In recent years Taylormade Japan has slowed it’s pace a tad when it comes to releasing Japan market only specific models but we are still lucky enough to get a taste here and there. Back in late spring several online golf communities and blogs noticed a new prototype putter being used on the PGA tour, a neo-mallet with a huge ring for a body. This putter was aptly named the arc1 by Taylormade and we all began to wonder at what point TM would release this putter to the public if ever. Fast forward to late summer when Taylormade announced that Japan would be he retail test market for the arc1 which is not surprising considering TM has been known to release more unorthodox and technology testing type of products here before anywhere else (or only here in many cases). It’s been nearly a month since the arc1 has come out and I was able to finally get a demo from TM Japan to try out.
You have to give TM credit for daring to be different in designing something they believe to make a functional difference in a golfer’s putter game. A more radical design can sometimes take the risk of being called ugly because it’s different and that certainly was the case earlier this years as photos of the tour prototypes began surfacing. Cries around the web proclaimed it to be ugly and something out of Star Trek along the lines of the Starship Enterprise – and that’s whatever one said when TM first showed off it’s spider putter years ago. (Though in my opinion, the arc1 is more deserving of the Starship Enterprise comparison.) Truth be told though, TM is not the first one to create a mallet putter that looks like a hole. Many years ago Mizuno created a line called the Draino putters in which the 100 model looks eerily similar. Even Odyssey’s Marxman putter has similar ring to it but looking at the arc1, the execution of TM’s design is probably the best of all.
Looks of any club is certainly subjective and a personal preference and many times we see clubs “grow on us”. I’ll be honest when I say that I didn’t mind the looks when I first got the putter. If one can get over the looks, the primary concern is of course does this design help make putts. Looks aside, one thing TM did get right with the arc1 is the head weight. The majority of golfers want a heavier head. In all the years I worked at TSG, I never once had a customer come to me to make or find a LIGHTER putter head. All the talk about head weight and it’s affect on greens of different speeds is certainly valid, but in the end, I’m a believer that a heavier head stabilizes my stroke and gives me a much more consistent feel and direction than a head I cannot feel. The combination of the arc1’s SUS304 ring and 220g aluminum body result in a very healthy 385g (give or take 2-3g for variance) head. I very much like the weight in my hands and with this heavy head, at all the lengths offered by TM 32″ 33″ 34″ 34.5″ 36.5″ you can expect a nice had heavy feeling swing weight. Keep in mind though to keep swing weight from going overboard in the 34.5″ and 36.5″ lengths, TM has countered the balance with heavier 130g TM Smart arc Grips. The 32″ 33″ and 34″ come with a 63g TM Winn arc Grip and the 33″ and 34″ also have an option of the 103 Super Stroke Mid Slim 2.0R. My demo is a 34″ with Winn arc Grip so the swing weight is right up there around E9.5.
We all pretty much assumed back when prototype photos circulated the web that the visual design of the putter was for the sake of alignment and that certainly is the case. To go into finer detail, TM designed a center “slot” are which lines up with the ball at the exact same width as the 42.67mm diameter of the ball. The slot has additional red alignment lines as well as a cutaway portion that gives the shape of a ball. The external aluminum ring is 108mm or the diameter of the hole you are trying to putt the ball into. I found this more effective on closer range putts where I could gauge the ring along with the hole – and especially if the putt was a straighter putt, it was very easy to “draw” the line to the hole. The overall design becomes less effective as an alignment tool if you have a very long putt or one with a lot of break or multiple breaks. Though one thing the alignment design does do wonders for is to strike the sweet spot of the putter and that is half the battle, getting good impact for optimal roll and direction. This is achieved by a combination of all the alignment marks – the horizontal slot, the red lines, the black ball like shape in the center and finally the ring which all ensures that you have the putter in a straight line for impact right in the center of the putter. And as a safety, TM tabs the MOI of the arc1 as being right around the Spider and Spider Si trailing only Daddy Long Legs.
Face wise and feel wise, the arc1 won’t be a surprise for most users of TM putters. As with all TM insert putters of recent years, Surlyn is used for the Pure Roll insert. The loft of the arc1 is 2* which is on the low side compared to some putters but it’s design, when parallel to the ground the right is tilted slightly upward and a low CG thanks to the heavy head, promotes a clean impact with instant roll. This is supposedly aided by the 10 grooves placed on the insert by TM though I can’t say for sure it’s any different from the grooves on any other Pure Roll insert.
