John Merritt and Gary McWilliams were college roommates at Texas Tech University - they studied together more than they hit the golf links of Lubbock, but they always kept a competitive spirit going in sports.
When they graduated in 1970 they took off in different directions. Merritt earned an engineering degree and McWilliams took the long educational route becoming a physician.
Now, 30 years later, they live within minutes of each other at Fair Oaks Ranch just north of San Antonio, Texas. And on a hot and muggy day this past spring, the two teed it up with another former college roommate, the author of this review, on Fair Oaks' Blackjack Course.
When Merritt and McWilliams saw the new Taylor Made® FireSole beauties in my golf bag they couldn't help but admire them. And for the next 18 holes I let them know they were welcome to hit what I had - a 9.5-degree FireSole driver with an R-80 regular bubble graphite shaft plus metalwoods 3, 5, 7 and the 15-degree Taylor Made® FireSole Rescue® club.
"I was impressed with both the distance and straightness of the driver," said Merritt. "But I didn't want to get too attached. I just don't want to spend that kind of money right now."
McWilliams, on the other hand, was very eager to be impressed. In fact he was so impressed with the driver he ordered one the next week.
"These clubs have graceful lines and they are comfortable in my hands," McWilliams said. "They feel much lighter than they look and when I compared the FireSoles to my original Taylor Made bubble-shaft driver, I felt the ball literally explode off the club face. I'm easily getting 20 to 25 yards farther with the new clubs and it makes me wish they had included binoculars with the club so I could see it stop rolling. This is a must-have club, but make sure you get the correct shaft and the correct loft."
Merritt said: "I have a tendency to completely lose my swing (come over the top and bail out left) a couple of times a round. Such a swing with the FireSole, with its oversized head, kept me in bounds and still long. Over all, my consistency was better and I was getting 15 yards more distance than with my 10.5-degree Dunlap Exceed steel/graphite driver."
Taylor Made says these FireSoles are the next generation of titanium drivers, which also features tungsten right behind the sweet spot.
"Having the weight in the right place produces power that's amazingly explosive. The ideally-located low center of gravity also reduces backspin and produces the proper launch angle for the penetrating trajectory you're looking for. And that means a noticeable increase in distance," says the Taylor Made literature.
" All in all, the Taylor Made FireSole driver (suggested retail value of $399) will perform for players with good swings. And if you hit it on the heel or the toe you will get some forgiveness and a good result.
For you guys and gals with awful swings and those who have never grasped the concept of "swaying" or bringing the club in from the outside, there's an offset FireSole driver to make your banana ball less yellow.
Frank Nobilo carries an 8.5-degree FireSole driver with a stiff shaft. Mark O'Meara hit the FireSole one time and put it in his bag.
"I can't believe it, but the woods I used to win with at Augusta and Royal Birkdale have been replaced with something even better," O'Meara said.
The "ping" of the metalwoods took a while to get used to, but I loved the 3. It's much more sleek and has a considerable smaller head than a Big Bertha Warbird 3, but you can really bang it out there. This is an easy club to hit and very easy to produce a draw.
For you "seniors" who are ready to put on your high heels and admit to using a 5- and 7-wood, these are nice substitutes for the hard-to-hit long iron. You also get a high trajectory and softer landing on shots of 180 to 200 yards.
Taylor Made says: "The new Taylor Made® Firesole fairway Metalwoods® lower the center of gravity and that means lower scores will follow. These clubs put more weight under the ball for better shots on all types of lies. The metalwoods are different because of a large, center-oriented tungsten sole weight plug. It's three times heavier than competitors' plugs. This helps the ball get up in the air quickly and easily from all types of lies. And all that weight behind the sweet spot promotes both solid impact and explosive power."
O.K., you have a bad lie in some heavy, wiry fescue. The other bad news is you are 200 yards out. Should you hit an iron or wood? If you have the Rescue Club, like Lee Janzen carries, you might just be able to bang it out down the fairway with a club that's part wood and part iron.
For anyone who has a problem hitting a 2-iron, the Rescue Club looks like a beefed-up version of one. But it is solid. The 15-degree Rescue Club is as long as a 2-iron and will easily go more than 200 yards with a solid hit and most likely it will be straighter than with a wood.
Taylor Made says it's all about tungsten and ideal weight distribution. "The Rescue Club has a curved, high density tungsten sole plate attached to a lightweight titanium clubhead. The resulting ultra-low center of gravity puts a full 75 percent of the weight below the equator of the ball at impact."
Finally, they just wouldn't be new Taylor Made clubs without the performance-enhanced Bubble® shafts.
Taylor Made says: "These bubble shafts are five grams lighter and tuned to the latest FireSole technology. These shafts deliver more distance than ever from the same swing without sacrificing control."
Taylor Made also took on the challenge to make a better golf ball.
"Instead of using a variation of Surlyn® or balata like everybody else, we make our balls with InerGel, an exclusive copolymer that's both soft and super resilient at the same time. InerGel practically defies the laws of physics to give you a ball that delivers more spin, more feel and more distance than you could ever get from any other material."
"This is the best golf ball I have ever hit," said Gary McCord, Taylor Made Senior Tour staff player. "This is magical material. I can spin the ball more without swinging any harder and I get more distance. Bingo. Game over."
So, now as Taylor Made turns 21 years old, you baby boomers can look back to 1979. Probably the very first metal driver you ever saw was a Taylor Made. No doubt these guys have come a long way. You can't go wrong with this brand.
Tour Players on Taylor Made's Staff: Ernie Els, Mark O'Meara, Tom Lehman, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker, Michael Bradley, Brad Bryant, Helen Alfredsson, Michelle McGann, John Bland, Vicente Fernandez, Larry Nelson and Gary McCord.
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!