Sunday, April 17, 2016

My time with the M2 6iron - Part 2

As you may or may not have read in Part 1, I had the lovely fortune of getting a Taylormade M2 6 iron in the mail. I detailed it's specs there, which I will not go into again here, and came to the conclusion that something was up. Well... the problem is that NOTHING is up, except marketing budgets.

Before we begin, let me state some facts:  

The M2 is stock exactly as it came from Taylormade. I opened the box, examined it, and took it out to hit. 

Lofts of the irons are nearly identical. +/- about 1 degree.  Length varied with the M2 being 38" long, and the KE4 being 37" long physically. 

As previously stated in part 1, even though marked differently, the shafts in each club test the same flex, so regardless that the TM is labelled stiff and mine is a "regular" they are actually both the same flex.  See some of my other writings for why this happens and other things "They" don't want you to know.

I'm hitting the same types of balls with both clubs. I went through painstaking measures to sort through range balls and find the best balls, making sure they're all of the same type and removing all the non-range and/or any balls that don't seem right (a big "screw you" to all the people who bring their own garbage balls to hit at the range. Shame on you. Keep your top rocks to yourself nobody wants to hit your budget balls - even in practice. Do you understand the looks I got while sorting through all these range balls? DO YOU?!). Ok......

The weather has finally broken (again) here in Pennsylvania and I was absolutely itching to get out and play golf. Since there's no cream for that sort of itch, the only solution is to get out and chase a little white ball around in the sunshine.  As luck would have it, there was a scheduled demo day at Crossgates Golf Course in Millersville that I was due at with my Clubcrowns and Shaft wraps, and that means I would have some time (and free balls) to hit all the 6 irons my heart desired!! Well, it's time for the cold, hard truth.  Let me preface this and say that I was duly warm for this test. Having hit a bucket with each 6 iron before taking measurements. I wanted to be loose, and I wanted to make sure I had the feel of each club fresh before measuring shots. For each,  I took the best 8 shots - removing the worst and the best from the original 10 "pressure" shots.

I'll get right to it, then tell you why:
The M2 is not all it's cracked up to be. Not for me anyway. Funny I should have those choice in words because that's honestly what I felt like I was going to do to this 6 iron. Every shot felt like the club could shatter... and the sound. Oh god, the sound. I mean, I can't even describe it to do it justice. If you took about 5 of those cheap tupperware lids you find on Chinese take out now, stacked them up and hit a ball with them?  I think that would come close. It's a plastic "slap!" that does not instill confidence in me at all. I mean, I even absolutely MURDERED one - smash factor was almost up near my driver as far as energy transfer (which is a very good sign for this head mind you) and the thing still sounded and felt like the head was just going to fall apart. The grip being off-center didn't bug me as much as I thought it would but I could definitely feel it. Thing is, it SHOULD have helped me turn the ball over in a right to left draw, but it most certainly did not. The stiff shaft (which was actually regular) felt ok as far as flex and shock goes, but as we'll see in the flightscope data later, it was actually all over the place.

 I will concede that the longest shot of the M2 was longer than the longest shot of my own Maltby KE4. As stated previously in Part 1, this was fully expected considering that the shaft is a full inch longer than my current 6 iron. That being said, the SHORTEST of the M2 was Shorter than my KE4. If one is to believe the marketing, this should not be happening. So as things average out, the M2 still comes in longer than my current 6 by approximately 2 feet overall. Not exactly the gains promised by the manufacturer.  Something else I noticed, interestingly enough is that the M2 on average did NOT fly higher than my own 6 iron. Again, contrary to the marketing.

 Looking at the overall data, we can see a few things. First, the numbers for the M2 are slightly better in some areas. Total distance, is better by almost a yard, but strangely the carry distance is better on my original 6 iron by 1.1 yards. You can make your own inferences at what you want, but I'll mark this down as an original iron win. I want carry distance and stopping power in my irons. I could care less to hit my 6 iron 200 yards if 20 yards of that is roll. I want it to go high and come down soft. Isn't that what the M2 is supposed to do anyway?  The spin on the M2 did average higher- but you can see the minor outlier of 9080 RPM, and 8635 RPM of spin. That's high but since my metal on a stick got to nearly 7000 I didn't think it unfeasible that this new technology could achieve that. Hell, smash factor near my driver! Either way, since the Flightscope is on outdoor settings and tracks the ball to finish rather than calculating into a net, I kept them in for the overall data. All things considered, smash factor, spin, and ball speed were higher with the M2 - why didn't it fly farther though? I'm as stumped as you, but being there and seeing the ball flight and where the shots ended up, I can confirm the data.

