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Why White Worked for TaylorMade

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By Zak Kozuchowski

GolfWRX Staff Writer

What company has the best new driver? Ask the three players in your foursome, and you’ll probably get three different answers. But if you ask them which company has the most recognizable new driver, they’ll all probably say TaylorMade.

The arrival of TaylorMade’s new line of drivers last January created more buzz than any other line of drivers for one reason – they were painted white. Six players debuted white TaylorMade drivers in the PGA Tour’s first event, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. And it wasn’t players hoping that a change of scenery over the ball would spark their games, either. It was some of the best players in the world: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Camilo Villegas.

Then players started winning with white drivers. World No. 1 Luke Donald won the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in February with an R11. Rory Sabbatini won with an R11 the next week at The Honda Classic. In all, 10 players won on the PGA Tour using a white TaylorMade driver, including Darren Clarke at the British Open, giving a white driver its first major championship win. The TaylorMade R11 became the No. 1 driver on the PGA Tour, and the No. 1 selling driver in the United States with a peak market share of 21.68 percent in February.

<<<< Click here to see the discussion in the forums >>>>

Like most successful products, development of a non-traditional colored driver began years ago. Sean Toulon, executive vice president of TaylorMade product creation, played rounds of golf with a fluorescent yellow driver as early as 2004, shortly after TaylorMade introduced another revolutionary driver, the R7. The R7 was the first driver that allowed golfers to quickly and easily make changes to the weighting of the club head. Golfers could move the weight forward, back, and toward the heel and toe to optimize their launch angle, spin rate and directional bias. Within weeks of its release, Sergio Garcia won twice with it. The R7 became the No. 1 driver on Tour and the number one selling driver in the United States with a 10 percent market share. It also became the first driver to be featured the cover of Golf Digest. Lead tape sales have suffered ever since.

As early as 2006, TaylorMade staff players were testing drivers with colors much different than the standard black and greys. There was red, orange, fluorescent yellow, and of course, white. But at that time, a color change was still not a priority at TaylorMade, according to Toulon. In 2009, TaylorMade released another No. 1 driver on Tour, the R9, which gave a golfer the ability to quickly change a club’s shaft, face angle, loft and lie. But this technology presented a new challenge for TaylorMade club designers.

With the R9, and many of the adjustable drivers that followed, changing one variable meant changing several others as well. For example, if a golfer changed the face angle of an R9 to the closed position, he or she would also add loft to the club. If a golfer changed the face angle to open, he or she would also decrease loft on the club.

“We had to solve the riddle,” Toulon said. “If we change one variable, we don’t want to have all these other variables change. We had to decouple these technologies.”

While the R9 became another top-selling driver for TaylorMade, Toulon and many others at TaylorMade felt that it underachieved. Despite the new technology, the sales of the R9 were essentially unchanged from those of the R7. By 2010, Toulon knew the R11 would be the best driver TaylorMade had ever produced. But it had to be different – it had to be anything but black.

Inspiration for the R11’s white color came from an unlikely source, a putter. Bill Price, senior director of Rossa, TaylorMade’s putter division, was working on a line of putters that would help golfers aim better. With the help of an eye doctor, Price figured out that putters with a matte white finish not only reduced glare, but because of the contrast between white paint and black alignment lines, they helped golfers aim better.

“There was real benefit on a putter for white, what an eye looks at and what the eye focuses on,” Toulon said.

The idea made even more sense for a driver. In putting, poor alignment might move a putt two to three inches off line. Because of the increased speed with a driver, poor alignment can send a ball 20 to 30 yards off line or more.

There’s quite a bit of science behind the white paint that goes on TaylorMade drivers, but with white Toulon also saw an opportunity for the company to differentiate itself from its competitors. TaylorMade wasn’t the first company to unveil a white driver (Ian Poulter used a white Cobra Limited Edition ZL driver in November 2010, two months before the release of TaylorMade’s white drivers), but it was the first company to build an entire marketing campaign around a white driver.

TaylorMade’s sales rely heavily in the pyramid of influence, the idea that golfers will follow the lead of the best players in the world when purchasing equipment. The company’s staff players told Toulon how much they loved the white drivers, so he knew white drivers would be in nearly all their bags when they were released. He also knew that for players like Justin Rose, the R11 offered adjustability that had never been possible before.

