PRODUCT REVIEW

TaylorMade 500TaylorMade 500
Series is the pick
of champions

By David R. Holland,
Senior Writer

When Canadian Mike Weir was 13 he wrote a letter to Jack Nicklaus asking if he should switch from being a natural lefty to righty.

"Keep working hard and use your natural swing," the Golden Bear wrote in a return letter.

Weir took Nicklaus' advice, remained a southpaw, and years later also made the wise decision to tee it up with a TaylorMade 500 Series driver.

Now he's the Masters' champion. And Weir's major win at Augusta marked the third consecutive major tournament in which the winner used a TaylorMade R500 Series driver, including the 2002 British Open and 2002 PGA Championship. That creates the possibility for an "R500 Series Slam" should an R500 Series driver be used to win this year's U.S. Open.

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After Weir's hot start to the 2003 season in California, winning the West Coast Swing, the Nissan Open and the Bob Hope Classic, the best advice Weir probably ever got was switching to TaylorMade's hot new 500 Series driver and returning to his pre-shot routine that he had changed in 2002.

Weir actually signed with TaylorMade in 2001 -- and recorded his career-best best stroke average and recorded wins in the PGA Tour Championship.

TaylorMade gladly uses Weir's record to talk about its new driver series, which was ranked as the most popular driver among participants at the Masters.

What was TaylorMade's goal in creating the R500 Series to replace the popular 300 Series? It was to produce a great feel in a driver that reduces off-center loss of distance and accuracy. Basically, it wanted to produce good results with less-than-excellent swings for the average golfer and superior performance for the professional.

The R500 Series includes the R510, R540 and R580. TaylorMade says the three drivers represent a defining moment in the advancement of metalwood technology. The R500 combines three innovative and proprietary new technologies with a thin-yet-flexible club face that nears the USGA limit on Coefficient of Restitution (C.O.R.) of .830.

My R580 model is fun to hit, forgives off-center hits and flies true in a boring flight that is just made for today's hot golf balls. But the current allowable C.O.R. of .83 didn't come without some controversy.

Last May the USGA and R&A announced a proposal that would allow the use of "hot" drivers in the U.S. in 2003, and everyone aggressively started to produce them at .86. Then in August the governing bodies recanted and left manufactures with the now non-conforming .86 drivers.

TaylorMade told those who had purchased the non-conforming clubs to send them back, but only 20 percent have done so.

TaylorMade says it had already designed a .83 500 Series driver, but following the news of the proposal, opted to release in the United States a trio of designs, the R500 Series, previously designated for world use (where the Royal & Ancient had yet to adopt a limit).

The R500 drivers ($499 retail) feature titanium bodies and faces composed of high-strength, cold-rolled titanium. The R500 drivers not only provide an ultra-high C.O.R., but an effective high-C.O.R. area that's far beyond the size of comparable drivers, TaylorMade says.

Using an "Inverted Cone" face design (face thickness ranges from 2.5 mm in the center to 4.5 mm around the perimeter to only 1.5 mm at the edge), TaylorMade says designers achieved a high-C.O.R. area that's said to be 155-percent larger than others. What this means for you is more driving power, even when you miss the center of the club face.

TaylorMade says the 330cc R510 is designed with a forward center of gravity for a more boring trajectory and less spin. The 350cc R540 has a lower center of gravity for a higher trajectory and greater spin. The largest of the series, the R580 (400cc), has been optimized to produce extra distance and extra forgiveness on off-center hits and to produce a higher launch angle, but with less spin.

Each of the R500 drivers come with a Tunable Weight Cartridge. These weight cartridges, which span a range of 12 grams, are used to fine-tune the final head weight in coordination with the customization of individual shaft models. As such, regardless of the type of shaft fitted to the head (there are a multitude of custom shaft offerings), the Tunable Weight Cartridge ensures that weight, center of gravity and sound aren't compromised. A new Black Lava head color puts the finishing touches on these beauties, available in lofts from 7.5 degrees to 12 degrees.

For more information, visit taylormadegolf.com.

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