The new TaylorMade M3 and M4 family of woods are led by a pair of drivers that seek to change the technology landscape of the category. But unlike others who have stretched the boundaries of new materials and construction techniques and mass properties, these new drivers are looking to mine something potentially deeper: data.
Both the M3 and M4 feature a unique multi-curved face design, what the company is calling “Twist Face.” Most drivers feature consistent curve from heel to toe (bulge) and from crown to sole (roll). The idea of bulge and roll is that the negative effects of spin and launch on off-center hits are counteracted by the proper face curvature. This is particularly true for bulge, which curves toe and heel shots that are launching with sidespin back toward the centerline for increased accuracy.
Or so went conventional thinking.
TaylorMade’s team studied hundreds of thousands of shots from elite and amateur players and found that the conventional bulge curvature they’d been employing wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing. Crediting research with Foresight Sports launch monitors that allowed engineers to match multiple elements of clubhead information with downrange dispersion, the numbers showed that shots hit high across the face tended to curve back too far to the left of center, while shots hit low on the face tended to curve back too far right of center (for a right-handed swing, the opposite would be true for a left-handed swing).
What the data was telling researchers is that golfers tended to swing outside to in with a closed face on high-face impacts, while doing just the opposite with low-face impacts.
“It’s only been within the last three years that we’ve had the ability to measure the impact location, the face to path, the loft at impact and that kind of information,” said Todd Beach, TaylorMade’s, senior vice president of research and development/engineering. “We’re now able to know ‘How did I present the club, where did I hit the ball and all that and when you combine that with Big Data, it’s a whole new frontier in terms of what we can do in club design. It’s a really exciting new next level of what we can do.
“This was something we didn’t even know was going on, and it took thousands and thousands of shots before we started seeing these trends.”
Beach said that while better players hit shots surprisingly off center, average players do it more often and thus would benefit even more.
That new next level is a face that curves unlike any other driver in the game. Slightly above center the face curves more open as it moves toward the toe. Slightly below center, it curves more closed as it moves toward the heel. Essentially undetectable to the golfer’s eye at address, the effect ultimately is to produce off-center hits that fly less offline than they would with traditional bulge and roll.
“Ultimately we’re twisting the face based on what golfers really do, not what robots do,” said TaylorMade’s Brian Bazzell, vice president of product creation, who also indicated the design results in more consistent spin performance across the face, too.
The Twist Face design is a key shared technology between the M3 and M4 drivers, but the two wood families offer substantial differences, too.
More noticeable than the Twist Face might be what’s going on with the sole and TaylorMade’s trademark weight and track system. Using two 11-gram sliding weights and a Y-shaped track, the M3’s adjustability accounts for nearly 1,100 possible settings, which combined with the company’s 12-way adjustable hosel yields nearly 13,000 potential setups. That’s more than twice the options available on last year’s M1.
While those numbers are probably too dense to contemplate, what it mostly means is that the two weights can achieve a setup that makes the M3 feature the highest moment of inertia (stability on off-center hits) for a movable weight driver in the company’s history with the weights spread to the extreme heel and toe positions, Beach said. With the weights moved to the most forward position, the CG movement from back to front is nearly double what it was on last year’s M1. Beach said the CG stays low with respect to the center of the face across those extreme postions to produce shots that launch relatively high with consistently low spin.
That weight movement is facilitated by the lightest carbon fiber panels in company history on the crown and sole in this, TaylorMade’s third generation of drivers using its multilayer carbon-fiber and titanium construction.
The other prominent feature on the M3 sole is a wide slot that’s supported by beams that create three zones, what the company is calling “Hammerhead.” The goal is to increase the area of the face that produces the fastest face flexing, while also maintaining good ball speeds on impacts low on the face. That slot is 22 percent wider than previous sole channels on the M2 driver last year.
The M3 driver, which Bazzell expects to have a greater share among TaylorMade's staff players on the PGA Tour than M1 did last year, also includes a 440 cubic centimeter version to appeal to players who favor a smaller appearance at address for increased workability.
