EQUIPMENT

First look: TaylorMade 300 Mini Driver evokes as much the present as it does the past

By Mike Stachura  

Golf Digest

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The latest version of TaylorMade’s downsized but souped-up drivers, the new 300 Series Mini Driver, pays homage to the 20-year anniversary of the company’s transformative titanium driver family of the same name. Like the original, the new model is approximately 300 cubic centimeters, but unlike the old one, it incorporates a sole slot for faster face flexing, a weight saving carbon-composite crown and an adjustable hosel to tweak loft. The intent is for a dual-purpose driver/fairway wood combo club that works as a control option off the tee on tight driving holes and the easier alternative to shots requiring “driver” off the deck.

PRICE: €338 (11.5 and 13.5 degrees). Available July 15.

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THE DEEP DIVE: Twenty years ago, when TaylorMade introduced a series of drivers under the “300” heading (300 Ti, 320 Ti, 360 Ti), it was a kind of revolution in driver design. Companies generally didn’t introduce multiple drivers at the same time (as they routinely do now), and the idea certainly ushered in the power and potential of matching certain golfers to certain types of drivers (i.e., fitting).

What that 300 family also was about was pushing the limits of driver innovation by maximising the flexibility of the face, or spring-like effect, under the new limit established by golf’s ruling bodies. A key was enlarging head sizes (TaylorMade’s previously largest drivers prior to the 300 series were maxing out around 285 cubic centimeters). The 300, as the name implied, were the first to break the 300 cc barrier, and enabled the face to reach the flexibility limit under the rules. However, because of the limitations of manufacturing and titanium at the time, they could only get to that limit at a very small area of the face.

Two decades later, drivers are more than 50 percent bigger, hot spots seemingly stretch from that tiny point of the turn of the century to nearly the diameter of a golf ball today and titanium is now just one ingredient in the making of a clubhead. In fact, what once was full-sized in driver designs, is now undersized. It’s why TaylorMade has made a habit in recent years of introducing down-sized drivers, called “Mini Drivers,” that do double duty as a club for tight driving holes and the occasional maxed-out off-the-deck fairway wood.

The new TaylorMade 300 Mini Driver offers not merely an homage to that earlier groundbreaking club, it provides a stark lesson in how far the metalwood design game has come. The 300 Mini Driver incorporates much of the company’s learnings in both driver and fairway wood design.

It’s not just the use of multiple materials that makes this new version of a 300cc driver hotter than the original. One of the techniques TaylorMade has used over the last decade to improve the way the face flexes is a channel or slot in the sole, first seen in the Rocketballz metalwoods from nine years ago. The 300 Mini Driver employs a large channel that stretches nearly the full width of the sole. It’s also a cut-through design, meaning the channel features an interior opening to create more flexibility at impact, particularly for shots contacting the lower half the face.

This new model checks in at about the same size as the original 300 Ti (307 cubic centimeters), but it uses the available mass and size much more efficiently. That’s thanks to a weight-saving carbon composite top that covers nearly the entire crown. With less weight on top, there’s more opportunity for heavier mass down low so there’s a 54-gram slab of stainless steel that fills the V-shaped sole.

That idea is very much in line with the company’s current SIM2 Ti fairway wood, which uses both the carbon composite crown and steel sole weight. Of course, multiple materials in the design, something not done all that frequently two decades ago, is a fundamental part of many driver designs today, including the company’s SIM2 drivers.

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Of course, another learning over time has been the adjustable hosel, which allows players to adjust the loft to better optimize launch conditions or, in the case of a fairway wood, fit a particular yardage gap. The 300 Mini Driver uses the company’s 12-way adjustable hosel, which tweaks loft by plus/minus two degrees.

The face also incorporates the angled bulge and roll curvature (called Twist Face) that was developed for drivers and later fairway woods over the last three years. Based on company research of average golfer mis-hits, the design tweaks open the high toe area while delofting the area low on the face where mis-hits tend to spin too much. The goal is both better launch conditions and flights that aren’t over-corrected and thus end up closer to the center line.

So this new 300 Mini Driver is a throwback in name and likeness only. Its guts are a history lesson in how metalwoods have gotten better. The 300 Mini Driver comes in two lofts (11.5 and 13.5 degrees) and a 43.75-inch shaft length (Mitsubishi MiDi Proto).

It will be in stores July 15.


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