King of Clubs

Written by Shaun Tolson

November 29, 2018

In the spring of 1995, when Todd Beach joined TaylorMade as asenior engineer in the company’s R&D department, the sport of golf looked and felt much different than it does today. Ben Crenshaw had just won his second green jacket, Nick Price was more than 30 weeks into his reign as the top-ranked golfer in the world, and the biggest winner’s check on the PGA Tour was $540,000. Golf equipment looked different, too: The largest driver head was only 265cc—a far cry from today’s 460cc behemoths. More than two decades later, we sat down with Beach—now the company’s senior vice president of R&D and engineering—to talk about the latest club technology, the engineering advancements he’s overseen, and his thoughts about the future of club design.

What do you love most about your job?

Of all the sports, golf is the most strongly influenced by engineering. It defies human intuition that the human body can make a stationary ball sometimes travel more than 350 yards. So if you’re an engineer who loves sports, designing golf clubs is the best job in the world. 

Looking back over your career with TaylorMade, what one milestone stands out?

In 1999, we unveiled the 300 series, which was made up of three drivers in three different lengths, with different shafts, different head sizes, and different performance characteristics. Before that, golf companies typically had one driver with certain characteristics and golfers would have to decide what brand worked best for them. We asked the question: Why can’t we offer drivers that work for the majority of golfers? In doing so, we became a one-stop shop and really stretched the limits of the industry.

For 20 years, TaylorMade made all-titanium drivers. Now the company specializes in composite-material clubheads. What advantages do composites provide?

It frees up a lot of mass that we can bring back to the club with advanced features. A typical driver weighs about 200 grams. With composite materials, we saved 14 grams in the current M3 driver. That allowed us to create our most versatile weight-track system, which allows you to move two 11-gram weights anywhere on a Y-shaped track, either together or separately.

What is the key feature of your new TwistFace technology?

We learned that the most common impact locations on a driver face form an ellipse. So we twisted the club face to be slightly more open with higher loft on the toe and slightly closed with lower loft in the heel. The result allows you to hit off-center shots that go farther and straighter than they used to.

How did you learn that that type of technology was needed?

For years, engineers had used a robot to attempt to figure out the optimal curved shape of a driver face. But when a robot hits a shot high on the toe or low on the heel it still delivers the club square to the target at impact. Using new, high-precision video technology to analyze how the club reacts when real golfers swing a driver, we learned that human beings present the club differently when they hit a ball high on the toe, low in the heel, or on the center of the face.

Everyday players must love the new technology. But what about PGA Tour players? What are you hearing from them?

They absolutely love it. It allows them to have more confidence to really go after the ball and not guard against those misses.

Can we expect to see fairway woods with TwistFace technology next?

Fairway woods are shallower than a driver and golfers swing them differently, so we have to use totally different data. We’re still collecting that data, so it’s too soon to say right now.

Is the clubface the most crucial component of a golf club in terms of its technology and potential?

You do hit the ball with the face, and the face is reacting by flexing and offering curvature and durability, but there are other important aspects. Compared to a driver made five years ago, a new golf club will have a lower center of gravity, its adjustability will be greater, the sound it makes will be more consistent and better, and its shape will be more aerodynamic. All of those things go into making a club; they’re all working together, so if you miss or mess up on one of those aspects it can detract from the success you had in other areas.

What does the future of golf club design look like?

We’re never going back to an all-titanium driver. We’ve freed up too much weight, and we’re only going to get better, thinner, and stronger with that composite material. I think we’re going to continue to find ways to get more speed for golfers and continue to provide them accuracy and forgiveness in combination with that.