The M3 drivers (8.5, 9.5, 10.5 and 12 degrees in the standard; 9.5 and 10.5 in the 440) will be in stores February 16 ($500).
The rest of the line includes upgrades in the adjustability of the fairway wood thanks to a smaller weight screw. That allowed the sliding track on the carbon-composite-crowned M3 fairway wood to be located slightly forward of where it was on the M1, while also providing room for a longer slot. That combination helps to yield shots with better ball speed and lower spin. The weight in the sliding track is now up to 29 grams, compared with 25 in last year's M1.
The M3 fairway woods (15, 17, and 19 degrees, with an adjustable hosel that changes loft by plus/minus two degrees; Mitsubishi Tensei Blue graphite shaft; $300) use a high-strength C300 maraging steel for a thinner, more flexible face for better distance, as well.
The M3 Rescue hybrid, available in four lofts (17, 19, 21 and 24 degrees, with the plus/minus two degree adjustable hosel; Mitsubishi Tensei Blue graphite shaft; $250) similarly benefits from the longer slot and sliding weight track. The weight in that track also has been increased to 30 grams from 27 on last year's M1.
While the M3 driver gets all the attention for its maximum adjustability, the M4, the upgrade over last year’s M2, offers more forgiveness in a lighter overall package. The M4 is about 15 grams lighter overall than M3, which includes a face that weighs 17 percent less than the face on last year's M2.. Plus, as we’ve mentioned, it incorporates the unique Twist Face design for accuracy, and it employs the “Hammerhead” slot design for better ball speeds all across the face. The M4 features a larger but lighter and forgiving face, and it increases that forgiveness while actually slightly reducing the front-to-back appearance at address.
A major reason for that increase in forgiveness is 41 grams of weight pushed deep in the rear perimeter of a more sleekly shaped head, or nearly double that found on last year’s M2. Thinner, lighter carbon composite panels in the crown and sole also greatly help in saving weight.
“We know we can get better aero without going to the size limit front to back and with our ability to free up even more weight, we can get even higher MOI,” Beach said, noting that with players like U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods and more players on the PGA Tour playing the M2, the new shape of the M4 will appeal to elite golfers while still providing the forgiveness that average golfers need.
Added to the M4 mix is a heel-weighted, slice-fighting D-Type that Beach believes fits many more average players than currently would consider such a driver. Beach said the D-Type offers 20 more yards left bias compared to the standard M4.
“We’re finding our guys with the fitting cart see the D-Type as a go-to club,” Beach said. “This player has the face open at impact and everything we do with this club in terms of CG bias is helping to solve that problem. When you move the CG to the heel, no matter where you hit it, it has more draw.”
The M4 drivers (9.5, 10.5, 12 degrees with an adjustable hosel that changes loft by plus/minus two degrees; 10.5 and 12 degrees on the D-Type) will be available in February ($430, with a Matrix Platinum White Tie graphite shaft on the standard; Matrix White Tie MSF5 45-gram shaft on the D-Type).
Both the M4 fairway wood and M4 Rescue hybrid offer the same approach to increasing forgiveness through the use of carbon fiber sections and pushing the saved weight to the rear of the club. By splitting the rear weight pad into two sections, that raises the MOI by 12 percent while still keeping the center of gravity low to control spin.
The M4 fairway wood and hybrid also benefit from an improved sole channel for better ball speed performance across the face, especially on low-face impacts.
The low-profile face on the M4 fairway woods (15, 16.5, 18, 21 and 24 degrees; Mitsubishi's Tensei Blue graphite shaft; $250) also benefits from the same high-strength C300 steel insert found on the M3 fairway wood. Also available will be a slightly deeper face M4 Tour fairway, which features a 156 cubic centimeter head versus the standard M4 fairway's head size of 175cc).
The M4 Rescue hybrid, also a low-profile shape with a larger footprint and more of a draw bias than the M3 Rescue hybrid, is available in four lofts (19, 22, 25 and 28 degrees; Fujikura Atmos Red graphite shaft; $200).