Back in 1999, TaylorMade introduced its first rescue club. And while it wasn’t the first hybrid on the market, it was the first to blow up and achieve any degree of popularity. The impact was such that Rescue became more than just a brand, for many golfers it became the category name. Think about that for a second; drivers never got called Big Bertha’s, but plenty of golfers referred to their hybrids as Rescues. That’s how significant TaylorMade is to the category. That was then. We’d wager that TaylorMade’s marketing department will not capture lightning in a bottle a second time with the release of its new GAPR line.
GAPR: A series of clubs that gap the distances between your irons and your woods. You know…like hybrids (or rescues) but with a greater variety of options. The GAPR name may not quite be on the level of RocketBallz, and Jetspeed – the former a smashing success, the latter an unmitigated disaster, but was so wrong with Rescue?
Marketing aside, hybrid clubs are an essential part of a modern set of golf clubs.
With the modern golf ball there aren’t many golfers who should be using a traditional long iron. And with their long shafts and insanely high ball flights, clubs like 7 and 9-woods are largely reserved for slower swingers. Hybrids and driving irons were made to fill the gap(r), but neither is without its issues.
Driving irons are not easy clubs to hit unless you have a ton of clubhead speed and some ball striking chops. The footprint of hybrids has expanded and many, from a size perspective, encroach on the fairway wood space. Frankly, we’re a long way removed from the nimble and versatile clubs hybrids were meant to be. And we still haven’t talked about how better players often struggle to keep from hooking them. As a group, the category is far from perfect.
GAPR is intended to bridge the gap between your longest playable iron and your shortest metalwood – an idea, by the way, that’s been a documented and integral part of the Titleist fitting philosophy for years. This isn’t new thinking by any measure, though TaylorMade may argue that, with three models, it offers greater fitting flexibility.
So why then should you be interested in the GAPR? TaylorMade will tell you it’s because of SpeedFoam; one of the ingredients in its ongoing legal battle with PXG. TaylorMade uses SpeedFoam to help generate ball speed and dampen vibrations. You get a solid feel but with hot ball speeds. Those that have hit the P790 know they deliver on this promise.
The GAPR line features three distinct models, and each offers some measure of SpeedFoam. Each is constructed with 450 stainless steel bodies and C300 steel faces. All three models feature Speed Slots and Loft Sleeve adjustable hosels, and all come stock with KBS Graphite hybrid shafts and Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 grips.
It’s also true that each features aquamarine accents, which while not matching perfectly, fit somewhere between Callaway’s choice for the Epic and Rogue lines. Even the font shares similarities. It’s a sudden departure for the BMW-inspired choice of the latest M-Series. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t happen by accident. Is TaylorMade trading on Callaway’s success or actively trolling its top competitor? Take your pick, but either way, it’s another example of once might TaylorMade following trends instead of setting them.
In the lead up to the Open Championship, the GAPR LO has made it into a few TaylorMade tour bags. The GAPR Low is a low offset driving iron, a touch larger than the P790 UDI, and closer in size to the TP UDI. Its audience is the better player. Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson have both been seen testing these in practice at Carnoustie. While some of what’s appeared on tour is of the glued hosel variety, the retail GAPR LO offers an adjustable hosel, something we’ve only seen previously on Cobra driving irons. The GAPR LO comes in lofts of 17°, 19°, and 22° degree options.
The GAPR MID is a larger iron style hybrid. Think along the lines of a Ping Crossover. A wider sole, an ultra-low center of gravity, and a small little alignment aid are hallmarks of the design. Oh and remember SpeedFoam. Lots of SpeedFoam. It comes in 18°, 21°, and 24° degree options.
Rounding out the lineup is the GAPR HI. Featuring what TaylorMade calls ‘modern Rescue’ shaping. An ultra-low, but back center of gravity should help generate high flying, low spinning shots. It’s your requisite maximum distance kind of story. To keep the CG low, the TM team had to use a modified SpeedFoam as the original goo raised the CG and left the club feeling dead at impact. The unusual stepped crown design helps push the CG even lower. The design is reminiscent of the Yonex Tri-Principle and Element 23 hybrids from years gone by. The GAPR HI comes in lofts 19°, 22°, 25°, and 28° degree options.
Adams Golf DNA?
The encouraging thing about the GAPR range is how much the shaping of the MID and HI suggest they could have been designed by the now-defunct Adams Golf. Specialising in hybrid clubs, Adams was one of the first to produce true hybrid sets, and the GAPR Mid takes a lot of the club shaping from the mid irons in the Tech OS V3 irons from 2013. We’re not saying they haven’t been updated, but it’s clear to see a shared DNA from the brand TaylorMade swallowed up 2012.
It’s fair to question the necessity of the GAPR line. It was only at the beginning of the year that TaylorMade released M3 and M4 Rescues. The P790 UDI is relatively new to the market as well. In a rush to add sales for their new investors, has TaylorMade attempted to create a category because a need exists, or is the need simply related to boosting revenue? We’re skeptical, as it has the makings of a mid-season cash grab from a company struggling to find any significantly innovative ideas to bring to market.
For more information, visit TaylorMadeGolf.com.