Home' Australian Golf Digest : March 2018 Contents february 2018 | australiangolfdigest.com.au 141
AVING watched Tiger Woods test
equipment in 2003 and given the
opportunity again last December,
I was eager to find out how his
approach had changed. It turns
out, it hasn’t. Instead of projecting
as a 42-year-old seeking a magic
elixir to boost his ageing game, Woods
displayed the same exacting attention he did
as a 27-year-old at the peak of his powers.
This was Woods’ first official testing session
since joining TaylorMade in January 2017,
and he and the company’s research and
development team spent nearly two hours on
the range at Medallist Golf Club in Florida,
minutely analysing his equipment specs.
“ That’s a lot higher,” Woods called out on
his first swing with a TW prototype, muscle-
back blade 6-iron, comparing it to the ball
flight of his current 6-iron. For Woods, ball
flight is everything. In the 2003 session, he
said, “If I look up and don’t see the ball right
where I expect it to be, then we have a serious
problem.” But not an insurmountable one
Keith Sbarbaro, TaylorMade’s vice
president of tour operations, tells Woods that
it could be the centre-of-gravity location, and
he and his team would measure Woods’ old
set and match it.
Woods is likely to notice anything amiss,
having used the same club specifications for
decades, only changing the lie angle when
a swing change called for it. He also said in
his early years as a professional that it was
necessary for him to go through eight or
nine sets and pick clubs from each to get the
centre of gravity just right.
Despite the trajectory issue, Woods was
pleased with what he saw. The look of the
club, especially at address, is very important
to him. Woods prefers an iron with a longer
blade length, thin sole and squared-off toe.
His TaylorMade prototype was spot-on.
“ The look is sweet,” he said. “It feels great
going through the ground; feels fantastic.
Everything is right.”
Moving on to drivers, Woods hit the
majority with impressive velocity. His launch
conditions featured ball speeds of 180 miles
per hour and spin rates from 2,200 to 2,400
revolutions per minute with a launch angle
of 11 to 13 degrees – all highly respectable. His
carry distance often reached 285 metres.
Woods started with the TaylorMade M2 he
has been using, before trying the M4 model.
The newer M4 produced similar ball speeds,
but a higher ball flight. “It looks a touch open.
It’s floating out there, but it has a more solid
sound and feel,” Woods said.
He then tried the new M3, a club with a
technology called “twist face”, because the
face is twisted slightly to produce optimum
performance on mis-hits. Asked if he noticed
it at address, Woods said: “I don’t see it at all,
but the idea makes total sense.”
Starting with a 9.5-degree model, Woods
felt the club was too upright. A change
was made to an 8.5 -degree head, which sat
flatter. After a few swings, Woods still wasn’t
satisfied, saying it didn’t look right. As with
his irons, the look of the driver is vital. “I
know when I’m waggling it,” he said. “If I feel
it matches up to me, it frees up my swing.”
Sbarbaro then suggested an M3 440 at 9
degrees – a club with a slightly smaller head.
After a couple of waggles, Woods flashed his
trademark smile and said, “I like it a lot.”
A few swings in, Sbarbaro made a tweak,
adjusting the two movable weights on the sole
all the way forward. On the next swing, Woods
tattooed one: 294 metres of carry, 15 degrees
of launch, 2,100 rpm of spin – nearly perfect.
After about 90 minutes during which
he hit close to 100 balls, Woods was closer
to some new clubs, though his set makeup
(driver, 3 -wood, 5-wood or 2-iron, depending
on course, 3 -iron through pitching wedge, 54
and 60-degree wedges and putter) is likely
to remain unchanged. Before any decisions,
Woods insisted there was work to do, mostly
on the course.
“Right before the Hero, I had a 3-wood I was
using last year,” he said. “On the range, I hit
it fantastic. On the course, I couldn’t hit it. It
had too much toe droop right before impact.
When I tried to turn it, I’d hit this toe pop-
up. The golf course showed that. It’s not just
about making it look good [on the range].”
As with any testing session there were some
lighter moments, like when Woods said he
used Confidence irons as a kid until he saved
enough money to buy a set of Mizunos. His
keen sense of feel was on display, too. Woods
cast aside the last driver he hit because of an
air bubble in the grip only he could feel. To the
last swing, the same ol’ Tiger.
THE 14-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION BRINGS A METICULOUS
APPROACH TO CLUB TESTING. BY E. MICHAEL JOHNSON
HOW TIGER CHOOSES
february 2018 | australiangolfdigest.com.au 141
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7/2/18 2:47 pm
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