We’ve already said we think 2019 will be the best year for drivers ever. There’s a convergence, like a golfing solar eclipse, where for the first time in years Callaway, Ping, and TaylorMade are all launching their flagship drivers at roughly the same time. That’s in addition to new offerings from Titleist, Wilson, Srixon, Tour Edge, PXG, and seemingly countless others.
Callaway and Ping had fantastic 2018’s at retail. TaylorMade had a good year too, despite experiencing some growing pains following their sale by adidas. Are M5 and M6 the drivers that help TaylorMade get back on top? TaylorMade believes so. The company has identified a problem and offered up a unique solution.
Problem: Driver faces aren’t hot enough
2019 may well be remembered by equipment geeks as The Great War for Ball Speed. It’s been said that we’ve been at the limits of COR, CT, ball speed, firepower, or however else you’d like to describe it for a long time. You may have been lied to by the OEMs. At the very least, you haven’t been told the whole truth.
Cobra touched on it last year with its CNC milled driver faces. Driver faces aren’t actually at the limit of performance – not all of them anyway. Despite nearly everyone claiming otherwise, manufacturing tolerances mean they can’t be. If companies produced drivers that aimed to deliver absolute max CT limit, they’d inevitably produce a certain percentage that exceeds the USGA threshold. So, if they set the target CT safely below the USGA limit, any faces over the target CT would likely still be under the USGA limit.
Those manufacturing realities are fine as far the rules are concerned, but it also means that the driver you buy is probably well short of the limit. Outside of getting your driver face shaved (not exactly a conforming solution), there’s not much a consumer can do about it.
Tolerances for loft are something golfers have long been aware of. We all know by now that if we buy a driver, the likelihood is that the actual loft isn’t what is stamped on the head. Manufacturing tolerances, while improving, still mean individual parts can miss the target lofts by upwards of a degree. You can order a digitally lofted driver from PING to ensure you get the loft you want or a hand-picked head from Tom Wishon. What you can’t order is a head that’s been tested to ensure its at the CT limit. You get what you get.
Tour Issue heads have long been touted as being hotter than off the rack heads, and the market for them is lucrative for the select few who deal in the bits and pieces that somehow find their way off the tour vans. With the new M5 and M6 TaylorMade looks to put an end to all of that while promising that golfers who buy its new drivers will end up with a head hotter than what PGA Tour pros had in the bag last year.
The Solution: Speed Injected Twist Face
From the company that brought you Speed Pockets, Inverted Cone Technology, and Twist Face; TaylorMade is excited to bring you Speed Injected Twist Face. Previously referred to here as #ScrewFace, where do we start with this one…
First, Speed Injected is a bit of a misnomer. Slow injected is the more accurate description. TaylorMade’s latest driver face is by design, built to be over the legal CT limit. Actually, what TaylorMade is claiming is that its drivers ship over the COR (Coefficient of Restitution) limit, which is an odd distinction given that CT (characteristic time) is the actual USGA standard. That seemingly critical detail aside…Rather than getting all Fast and Furious, and trying to tune the driver to the limit, the new M5 & M6 drivers start too fast and are then throttled back from the limit.
So how do they do that?
The first step is to individually test every single driver face to see how far over the limit it is. Adams (remember them, the innovative company from Texas that TaylorMade swallowed up?) did something similar with the XTD driver, so this isn’t the first time that a production line has tested every single head or that a company has claimed every head will be verified to be at the limit.
It’s also important to note that every OEM that we know of CT tests its heads several times during the manufacturing process. Everybody has a range, and by Speed Injecting each head, TaylorMade is basically seeking to narrow its range, presumably by a significant amount.
In TaylorMade’s version of this story, behind the driver face are two pockets or reservoirs. TaylorMade fills the pockets as needed with resin to bring the face back down to the legal limit. We’re not talking about Speedfoam. Let’s call it Anti-Speed Resin.
