Last month, we discussed the driver models (and shafts) that would take part in the shootout. Namely, on the USDM side, the “finalists” are: TaylorMade M1 (2016), Callaway XR16 Sub-Zero, Cobra King Ltd Pro (2016), and Callaway Bertha Mini 1.5. On the JDM side, the “finalists” are: Yamaha Inpres RMX Tourmodel (2014), TourStage X-Drive GR (2014), OnOff Labospec 358, and S-Yard T.388.
All testing was performed outdoors on actual regulation length golf courses, in relatively calm conditions. On most occasions, both drivers were hit consecutively off the same tee box since I was playing alone and not counting my score. However, a few times I was playing with others and alternated drivers from one hole to the next. The golf balls used in my testing were Callaway Supersoft and Titleist NXT Tour S. I apologize if you are expecting launch monitor comparative data. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of launch monitors, and my accessibility to one is limited anyway.
TaylorMade M1 versus TourStage X-Drive GR
The first shootout features the Tour-popular TaylorMade “M1” 460cc 2016 model versus the TourStage (former JDM division of Bridgestone) X-Drive “GR” 2014 model. Both drivers feature adjustable hosels to change lie, face and loft angles. Additionally, the M1 has a pair of sliding weights on the sole to optimize backspin and sidespin. To make this matchup as “apples to apples” as possible, I left the TourStage GR in its standard settings (9.5 degree loft, draw biased), and adjusted the M1 as follows: (a) changed the loft from 12 degrees to 10.5 (which causes the face angle to open in conjunction); (b) moved the front sliding weight to the “draw” (heel) position; and (c) moved the rear sliding weight to the most forgiving position (away from the face). The M1 had a Matrix Ozik X-Con shaft in it, while the TourStage GR had a Crazy Black CB-80 LS shaft.
At the address position, both drivers have busy crowns that may be distracting to some golfers. The M1 has a 2-tone white/black carbon crown, and the TourStage GR has a grey crown with yellow stripes. Personally, I think the M1 crown looks cool and by now, most golfers have seen it either in person or on TV. The yellow stripes on the TourStage GR crown, however, to me just looks out of place and is indeed distracting. So on looks alone, I give the nod to the M1. Of course, most golfers (myself included) will sacrifice looks for performance. In other words, an ugly driver that hits it long and straight will find its way into the bag over a pretty driver that is short and crooked.
Let’s talk about distance first. At my 90-ish mph swing speed, I found both drivers to produce similar distance, which is a bit surprising for me, given the much greater popularity/usage of TaylorMade drivers versus Bridgestone drivers on professional tours. At 110+ mph swing speeds of a Tour player, perhaps the M1 is longer, but at my “mere mortal” average golfer swing speed, I did not notice much of a difference.
Now let’s talk about forgiveness. Let’s face it: long drives are no good if you cannot control the direction. My natural shot shape is straight to baby fade, with my predominant miss being a high, short block to the right as a result of a poor release. Even with the M1 front sliding weight set to the “draw” position, the open face angle caused by de-lofting the hosel, seemed to neutralize any draw bias from the weight. As a result, the M1 was not forgiving on misses towards the toe. I did not have time to test the M1 at the 12-degree loft standard face angle setting, but that is something that I need to experiment with in the future. As an aside, the M1 is widely considered less forgiving than its “brother”, the M2. I may tinker with an M2 in the future since the hosels are identical and I can re-use my M1 shafts. The draw-biased TourStage GR did seem a tad more forgiving than the M1, but I’m not going to label it as a “fairway finder” either.
The winner of this shootout isn’t clear cut. I love the adjustability of the M1 and its looks. Having it in the bag makes me feel like a “player”. I wish it was more forgiving, and I think I need to try it again at the 12-degree loft (neutral face angle) setting, otherwise I may think of testing the M2. While the TourStage GR seems to perform as well as the M1, something about it (perhaps the yellow stripes on the crown) just isn’t enough for me to put it in the bag. Winner = TaylorMade M1.