Let's talk about clusters and accuracy. The M2 boasts more forgiveness than standard clubs. There's a speed pocket at the bottom and all manner of carbon plastic do-dads in the back and up the face that are supposed to help create more speed and forgiveness across the entire face. Remember before when I said that the longest was longer than my 6iron, but the shortest was shorter? Well, here's how it looks on the chart:

Looking at this chart, it maps out the shots as they landed and calculates standard deviations. The forward and back for the M2 are not to my liking, especially for all the promises made on keeping ball speed up with the pocket on low hits.  This basically means that I could hit a dead solid shot and and have it settle on the green, then drop another ball and have it come up with a difference of 15 yards. That's a club and a half!!! You'll have to take my word for it when I say this, but in all honesty these shots were not all that far apart on the face. It's not like one was 1/2 inch out on the toe and one was 1/2 inch on the heel. My ball striking is pretty good.  Talk about being in between clubs. The right to left deviation is another concern. It seemed like the iron didn't know which way it wanted to correct. Remember when I said I was being fair between the two clubs? Well, sorry KE4, I was on the side of the M2 for a lot of this....

Height and direction:

After hitting balls and warming up to get the feel for each club, I knew the M2 was not getting in the air for me. I watched as ball after ball was a line drive and just was not getting off the ground. I actually teed one up in the test below to make sure I would catch the ball perfectly on the club face and get the ball up (didn't do that with my 6 iron). Nope not at all - although it did give me a 184 yard bullet which was nice.  Both screens below are the best shot, distance wise, in the group. The M2 rolled out about 2 yards farther than the KE4 and definitely did not get as high. You can see also, that the correction of the M2 kind of left me with  two way miss. I'm a slight fade ball hitter. I can work the ball both ways if I want to (let me stop here and say that the M2 IS predictably workable when hit well) but my go-to is a little fade. Bad back and shoulders make that an easy shot. So why all the left on the M2?  Correction in that "forgiveness" category. It is workable, as I said, when you hit it well, but if you catch a little toe or a little heel, it tends to over correct for the shot, which left a few of the balls to the left, and one WAY out to the right. It's meant to hit the ball straight on off-center hits, but for it to correct and do that you have to deliver the club mostly square anyway. If you're an 18 handicap that has an open club face, it's not going to really do you much good -- then again, no club will. Sorry it's just the way it is. Lessons, folks.

Talking materials:
I think one of the last things we need to talk about here is quality of components. There are good metals and bad metals. Good graphite and bad graphite. Good build quality and bad build quality. If you take the time to know your product and put in the time to assemble it correctly it will treat you well.  Here's where the M2 gets some love. It COULD BE a good club. It really could. OMG could it be good. There's things that need to be addressed, however. First:  Lose the FST ultralight shaft. If you want light, use an MCI 80 graphite composite shaft. This stock shaft is not doing it for me, or most likely for anybody.  The two charts below show flex action for the two clubs. The orange line is the flex acceleration for the longest shot on each. The gray line are all the other shots. You'll notice that both of the longest and best shots came with a downward sloping profile. It's just what fits me the best as a golfer. The head actually isn't accelerating through the ball (even with my relatively low swing speed, I'm still a high-spin player) and it's allowing me to hit flush and keep the flight where it's optimal with my swing. Now, notice how the shaft on the left (incidentally, a Fujikura 95i Sflex graphite shaft, soft stepped) is relatively consistent in it's flexing along the swing. With both clubs I have a few crap shoots in there, but for the most part it is a very consistent grouping.  Now look at the FST in the M2. Not for me at all. Some times it kicks hard at the bottom, sometimes not. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the hosel design, with the crazy air foils, or if it's just due to the shaft combo and length. I do know that it's not something I'm down with for anyone. Even with the most inconsistent swings, I want the shaft to perform predictably if not optimally.  That grouping at the top should be tighter as well as all the way through the middle of the swing.