The pockets are accessed via the screws in the face. A proprietary algorithm specifies the exact amount of resin that needs to be placed in the heel and toe to bring each driver down to the limit. The resin is syringed in before the screws are set in the driver face. There’s plenty of chatter about the screws being an eyesore, but actually, at address, they’re nearly invisible. Not quite flush with the face, they sit just a fraction beneath it.
Additonally, the new M5 and M6 feature a redesigned Inverted Cone Technology (TaylorMade’s proprietary ball speed maintaining face technology), and both feature Hammerhead 2.0, which makes for a more flexible slot. As you’d expect, Twist Face, TaylorMade’s twisted bulge and roll that purports to help golfers hit the ball a fraction straighter, carries on to the new models as well.
M5 and M5 Tour – $549.99
M5, like M3 and M1 before it, is your hyper-adjustable model. Available in two heads, a 460CC standard driver, and a 435CC M5 Tour, TaylorMade has kept the silver and composite crown design of the M3/4, and updated it with a very cool matte finished carbon. They look fantastic behind the ball. The silver titanium ledge is smaller as well, so much so that the alignment aid now sits in the carbon section. The head shapes are similar to the modern pear shape TaylorMade has used since the standard RBZ. Both heads appear to sit squarer than last year’s models, which looked open to many.
The sole features two-tone carbon fiber inserts, which much like the P760 irons, not all golfers loved in pre-release photos. In the flesh, it looks great (to us anyway). The total package looks more modern than what you’ll see from TaylorMade’s biggest competitor, and while visuals aren’t performance, often they serve as a tie-breaker.
The modern TaylorMade adjustable weight system has evolved from T-Track to Y-Track to now an inverted T-Track. TaylorMade engineers claim that this is the movable weight system they always envisioned. It was only manufacturing constraints that prevented them from doing it sooner.
We’ll see how absolutely optimized it is when next year’s model rolls out.
Bottom line, we’re not sure we believe that part of the story, but we’re willing to go with it. The system itself features two 10-gram weights that can be moved around with enough flexibility to achieved 1,700 distinct positions. Be sure to ask your fitter to try them all.
Because the curvature of the head is a bit flatter, TaylorMade says the center of gravity is as low as possible, regardless of the weight setting (isn’t that always the case). The company claims you can achieve a 1° change in launch from front to back, as well as up to 600 RPM worth of spin change. Placing weights at the extreme left or right can provide 25-yards of left to right ball flight adjustment. The 2° loft sleeve allows for further tuning.
All told, the sum of the new design features make for a sweet spot that TaylorMade says is 66% larger than the M3, and over 100% larger than the original M1.
Feel is solid, muted with a touch of crack at impact, and similar across the whole line including the M5 Tour and M6 driver. It’s not as muted as a PXG driver, and the resin behind the face may be contributing to an overall solid feel.
Available in 9°, 10.5°, and 12, the stock shafts are Mitsubishi CK Tensei Orange 60 (not Pro) and Project X HZRDUS Smoke 70. As it has in recent years, TaylorMade is offering a number of additional no upcharge options. The Golf Pride MCC Decade is the standard grip.
M5 Tour Driver
For many, the M5 Tour is the driver you’ll want to play, regardless of whether or not it’s actually right for you. The compact 435cc head features a deep face and squat body. Modern styling aside, traditionalists will love how it looks at address.
As you’d expect, it’s lower launching and lower spining, but offers lower MOI. The smaller footprint makes it more aerodynamic. Adjustability remains the same, and it comes in 9° and 10.5° options. Stock and no upcharge options are the same as the standard model.
There will be some of you it fits, but realistically this is not a driver for the masses.