Rose told TaylorMade club fitters that he wanted a driver that had an opened face angle, but offered a left directional bias. Just a few years ago, the request would have boggled a club fitter. But with the R11, Rose’s request became a possibility. The R11 features an adjustable sole plate that allows golfers to change the face angle by two degrees. By rotating the sole plate to the open position, club fitters were able to give Rose the look he wanted. They could then adjust the face angle and head weighting until they got the left bias Rose wanted.

What to expect in 2012

 White is here to stay for TaylorMade, and the company’s 2012 product line will prove that. TaylorMade will release new drivers, fairway woods and rescues in February that will only be available in white. Look for the new line to be used by PGA Tour players before that time. Toulon called the performance of the new line dramatically better, saying it “absolutely obliterates” the 2011 line.

At a TaylorMade photo shoot at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., Toulon said that Dustin Johnson hit the company’s new three wood 317 yards off the ground. Sean O’Hair was averaging 300 yards with the club, and Natalie Gulbis picked up 20-22 yards. According to Toulon, the average distance added by TaylorMade staff players was more than 25 yards.

TaylorMade’s Ghost putters will also see an update, with more belly putters, more long putters and more mallet designs. Toulon said the company has fixed a problem that caused last year’s line of Ghost putters to appear slightly larger than the company intended. The white paint used for the Ghost line is relatively thick, which caused some of the shapes and lines of the putters to be hidden.According to Toulon, the 2012 models will look much more crisp and precise. TaylorMade will also cease production of its EST 1979 putter series, meaning that TaylorMade’s 2012 lineup will include only white putters.

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX.com. He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals. He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

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Equipment

Members’ Choice: The top-5 drivers that golfers want to test in 2018

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Golf’s “off-season” is upon us and the PGAM Show in Orlando is quickly approaching in January, which means it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming driver releases.

We’ve seen a few companies launch their “2018” lines already — such as Cobra with its new King F8 and F8+ — while speculation swirls around the companies who have yet to announce their newest products. For instance, we’ve spotted a new “TaylorMade M4″ driver, and a new “Rogue” driver from Callaway. If history repeats itself and Titleist remains on a two-year product cycle, then we’ll see a replacement for the 917 line sometime in 2018, as well.

The question we posed to our GolfWRX Members recently was, which new or unreleased driver has you most excited heading into 2018? Below are the results and a selection of comments about each driver.

Click here to join the discussion!

Note: The comments below have been minimally edited for brevity and grammar. 

Titleist (7.39 percent of votes)

BDoubleG: I know it’s well down the road, but the Titleist 919 is what I’m most looking forward to. I played the 910 until this year and loved it, but I realized that I wasn’t getting much in the way of distance gains with the 915/917, and I was just leaving too many yards on the table. I know it’s a cliche, but I was seeing considerable gains with my G400LS, then my M2 I have now.

I feel like Titleist has been hurting in the driver market share category (and probably elsewhere), as I think a lot of people think that the 913, 915 and 917 have been minor refreshes in a world where almost everyone else has been experimenting with structure (jailbreak, turbulators) or with COG (spaceports, SLDR, G-series extreme back CG). I think if Titleist is going to recapture some of their market share, they will need to start taking an interest in stepping outside of their comfort zone to catch up with everyone else. Maybe I’m hoping for too much, but a D2-style head with ample forgiveness and low-spin (maybe a back-front weight), with the same great sound of the 917, and hopefully getting rid of the “battery taped to the sole” look would be a huge hit in my book.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with…and I hope I’m not disappointed.

Mizuno GT-180 or otherwise (8.87 percent of votes)

mrmikeac: After thoroughly testing the Mizuno ST-180 and seeing the distance gains I was getting from my Epic, I can’t wait for the GT to get here. Cobra would be next in line for me, but Mizzy really did something special with that JPX-900 and it seems to look like they’re going the same route with these drivers. Excellent feel, forgiveness and simple but effective tech. 

Callaway Rogue, Rogue Sub Zero or otherwise (17.73 percent of votes)

cvhookem63: It seems like we’re not getting a lot of “NEW” this time — just some same lines “improved” on a little. I’m interested to try the Rogue line and M3/M4 line to see if they improved on their previous models. The Cobra F8+ is intriguing to me, as well. I’d like to compare those three to see how they stack up. 

tj7644: Callaway Rogue. It’s gotta make me hit straighter drives right? It sure can’t be my swing…

Equipto: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero, and that’s about it. Most of my testing will be with shafts I presume. 

bangabain: Excited to give the Rogue a shot, although with the hope that there’s a little more fade bias despite the lack of sliding weight.

