Whenever one of the major companies launches a new driver you expect to be surprised by something new and with the M3 driver TaylorMade has certainly turned heads with the Twist Face design.
Without getting into a long drawn out explanation of what bulge and roll is and why it works, it is essentially the curvature on the face of a wood that imparts opposite spin on off centre hits in order to try and keep them straighter. This has been a feature of woods since 1888 and the benefit is also known as gear effect.
For the last 4 years TaylorMade has been investigating this and realised that most golfers hit the face either low in the heel or high in the toe if they are not hitting it in the middle.
This is not exactly earth shattering news but TaylorMade realised that if they could alter the curvature of the face in these areas that it would increase the gear effect and keep the ball straighter. The result is therefore the Twist Face.
Above is the larger demo version they gave me at the launch to illustrate this, but in reality the curvature of the face is hardly noticeable and best seen looking down from the crown of the club.
If you hit the ball high in the toe then the face closes and reduces spin so the Twist Face is more open in this area to add loft and increase spin which should straighten ball flight and reduce the loss of distance.
The opposite applies for heel shots which add spin as the face is open and it goes high and right. The closed Twist Face section in the heel area adds spin and reduces launch to improve performance in the same way.
This had to be checked out and with the M3 driver down at address the leading edge looks just like any other driver to be fair.
There is a different look now on the crown to the previous M1 2017 driver where the white section is now silver and slimmer which I think looks better.
It's not the first time TaylorMade has used silver on a driver and you get a bonus point if you remember that it was the SLDR S driver that last used this colour on the crown.
There is still the contrast with the black face for alignment and the black of the carbon crown which comprises 5 layers of carbon and is lighter and thinner than before.
The M3 driver comes with a Mitsubishi Tensei shaft as standard, but for a fair comparison on GC2 I used the Project X Hzrdus Yellow that I had been fitted into for the M1 driver to compare the heads.
The usual TaylorMade adjustable hosel is present allowing you to change loft by +/- 2° and that enabled the changing of the shafts.
As well as the improved looks, the sound is also a little better, being a bit lower pitched and more solid.
Compared to the M1 the TaylorMade M3 driver with a 9.5° head adjusted one notch up to 10.5° was carrying it 6 yards longer as the ball speed was up by 4 mph, the launch down a degree and the spin was up 260rpm.
However the Offline number was down from 10 yards right to almost straight on average, so the Twist Face was reducing the effect of my off centre hits and this was reflected in the dispersion pattern too.
The ball speed increase could be due to the inclusion of the Hammerhead Slot, which is the first time TaylorMade has put a slot in their premium adjustable driver, providing you exclude the pseudo slot of the track on the SLDR.
The central Speed Pocket is more flexible and now flanked by ribs that break it into three sections and give it some strength, allowing the Hammerhead slot to be 100mm or 22% longer than previous M2 driver slots.
From here on in it was time to fine tune the M3 driver using the two 11g adjustable weights that are now arranged in the Y-Track.
This is a single flat track that replaces the double track of before and the 'stock' position is one weight front and one in the back of the straight section.
Moving both weights to the front gave a yard more distance carry but with a lower flight and a little more spin.
The TaylorMade fitter I was working with suggested changing the head loft to 9.5° to try and increase the ball speed and drop the spin a little.
The decision was then also made to have one weight in the front and one in the back draw position of the Y-Track to add launch and create a draw bias.
The straighter face not only created a bit more ball speed but also a slightly higher flight and with the launch and spin about the same, this then created the longest carry and total distance.
My poor shot is a fade anyway so the fade setting was not for me as you can see, with the extra spin robbing me of distance and seeing the ball go further right. But at least you know it works if you are a drawer of the ball!
The final results of these settings and many other in between were all within a few yards of each other and the reality is that there will probably be several combinations of head loft, shaft type, hosel loft and weight positions that would probably give you the best results.
Finding them might be the issue as the Y-Track weights can be tightened in any position so getting a final number on possible combinations is almost impossible, but it’s a lot.
If you need to reduce spin further then there is also a smaller 440c version of the M3 head available too in 9° and 10°.
However what was key about the final set up I ended up with was that not only were my best shots a little longer, but that my off centre strikes were going straighter and further than with the M1.
This is obviously the key message of the Twist Face and M3 story and as drivers get longer then maintaining ball speed by making them more forgiving is going to the be the way forward.
The head has a horizontal MOI of 5000 which is high by today’s standards and shows how far head design has come since these numbers were seen only in square drivers.
It was also longer for me and my 100mph+ swing than the TaylorMade M4 driver because the adjustability enabled me to drop the spin and get the launch conditions set up to deliver more distance. However there is a price premium for the M3 over the M4 of £110/$70, which is a bit of a penalty if you really need M3, so any gain will have to be worth it.
If you are already have an M1 and are reasonably accurate with it then it would still be worth comparing it to an M3 to see if your worst shots are better. If you are someone who likes a bit of a spray or has a pronounced fade or draw then the TaylorMade M3 Twist Face could save your partners from having to look away.