PREVIEW: TaylorMade M2 and M2 Tour irons, built for maximum distance

PREVIEW: TaylorMade M2 and M2 Tour irons, built for maximum distance

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The concept behind TaylorMade's new M2 irons is simple: distance.

And when the legal department signs off on the claim that it is the company's longest-ever iron, the engineers have accomplished something substantial.

As you can surmise, the M2 irons, then, are built for the higher-handicap player, and the design team pulled out all the stops to deliver extra yards with higher launch conditions. Compared to the AeroBurner irons, which, along with the RSi1 irons, M2 replaces, the center of gravity is 2 millimeters lower. The face -- which is 431 stainless steal from 8-iron down and 450 stainless in the rest of the set -- is also hotter because it can flex more thanks to a 360-degree undercut, with the company's inverted cone technology design now 6 percent more unsupported compared to RSi1. The sole is thinner, too, coming in at 1.6 millimeters. A slightly longer, fluted hosel was brought in from the M2 fairway woods and hybrids to move 3 grams of weight gained from the design to drive the center of gravity lower and further back.

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And, yes, the M2 irons have stronger lofts compared to what they're replacing. The lofts are anywhere from 1-1.5 degrees stronger over the AeroBurner set. However, TaylorMade engineers maintain that the features designed to increase launch took the ball too high in testing, so, to compensate and deliver launch conditions that aren't too jarring, they made the lofts stronger. The end result is an M2 iron that is 3.8 yards longer and nearly 2 yards higher at peak trajectory in the 6-iron than AeroBurner.

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The last piece of the M2 was a bulkier badge that features a 3-D set of "support beams" designed to improve feel and sound at impact. It's a stiffer badge than seen in other TaylorMade irons, but the dramatic improvement in reducing deflection at the moment of truth did not negatively impact performance. That's all in a package with a darker PVD polished-finish club head slightly larger than RSi 1 and a little smaller than AeroBurner.

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That all leads to the obvious question: Where are the face slots?

Face slots were a hit with the RSi 1 and RSi 2 irons. The polymer-filled slots on the side of the mid-irons and above were built to improve forgiveness on off-center hits. The results were obvious. However, engineers found that adding face slots to the M2 irons would have put them beyond the USGA's limit on the coefficient of restitution, the measure of how much energy is delivered from the club to the ball at impact. It also would have had a negative impact on the center of gravity, which was one key in delivering on distance goals.

The TaylorMade M2 irons cost $800 for a stock FST steel shaft and $900 for a TaylorMade Reax 88 graphite shaft.

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However, not every player is looking for maximum distance. They don't want a thick topline and a mammoth sole that can make it very difficult to even attempt working the ball and make it seem like you're using a machete instead of a scalpel to extricate yourself from the rough. Sensing an opportunity for a market of players who want a game-improvement ironĀ in a more traditional package -- like Wilson did with their Wilson Staff C200 irons -- TaylorMade engineers developed the M2 Tour iron.

Built for the 5-15 handicap player, the M2 Tour irons have a similar set of features to the M2 cousin, but are about 5 yards shorter than M2. The M2 Tour club head is smaller, the top line and sole thinner, while the curvature of the leading edge and offset were reduced. The fluted hosel wasn't carried through because it would reduce spin too much for a slightly better player. Sound and feel were improved.

In the grand scheme of TaylorMade's iron offerings, M2 is clearly the game-improvement choice for higher-handicap players. Then there's an overlap between the M2 Tour and the PSi irons, which are more traditional in look and shape, with the M2 Tour coming in 2-3 yards longer than PSi, thanks in part to stronger lofts.

The M2 Tour irons are available March 15 for $900 in several steel shaft options.

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