By James Achenbach
When John Daly switched to a TaylorMade r7 460 driver, he wanted to be absolutely certain he would never hit a big hook. The engineers at TaylorMade-Adidas Golf knew just what to do.
The 460 has two weight ports, one near the toe and the other near the heel. TaylorMade loaded the toe port with 14 grams, then stuck just 2 grams in the heel.
Furthermore, the face of Daly’s driver was bent open a couple of degrees on a loft and lie machine. Most golfers don’t know it, but a thin-faced titanium driver can be bent slightly. There is, however, a great risk of fracturing the clubhead.
By placing more weight in the toe than the heel, Daly was adding to the fade bias of his driver. Average hitters would hit the ball far to the right with this club. The powerful Daly, though, hits it straight.
The idea was to allow him to swing as hard as possible without turning the ball to the left. This is an example of how movable weight technology allows the customization of golf clubs.
Most ordinary golfers want to promote a draw bias, not a fade bias.
So they use a strategy opposite of Daly’s – more weight in the heel, less in the toe.
Sitting in a conference room surrounded by about 1,000 documents and papers, Benoit Vincent, TaylorMade’s chief technical officer, outlined the story behind movable weights in the company’s golf clubs. Crude movable weight clubs have been around for a long time, but nobody before TaylorMade made the commitment or earmarked the money to support a full-fledged project.
Adams Golf followed TaylorMade into the movable weight arena, and these two companies remain the primary contenders.
“The problem was that different golfers needed different heads,” Vincent said. “The 300 (series of drivers) was the spirit of that.”
With its 300, 320 and 360 drivers of the late 1990s, TaylorMade began to dominate driver usage among PGA Tour professionals.
“We faced an engineering challenge,” Vincent said. “All the people in this building knew we needed something new, and we finally achieved it.”
What TaylorMade was able to do was manufacture one head that could be modified for all golfers. This was accomplished by removing enough weight from the clubhead to make room for the movable weights. The r7 Quad driver, with four weight ports, was the initial creation.
TaylorMade quickly discovered that Tour players were moving the weights all over the place. Some wanted to influence the direction of the ball, while others focused on the trajectory.
Driver heads weigh about 200 grams.
A movable-weight driver allows a golfer to reconfigure as much as 28 grams of weight, almost 15 percent of the total clubhead weight.
TaylorMade’s r7 425 and r7 425 TP (Tour Preferred) feature four weight ports. Both are sold with two 12-gram and two 2-gram weights. The 425 TP comes with eight additional weights from 4 grams to 14 grams. TaylorMade’s r7 460 has two weight ports with two weights supplied (2 grams and 14 grams).
The Adams RPM 430Q also has four weight ports and comes with two 12-gram and two 2-gram weights. The RPM 460D has two weight ports and four weights (one 2 gram, two 7 gram and a 12 gram).
Supplementary kits, offering many different weights, are available from TaylorMade and Adams.
The weight kits allow for different configurations and replacement weights for the drivers.
How successful has this concept been?
Today, TaylorMade offers movable weights in drivers (six different models), fairway woods (three models) and hybrids (two models). Movable weights also are available in some putters.
There are other advantages of movable weights, as pointed out by Tim Reed, vice president of research and development for Adams Golf.
One is optimization of a club’s performance.
“Changing the weight can affect shaft choices and shaft length,” Reed said.
Another is finding the best swingweight.
“This relates to head feel,” Reed said. “Changing the weight just a little can have a huge effect on how it feels to the golfer.”
Max Puglielli, the Champions Tour rep for Adams, explained that some senior players have different preferences. “We put a baby draw bias in Tom Watson’s club, but Dana Quigley has an extreme draw bias.
A guy like R.W. Eaks doesn’t want to go left, so he uses a fade bias. Des Smyth likes it neutral.”
Movable weights allow all golfers – pros and amateurs alike – to experiment and find what is best for them. Tom Olsavsky, director product creation for TaylorMade, pointed out that players such as Daly and Retief Goosen favor lighter swingweights around D1 or D2, but that other players such as Kenny Perry and Darren Clarke go up to D7 or D8.
Irons, intended more for accuracy than distance, are not prime candidates for movable weights, although The Golfworks, a component seller, is offering dual weight ports in its KE4 iron. One advantage is that iron heads with no weights in the ports are lighter, making them ideal for golfers who want extra-length irons.
However, no major equipment manufacturer has announced any intention to sell irons with movable weights. One important reason for this is that ball flight with irons is easily adjusted by bending the irons in a loft and lie machine.