How a visit to TaylorMade’s ‘The Kingdom’ led to my longest-ever drive | ClubTest 2024
Welcome to GOLF.com’s ClubTest Proving Ground, where Managing Equipment Editor Jonathan Wall and Senior Equipment Editor Ryan Barath — along with a cast of GOLF writers and editors — put the latest designs and groundbreaking technology in the equipment space to the test on the range and the course.
For 2024 ClubTest, we paired members of our staff with the latest gear from manufacturers to give you, the potential club buyer, “a real feel.”
TESTER: Nick Dimengo, GOLF senior editor | 17.2 HCP
GOAL: To improve my launch angle and spin rate, allowing for more ascension with my driver and additional roll after my ball hits the ground. I also wanted to work on compressing the ball with my irons and wedges, improving my overall ball-striking ability.
THE LOWDOWN: I’d like to think that every good golfer has experienced what I’m currently going through: Trusting the process.
Over the past nine months, I’ve felt my swing get better, have seen the ball go farther and straighter, and reviewed video of my dispersion moving from a heavy slice to a more natural draw — especially off the tee with my driver.
So what’s the problem?
TaylorMade Qi10 Max Custom Driver
I’m still posting inconsistent scores due to mistakes (and a poor short game), which actually raised my handicap index from a 13 at the start of last year to a current 17.2!
Despite the goal of trying to break 80 for the first time last year, my game went backward — despite improved fundamentals and better overall swing mechanics.
But I remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, that good things come to those with patience, and all those other cliche motivational phrases to help keep my psyche in check.
Sure, I’m a new dad who’s trying to figure out the right balance between being a supportive husband, spending time with my adorable 3-month-old daughter, and continuing to work on my golf game, but that’s no excuse for missing as many shots as I did over the past few rounds of 2023.
I’m one of those uber-competitive people who loves to push himself, trying to prove that I’m better today than I was yesterday. So publicly admitting that my scores dipped a few strokes over the past year sucks, but it’s a harder pill to swallow because I know I can do better.
Some people play golf as an escape and for the joy of it. That’s not me. And as GOLF’s Instruction Editor, I hold a lot of responsibility to perform better and shoot lower — which I know will come soon.
So while my club-fitting didn’t require wholesale changes, it did require slowing down and seeing more consistent ball-striking ability, which built my confidence to prove that I could squeeze out the higher-level ability that I know exists.
FITTING PROCESS: If you ever have the opportunity to visit TaylorMade’s “The Kingdom”, I highly recommend it. As soon as I rolled in, I was greeted by my Master Fitter, Perry Dickey, who led me to a locker next to a mockup of Tiger Woods’ — you know, that 15-time major winner, otherwise known as “The GOAT”.
I’ve been fit before, about four months prior, so I told Perry about that process and about my experience. Unfortunately, my swing had changed drastically since, meaning my gear needed an upgrade to match my current golfer status, not the player I previously was. This meant identifying a new type of shaft option on my driver,
I had been using an R shaft (regular flex), but had been told my swing type would be helped by an S shaft (stiff flex).
Perry agreed once he saw the difference in results after using each option.
With some words of encouragement from Perry, I was able to gain some serious confidence, smashing ball after ball over 235 yards each time — and more importantly, straight down the middle. It was the best I’ve probably ever felt while swinging a driver.
As Perry continued to have me testing different versions of TaylorMade’s new Qi10 driver, it happened: The longest drive I’ve ever hit, nearly clearing 260 yards with a perfect draw.
For me, it was TaylorMade’s Qi10 Max with a 11.25 degrees of loft that did the trick, with both Perry and I knowing within just three tries that this was the one for me.
Maybe the magic from Woods’ locker rubbed off on me, maybe it was the equipment, or maybe it was a little bit of both? Regardless, I left my fitting with a better understanding of my driver potential, ball-striking ability, and how to compress the golf ball.
My Fitted Gear
Driver: As mentioned above, Perry hooked me up with TaylorMade’s Qi10 Max — which performed like a luxury sports car with each swing. Seriously, if my current driver were a used BMW, which is a fine automobile, this was like a brand new Porsche; giving me the power and stability to blow away the competition.
You know that “swoosh” you’re supposed to hear when swinging your driver? I had loads of it, so the Qi10 Max helped generate tremendous clubhead speed and control each time.
Gone were the frustrating slices or tailed-off push shots, and in were absolute bombs off the tee, with me averaging a whopping 257.9 total yards with the three shots I hit. Considering I was struggling just getting to 225 yards consistently earlier in the year, this is a massive gain!
Fairway woods and hybrids: I don’t often use fairway woods or hybrids; mainly because I just didn’t have the confidence to hit them pure. But Perry saw some magic while I swung the Qi10 Max 3-wood (16-degree loft) and 5-wood (19-degree loft). I was able to stripe the 3-wood 233 yards back-to-back, and, other than one mishit, realized that these woods could be another weapon for me — especially if I’m getting that type of distance.
I have yet to play a round with my new TaylorMade clubs, but I’ll admit that I’m itching to “go for it” on the next long par-5 I play. Hello, birdies, it’s nice to meet you!
TaylorMade Qi10 Max Custom Fairway Wood
Irons: One of the things I failed to do with any iron I’ve used is compress the ball. So when Perry handed me TaylorMade’s P790 irons, I had tempered expectations about how much of a difference they’d make.
Not only was I hitting my shots pure — especially with the 3-iron, where I averaged 218.7 yards — but I was actually able to shape each shot a little bit, with Perry giving me some tips on ball-striking. This was a new development!
TaylorMade P790 Irons
It was so satisfying to see my shots explode off the clubface, with each one producing an explosive sound that I’ve never heard prior.
These irons felt like they were engineered just for me, so with the proper swing mechanics, will lead to more precision on my approach shots as I look to break 80 for the first-time ever this year.
Putter: I’ve really been playing with different putters over the past 6-7 months. From my old school Northwestern (seriously!) that I’ve had since I was in middle school, to a SeeMore, to a Bettinardi Queen B 6, I just couldn’t land on one that gave me confidence to limit my putt count each round. And while I need improvement in each facet of the game, putting has been the one thing that’s been ruining my rounds the most.
TaylorMade Spider Tour V Putter
So when Perry gave me TaylorMade’s Spider Tour V putter, I was anxious to see how it might help.
Each of the aforementioned putters I had previously used were toe-hanging options. But the Spider Tour V is a mallet putter — which I never really liked in my experience using them, so I was sort of surprised he even suggested it.
With optimal forward roll and better overall roll characteristics, I saw huge gains in my putting stroke. It felt much more natural, and the ball rolled end-over-end consistently. I may not yet be a sniper on the greens, but I’ve got hope that this new mallet putter can help get me there.
With these upgraded TaylorMade clubs, I not only gained more distance, but also better confidence knowing that I maximized my swing. My dispersion no longer looked like I was throwing darts at a board while blindfolded — with results stretching from way-far-right to way-far-left. Instead, I saw more of a natural draw, knowing that I can reach my potential every time I step on the course. That’s pretty cool.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2024? Find a fitting location near you at True Spec Golf.