M6 Driver – $499.99
At address, the M6 appears almost identical to the M5. Underneath, it’s a different story. The M6 has 54% more carbon than the M4, with a large part of its sole made from the lightweight material. TaylorMade took all of those weight savings and used them to place mass low and back in what they call an Inertia Generator. Not at all unlike the Cobra F9 Speedback, similar, though less aggressive, features have been used in the PING G400 woods, and arguably first in JDM brand Ryoma’s drivers. The design gives the driver a much lower center of gravity compared to previous TaylorMade drivers. That was practically a necessity given that M4 was among the highest CG drivers on the market last year.
We found the M6 launches higher than M5, which is what it’s designed to do. It certainly appears TaylorMade has made a greater effort to differentiate M5 and M6 on performance (not just features) than with previous models.
Lofts again are 9°, 10.5°, and 12°. The standard shafts for the M6 are the Fujikura ATMOS Orange 5 (co-engineered, not available in the aftermarket), and the lower launching ATMOS Black 6. The standard grip is the Lamkin Dual Feel.
M6 D Type Driver – $499.99
Also, in the lineup is the M6 D Type, which should prove to be a good option for slicers in much the same manner as PING’s G400 SFT. It looks perfectly fine at address with most of the business taking place under the hood.
Many golfers think offset drivers look hideous, and no one wants to use a driver that looks like a training aid. By adjusting the paint line, TaylorMade was able to make the D Type look more open than it is, while its heel-biased weighting makes it easier to close the face at impact.
TaylorMade claims 20 yards of draw compared to the M6 driver.
The stock shaft is a Project X EvenFlow Max Carry 45.
It was a foregone conclusion that TaylorMade was going to include Twist Face in their fairway woods this year. Remember, it took Callaway a year to trickle Jailbreak down to their fairways. TaylorMade says the first iteration of Twist Face couldn’t be used in a fairway wood, but with more R&D time, the company made it work for 2019.
The playbook is about as predictable as Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay Offense (which is, in part, why he got fired). The Philly Special this isn’t.
That said TaylorMade has modified Twist Face on the fairways. It’s Twist-IER than it is in the driver– and while that also makes for a good story, any golf club engineer will tell you that it’s a necessity for any implementation of bulge and roll on a fairway wood.
M5 Titanium Fairway – $399.99
The M3 fairway was a funny club. While performance was OK, it looked small, arguably too small, compared to most modern fairways. And while it got play on tour, generally speaking, recently TaylorMade’s adjustable fairways have played second fiddle to fixed hosel models from its competitors. So again, as with the drivers, TaylorMade has tried to provide greater differentiation between the M5 and M6 fairways. As noted, both feature Twist Face for the first time in fairway, but neither feature a Speed Injected Face. You’ll likely need to wait for the sequel for that one. The enhanced Twist Face/ bulge and roll is visible in both models.
Featuring titanium and carbon fiber construction, this is the first titanium fairway from TaylorMade since 2011’s R11. And while previous titanium fairways have been built around forgiveness, this one has been built with firepower and adjustability in mind.
It’s easier to make a hotter face from titanium, and more importantly, the material is lighter. That, combined with the lightweight carbon crown, gave designers significantly more discretionary weight to play with than in previous steel fairway woods. We’re talking about 65-grams allocated to a single movable stainless steel weight
It’s fair to say it’s the biggest movable weight we’ve ever seen in a golf club. Slap bang in the middle of the clubhead, the weight moves along a smaller than expected track, but with that much weight to slide, you should still see an appreciable change in ball flight.
The weight – over 30% of the total clubhead mass – is low and forward, which should make for a high launching, low spinning head. That’s on paper of course. Testing will reveal more. With admittedly brief experience with the club, I came away impressed. The weight is curved and essentially forms the bulk of the sole and makes the clubhead easy to use off the deck.
The new model launches high enough that TaylorMade didn’t feel the need to produce a 3 HL this time around. It’s a risky play as there are plenty of golfers who don’t use the 3HL exclusively for its higher launch. There are distance gapping considerations in play here. It’s all well and good making your 3-wood easier to get airborne, but not everyone wants to hit the ball further. Dustin Johnson is a good example of a player who preferred the 3HL.