FST makes some great shafts - The KBS Ctaper is phenominal, as well as the Tour90. Even the FST 115 and similar models can be great on a budget.... IF they're installed properly. This, in my opinion, could benefit from a FLO run. Very much like assembly lines though, this was more than likely pulled out of a pile and assembled, checking for length and weight, not much else.

So what have we learned from all this.... If you haven't fallen asleep or had your head explode looking at the photos and reading my terrible font, then you've probably come to the same conclusion I have.  The M2 is not a good stock club. It's just not. Off the rack, it won't really help you gain yards or accuracy unless you fit it perfectly as is.  The M2 head is subjective when it comes to sound and feel. If you're at all into the "THWACK" of a good hit, then the M2's is not for you. At best, a pure shot will leave you with an unsatisfying "click" sound and sort of a plastic resonance feel up the shaft. It can accurately be described as a toy sound and feel, not premium golf club feedback. It looks fancy, but doesn't deliver on the promises - even when the deck is stacked in it's favor with a longer shaft and slightly jacked lofts.  Still, it's a smart looking club. It really has a different back cavity look and even though the top line is thick, I don't really mind it in comparison to the thinner players clubs. it really instills confidence at address if not in performance.

.... and I thought Xfinity's appointment windows were bad...
After all this, I would urge you to give one a hit and see if you can tolerate it.  See what other shaft options they have as upgrades. With all of this technology that doesn't really seem to do much, I have to wonder if the upgrade would be worth it, though. You're paying more to get what the stock option should have delivered. With a pricetag of $800 average per set, it's not something that I would ever recommend to run out and buy sight unseen. A qualified builder could make you a set of component irons that out duel this badboy for less - plus they'll be everything you want and more as far as options. Example, Put a ProjectX 5.5 with new decade grips on these bad boys and you're looking at almost $1000.00. Oh, and apparently it'll ship between 2 days from now and next September?  Go out, look around and pay attention. Always ask "why" when you're getting fit and when someone wants to sell you something. Why do you need this? Why is it better? Why will it do what you say it will? Most importantly of all - is the investment worth the payoff? Is 5 yards worth $499?  Is a marginal improvement worth $1000? For me, no. This is just my experience though. You may crank these guys and if you do, I say drop that money and get them. It's about what works for you, and if you've read anything else I've written, you know that's the only thing you should worry about. Not name, not what flex you hit, and certainly not what some guy on the internet has to say. Get out there and get swinging!

Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you again on the next post!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

My time with the M2 6iron - Part 1

I was recently chosen - along with about 5000 others -  to try out the new Taylormade M2 iron. They shipped me a 6 iron, via fedex and it arrived today. The claim is that this 6 iron will go higher, and farther than my current 6 iron. I immediately put to task getting all the vitals on the new M2 iron and came up with some really disturbing things:

1.  The specs on the site say that the 6 iron is 37.625" long, D2 swingweight, and 25 degrees of loft. The 6 iron I received is 38.25" long, D3 swingweight and 26 degrees of loft. This is really disheartening for a company that is as large as TMAG. I refuse to believe that this iron is not INTENTIONALLY built like that. I'm not sure that is such a good thing over being a crappy build.  Being 1 degree off, or one swingweight off isn't a big deal. Well - maybe the swingweight, but I digress, 3/4 of an inch longer than it should be is a little much to be a mistake. Count that it's also a full inch longer than what a 6 iron should be - or 1/2 an inch+ if it's to spec'd length - sounds like someone isn't playing fair.

2.  I requested a regular flex. I'm not the man I used to be - or rather my back isn't the back it used to be - so I need something that doesn't have a lot on it. I put it on the deflection board and it comes out at a regular. The problem with this is that it's STIFF marked on the shaft - so it stands to reason that these club flexes are a full flex off of what the shaft is specified at. It also doesn't appear to be a high launch shaft. Mid to high at best, in my opinion, judging by the flex profile under load.

3.  The grip has a rib in it... which is fine. However, it's set so the face is at a closed position. This is presumably to be a reminder to press the hands forward, as it lines up nicely square for me when this is done. Still, when you look down the shaft - the grip is actually on crooked. The butt graphics line up with face square, and the bottom hand end of the grip is twisted strong, causing the hood. As a fitter and builder, putting the rib in a different position to promote face angle is fine, but for God's sake put the damn thing on straight. IT's ok to twist it, but  this is standard from the factory, come on! They're either trying to stack the deck with this length, or dare I say inept at putting a golf club together. It's nice to get something free, but how about something that's right?

