Martin Laird put the driver he used at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational in play two weeks earlier at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, but the process that ultimately convinced the Scot to play the TaylorMade Burner SuperFast 2.0 model at Bay Hill began weeks before at the Northern Trust Open.
Although it varies widely from player to player – by comparison, Briny Baird was fit into his new TaylorMade R11 driver after just five swings – finding just the right driver, and putter, is best considered a long, familiar dance.
Gamers, as Tour types call their clubs that make it into the bag during tournament rounds, are similar to golf swings – that is, dug out of the dirt. At least they used to be before TaylorMade unveiled the R11 earlier this year.
“This is the easiest (driver) to get into play since I’ve been on Tour,” said Todd Chew, a member of TaylorMade’s sports marketing. “It’s so adjustable. You just have to get it somewhere close (to what a player wants) and we can dial it in from there on the range.”
It used to be a familiar dance, the techies tinker, the player hits, repeat – sometimes for days or even weeks. But the new R11 technology, an assortment of settings that address everything from face alignment to loft adjustments, has streamlined an often arduous process from days to hours.
“It’s super easy for club fitters,” Chew said. “You still have to know what you’re doing, but you don’t have to run back and forth from the (Tour) van to the range and back. It’s all right there and real technology-savvy players love it.”
The latest version of TaylorMade’s “R” family allows a player to adjust the loft up to 2 degrees via the “Flight Control Technology” system, the face angle from neutral to either closed or open at address as well as the company’s adjustable weight technology that allows flight paths that range from a draw to a fade bias, company officials say.
“The science behind it is awesome,” said D.A. Points, a TaylorMade staff player. “You can find a shaft you like and a head set up you like. You can tinker and tweak and twist and turn it and at the end of the day you will have the best fitting driver.”
Even more encouraging, at least for those without access to a Tour van, is that the same process, and science, that Laird used to win at Bay Hill can now be taken to driving ranges everywhere. What used to take a team of Tour technician, and a truck full of specialized equipment, can now take place on your local practice tee.
An arm-chair tinkerer may not know the “spin rate” of a certain configuration, but if the golf ball is launching too high you have too much spin – too low, not enough – and so on.
“The biggest difference between (the average player) and the Tour player, you and I are not perfectly fit. We’re kind of winging it, whereas a Tour player is dialed in,” Chew said. “With this you can pretty much do it yourself.”
The R11, which launched on Tour at Torrey Pines, currently comes in two standard lofts (9 and 10.5 degrees) and can be adjusted 1 degree in either direction, but the company is currently developing a prototype 8-degree version which is internally weighted for players like Martin Kaymer, who currently plays a 9-degree driver and prefers a certain sound.