There was some talk prelaunch of a Rocket Fairway. While that sounds super exciting, the manifestation of the Rocket is a stronger lofted option. At 14°, the Rocket is half a degree weaker than most strong 3W offerings, though with target lofts and tolerances coming into play, it’s probably a wash.
I have mixed feelings about this one. $399 is an excessive amount of money for a 3-wood, but it’s also nice to see a manufacturer offer something new (or new again), rather than rehashing what came immediately before it.
The M5 Fairway is available in Rocket 3 (14°) – RH only, 3 (15°) and 5 (18°). The stock shaft is the Mitsubishi Tensei CK Orange 75 (X) and 65 (S, R). Numerous additional shaft options are available at no additional cost. The stock grip is the MCC Decade grip from Golf Pride.
M6 Fairway – $299
There’s very little to say about the M6 fairway. And while that sounds a bit harsh, it feels like a club that exists to exist. Where the M5 fairway offers something different, the M6 brings more of the same. Now granted, the M2 and M4 fairways were popular offerings, and that will likely prove true again this year, but it feels like TaylorMade may have missed the boat with this one.
Yes, M6 has Twist Face. There also a redesigned Speed Pocket with a new insert that sits flush with the ground for better turf interaction. What it lacks is a significant reason to upgrade. It’s very much the same as what came before – though, in fairness, you can say the same about the bulk of new gear that hits the market annually.
For our money, with the significant changes to the M5, including the jump in price, M6 should offer an adjustable hosel. The lack of a 3HL, particularly in this model, again feels like a significant omission, though it’s at least partially offset by the Rocket option and the inclusion of 7 and 9-woods in the lineup.
An M6 D Type fairway has been added to the lineup this year as well. This makes infinite sense given the number of slicers out there in the wild.
The M6 Fairway is available in Rocket 3 (14°), 3 (15°), 5 (18°), 7 (21°) and 9 (24°). The stock shaft is Fujikura’s Atmos Orange in S, R, and A-flexes.
The M6 D-Type comes in 3 (16°) (which I suppose is HL), 5 (19°), and 7 (22°). The stock shaft is the Project X EvenFlow Max Carry 50 shaft in 6.0 (S), 5.5 (R) and 5.0 (A). The stock grip is the Lamkin Dual Feel.
No M5 Hybrids
For the first time, there is no matching M5 hybrid. TaylorMade believes that the M5 hybrid player will be satisfied by the GAPR offerings. The decision is somewhat surprising, though we respect that the company is limiting SKUs. Perhaps they’re waiting to see how successful a Titanium fairway wood is before launching a titanium Rescue?
M6 Rescue – $249.99
Twist Face Rescue. Or, as TaylorMade describes it, Versatility, with a Twist.
I could leave it there, and that would all but sum up this hybrid. I will, however, continue. Claimed to be TaylorMade’s longest, fastest faced hybrid ever, the M6 is a wide-headed hybrid, with a low center of gravity, designed to hit the ball high and land soft.
Like the fairway, Twist Face is actually more pronounced in the rescue (again, this is a design necessity), so the crown design has been tweaked to make the Twist Face appear less in your face.
Available in 3 (19°), 4 (22°), 5 (25°), 6 (28°), and 7 (31°), the stock shaft is the Fujikura ATMOS Orange HY in 7 (S), 6 (R) or 5 (A).
The biggest issues with the M6 Fairways and Rescues is that, from the sole, they look cheap. Where the driver features an abundance of carbon fiber, the rest of the line features little more than a silver paint job, and not a particularly good one at that. If they perform on a launch monitor, the paint will matter less. As far as shelf appeal goes, however, it doesn’t measure up to what TaylorMade’s competitors are offering up with their new for 2019 premium offerings.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag for TaylorMade metalwoods in 2019. Speed Injected Twist Face will play to the strengths of TaylorMade’s marketing department. Until we test the heads, however, we won’t know how good, or at least how real the story actually is.