TaylorMade M3, M4 or otherwise (27.09 percent of votes)

DeCuchi: TaylorMade M3 of course, and the F8+. I’m more interested in the fairways this year though. TaylorMade M4 fairways and Rogue fairways are top of my list. 

elwhippy: TaylorMade M3 and M4. Not owned a TM driver for several seasons and want something with a bit more power than the Ping G Series…

cradd10: M3. Still rocking an OG M1. Super solid driver. Curious to see if the updated version can beat it. 

Cobra F8/F8+ (33.66 percent of votes)

WAxORxDCxSC: I sure want to like the F8 based on looks (I understand I’m possibly in the minority on that one at GolfWRX).

TWshoot67: For me, it’s three drivers: the Cobra F8, F8+ and TM M4. 

The General: Cobra F8 is going to dominate everything, just wait, on the F8

Ace2000: Definitely F8/F8+. Love my Bio Cell+ and can’t help but wonder if these perform as good as they look. 

Click here to join the discussion!

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Equipment

True Linkswear goes back to its spikeless roots

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True Linkswear is getting back to its roots, while expanding the singular golf shoe brand’s reach at the same time.

The Tacoma, Washington, company’s Director/Partner, Justin Turner, told us that with the release of the two new models, the company is course-correcting from a move toward the mainstream, spiked golf shoes, and a loss of identity.

In addition to durability issues, Turner said the core True Linkswear customer didn’t appreciate the shift — or the deluge of models that followed.

So, in a sense, the two-model lineup both throws a bone to True devotees and casts a wider net.

Turner and company asked: “If we wanted to restart the brand….what would we value?” A commitment to the brand’s core outsider identity, style as articulated in early models, and an emphasis on quality led Turner on multiple trips to China to survey suppliers in early 2017. Eventually, the company settled on a manufacturing partner with a background in outdoor gear and hiking shoes.

“We’ve spent the last few years scouring the globe for the best material sourcing, reputable factories, advanced construction techniques, and time-tested fundamentals to build our best shoes yet. No cheap synthetics, no corners cut.”

Eventually, True settled on two designs: The Original, which, not surprisingly, has much in common with the zero-drop 2009 industry disrupting model, and the Outsider: a more athletic-style shoe positioned to attract a broader audience.

True Linkswear Original: $149

The company emphasizes the similarity in feel between the Original and early True Linkswear models, suggesting that players will feel and connect to the course “in a whole new way.”

  • Gray, White, Black colorways
  • Waterproof full grain leather
  • Thin sole with classic True zero-drop heel
  • 12.1 oz
  • Sockfit liner for comfort
  • Natural width box toe

True Linkswear Outsider: $169

With the Outsider, True Linkswear asked: “What if a golf shoe could be more? Look natural in more environments?”

  • Grey/navy, black, white colorways
  • EVA midsole for lightweight cushioning
  • Full grain waterproof leather
  • 13.1 oz (thicker midsole than the Original)

The company envisions both shoes being worn on course and off.

True Linkswear introduced the more durable and better-performing Cross Life Tread with both models. Turner says the tread is so good, you can wear the shoes hiking.

Both models are available now through the company website only. True Linkswear plans to enter retail shops slowly and selectively.

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Equipment

Sean O’Hair and Steve Stricker’s Winning WITBs from the 2017 QBE Shootout

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The team of Steve Stricker and Sean O’Hair closed the QBE Shootout with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot win over Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. O’Hair made a timely eagle on the par-5 17th hole at Tiburon Golf Club to lock up the first place prize of $820,000 ($410,000 each).

Here’s a look at their bags.

Sean O’Hair

Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White Prototype 60TX

3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana S+ Limited Edition 70TX

5 Wood: Titleist 915F (18 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ Limited Edition 80TX

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (4-iron), Titleist 718 AP2 (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 prototype (50, 54 and 58 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron prototype

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Related: Sean O’Hair WITB

Steve Stricker

Driver: Titleist 913D3 (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 8.2X

3 Wood: Titleist 915F (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Tensei CK Pro White 80TX Prototype

Hybrid: Titleist 816H1 (17.0 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2X

Irons: Titleist 718 CB (3-9)
Shafts: KBS Tour Prototype

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM6 (46, 54 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 w/ Sensicore

Putter: Odyssey White Hot 2

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Related: Steve Stricker WITB 2017

Note: We originally reported Stricker had a Scotty Cameron putter in the bag, per Titleist’s equipment report. Stricker did, however, have a Odyssey White Hot putter in play during the final round of the QBE Shootout.

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