allow a 1.5* adjustment each way. That’s huge for drivers.
**The Great “Measurement” Experiment – Fitting Discussion Starts Here
Obsessed by wanting to understand “why?” we bought a precision measurement gauge a while back. We measure every driver before launch monitor testing.
We fit drivers in the simplest way possible at the Golf Lab – we turn driver fitting into a geometry problem. We measure and add up the angles to match player’s most efficient swing. Driver loft and face angle matter. There’s no point wasting time with driver heads that don’t match a player’s ideal swing.
To make solid contact – measured by “Smash Factor” – a player must deliver the club on the most direct path possible. Thanks to modern technology – radar launch monitors – clubfitters can monitor a player’s swing – swing path and angle of attack precisely.
Combined high speed video and biomechanical analysis – a player’s most efficient positions can be measured and mapped.
If you want a nice soft draw – the “perfect” swing path is 4* inside-out. Face angle needs to be closed to swing path – but open to the target line – so 2* is “perfect”. Those are very small angles – difficult to conceive and impossible to see.
Then we turn attention to launch angle. That’s where things changed the most. The new golf balls don’t spin. Normal golfers who want maximum distance – from “high launch, low spin drivers” – must launch the ball at 16* or higher. That’s a lot higher than anything that looks “normal”. Most players don’t know what optimal trajectory looks like.
Launch angle comes from a combination of driver loft and angle of attack. If you need 16* of launch angle, you can get that with 10.5* driver – if your angle of attack is plus 5.5*. Alas, only the strongest, most athletic Long Drive Competitors can swing “up” at that angle. Most amateurs hit “down” on their drives – many not aware that a driver swing is different from an iron swing.
2-3* upward angle of attack is a reasonable swing goal for most amateur golfers. If your maximum distance requires 17* launch angle or higher – you’re going to need a 15* driver.
Unfortunately, most golfers still choose their drivers to match their personalities.
It wasn’t that long ago that most manufacturers didn’t bother to offer a driver head that was marked higher than 10.5* loft. No point. No self-respecting golfer would buy one.
That’s the world that Taylor Made understands.
We picked up a trend measuring driver heads. Taylor Made drivers all measure 2-3* higher loft than the number stamped on the sole plate. 11.5* on the sole plate can easily measure 15* on the gauge. We have never measured a Taylor Made driver that was under marked loft.
The normal response from a player who gets their driver measured at the Golf Lab – our free service – is to deplore Taylor Made quality control. “How could my 9.5* driver be 12*?”
Because Taylor Made planned it that way. Taylor Made sells hundreds of millions of dollars in drivers every year. In years past, it was no problem to deliver drivers within a degree of stated loft. If Taylor Made wanted their drivers to be perfect for loft – they would be.
Taylor Made knows better.
The Taylor Made marketing department figured out golfer psychology long ago. They know that no ordinary golfer will buy the driver that fits – left to his own methods. Since most drivers are sold by self-service at Big Box stores – TM provides their own version of Steve Jobs’ “reality distortion field”.
If you own a Taylor Made driver with 11.5* on the sole plate – it will measure 13-15*. That will probably be just about perfect – assuming the face angle matches your swing path.
There you have it. If Taylor Made left their future for golfers to know what he should have – rather than what he wants – they would be in the doldrums with all the other driver companies.
Taylor Made would never admit that they think that their customers are too dumb to make their own decisions – but how else would you interpret the facts?
Taylor Made drivers work better because they are not what you think. What better explanation could there be?
Taylor Made’s Reward? They are the most successful golf equipment company on earth – measured by sales. The results are in.
Have no fear. Buy a Taylor Made R9 11.5 Super Tri. It might be a very good 15* driver with a 2* closed face angle – once you get all of the settings measured.
It might be “perfect”.
Buy Your 15* Driver – no settings required
If you know your driver goes too low and you want to test the extremes – we have a great -high quality – low price alternative. We’ll customize it five ways and deliver it for $200. What could be better?
It just so happens that we found some 15* driver heads from a manufacturer’s liquidation. (We found them because we were looking. High loft drivers are scarce.) The manufacturer is LaJolla. Golf Lab customers will remember LaJolla as a high quality supplier from five years ago. LaJolla went broke when they lost their confidence – like dozens of other small companies that found they couldn’t compete against the Global Conglomerates.
This is what the driver head looks like. It measures 14-15* and the face angle is square to 1* closed. We measure them all. These are from the “old days” when the number on the bottom was close to reality.
We can hand pick a driver head with the exact specifications that match your “swing geometry”.
Custom Build Your 15* Driver
The open questions are shaft length, shaft weight, shaft flex, grip and balance.
If you hit your 3 wood almost as far as your driver, you’re on the right track. Most 3 woods are 15* loft. The “Thriver” is simply an easy-to-hit driver-size head with 3 wood specifications.
Your 15* driver is not a long drive club. For most players, 43.5″ will be a good length. That’s just a hair longer than your 3 wood. The deep face on the LaJolla driver allows you to tee it up and make a mighty wallop without fear of pop-ups and whiffs. We add a little weight to the head to compensate for the shorter length.
The goal of a high loft driver is to get every drive into the fairway. No misses. For most high handicap players – “no misses” with a driver means a 6 stroke improvement in score.
Your 15* driver is not a long drive club that you try to swing as fast as possible. Shaft weight means little. The best choice is a middle-of-the-road graphite shaft – 65 or 75 grams.
Your 15* driver is a “training club”. You use it to get the best possible results from your swing. There are two logical choices for shaft flex. As stiff as possible or as flexible as possible. Players who hit from the top and fight an outside-in swing path should go stiff as possible. Stiff shafts resist “early release”.
Players who are working on tempo and timing should take the most flexible shafts available. That’s the best way to “feel the club”.
Your final choice is grip size. For a “training club” it’s a good idea to go larger with grip size. The reason is that it’s hard to squeeze a large grip. Bad swings frequently come from squeezing hard at the top and then “holding on”.
Lay the grip in your hands. Grip strong enough to keep the club from flying loose – no more. Then, keep your hands “under the shaft” at the top of your swing. That’s the best natural antidote for “over the top”.
Call Bob at 650-654-1770 to reserve a fitting time with Leith.
High Loft LaJolla Drivers – set up to your custom specs – $200.
Thanks to the Internet – Golf Lab emails go all around the world. For all Golf Lab customers who are outside of drive-in distance – we’ll make a “guaranteed” offer. Get in touch by email and we’ll design a very interesting LaJolla custom driver.
We’ll build it and send it out anywhere in the USA for $200. Outside the US, just add actual shipping charges.
If you end up not liking it – sell it to one of your friends for $250.
Stay Tuned Next Week for “How Drivers Ruin Your Swing”. Another Public Service Announcement from the Golf Lab.