A handful of years back, I rocked a TaylorMade R11 driver. I loved that thing. The white head stood out, but the matte paint job made sure I was never blinded. The ball flight was just what I like: mid-height, boring and long. Really long.
I've played a few TaylorMade clubs since, and they've been good products, but it wasn't until I tested the M1 driver that I felt the same spark as I did with the R11.
By now, you know of TaylorMade's M family. There's M1 and M2, with the latter geared toward offering more forgiveness and distance, while the M1 offers a full suite of adjustability, including draw-fade bias and center-of-gravity movement.
This is the company's first foray into using carbon-fiber material in the crown, using the 10 grams of weight savings of getting away from titanium to create the customization options. There are 25 grams of weight that can be moved in the sole-based T-track system. There's a 15-gram weight that creates draw, fade or neutral shot bias. The other 10-gram weight slides front to back to modify center of gravity and launch trajectory by close to a whole degree while killing or adding spin.
The hosel features 12-way adjustability, giving a player an astounding number of combinations to dial in just right.
Playing with the M1 required a little bit of an adjustment from me. The head is about 3 grams lighter than that of the Cobra Golf King LTD driver. That means the potential for more speed because you're simply swinging a lighter club, and speed is one way to add distance. The shaft is also a half-inch longer than the King LTD, which offers an opportunity to create more speed, and the extra length pretty much balances out the whole club weight. However, in getting fit for the M1, it may be worth considering a shaft stiffer than what you'd typically play.
When I stand over the ball with a driver, I want to feel like I'm swinging a blunt instrument of distance. I sometimes like to work the driver, but I typically want to hit a tight draw that goes mid-height and runs forever. That's the ball flight I can produce stock with the M1, provided I have the right shaft, which, for me, is the Aldila Rogue Black 70 (though I can do the 60). I felt confident standing over the ball.
I feel like you can get two sensations when you hit drivers. One is how I imagine a samurai felt using his sword, slicing through whatever he wanted like it was paper. The other is feeling the experience of the ball trampolining off the face as its shape is mangled and then restored as it flies off down the target line. It's more of a trampoline feeling with the M1.
I liked the paint job, which isn't matte but shines nicely and without distraction. The white-black contrast, designed to remind you of the seven-layer carbon-fiber crown, is actually shaped to give a little ball-sized alignment marker. It's a nice touch.
The sound off the club is a little louder than what you might get from some drivers, but no matter where you fall on the sound-preference spectrum, the M1 isn't going to offend your sensibilities. At best, it's going to sound like you're really powerful. At worst, it's going to sound like you're merely trying to be really powerful.
When I'm testing equipment, my buddies almost always want to take a few swings with a club. However, with the M1, I also had my 65-year-old father-in-law get in a round with it while he was here as we prepared for the birth of our second child. So, I got a different perspective from him, as he adjusted the club for a slight draw bias and moved the center of gravity back just a little. Even swinging a stiff shaft -- and somewhat validating my theory about getting a stiffer shaft than usual -- my father-in-law pounded the M1 like when my wife and I first met nine years ago. On a windy afternoon at my home club, he was staying within 25-30 yards of my drives. That's pretty impressive for a guy nearly double my age.
I am yet to get M1 on a launch monitor near where I live, though I was fitted for the driver at TaylorMade's facility in Carlsbad, Calif., during an event. The numbers were very solid, surpassing what I was doing with the AeroBurner driver (in the prior generation) by about 5 yards. The whole becoming-a-dad-again thing has made rechecking that number here pretty difficult. However, I'm going to do that in the next couple of weeks and will update with the numbers here.
Of course, there's been moaning in the golf world that M1 costs $500. It's 2016, and there had to be inflation at some point. Golf companies couldn't keep pushing the boundaries of technology while staying the USGA sandbox at a $350 or $400 price point. Hell, PXG and now Titleist with their C16 driver are proving there is an American market for $1,000 drivers. If you want max adjustability and find the M1 is the club for you, shell out the extra money and just enjoy it.
If you don't want to spend that kind of money or you think you're not good enough to play M1, then look at M2. It's built to be more forgiving, but some players have seen optimal conditions with it compared to M1. Again, like with any club, try them out on a launch monitor and combine the numbers with the feel to make an informed decision.