TaylorMade are encouraging us all to 'loft up' this year with our drivers so I decided to find out the background to this strategy with Brian Bazzel, who is the Director of Product Creation for Metalwoods with TaylorMade-adidas Golf.
Hi Brian. What is the current metalwoods strategy for TaylorMade?
TaylorMade is after better performance and in many cases that is higher launch and lower spin to give people distance without them having to change their swing.
TaylorMade have introduced a number of models in the last year with the Jetspeed and SLDR. What are the main differences between these models?
Let’s start with the similarities. They all have low-forward centre of gravity (CG) that takes off spin and allows us to loft up and get more distance. But there are some differences. The SLDR driver has an adjustable sliding weight which allows you to really dial in your left or right shape and gives you that extra bit of adjustability.
On the JetSpeed driver we have the new speed pocket in the sole of the driver which creates more flex and rebound to give you more forgiveness on shots that are hit below the centre face. So two nice features that differentiate the drivers but both based on low-forward centre of gravity.
You mention low-forward CG when not long ago we were talking about low-back CG. Why is forward better than back?
We’ve studied the moving of weight within a clubhead for a while and what we know now is that a low-forward CG takes off a dramatic amount of spin but doesn’t take off any loft off the launch angle. This is really the key to getting more distance because if you can get a higher lofted club you get the same launch angle but with reduced spin and high launch with low spin equals more distance.
In the past people have said moving the centre of gravity forwards may increase the dispersion on your shots. How have you got around that?
Well, we have several technologies. There is still high MOI in the club, but there is a point of diminishing returns with MOI. So we are protecting MOI and ball speed through our inverted cone technology in the face. In addition the curvature of the face is used to correct for off centre strikes using gear effect. So if you hit a little off the toe it comes back and the same from the heel and we dial that in with the product. Our our Players are telling us these are the straightest and longest drivers they have ever played.
Does the Speed Pocket in the JetSpeed make up for any issues with the dispersion?
The JetSpeed is still a low spinning driver, it’s about 200 rpm more than the SLDR, but it is still low spinning, because every golfer can benefit from high launch and low spin. As long as you get the correct loft for you to get the launch angle up then you are going to get more distance, so both drivers are built like that, but there is some forgiveness built into the JetSpeed low on the face.
So would the SLDR be for better, higher speed players and the JetSpeed better for lower speed players or is it not really like that?
It’s not really like that. Both products are played on Tour and both products are played by high handicap players. There is some adjustability benefits to the SLDR driver and some low face benefits to the JetSpeed but they are both world class products for really every golfer.
There have been a lot of models coming out from TaylorMade over the last two years. What is the strategy behind that and why is it important rather than bringing out 1 or 2 in a year?
We have an innovation cycle that brings breakthroughs and once that happens we want to get the products out as soon as we can for example with the new Speed Pocket in the JetSpeed, we couldn’t really wait on that, so whenever we get a breakthrough we are going to bring it out to the consumers.
One big thing we’ve noticed this year is that the colours have changed back to the darker colours of the past. What was the reason for moving away from white, which had been so successful for you?
We did have a lot of success with white, but I think it was two things. We really wanted to capture the artful side of what a driver is and that emotional side of looking at it and thinking you love the way it looks. But we still stay focussed on the contrast between the face and the crown for alignment, which white really was. So we still beleive in that concept and we want to have it within a style that you fall in love with when you look at it.
You talk about visual appeal, so was it a case of people not liking white or was it a Tour thing and they didn’t want to be seen playing white?
Not at all. Our research told us that there were some people who absolutely loved white and then there were some people didn’t like white. When we brought out the R1 black and sold three times what we expected, it was clear people wanted a different look, which is what we are giving them now.
Looking to the future are the any hints as to the direction you will be going? Is the low-forward centre of gravity here to stay?
Absolutely. If you look at the launch conditions for getting distance and the average launch conditions on the PGA Tour angle is going up and spin rate is coming down because the product inherently allows them to do that and they are picking up yardage. We still have a long way to go. The average launch conditions on Tour is 11 degrees and 2700 rpm and it is just going up, so that is the path we are on and we will have to continue to get breakthroughs to keep it going higher.
You mentioned MOI earlier, is that now less important to you?
MOI is still important. It is something we know a lot more about now. When the USGA put the rule in place everybody went after MOI but to get extreme MOI to the limit you have to have a very far back CG and unfortunately that gives you a combination of very high launch and very high spin, which really robs you of distance. So there is a point of diminishing returns with MOI, where you still want it above a certain level to protect ball speed but after that you really hurt yourself by going any further, so we are maximising it at both ends.
So it is really balancing where the CG is back to front with how much MOI you want in the first place?
Exactly. And it is also dialling in the curvature of the face with the CG position to ensure that it always corrects any off centre shots.
Is there more curvature in the face in these models?
Correct. The curvature of the face is more curved than in higher MOI drivers, where you have to have a flatter face that makes it look more closed. The curvature of the face is dialled in to where the CG is, to correct the effects of off centre strikes.