I previously met with Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade's Senior Director of Product Creation for Metalwoods at the launch of the first M family. Now we reconvened at the global launch of the M woods for 2017 in the USA to discuss the birth of the next generation.
Hi Brian. What were some of the difficulties in following up the M1 & M2 which had been so successful?
We had blockbuster performance with the first M1 & M2. If you look at what is happening in the marketplace and on Tour in the adoption of those products and the performance gains that people were seeing, then of course it becomes extremely challenging to improve upon, but it is those challenges that we live for.
We had to do some things differently and change a lot of things to get that extra performance and we had to change materials and develop new intelligent geometry throughout the products to deliver more performance.
It seems that a lot of players on Tour are taking M2 over M1. Why do you think they are doing that, as it is seen as the higher spinning of the two and doesn’t have the adjustability of the M1?
Well, by no means is the M2 a high spinning product and the Tour players can set it up to spin low. What is probably the most surprising part is that they love to take advantage of the ball speed protection and forgiveness of M2.
That was a clear sign for us that at all levels, no matter what player you are, you can benefit from forgiveness. You will see how we applied that in the new M1 driver. The new M1 is essentially the same forgiveness package as last year’s M2 with all the adjustability added in.
I noticed in the M1 driver you have the recessed area on the sole with the carbon in it and then the other half is still titanium. Were there any thoughts of putting carbon on the other side as well?
That is a big challenge. It is a smaller section and it is also where it sits on the ground where you need some structure for the T-Track.
We absolutely looked at it – we are trying to free up mass anywhere we can! If we had done that we would have freed up more mass, but we wouldn’t have had a better product because there are other things we wouldn’t have that we need to make this product perform.
When calculating the volume of the head in the first M1 I don’t think you included the track, but am I right in thinking that this time you have?
There is some discretionary area that you can use for tracks to a certain point, but what we have done here in the toe is by recessing it down we have taken that part of the club almost away. It is not just there anymore and we have dispersed it to other parts of the head. In this case with the M1 we have made the footprint a little larger, in M2 we have made both the face and the footprint a little larger.
You talked about changing materials for this generation of the M drivers, so can you elaborate on that?
The whole titanium body is a different material in these drivers, it is a lighter weight titanium alloy called 9-1-1 whereas last year we used 6-4. Then there is 43% more carbon fibre on the M1.
There are six layers this year, where there were seven last year and it is 15% thinner so we are starting to use these lighter weight stronger materials to free up more weight we can then use how we want.
Previously we used thick-thin titanium in the crown and this year the thick-thin titanium that is in the sole of the M2 driver is 9-1-1 titanium.
So not only does it use that honeycomb structure, which is what we refer to as thick-thin, it is essentially little ovals that allow us to get the overall thinness even thinner than before. That is what we did for our crowns before we moved to carbon fibre and now we are using that on the soles of M2 driver, but it is made out of 9-1-1 titanium.
Were you tempted to change the look of the top of the driver at all?
Of course we talked about that. A couple of things, firstly, it is such a recognisable piece of the M product that we felt golfers know when they see it that it’s a TaylorMade driver, which is very valuable.
Secondly, we have learnt so much about what the white section does, in the shape of it in the crown and how it affects performance that we could make this product even better by dialling that in to improve performance.
At the launch presentation you mentioned that the loft sleeve can impact the velocity of the M2 driver. Can you explain how that works?
When you have a loft sleeve that breaks through into the sole of the driver, it stiffens that area as there is a structure there. We also want to have a Speed Pocket that is really flexible in that area on the M2 so we had to work on several iterations to get to a point where we can get the flexibility we want in the M2, with a loft sleeve that we used to only be able to get when it was bonded, which is the big breakthrough on the Speed Pocket for the M2 driver.
Moving onto fairways, the current M2 fairway is one of the longest ones out there. We’ve seen today Dustin Johnson hitting the new M2 fairway nearly as far as his driver, so is it becoming too fast?
Only for a couple of people and in those cases they can put in a shorter shaft and take advantage of the extra control that adds to the ball speed.
For other people it means they can add a bit more loft if they don’t want to hit their fairway that far, which means they can hit it higher. But for 99% of golfers they can benefit from the extra distance that the faster speeds provide without any doubt.
There are more people that want to hit it really far but need more trajectory and need more height on their fairway wood so they should play a 16.5° or a 17° fairway wood and they can now without sacrificing any relative distance.
A lot of players hit a 3 wood with about 8° or 9° of launch and we would like to get them up to about 12° of launch like a driver and 2700 rpm of spin. To get more distance you need to do that whether it is a driver or it’s a fairway wood so we are always trying to get launch up.
With the M1 fairway you have added a Speed Pocket as well as having a weight channel.
Yes, this is the first time we have added a Speed Pocket to a fairway product that also has adjustable weighting.
That is interesting as in last year’s product the weight channel effectively acted as the Speed Pocket?
The challenge is when those weights are in there, especially in the centre, you get some more rigidity. It does move a bit but nowhere near what we are getting with just a channel and so we finally had to come to grips with the fact that no matter what we do when we have the track system up front, we are not going to get the same big effects we do when we have that true Speed Pocket.
It was a tough decision at the time, but became obvious that to compete with the distance that products like M2 have, we were going to have to change the design and that is what we did.
I like how the M look has been transposed down into the M2 hybrid, whereas the M1 hybrid seems to have a different feel. Is that because it is designed as a Tour or high speed player's club?
A little bit maybe. One of the challenges we have had in the M1 Rescue to provide that typical M cosmetic is that the head is a bit smaller and so creating that look on that head ends up looking a bit uniform white to black.
We tried it and it doesn’t look quite right, especially with that higher toed design, so we think it looks much better in the classic black look.
But I am with you, I really like the M2 Rescue and the way that looks and the way it sets up, you know it is a TaylorMade club, as well as the way it performs.
Is that going to be more for your average handicap player rather than your elite player?
We are seeing different trends on Tour right now with a lot more utility irons put into play as well as some more 5-woods as well. The M2 Rescue I would say is definitely more apt for the average player, but I think we will also end up seeing a few of those on Tour as well.
I suppose with the M2 4-iron going so far now there is almost no need for a Rescue to fill the gap?
I think it is just about having options. There are so many options for the players and that gives them the possibility of selecting what is right for their specific game.
We’ve just seen Tiger and Rory move into the existing M2 driver. Is it a bit frustrating launching the new version when that has just happened?
I don’t know! I think it is exciting and it is building the M family. Whether they switch to the new product or not, that is a TaylorMade driver they are using and that is validation for what we do. The fact they have chosen it on their own is even better.
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