Overall, I like the arc1. For golfers who have alignment issues, this putter can really help. Sometimes with more difficult anser style or small mallets, it’s difficult to line up a putt to the point where average golfers may lose confidence – am aimed right? Getting the right alignment is a huge step in getting the ball in the hole and the arc1 certainly provides more confidence when lining up that putt. For me, ideally I would love the arc1 in 33″ with the Super Stroke grip as I find it helps calm my hands and wrists. I already love the heavy head so no need to make a putter even uglier by trying to hide lead tape. My only wish is for a center shaft version as as that is my neck of choice. So if you have no issues with the arc1’s design or think you can get over it’s spaceship like appearance, it can certainly help you make a few more putts. Look for the arc1 in the Tourspecgolf.com pro shop!
The second TM product I’m going to look at today are the carbon steel Tour Preferred wedges. In the past I had played the JDM only ATV Carbon Steel and I loved that wedge for it’s ease of use, performance and improved feel over the firmer/harder global SUS model. So when the carbon steel TP wedges arrived, I was very excited to pull them out for quick go. Admittedly my excitement was a bit quashed by rather shiny mirror chrome back faces. The older ATV Carbon Steels I had were a dark nickel satin like finish but TM moved to further differentiate the JDM model from the SUS model by using Chrome. Perhaps the train of thought behind this is that in the Japanese market, mirror chrome clubs can be perceived as more premium and perhaps more durable. It takes a bit of getting used to and thankfully the face is satin and not chrome so there are no issues with reflections or being blinded when setting up at address.
Design wise, the Tour Preferred carbon steel version pretty much only differs in material compared to the global models but unlike the global models, the standard wedge and the ATV grind are not split into two models. The ATV grind is simply an optional grind available on certain lofts here in Japan as is the case for the Stainless Steel model in the way it is offered here as well. So Japan also has two models, the Stainless Steel and the Carbon Steel. I’m not going to to into detail about the TP’s design and specs as they are the same as the US models but I will give some general impressions for those who have not seen or used the new TP’s.
Compared to the original ATV wedge, the new TP are more compact and have less offset. I don’t remember the 58* original ATV having a straight neck which this TP does. The original ATV had a micro milled face but the new TP features a new Microtexture face which is kind of cool. I’m a fan of the ATV grind and it’s versatility and I have found it works well here in Japan. There are many aspects of a golf club that contribute to it’s feel, ie it’s not only about the material but also the shaft, and of course the design/grind. Does carbon steel contribute to a softer feel? It certainly does to some extent but the ability to hit a shot pure makes it even more evident. Clean strikes with the TP Carbon Steel are noticeably softer than with the SUS model and coupled with the Microtexture, the softer material should technically equal more bite. I wish I had a launch monitor here to pour over the numbers and while it would certainly be nice as I am a technical and data freak, I still like to base my reviews and impressions on real world experiences which will vary depending on course, conditions and even day. Most recreational golfers don’t have launch monitors to carry around during the round (though the thought has crossed my mind ^^).
The courses here in Chiba are in great condition right now and it’s prime golf time. While in many other parts of the world it’s getting colder and firmer, we’re still seeing 20-25C weather on good days. The courses are nice and lush thanks to abundant moisture provided by several large typhoons which have recently peppered us with loads of rain. Typically lush courses in Japan call for wedges with more bounce which is why you see some pretty high bounce numbers in some JDM wedges to prevent digging. The original ATV (as well as the new TP ATV models) have 8* of bounce which is considered lower in Japan and initially worried me. However thanks to the versatile ATV grind, the lower bounce is not an issue at all, it’s All Terrain Versatility shines through and glides through the turf with little resistance creating a nice pure impact. While visually a straight neck creates the most appealing lines, those with less confidence (and more average skill level) may prefer a tad more goose. The TP with it’s traditional shape and size provides a higher ball flight with strong spin that drops down on the green and stops. TM does not talk about CG placement much for the TP wedges so I would guess it’s lower rather than higher due to it’s clean simple design.
The heel relief really allows you to manipulate the head and open the face yet still aim straight at the pin. I enjoyed my round with a standard 52/9 and a 58ATV. Great feel, versatile grinds, great spin and great putting chances created which ultimately is what we ask for from any wedge. So at the end of the day, my TM combo of TP Carbon Steel wedges and arc1 putter gave me an enjoyable round. While there are those who figure TM is a monster marketing machine and that they release too many clubs too fast, their reputation here in Japan is very positive. They are known as a company who tries to innovate and be different (though some will say otherwise) and their JDM products suit the Japanese and premium markets really well. Speaking of Japan only Taylormade, I’ve also got the new Taylormade Gloire F series here for review which is TM’s Japan only Premium Performance line so stay tuned!