Already Three strikes against this new iron from Taylormade. Overall it's kind of a sharp looking iron. I like the nickel black, I don't mind the thick topline as I play one myself, and it feels kind of nice at D3.  I chipped a few balls around the basement and I don't like the clickey sound I get from it. It also feels sort of hollow, like if I swung really hard I could cave the face in or break it.  The range time will tell there. I will put it up against my current 6 iron and see if it truly lives up to what TMAG says. Higher and Longer than my current 6. We'll see. The Flightscope will tell the tale - even though it's a fixed fight. 4 iron length, 5 iron loft - should go further.  My 6 iron is strong as well at 28 degrees, but it's the standard length for a 6 iron - a full inch under what this tester club is. All I can say is that this club better beat me by a LOT if it beats me at all.

Part 2 will be at the range with the flightscope.

Monday, April 4, 2016

How often do we fall for marketing over performance? Do you really want to know? DEMO DAY!

Let's talk marketing. Every cent paid to pros to play equipment, every ad, every paint job, every cardboard standup, and every little Google ad to the right or left of the page you're surfing on.  Marketing is what sells clubs. Why is that? Are we as golfers so inept at knowing what we want, or recognizing performance that we need other people to tell us how to spend our money? Certainly not. Are we tiny striped varmints that must have the shiniest new toy and keep up with the (Bobby) Joneses? Unfortunately that might be it.

When talking about technology - things don't leap forward at the pace manufacturers would have you believe - with one exception but I'll get to that later. Thing is, MOI, Trampoline effect, CC head size, Groove depth -- it's all CAPPED.  The USGA says "hey, that's enough. NO more".  There's an entire section in the rule book about what a club can and can't look like, all the way down to the amount of bend you can have in your plumber's neck putter. Not kidding at all. It's all carefully worded, carefully measured, and ham-fistedly capped by the USGA.  So why are there new clubs coming out every 6 months saying they're increasing this or that? Because it's 2016 and +1 micron is an increase. No joke, that's about what's happening too. Think of it this way:

Club A 2015 says it's average dispersion is 10 yards (just keeping round numbers here, kids) offline due to XYZ technology.  Club A 2016 promises a 10% improvement in dispersion over the previous model!  Sounds big, but that 10% improvement is 1 yard in this case. Actually it's half-a-yard on each side of the dispersion chart (right and left).  So, is 1/2 a yard closer to the center line really worth $500?  If you say yes, you have too much money and not enough grey matter....  The thing is, manufacturers have found the "buzz words" that golfers think they want to hear. They brought the tech side out and if they say it enough times, we'll just have to buy. Talk about turning a 50 cent word into a million bucks!

No, not the G crossover - Hybrid irons
just like it have been on the market and
performing to high standards for YEARS.
To continue.... These new clubs ARE released with some genuine technology in them - things like adjustable weights and adjustable hosel sleeves are really nice to help dial in the specific launch conditions that a player might need (not to mention they save the manufacturers MILLIONS by not having to manufacture different lofts). Some of it is even old tech recycled for a new generation. I remember in my youth (not too long ago actually) there were carbon fiber crowns and sliding weights.  They went away and came back just the same and now it's the "hot shit" with people buying it up like mad.  It's all reference and marketing.   "BUT CHRIS!" you say "I gained 10 yards over my last club!".   I'm sure you did, and there's a few good reasons for that - one of which I said I would get back to above.

1st, not to beat a dead horse but clubs are getting physically longer. We've covered this before. 5 irons the length of 4 irons. Drivers to 45.5 inches or more. That will get you distance if you hit it well, but the real reason is something nobody really thinks about outside of one letter::

THE SHAFT!  I'm not talking about just the length though. Every single one of those new drivers out there has a brand spanking new, redesigned shaft. There are options where you can get an older variety -- oddly enough considered an "upgrade" but for the most part each one has a new or different shaft.  Why is that? Because shaft technology is the only thing in golf equipment that's not limited.  WHAT? -- -Yes. --- NO!--- yes.   The length limit and shape of shaft is defined in the rule book, but there's really no way to limit kick, material, and energetic response of something like a shaft. Steel or graphite, if they're straight and under 48" playing length, they're legal. This is good news for us.

