In terms of golf equipment, there is always going to be major players and minor entrants in the multi-billion-dollar-a-year business.
TaylorMade is a major player.
As for me? I’m not. But earlier this year, I went through a fitting experience with TaylorMade that, so far, has helped.
I’m not an equipment geek by any means. I couldn’t tell you what most of the technical terms represent that are unloaded to golfers through advertisements, in stores, and online. But, when the opportunity for my 12-handicap and I to get fitted by the folks at TaylorMade, I was eager to give it a go.
In March, I was strapped to TaylorMade’s MAT-T system and fitted for a full set of clubs, from driver to putter. The process took about three hours, and is available at both TaylorMade’s head office in Vaughn, Ont. and at its at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont.
I had gone through the process once before (you can read about my first experience here) so I knew what to expect. But my game has slightly evolved from 2012 until now, so I was expecting a few different results.
The MAT-T system is a joint effort between TaylorMade and Motion Reality Incorporated, which combines TaylorMade’s golf knowledge with Motion Reality Incorporated’s motion capture, modeling, and analysis technology to provide a 3D projection of a golfer.
It uses nine video cameras to track the position of multiple markers attached to a golf club and a golfer – kind of like if one was getting recorded for a video game or animated movie – that create a computer animation of a swing to be reviewed later.
During the fitting itself, you’ll hit a 6-iron, wedge, driver, and then a putter, all with the motion-capture markers on. The data from these swings – about half the total fitting time of three hours is dedicated to working indoors – will then produce the best suggested combinations of heads, shafts and grips.
More important than the equipment itself, was the process.
Manufacturers these days are all producing excellent equipment. There’s a healthy mix of professionals who whose gear from both major and minor brands, and if the best players in the world are using all kinds of equipment, then Joe Golfer can as well.
Many equipment manufacturers have their own way of custom fitting (places like Golf Town, Modern Golf, and The Golf Lab also provide agnostic fitting experiences), but TaylorMade uses this 3D model in order to see what the body, as well as the ball, does. (The picture below is a 3D version of me).
“The goal is to take standard golf products and specify it to an individual,” explains TaylorMade fitter extraordinaire (and nice player) Stewart Bannatyne. “What the ball does is key, but we work in 3D to see what the body is doing as well.”
Bannatyne is one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve spent time with in the golf business, and it’s always a treat to have him explain how, or why, something works (or doesn’t) in a golf club. He even breaks things down into basic terms for someone like me to understand, which I appreciate. I find the strongest aspect of a custom-fitter is the ability to ask questions, and Bannatyne is great at this.
The most interesting thing for me was how different shafts affected the way I was swinging. I grew up playing with a very light shaft, and when my previous set of irons bit the dust (after nearly six years) I moved into a heavier shaft.
This time around, I thought I wanted something in the middle, and Bannatyne fit me into a good one after a combination of anecdotes from me and crunching some data. This was the ideal way for me to get fit. Some people are purely numbers people – and I can’t blame them, the numbers don’t lie – but some are just feel people. I’d like to think I fall in between… I’m a feel golfer because I don’t understand the numbers (Ha.) but I respect them.
After a long session, I was thrilled with the clubs that were selected for me (full list is below).
TaylorMade has taken some flack over the last couple of years because of how much product it’s put out to the marketplace. There was a lot, yes. But there was a method to the madness, it seemed. And now, TaylorMade has streamlined its operations.
“Once the product is better, we want to get it to marketplace,” explains Bannatyne. “SLDR (TaylorMade’s former no.1 model. Which is still very popular) was impactful to the marketplace. If something is can’t-miss, then, well, we do it.”
I hadn’t swung a club since mid-January when I finally had a chance to play three rounds in three days in early May (it’s a tough job, I know) with my new clubs. I was eager to put them all in play, and over the three days, I felt like I had a different level of confidence.
I finally felt confident enough to know that I should just swing the club. The clubs did the work they were supposed to. I couldn’t blame them – they’re brand new and custom fit, after all – so having those thoughts in my head just let me swing as freely as possible.
My swing isn’t perfect by any means, but when I was holding clubs I knew would perform well for me, clubs that were built for me, I knew that as long as I just hit the ball, I would be alright. I felt they helped my game, swing after swing.
Just because they were TaylorMade doesn’t mean I may not have had the same sensation with other manufactures. They’re all putting out fine equipment right now. The technological advancements, combined with modern aesthetics give golfers of all levels a plethora of choices in terms of gear. It’s a wonderful time to be a consumer.
As for me, Bannatyne says the new TaylorMade lineup is the “most consistent and the most-easily fine-tuned. We’ve never had anything better.”
And, well, neither have I.
THE LIST (Nerdy Stuff)
Driver: R15 TP; 10.5*; Graphite Design D1-7; Stiff; STD; Stability/Med.Fade
3-wood: R15 TP; 16.5*; Oban Revenge 8; Stiff; +0.5*; STD
Hybrid: R15 TP; 3-hybrid; RIP Phenom 80HB; Stiff; -0.5″
Irons: RSi 2; 4-PW; KBS C-Taper; Stiff; +0.5″; 1* flat
Wedges: Tour Preferred ATV; 54* & 58*; KBS Tour; Stiff; +0.5″; 1* flat
Putter: Spider DLL; 34″; 2* flat; STD loft
Grips: B&W New Decade; 1 wrap + 2 wraps under bottom hand
The guys from Modern Golf do work that is half-art, half-science. And, usually, the results are beautiful. Thanks to Ryan at the Modern Golf shop for his special touch on the stamping.