We have been testing and playing the 320 Ti with the standard ‘R-80’ Taylor Made Lite shaft and the 360 Ti in both ‘S-90’ and ‘R-80’ Bubble Ultralite shafts. We have had a brief exposure to the 8.5 degree 300 Ti with a Grafalloy ProLite Stiff. It is safe to say that the Taylor Made’s are the current kings when it comes to drivers. From pros to high-handicappers, just about all of us have loved them. (See 2/20/01 Update below)
Be forewarned: the various loft and shaft options of this series means that 36 different graphite models of the 300 Series are available – not including different flex options. As a general rule of thumb: If in doubt, stick with the standard shafts. They are good shafts made by Fujikura and Aldila. They will suit a large percentage of golfers. (See note at end of article) If you are a slammer who needs more control and a lower trajectory, try the EI-70. If you prefer a premium, sparkly feel with a medium trajectory, try the ProLite. From touring professional to high handicapper, the ProLite is, by all feedback we have read or received, the most universally liked graphite shaft on the market today.
To begin with, all of the 300′s are all very attractive clubs – serious and sophisticated looking. Golfers want to like these handsome clubs. They look good and feel good in the hands. At address, the traditional design qualities offset the large size of the heads. They look just plain nice and inspire ample confidence.
We began hitting with the 320 Ti and were immediately impressed with its ease of use and forgiveness. The 320 seems to swing itself. Its action is lively and fluid. The feel at impact is vibrant. It may lack the sparkle of a Ping TiSI and the smooth solidity of older Callaway’s, but it has a vibrant feel that appealed to all that have hit it. The sound is very “titanium”. It is a crackling sound that is a bit on the thin side, but again, has appealed to all.
Trajectories on the 320 were just as described by Taylor Made – moderately high. The distances were very good. Long distances with a driver require ample height (contrary to popular misconceptions), but most of us soon wished that we were hitting the 9.5 or 8.5 degree versions. There have been general complaints about the occasional excessively high drive with the 320 and we found that to be the case as well. A lower, more boring, drive is more aesthetically pleasing somehow even if not always longer. A switch to the 9.5 degree 360 Ti produced a drive trajectory that was more to our general liking. The 360 has a deeper face and a higher COG (center of gravity) than does the 320. This creates a lower flight path.
Most of us loved the initial feel and results of the 320, but found that enthusiastic hitting at the range could lead to some wildness. We wished for a stiffer, lower-lofted version. Good hits were excellent, but mishits were high and left.
Range results with the 360 mated to the stiffer S-90 Bubble shaft were exceptionally fine – some of the best we’ve ever seen. The balls launched hot and flew on a powerful trajectory of moderately low height. The “leftwards inclining” design of the head created ideal power fades for those who normally worked the ball left to right. We were nailing the far target green with boring regularity and were anxious to get the 360 to the course. We did not like the feel or performance of the regular flex R-80 with the 360 nearly as much, however. The shaft felt too soft and excess head movement reduced consistency noticeably. We would recommend that only those with swing speeds in the lower range of regular (close to senior) try this option. (Below: Taylor Made 360 Ti face)
A funny thing happened on the course during rounds with the Taylor Made’s. Range hitting and on-course hitting are different for two reasons: One, the pressure on a golfer is much less at the range unless competitive situations are established. On-course, the score counts for the first drive only. That pressure changes most swings to one degree or another. Secondly, hitting many repeated drives at the range from the same spot at the same time allows a golfer to fine tune his aim and alignment to maximum benefit.
On the course, it was the 320 that first came through with flying colors – dead accurate drives down the middle. The 360 with an S-90 responded to the pressure of slightly tense swings less well. Long pulls just off the fairway were common for some. The upright, 60-degree lie and “leftwards inclinations” incorporated into the 360′s weight structure showed themselves on first hits from new tee locations. What would have appeared to be fine drives at a range were off the mark on moderately tight fairways. Overly careful compensation for the pulls lead to a number of pushed fades. Those that hit the fairway were long with good roll, however, and many will find the leftward tendencies of the 360 to be beneficial to their game. For others, a permanent stance realignment will be necessary.
On the other hand, the 320 proved to be a natural. It was simple business as long as the hitter did not overswing. Just an easy swing aimed down the middle seemed to provide unerringly excellent results. Some shots were a bit higher than desired, but not terribly so. Our confidence with the 320 soon became great. It is an enjoyable and relaxing club to hit – downright fun to hit on many occasions. Damp, chilly weather kept distances marginal in most instances, but indications were that the 320 was much better than average in the length category. The flight pattern provided for ample carry, but roll was minimal. The 320 will find a home in at least one bag.
One young club pro used the 320 on-course to record a 401 yard long drive – far and away his best ever. Distance was consistently longer for him with the 320 than that which he has experienced with his Ping TiSI and other drivers, but due to the R-80 shaft, his control was too inconsistent. Feel was on a par or better than with his Ping. He loved the Taylor Made and is contemplating a permanent switch to a stiffer 320 Ti.
