TaylorMade R540XDGoing gonzo with
TaylorMade XD Drivers

By Shane Sharp,
Contributing Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 16, 2004) -- It occurred to me the other day while thinking back on the final battle scene from The Last Samurai -- no matter how noble the cause, you can't bring a sword to a gun fight.

A three-hour motion picture accomplished what hundreds of rounds, dozens of infomercials and endless ridicule from buddies couldn't -- it got me to trade in my knife for a gun.

The knife being my circa 1995 Callaway Great Big Bertha War Bird. The gun being a fresh off the assembly line TaylorMade 540XD. The battlefield being none other than Doral's famed Blue Course, a.k.a. the Blue Monster.

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From the 7,288-yard tips, no less.

This isn't Tyson/Holyfield III, so I'll spare you the blow-by-blow. I will, however, document a handful of epiphanies I experienced in route to a tasty 91, a third degree sunburn and a deep appreciation for the famed par-4 18th hole on the Blue Monster.

-- Grooving a drive 290 yards at sea level for the first time is like dodging bullets in The Matrix. You feel like you are in total control of your "construct." I'll be in Scottsdale in a month playing in razor thin air at 2000 feet, and I couldn't be more jacked up if you told me I'd won tickets to the next 10 Final Fours.

-- This whole notion of missing the sweet spot and still crunching a 250-yard tee shot -- it's for real, by God! I used more face on my 540XD than a plastic surgeon on an episode of "The Swan." A drive off the toe even squirted out about 220 yards, leaving me with a mid iron into the green and a saved face, to boot.

-- These microwaves on a stick weigh less than their smaller ancestors. The average size of a driver these days is 390 cubic centimeters. The 540XD weighs in at 440 cc, the largest size allowable under U.S.G.A regs. Still, the XD is considerably lighter than the drivers of yesteryear. Unreal.

-- It is now possible to launch the ball upwards at an angle that would make the Space Shuttle jealous without possessing the swing speed of Brian Pavlet. I played with a 9.5 degree edition of the 540XD and managed to hit the ball higher than I could with my 10.5 degree War Bird.

So now the part about all technology that makes this possible, 90 percent of which I don't understand. From what I can gather, TaylorMade's R500 series was perfectly fine; ridiculously long.

But today's game is staying ahead of Joneses, not keeping up with them. The XD line (extra distance) utilizes what TaylorMade techies call "improved, inverted cone technology" to provide a larger "COR zone for more distance on off center hits" (COR being the vaunted coefficient of restitution, or spring-like effect.)

The XDs have an even bigger head and larger clubface than their R500 Series cousins. The 540XD has a slightly more closed clubface that TM says helps prevent slicing and promotes a higher trajectory. Who wouldn't want that?

All this high-hitting, slice-curing technology comes for a price, as you may have surmised. A fully macked out 540 or 580XD carries a MSRP of $400 to $500.

TaylorMade V-SteelFor good measure: OK, so why bring one gun to a gun fight when you can bring a bunch. I also took the plunge and traded in my old component fairway woods for a set of TaylorMade V-Steel metal woods. When fairway metal woods come, they come not alone but in battalions. A pair of Cleveland Launcher Titaniums made their way into my bag as well.

If you can tell the difference between the performances of these brands, you're a better equipment evaluator than I. When it comes to top original equipment manufacturers tapping into cutting-edge technology, it is a hairsplitting exercise to determine if one club is X amount longer or more accurate than the other (unless you're a robot, in which case you are, then best of luck to you with that).

For my money, the TaylorMade V-Steels felt better in hand and at setup, and sometimes that makes all the difference in the world. The TMs also seemed to pick the ball up better off the turf (as opposed to the tee), and isn't that what fairway woods are all about? For more techno speak and really cool flash intros, log on to or For pretty sweet deals on both, log on to The Golf Warehouse at

Shane Sharp is the Contributing Writer of To send Shane a comment on this story, or any others, go to our reader feedback page.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.