“Let’s build ’em hybrids. What the hell.”
The TaylorMade tour staff photoshoot has become an early November tradition that is well known to the golf junkies of the world. For civilians, it’s when Tiger, Rory, DJ, Rahmbo, and the rest of the staff will get their first look at the new TM equipment.
Fun for us onlookers, but extremely stressful for TM marketing, R&D, and tour departments.
“First impressions are everything. If we don’t get ’em excited right away, it could go the other way fast.” – Chandler Carr, TaylorMade Product Creation
The task of prepping the new clubs falls on the shoulders of TaylorMade’s Product Creation Team—Chandler Carr and Patrick Baxter. Every year, they get staff specs, pillage the stock for the right components, and assemble the full gamut of what each player typically games. One thing that is never in the conversation is hybrids, however—nobody on staff hits ’em so why build ’em?
This is where this story gets fun.
Either as a joke or out of general curiosity, Chandler had the thought to build up hybrids for the entire staff. Obviously team TaylorMade has all players specs dialed in but Hybrids? Without knowing the exact hybrid specs there was a good amount of guesswork involved as well as some healthy debate between those in the room (including Baxter) on the practicality of building a hybrid for Tiger Woods, Rory, or any of the staff that has never even sniffed a hybrid.
I know Chandler well, and he is a gearhead of the highest caliber as well as a person who will take a risk just to see the outcome. What’s the worst that could happen? Nobody hits ’em and they end up back at HQ in a pile of “I told you so?”
So, after finally convincing Patrick Baxter to go along, the Rescues were built to spec and shipped off to sit in the bags of the highest-ranked tour staff in the world.
Now, there are hybrids on tour—lots of them. But they are not the most desired choice for multiple reasons the main one being a left-miss tendency. And frankly, most players would rather look at a 5-wood or 2-iron. In relation to TaylorMade, they don’t really make hybrids for the tour: they are for the higher handicap player.
The story continues…
The TaylorMade staff shows up at the Floridian in West Palm Beach, Florida, for a day of content with people like Me and My Golf, for testing with Tomo Bystedt, Bazz, and Keith, interviews with selected press, and the fun of all being in one place at one time on a day off.
When each player approached the new bags of goodies, Rory was the first to comment
“There is a hybrid in my bag, is someone trying to tell me I need help with my long irons?”
He was kidding, obviously, but it was a weird thing for a player like that to see in his bag. However, during a break, Rory decides to kill some time and starts hitting the 19-degree Sim Max Rescue. He put on a ballstriking clinic that had the whole place in awe.
“The flag was 260 out and he was peppering this thing with draws, fades, stingers on command.” – Chris Trott, TaylorMade Sports Marketing
Low and behold DJ gets wind of the action, hits a few, loves it and puts it in the bag.
This is a unicorn situation for TaylorMade…sort of. A few weeks later, the buzz around Rory and DJ putting Sim Max Rescues in the bag hit Instagram during the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, and it was a big deal. That buzz created curiosity that trickled down the world rankings, and within days the TaylorMade tour crew had orders coming from some of the best players on the planet, staff and non-staff.
Looks good for marketing, but for Wade and the boys in the truck, it’s been a club building calculus problem.
Heres the thing, Sim Max Rescues are production-only heads…not tour spec heads. They’re built for big box retail and online buyers. When a product goes to Tour, it’s built for the tour, which in this case means it would have a longer hosel for manipulation, center of gravity would be different, and there would be a hot melt port for sound and swing weight, etc.
The issue is the heads that went out to the truck for the first event stateside were retail production heads. So, if a guy wants to try one and give it a fair shot, the TM tour trailer has a component that is damn near impossible to bend (due to the short hosel), tricky to weight with no hot melt alleyway, and also it’s a head built specifically for a 65-gram 40-plus inch regular flex graphite shaft. For the club builders out there, you can see the dilemma.
In a one-off situation, it’s not a huge issue, but due to the volume of players wanting to test, TaylorMade literally ran out of Rescue heads this week in Phoenix. Wade and crew are in full grind mode on the truck. This is the “influencer” thing working. Situations like this where the world No. 2 gets excited, puts it in play and boom, instant curiosity from his peers.
I’m assuming the plan is to create a tour head to allow for an easier build, but that could take weeks. (I’ll keep you posted on that)
So it goes like this: TaylorMade owes Chandler and Patrick a thank-you for the bold idea, and Chandler and Patrick owe the boys on the truck a case of apology beer for the chaos created. And if sometime in April Rory flings his Sim Max Rescue into the eighth green at Augusta and has a four-footer for eagle to take the lead, Chandler and Patrick can say “I told you so.”
Not all heroes wear capes.
Dustin Johnson WITB 2020
Driver: TaylorMade SIM (10.5 @ 10 degrees, D4 swing weight)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X (tipped 1 inch, 45.75 inches)
Fairway wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila RIP Alpha 90 X
Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max Rescue (22 @ 19 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Black 105 X
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), TaylorMade P730 DJ Proto (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (soft stepped)
Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 (52-09, 60-10 @ 62 degrees)
Shafts: KBS Tour Custom Black 120 S
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Mini
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT 1.0
Ball: TaylorMade TP5
Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 58R (1 wrap 2-way tape + 2 wraps left hand, 3 right hand)
Top 10 clubs of 2003—inspired by Adam Scott’s Titleist 680 irons
As has been well documented, Adam Scott recently won the Genesis Invitational with a set of Titleist 680 blade irons, a design that was originally released in 2003. One of the great benefits of being one of the best players in the world is you don’t need to search eBay to find your preferred set of 17-year-old irons. Titleist has been stocking sets for Mr. Scott—even to the point of doing a limited production run in 2018 where they then released 400 sets for sale to the general public.