Callaway XR16 Sub-Zero versus OnOff Labospec 358
The second shootout features the Tour-proven Callaway “XR16 Sub-Zero” versus the OnOff “Labospec 358”. The Sub-Zero (SZ) driver has a dual-cog adjustable hosel to change lie, face and loft angles independently of each other, while the Labospec 358 has a glued (non-adjustable) hosel. Additionally, the SZ has a pair of fixed screw-in weights (2-gram and 10-gram) on the sole to optimize backspin. Since the standard loft on both drivers is 9.5 degrees, the only configuration I set on the SZ to make this matchup as “apples to apples” as possible is to put the 10-gram weight in the rear port and the 2-gram weight in the front port. This puts the SZ in the more forgiving position. The SZ had an Oban Devotion 6 shaft in it, while the Labospec 358 had a stock Hashiri 50-Long shaft.
At the address position, both drivers have clean crowns, absent of any distracting graphics. Both drivers are pear-shaped, with the Labospec 358 slightly more traditional. So on looks alone, it’s a tie.
With respect to distance, during the head-to-head match, I found both the SZ and the Labospec 358 to be slightly above average. The match was on a calm day, with just a slight breeze. However, on a different day (1 to 2 club constant wind), where I had the SZ as the only driver in my bag, the SZ was very short. I wish I had the Labospec 358 with me to compare, but the SZ left me scratching my head after the round. Keep in mind that the SZ is a VERY low spinning head, and at the standard loft setting of 9.5 degrees, perhaps the spin rate is too low. I did notice on that windy day that my golf ball couldn’t elevate very well and seemed to fall out of the sky. That’s ok on holes into the wind, but not on holes with the wind at my back. I think in order for me to play the SZ, I will need to loft up to 10.5 or 11.5 degrees.
On the forgiveness side, during the round where I was alternating both drivers from one hole to the next, it seemed like both were “point and shoot”. I would say the Labospec 358’s dispersion is only ever so slightly worse than the SZ, but not by much. I can play my straight to baby fade ball flight with either driver.
The winner of this particular shootout is hard to pick. I like the adjustability of the SZ, which the Labospec 358 doesn’t have. However, the “solo” round with the SZ is puzzling, and further experimentation with the loft settings is required. I would like to declare this match as incomplete, but I’m going to pick a side for now. Winner = OnOff Labospec 358 (by a hair).
Cobra King Ltd Pro versus Yamaha Inpres RMX Tourmodel
The next shootout features the cult favorite Cobra King “Ltd Pro” 2016 model versus the Yamaha “Inpres RMX Tourmodel” (2014). Both the Ltd Pro and the RMX have adjustable hosels. The Ltd Pro has a large weighted “spaceport” on the sole, while the RMX has a pair of fixed screw-in weight ports on the heel and toe to optimize sidespin. The RMX comes with one 4-gram weight, two 8.5-gram weights, and one 13-gram weight. Since the standard loft on both drivers is 10 degrees, the only configuration I set on the RMX to make this matchup as “apples to apples” as possible is to put the 13-gram weight in the toe port and the 4-gram weight in the heel port. This makes the RMX fade biased, which matches the design of the Ltd Pro. The Ltd Pro had a UST Mamiya Attas 5 GoGo 6 shaft in it, while the RMX had a Basileus AAA Pro Spec (2013 version) shaft.
At the address position, both drivers have clean crowns, albeit the Ltd Pro at certain angles show a subtle checkerboard pattern. The subtleness of the pattern isn’t distracting. At address, the Ltd Pro is round in profile, while the RMX is pear-shaped. Comparing the faces, the Ltd Pro is shallower in height, while the RMX is deeper. On looks alone, I give a slight nod to the RMX due to personal preference.
