By Jeffrey A. Rendall
A well-known golf axiom recites "Drive for show, putt for dough." That's only half true. Another well-known axiom reads "Satisfaction lies not in reaching the destination, but in making the journey." That, again, is only half true. I assert: you can't putt for dough if you don't drive for show; and, if your destination is a place that's undesirable, it doesn't matter how good the journey was -- you won't be satisfied.
It's strange how philosophy impacts your golf game. You're constantly reaching for the one truism that will fix everything that's wrong, and all too often, the problem stems from your first shot on every hole. Therefore, when it recently came to selecting a new driver, I took the true halves of both of the aforementioned axioms and put 'em together to try and achieve complete tee box enlightenment.
My problem was--I've always been one to hit a good long ball, but I've never marked down great scores -- and a big reason for my lack of scoring prowess was poor driving accuracy. I've been seeking a driver that would maintain my already solid distance, but also help me stay in the fairway.
Fortunately, I've reached tee box nirvana with the Taylor Made 320 Driver -- a member of the fabled 300 series. Taylor Made developed the series to help golfers like me 'Drive For Show,' and also to gain satisfaction from the ball's ultimate destination--through a safe and steady journey.
I first saw the Taylor Made 300 Series while covering the President's Cup last October. Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Tom Lehman and several others used a 300 series member in their trips around RTJ in search of the Cup. In the times I observed them, they hit high, solid drives with it. That in itself wasn't my determining factor for wanting to try one -- after all, they should hit good drives, they're pros. But afterwards, I thought about what makes these guys the best in the world--and it's their magic combination of great length and pinpoint accuracy. It all starts from the tee.
And there's no other club in your bag with a greater effect on your overall score than the driver. Sure, you hit it only 10-14 times a round, but the results of those strikes incredibly influences the bottom line. There's definitely a reason why the driver gets so much popular attention -- it truly is the # "1" Wood in your bag. Without solid performance from it, you can't score well. You can't putt for dough if you're trying to save double bogey because of a drive out of bounds, plain and simple.
The driver's star status is even well documented in film. Is there a more famous big screen club than Kevin Costner's "Big Dog" from Tin Cup? Could the "Big Dog" have been an eight iron? Not.
So I weighed all this criteria and came up with the Taylor Made 300 Series. I personally tried out the model 320 with a Taylor Made S-90 stiff shaft after answering the on-line fitting questionnaire offered on Taylor Made's website. The custom form allowed me to 'try on' the driver that's right for me in the comfort of my own home, without prying eyes to sneak a peak at what I was looking for. Taylor Made provides for privacy as well as convenience -- the complete marketing package.
Tom Olsavsky, the 300 Series club designer, agreed with my choice: "There are quite a few benefits in our 300 series for all levels of ability. It's got a little bit faster ball speed than our previous models, it's more forgiving, and the fact we have three models to choose from ensures that we get the right driver for you and your swing type. A better personal fit results in better swing output and improved launch conditions. Rather than merely adjusting shafts and other criteria to fit one head, we have three different heads and a variety of shafts to precisely fit each player.
"When fitting a club, you look at the player's ball flight as well as listen to his desires on what he wants out of his game. Then you work with his swing -- that's the critical factor. Everyone's swing is different, and we want our clubs to take that into account. Rather than trying to fit the player into the club, we fit the club into the player's game. That way, we can make sure the player gets the most from his natural ability."
Taking Mr. Olsavsky's advice to heart, I tested the TM 320 Driver in three categories -- distance, accuracy and workability. It passed each test with flying colors.
For distance, the TM 320 rates the best I've ever hit. The club head is a little larger than what I'm used to, but after hitting it a few times the increased size led to increased confidence -- and hence, longer drives. I made more confident, easier swings when I wasn't so concerned about getting that extra ten yards. I didn't need to worry--the TM 320 provided all the distance I'd need.
My TM 320 came with a 9.5 degree loft, a degree higher than the driver I've used for the past couple seasons. What a difference a degree makes. The 320 launched piercing rockets off the clubface that went extremely high. My drives often cleared the treeline, so I knew there was some serious air under the ball. I consistently out drove my partners because my tee balls went farther on the fly.
Accuracy is where I noticed the largest deviation from my previous driver. Simply put, I spent less time in the woods. I credit my failure to commune with nature to the reduced sidespin extremes in the TM 320 -- or at least it seems that way. There was very little unintended curvature of the ball -- the slices were more like fades, and the hooks were more like draws.
On the two occasions where I did flirt with the edge of the woods, I made a couple bad swings that the TM 320 helped even out. I definitely believe if I'd made those swings with my previous driver -- there'd be no question but to hit a provisional. That's four strokes saved right there.
Olsavsky says "When you hit the ball square in the center of the clubface, you'll get good results with most any driver. It's when you don't do that very often that you want the club to help you the most. That's where we come in." I'll be the first to admit that center hits are a rarity for me. I'll take the help.
My last category is workability. Being a mid-handicapper, getting any ball to maneuver the way I'd want it to is very difficult. But I'm beginning to grasp the hand and forearm motions required to hit a draw or fade based on the situation. And the times I tried the swing motions with the TM 320, it worked well, especially with a fade.
I tried out a draw swing with the club while hitting balls on the range, and found success with it when my timing was right. I can only conclude that the club's sizeable sweet spot and other player friendly attributes will lend themselves towards the high performance that low handicappers would desire. One thing's for sure -- anyone who's looking to 'work' a ball down the center of the fairway with a high ball flight won't be disappointed with this club.
To wrap up, the Taylor Made 300 series brings the real meaning out of axioms -- golf or otherwise. It proves you must drive for show in order to putt for dough; and it demonstrates you can derive quite a lot of satisfaction from your destination, as well as the journey.
Philosophers beware -- if Taylor Made designs a driver any more perfect -- you'll have to rewrite a bunch more truisms.
Series Designer: Tom Olsavsky
Available at fine Pro Shops and Golf Retail Stores
Check out all of Taylor Made's outstanding products at www.taylormadegolf.com
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