A lot of time has passed since 2003, and considering the classic nature of Scott’s Titleist 680, I figured now was a good time to look back at some other iconic clubs released around the same time.
Ping G2 driver
This was Ping’s first 460cc driver with a full shift into titanium head design. The previous Si3 models still utilized the TPU adjustable hosel, and this was considered a big step forward for the Phoenix-based OEM. The driver was a big hit both on tour and at retail—as was the rest of the G2 line that included irons.
TaylorMade RAC LT (first gen) irons
The RAC LTs helped position TaylorMade back among the leaders in the better players iron category. The entire RAC (Relative Amplitude Coefficient) line was built around creating great feeling products that also provided the right amount of forgiveness for the target player. It also included an over-sized iron too. The RAC LT went on to have a second-generation version, but the original LTs are worthy of “classic” status.
TaylorMade R580 XD driver
Honestly, how could we not mention the TaylorMade R580 XD driver? TM took some of the most popular drivers in golf, the R500 series and added extra distance (XD). OK, that might be an oversimplification of what the XD series offered, but with improved shape, increased ball speed outside of the sweet spot, and lower spin, it’s no wonder you can still find these drivers in the bags of golfers at courses and driving ranges everywhere.
Titleist 680MB irons
The great thing about blades is that beyond changing sole designs and shifting the center of gravity, the basic design for a one-piece forged head hasn’t changed that much. For Adam Scott, the 680s are the perfect blend of compact shape, higher CG, and sole profile.
Titleist 983K, E drivers
If you were a “Titleist player,” you had one of these drivers! As one of the last companies to move into the 460cc category, the 983s offered a classic pear shape in a smaller profile. It was so good and so popular, it was considered the benchmark for Titleist drivers for close to the next decade.
Cleveland Launcher 330 driver
It wasn’t that long ago that OEMs were just trying to push driver head size over 300cc, and Cleveland’s first big entry into the category was the Launcher Titanium 330 driver. It didn’t live a long life, but the Launcher 330 was the grandaddy to the Launcher 400, 460, and eventually, the Launcher COMP, which is another club on this list that many golfers will still have fond memories about.
Mizuno MP 33 irons
Although released in the fall of 2002, the Mizuno MP 33 still makes the list because of its staying power. Much like the Titleist 680, this curved muscle blade was a favorite to many tour players, including future world No. 1 Luke Donald. The MP 33 stayed in Mizuno’s lineup for more than four years and was still available for custom orders years after that. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a set now you are going to have to go the used route.
Callaway X-16 irons
The Steelhead X-16 was a big hit at retail for Callaway. It offered greater forgiveness than the previous X-14’s but had a more compact shape with a wider topline to inspire confidence. They featured Callaway’s “Notch” weighting system that moved more mass to the perimeter of the head for higher MOI and improved feel. There was a reduced offset pro series version of the iron, but the X-16 was the one more players gravitated towards. This is another game improvement club for that era that can still be found in a lot of golf bags.
Ben Hogan CFT irons
The Hogan CFTs were at the forefront of multi-material iron technology in 2003. CFT stood for Compression Forged Titanium and allowed engineers to push more mass to the perimeter of the head to boost MOI by using a thin titanium face insert. They had what would be considered stronger lofts at the time sounded really powerful thanks to the thin face insert. If you are looking for a value set of used irons, this is still a great place to start.
King Cobra SZ driver
In 2003, Rickie Fowler was only 15 years old and Cobra was still living under the Acushnet umbrella as Titleist’s game improvement little brother. The Cobra SZ (Sweet Zone, NOT 2020 Speed Zone) was offered in a couple of head sizes to appeal to different players. The thing I will always remember about the original King Cobra SZ is that it came in an offset version to help golfers who generally slice the ball—a design trait that we still see around today.
Today from the Forums: “The importance of wedge fitting”
Today from the Forums we delve into a subject dedicated to wedge fitting. Liquid_A_45 wants to know if wedge fitting is as essential for golfers as iron fitting, and our members weigh into the discussion saying why they feel it is just as imperative.
Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.
- Z1ggy16: “Super important if you’re a serious golfer. Even better if you can get fit outdoors on real grass and even go into a bunker.”
- ThunderBuzzworth: “The biggest part of wedge fitting is yardage gapping and sole grinds. If you have a grind that doesn’t interact with the turf in your favor, it can be nightmarish around the greens. When hitting them try a variety of short game shots with different face angles etc. with the different grinds to see which one works best for what you need.”
- Hawkeye77: “Wedge fitting I had was extremely beneficial when I got my SM6s a few years ago. Mostly for working with the different grinds and how they interacted with my swing and on different shots and having an eye on my swing to help with the process and evaluate the results. My ideas of what grinds were right for me based on researching on Titleist, etc. just were not correct in 2/3 of the wedges I ended up with as far as the grinds were concerned. Good to have an experienced fitter available to answer questions, control variables, etc.”
- cgasucks: “The better you get at this game, the more important wedges are.”
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