TaylorMade workshop: head first, shaft last

'People who say the shaft is the engine of the club simply don

Andy Roberts's picture
Thu, 6 Aug 2015

Think the shaft is the 'engine room' of a golf club? Think again. And while you're at it, look at lie angle and 'swingweight'.

These are the two most neglected factors in choosing new equipment, according to TaylorMade's PR & Events Manager - Sports Marketing, Chris Hedderman. 

Chris shed light on the 'holy grail' of swingweight and stressed the importance of custom-fitting woods for lie angle during a behind-the-scenes tour of the TaylorMade workshop and tour truck at its HQ in Basingstoke. 

How many players does TaylorMade look after in Europe? 

We have a huge setup. We look after thousands of professionals and amateurs, not just on the European Tour and amateur golf unions, but also on the Asian Tours and Sunshine Tour in South Africa.

Our TaylorMade tour truck goes to roughly 23 events a year in mainland Europe, and that gives us the full ability to customise a product for a player.

On long-haul flights to Australia, Asia or Africa, for example, we use a product matrix where our tour fitters can work with players on heads and shafts. Obviously the R15 driver being a customisable product is incredibly helpful for us from that point of view.

Golf's pit men: TaylorMade Tour truck

The TaylorMade workshop is different to most other workshops and tour trucks as we have the ability to use an air compression unit that allows us to bend loft and lie into metalwood products.

The main difference between our workshop and an average custom-build workshop are that we work a lot to lie angle and swingweight - we feel these are the two biggest things amateurs don’t pay enough attention to. 

We have three reps that work with the players who then come back into the workshop or tour truck with their orders.

Bluffer's guide: Golf's key terms

Would you say there is a common misconception about being able to change lie angle when it comes to the driver?

Definitely. Lie angle is vital to your irons but people think it just stops there. If I asked 99% of golfers what the lie angle of their driver is they wouldn’t have a clue.

Lie angle dictates hugely the starting point of the golf ball in flight and it’s one of the biggest things players will work on. For example, some players may want their driver head half a degree flatter or half a degree upright.

Only the very best club fitters with the best equipment have the ability to change lie angle in metalwoods, and we tick that box.

To change the lie angle of one of our AeroBurner woods, for example, we have to apply heat and special clamps to help mould the product to the exact shape. We can then hold the product in a fixed, firm position, and react heat to the hosel. We can change lie angle two degrees in either direction and can change loft angle minimally. It is very important for us to make those fine adjustments, especially in fixed products like the AeroBurner. 

Review: TaylorMade AeroBurner driver

So what excites you most about swingweight?

This is something we are really looking at as a company right now, and not just from a tour perspective. Everything our master craftsmen build, they build to a swingweight - put simply, how the weight of the club feels when you swing back. If they don't match, you've got problems.

Every player has a weight they work well with - I have seen it first hand when I started working on Tour. You can put two clubs in a player’s hand with the same loft, same lie, same length and same shaft, but if you move the swingweight by even two swingweights, for example one is "D4" and the other is "D2", the player will hit everything straight with the D4 and hit everything all over the place with the D2.

When I worked in pro shops when I was younger, I always used to find golfers would come and try a driver out on the range, buy it and then come in later and say “it’s not quite as good as the demo driver I tried”. When I look back now, probably a lot of that was to do with swingweight because there is a tolerance level to what we produce drivers to.

Swingweights can be variants of up to four swingweights, so what we’re now trying to do at TaylorMade is take the learnings we have on tour and from our sports marketing department, and develop them into our custom range for consumer level, where all of our drivers will eventually be swingweighted to whatever it might be.

It will become an education to the retailer and consumer as well, because they will need to understand what swingweight does and how it affects ball flight etc. Once that happens, we will see even better performing products on top of what we have already. 

How often are Tour players tinkering with new grips and shafts?

We are in a lucky position that every grip and shaft manufacturer wants us to be using their products, so we have everything in the workshop that you can imagine. These brands are all fighting with each other to come on board. 

Last week we re-gripped Sergio Garcia’s clubs with new SuperStroke yellow and blue grips. While we have stocked SuperStroke grips for putters before, we never previously stocked SuperStroke grips in irons and woods – but now Sergio’s done that we have acted accordingly.

Guide: Custom fitting

When it comes to shafts, it’s amazing how many people think they have got to change their shaft and try this and that. Our reps would quite adamantly disagree with that. The most important thing they would say is to find your correct head, loft, lie, length, swingweight combination.

These people that say the shaft is the engine of the golf club simply don’t know what they are talking about. The shaft is the last thing they should look at. Yes, we will test different shafts with our players and it is has importance in terms of finding the correct kickpoint, torque and flex, but ultimately get the head right and you are laughing.

Every shaft manufacturer wants us to be using their products to give them the vision they want from the tour players. We stock everything from Mitsubishi, Fujikura, KBS and so on, and have the most expensive shafts available to us. Tour players want to try everything new that comes out – they are just like the consumers.

Looking at the current order in the workshop right now, we are building Sam Torrance’s new RSi irons with new Dynamic Gold shafts that have just come out – a lot of players will be going into those shafts. A few players have heard about them on the range and now everyone is trying them out. 

Are the heads used by Tour players different to ones amateurs use?

No. The AeroBurner TP fairway wood is slightly smaller than the one at retail but apart from that, all the heads are the same as they are in production.

We carry every available head with us, but we can manipulate heads to suit different player preferences. Some might want the head to sit a little more open or closed to fit their eye, for example.

Within our Tour Preferred (TP) woods, there is a little hole in the head that we can use hot metal to adapt how the club sits. The hot metal gun is simply a special glue that can add weight and manoeuvre where the fade or draw bias sits inside the head. 

We notice a 'high spin' option in the AeroBurner Rescue. Is anyone using that on Tour?

A lot of our products with the centre of gravity (CG) going low and forward in the head obviously takes spin off the club, but someone like Damien McGrane struggles with low spin product so we have an option where the CG is back to help him with distance. 

Which TaylorMade ball is proving most successful this season?

Of our 54 staff players, 53 of them are using the Tour Preferred X, essentially as it suits their faster swing speeds. It is also provides the softer feel they require around the greens and better distance control in the wind. 

Review: TaylorMade Tour Preferred ball

Are there any stories behind some of the indifferent numbering we see on balls used by TaylorMade players?

Any player that wins a tournament gets the right to number their ball.

Justin Rose uses "99" as his wife Kate believes the number 9 brings luck and so he figured "99" would double the luck, Martin Kaymer has "59" as that’s his dream round, Sergio Garcia used to play "22" but changed to "10" when Real Madrid won the 2014 Champions League and Raphael Jacquelin plays "69". I’ll let you figure that one out. 

How many freebies do you feed the players at each tournament?

Any tournament we go to with the tour truck, we typically supply the players with three dozen golf balls, six gloves and three hats – so they do get treated rather well. 

How many pairs of shoes does the average TaylorMade staff player go through each season?

On average, about eight pairs. That doesn't seem that much considering some of these guys are playing seven days a week, often consecutively five to six weeks at a time. 

And talking of shoes, how have the players taken to new adidas Boost footwear?

Our adidas Boost footwear has been the most successful shoe we’ve ever had on tour in terms of players using it and we’ve also had several wins with it too. The players have taken to the technology and they can’t wait to see where we can take our footwear technology in the future.

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