With respect to distance, on slight mishits, both produce about the same distance. However, on good swings, the Ltd Pro gave me about 10-15 yards more than my average! The RMX is no slouch either, but doesn’t feel as “hot” as the Ltd Pro. As I mentioned in last month’s blog post (Part 1 of the drivers shootout), the face of the Ltd Pro is surrounded by a thin “speed channel” (trench) all along the perimeter. I think it pushes the limit of the “spring like effect” requirement.
On the forgiveness side, the RMX is as straight of a driver I’ve played recently, even with the heavier 13-gram weight towards the toe. I can play my straight to baby fade ball flight with the RMX. The Ltd Pro needs a very good swing to make it go straight. It is, by design, fade biased, so not-so-good swings do produce weak high, short blocks to the right.
Like the previous shootout, the winner of this one is hard to pick. I like the occasional distance “bomb” of the Ltd Pro, but the “point and shoot” aspect of the RMX, not to mention its compact pear-shaped profile, is hard to dismiss. This may seem like a cop-out, but both drivers are winners in my book. Tie: Cobra King Ltd Pro (for distance) & Yamaha Inpres RMX Tourmodel (for accuracy).
Callaway Bertha Mini 1.5 versus S-Yard T.388
The final shootout features two sub-400 c.c. drivers: Callaway “Bertha Mini 1.5” versus the S-Yard “T.388”. The Mini 1.5 driver, like all recent Callaway drivers, has a dual-cog adjustable hosel to change lie, face and loft angles independently of each other, while the T.388 has a glued (non-adjustable) hosel. Since the standard loft on the T.388 is 10 degrees, I set the loft on the Mini 1.5 to 11 degrees (1 degree lower than its standard 12 degree loft) to make this matchup as “apples to apples” as possible. The Mini 1.5 had a Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage Silver TiNi shaft in it, while the T.388 had a Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana ‘ahina shaft.
At the address position, both drivers have clean crowns, absent of any distracting graphics. The Mini 1.5 does have a “chevron” marking for ball alignment while the T.388 doesn’t have any markings. Both drivers are pear-shaped. The Mini 1.5 is 153 c.c. smaller than the T.388 (235 c.c. versus 388 c.c.), and it shows. On looks alone, a big nod goes to the T.388 because the larger head is more confidence inspiring without looking too big.
With respect to distance, the T.388 was about average for me, while the Mini 1.5 was about 10 yards shorter. It should be noted though that the T.388 had a 45-inch long shaft, while the Mini 1.5 had a 44-inch long shaft, and that may be part of the reason for the reduced distance. When struck on the sweet spot, the Mini 1.5 is longer than a mishit with the T.388.
On the forgiveness side, I found the T.388 to be a fairway finder. When I first acquired the Mini 1.5, it was also a fairway finder. However, after the honeymoon period ended, the Mini 1.5 has been inconsistent for me. The sweet spot seems harder to find lately, even with the 44-inch shaft. Now it’s hard for me to justify putting it in my bag instead of a full-sized driver. The benefit just isn’t there any more.
The winner of this particular shootout is more clear-cut than the other three matchups. For golfers who haven’t yet found a full-sized driver they can hit with confidence but want a little more distance than a 3-wood off the tee, I would recommend trying the Mini 1.5. However, I find that the T.388 is longer and more forgiving. Winner = S-Yard T.388.
My hypothesis before conducting these driver shootouts was that USDM drivers had more technology (certainly more adjustability), which will translate to better performance over JDM drivers. What I found, however, is that JDM drivers (both adjustable and glued hosel designs) are just as good as USDM drivers. Perhaps driver design is indeed over-constrained by the USGA and R&A governing bodies after all.
Where to Buy
Mottainai Golf carries the drivers mentioned in this blog post from time to time. I suggest you check our online store frequently: Japan Golf & Photo on Amazon .
Next month, I’ll perform a JDM versus USDM lofted wedge shootout. Until then, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter : @mottainaigolf for the latest golf equipment news. Also like us on Facebook .