Over the past couple of years, shaft tech has absolutely EXPLODED. You can customize not only your flex, but your torque, kick point, materials, and balance point. Fujikura has an entire line of shafts that are all completely different flex profiles and amount of torque. There are shafts with multi-material blends where metal and graphite co-exist to make a crazy powerful combo.  Some have more resin or higher thread counts in certain areas to stiffen them up.  All of this combined allows more energy to get to the ball and provide you with more distance and accuracy. Piles of data is analyzed from what goes on at takeaway through just before impact and even afterward to create shafts that more or less hit it for you!  They know how you swing and are engineered to do one thing - deliver whatever you put on the end of them as hard and fast as it can into the back of that unsuspecting white orb on the tee in front of you.   Last week, I literally put a brand new 2016 shaft in a driver head that is 5 years old and it out performed every new driver that the client tested it against. Even if it came in a close second, that's still an immense improvement for not a lot of buck.

Now, a great shaft will not help a mis-engineered head. That's not what is going on here.  What's true is that there are caps made by the USGA on the heads of golf clubs. Believe me when I say that they are all within a few points of that legal limit. Unnoticeable by human perception kind of points. Even the little no-name component companies.  Look into a good engine for your club - it's going to be cheaper, and a better fit than picking up something new off the rack and trying to make it be your old faithful. Going back to another post from months past - you have to like what you're looking down at. If you like it, give it a tune-up.  Ol' Betsy still has some yards to be had, trust me......

If you wanna see what it can do - We're having a demo meet and greet at Leisure Lanes Driving range in Lancaster, PA this wednesday April 6th, 6-8:30pm (ish).  Come see what a shaft tweak can do for your driver, get your numbers on our flightscope, or just hit one of our component heads against your current neutron stick. It'll be fun!

What to do if you don't know what to do.... the Rules of Golf

I always recommend to those who want to play better to PLAY MORE COMPETITIVE GOLF. That's scrambles, singles, tournaments, even a $5.00 nassau with their friends. Put some pressure on your game.  With that pressure comes another understanding of the rules - not because you want to, but because you HAVE TO know how to play them properly. Knowledge builds character, pressure builds game.

Eventually you'll run into a situation where you don't know what to do. We're not talking OB stakes or my ball is in casual water - we're talking something so weird that you just don't have it in memory and you don't have time to look it up.  What to do in this case?  Well in this case, the Rules of Golf have you covered. Invoke rule 3-3  and play two balls.  Record both scores and sort it out with the committee at the end of the round.  This is a very good rule to know and can be the difference between a disqualification and a 2 stroke penalty.

Right or wrong - The Committee is
Judge and jury. May God have mercy
on your scorecard.....
One thing that you must remember on this, the committee's final ruling is the final ruling. Wether they're right or wrong, there's nothing you can do because what they say goes so remember to be factual and record all information regarding the rule discrepancy all the way down to what people say!  It's true - even in the case of someone hitting a provisional ball. It's not a provisional unless they say the word "provisional".  Look it up.  "I'm reloading" or "I'm going to hit another" does not constitute a provisional ball and will leave you hitting 4 from wherever it ends up (hopefully the fairway!).

From things you SHOULD say to things you SHOULDN'T say. Don't ever give advice on a swing, and when someone tells you they want to finish, don't say "take your time".  Both constitute a breach of rules and CAN be used against you in the Court of Golf (if your opponent chooses to call you on it).  We all expect the gentleman's response of "thanks" most times, but if you get a particularly competitive opponent you could end up two down really fast.

The rules of golf are there to protect the course and (believe it or not) to protect YOU from inequitable results.  The color of a set of stakes could be the difference between putting you in a great position to play and being stuck behind a tree or going back to the tee. Seems worth it to me! From where and how you can drop to what to do when someone takes your ball everything is in that tiny little rule book. They're not as convoluted as everyone would have you think either. Start at the beginning and read a few pages per day.  You'll go through it in no time and have a better understanding of what to do and when to do it - even save you a few strokes!

FYI you get a "free" copy for becoming a member of the USGA - in addition to getting a  neat hat!