Our sessions with the 300 Ti have not been extensive enough to allow for truly valid opinions on our behalf, but nothing we experienced contradicted the general feedback we have seen and heard. The 300 should appeal more to low handicappers (many pros hit the larger heads as well, though). The trajectory is lower and penetrates better. The ball leaves noticeably lower and hotter. The feel at impact is a touch less mellow than with the others. The shaft, at 45″, is shorter and distances for most will be somewhat less than with the 320. The distances compared to the 360 will be ten to twenty yards shorter for many.
The designed weight structure on the 300 is geared towards left/right neutrality in trajectory bias. This, the slightly less upright lie and the shorter shaft length allow for better ability to work the ball. The 300 will be less likely to turn a draw into a pull or a hook. Though 300 cc’s is still “jumbo”, this head appears traditional and moderately sized at address, especially when compared to the other two. Many will prefer the EI-70 and ProLite shafts on this head.
Another aspect of the 300 not liked by our testers was the lack of top alignment channels in the crown. That feature got high marks on the other and was missed on the 300.
The sole design of the 300 Series drivers allows for hitting off of the turf, but best results will require a fluffy lie to raise the ball. The large head size somewhat negates the sole design. Expect a degree of versatility from the 300′s, but don’t expect a low-profile Orlimar. These are big heads and the COG will be well above the ball on tight lies. Additionally, 46″ shafts off of the turf can be risky business for even the lowest of handicappers. Those partial to using a Big Dog from the fairway on long par 5′s will be happiest with the smaller, shorter 300 Ti.
Since the initial review, we have had two more testers decide to make the TM’s their regular drivers. Both fell very hard for the 360.
One tester, a mid-handicapper who normally hits for average yardage, found that the 320 worked well, but that the 360 was the on-course gem for him. His normal tendency is to tense up on his drives and block out slightly to the right. With the 360, drives were corrected to the center. Easily the most consistently long drives of his career resulted. The Callaway Great Big Bertha 10 degree, R-flex had been his driver for two years. He would not play golf without it. He unceremoniously dumped it after one round with the 360. Ample roll occurred and his best drives were in the 265 to 275 range. Additionally, he felt that the feel and ease of use were immensely superior to any of the forty plus drivers he had tested previously for us.
The second tester was a tour veteran who had been playing an 8 degree Callaway VFT. An extended session with the 360 yielded the following conclusions on his behalf: the Taylor Made was better looking, more consistent, sweeter feeling, easier to use and decidedly longer than the VFT – or, any other driver he had ever hit. He said, “The mishits with the Taylor Made feel as good and go as far as the sweet spot hits with the VFT.” The length and accuracy he demonstrated with the 360 were exceedingly impressive. With the VFT and other drivers being reviewed, his good hits rolled under the trees at the far end of the range. With the 360, the good hits smacked hard into the trunks of the 20′ tall trees – halfway up or higher. At one point, he hit the same tree trunk three times in a row.
While he also hit the 320 well, he was completely enraptured with the 360. His desired trajectory is a subtle power fade of moderately elevated height. His most common mistake is a slightly pushed fade. The pushes result from a tendency he has to open the face a bit too much while hitting from a closed stance. The 360′s design attributes pulled his drives slightly left with a perfect, subdued fade into the center. Only severe over-swinging caused him to pull left out of the fairway target zone- and that was rare with the easy-swinging 360. A large man with a smooth, powerful swing, he was pleased to know that the 360 was the driver of choice of Ernie Els, a player from whom he had taken some swing inspiration in the past.
Six head variations are available to southpawers. Mixed with custom shaft options, this gives a selection of 20 different combinations. The 300 Ti is available in 8.5 and 9.5 degree heads. The 320 Ti and the 360 Ti both come in 9.5 and 10.5 degree heads.
Taylor Made does not use one stock shaft on the 320′s. Fujikura is a Japan-based manufacturer, but those marked ‘Made in USA’ on the shaft label will from Fujikura’s California plant. Those marked ‘Made in Mexico’ will be from Aldila, an American company with Mexican production facilities. These two shafts are within a gram or two of each other and have similar playing characteristics. There will be subtle differences, however. Our test 320 had a Fujikura shaft. As with any manufacturer, Taylor Made may switch to any shaft manufacturer at any time for the production of their in-house, stock shafts. There are no guarantees.
Taylor Made has a hit on its hands with the 300 Series. All of our tester have liked them; most have loved them. These are easy, fun drivers that speak loudly of quality and sophistication. All heads provide very good off-center forgiveness. We have liked them far more than we have any recent TM drivers. $400 is too high a price, but most won’t hesitate at spending the money if they have it. Choosing the correct combination of options will be difficult for many, however. Sales clerks will invariably push what is most plentiful in their stock – probably the 320 in stiff with 9.5 degrees or the 320 in regular at 10.5 degrees – both with stock TM Lite shafts. Be patient and order just the combination that will benefit you most.