There’s certainly plenty about the story – and the Speed Injection portion in particular – that doesn’t pass the initial sniff test. It’s not unusual for golfers and competitors alike to poo-poo the newest technology, but there are legitimate red flags with what TaylorMade is claiming.
Screws in the face raise structural integrity questions. You’re not supposed to hit the M5 and M6 on the screws, but it’s going to happen. Will they hold up or will faces split like they did with slot-faced irons? There are similar concerns with the new crown design as well.
And about that CT stuff; have you ever stopped to consider what the real-world value of max CT is? At 100 MPH, 10 CT points are worth approximately ½ MPH of ball speed. We’re talking about roughly one more yard, and that’s only if you’re 10 CT points higher than the other guys – which isn’t likely to be the case here.
This is your basic consistency story spun as the breakthrough it almost certainly isn’t (especially in light of recent changes by the USGA that now place the same constraints on off-center CT as it does on center CT).
Multiple sources have told MyGolfSpy that TaylorMade’s CTs over the last several years have been both lower and less consistent than many of its competitors. Said one insider bluntly, “they could probably pick up some ball speed just by giving a shit.”
As we touched on earlier, while the CT is the USGA standard, TaylorMade is using COR not CT in its language. That’s puzzling considering that one of the few things R&D departments seem to agree on (even if most only whisper about it) is that the only way to really boost ball speeds is to push COR beyond the previous limit while keeping CT under the limit. Claiming a COR of at or near .830 when others are hinting they’ve pushed beyond it, is an odd stance.
Fundamentally, shipping faces over the limit only to bring them down does nothing to change the relationship between CT (the new USGA standard) and COR (the old standard) and create new speed. If there’s something else going on under the hood that makes that happen – and there very well could be – TaylorMade isn’t saying.
That said, we anticipate M5 and M6 will be strong performers. TaylorMade drivers almost invariably are, and the visible aspects of the technology are nothing short of brilliant. The new drivers will definitely stand out on the shelves, perhaps more so than Jailbreak did for Callaway.
It’s also no small thing that the drivers look and feel great behind the ball, and at impact, and for whatever it’s worth, I much prefer TaylorMade’s blood orange to Callaway’s green and yellow.
The M5 Fairway offers something new that will likely prove unique in the marketplace. The M6 driver is evidence that manufacturers are starting to converge on similar designs with the weight slung low and back. It’s slightly worrying from the standpoint of innovation, though the performance implications are encouraging. The M6 Fairways and Rescue offer nothing new beyond Twist Face, and don’t look the part of premium clubs.
While Speed Injection will garner plenty of attention, TaylorMade’s gambit here is odd, to say the least. The distinction between designed to the limit and manufactured to the limit notwithstanding, there’s an inherent contradiction with everything TaylorMade has claimed previously and what it’s saying now. In telling us that its COR is just now really reaching the limit, the company has effectively outed itself as playing fast and loose with the truth. Are we supposed to forget that TaylorMade has claimed faces at the limit for as long as there’s been a limit? COR or CT, it has previously claimed to maxed them both – then again, so has everybody else.
If these drivers are as hot as TaylorMade is claiming, and the spin numbers are decent, and they’re forgiving enough, the inconsistencies between then and now likely won’t matter. TaylorMade will almost certainly sell significant quantities in 2019.
The ever-persistent question remains, however; Brilliantly crafted marketing hype or actual innovation? It’s going to be loads of fun to see how this plays out.
Pricing and Availability
M5 and M5 Tour Drivers retail for $549.99. M6 and M6 D Type Drivers retail for $499.99. M5 Fairway Woods are $399.99. M6 Fairway woods retail for $299.99. Hybrids are $249.99.
M5 and M6 Metalwoods are available for pre-order beginning 1/14/19. Full availability begins 2/15/19.
For more information, visit TaylorMadeGolf.com.