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Gear Review: TaylorMade Tour Burner driver

TaylorMade Tour Burner driver [photopress:taylormade_tour_burner2k8.jpg,full,alignright]

MSRP: $499

Loft: 9.5 degrees

Length: 45.5 inches

Shaft: Proprietary 60-gram Fujikura Reax

What they say: Dual Crown technology _ wherein the size of the crown is noticeably smaller than the large sole _ and TaylorMade’s Ultra-Thin Wall casting technology, which allows the clubhead walls to measure as little as .55 millimeters thick, create an exceptionally low CG location “ among the lowest ever in a TaylorMade driver. Inverted Cone Technology, characterized by a shallow cone milled directly onto the inner side of the clubface, delivers higher ball speed over a larger area of the face.

What we say:

We were pulling our clubs out of the trunk at Osprey Valley Resort for Day 1 of our annual three-day, 72-hole Ryder Cup-style showdown when I noticed my gamer driver seemed to look . . . shorter than usual.

My heart in my throat, I gave the club a tug. Only half of it came out.

Bewildered, I eventually concluded that my Titleist 907D2 had been mortally wounded by an ill-advised, frustration-fuelled, baseball-style sand wedge swing at my bag the previous weekend.

That, in a nutshell, is how TaylorMades new Tour Burner driver made the cut for the first round of the coveted Chatsworth Cup.

A demo Burner _ a glossy-black, triangle-shaped, tech-heavy iteration of TMs ridiculously popular Burner franchise _ was in the trunk as backup (only a fool travels to the Chatty unprepared for every eventuality).

This was to be the ultimate field test for a new piece of kit: the fescue-infested and somewhat rain-soaked grounds of Ospreys Heathlands layout, with a fierce wind out of the east and a years worth of bragging rights on the line.

A strong long game off the tee is my principal advantage, and Heathlands is a course that demands you drive the ball well. My trump card was in the back of the car, decapitated.

The pressure was on.

The first thing you notice about the Tour Burner is its weight, or lack thereof. TaylorMade calls it SuperFast technology: A 60-gram, low-torque, stiff-tip proprietary shaft by Fujikura, combined with a lightweight grip, make the TB light as a feather.

For players with a tendency to get to the ball late and leave the face open, or to lose control of the club at the top and overcorrect by cutting across it, or who simply have trouble generating enough clubhead speed, this is a major selling point.

For everyone else, it can be a recipe for disaster.

It was Left City all day for me and the Burner. Luckily, I also managed to find the suburb of Longville.

Case in point was the reachable 515-yard par-5 9th, where a smoking hot hook down a sharp dogleg left can actually leave you in pretty good shape. Sure enough, from the first cut of the left rough, I had a 5-iron in (pushed it, nice chip, putted like a choking dog, made 5).

Long and left was the story of the day. And in the interests of full disclosure, Ive been struggling with a hook off the tee ever since with a variety of other substitute drivers, although none to the same extent as the Tour Burner. The culprit, I suspect, is a tendency to take a mighty cut at the ball off the tee.

Theres little doubt in my mind this is a tremendous golf club _ in the right hands. Clearly, mine aren’t them.

The Tour Burner features something called Dual Crown technology, which is why the clubhead has a crown thats noticeably smaller than the sole, creating a steppe that circles the back of the clubhead and gives it a decidedly Star Trek look.

The Dual Crown idea, combined with Ultra-Thin clubhead walls, allows the saved weight to be used to significantly lower the drivers centre of gravity.

Inverted Cone technology on the clubface and a dramatically higher effective moment of inertia, or MOI, is credited with effectively widening the TBs sweet spot.

The TBs head design is of the triangular variety, the latest rage among the major manufacturers (the aforementioned D2 is similarly shaped).

The Burner is more noticeably three-cornered at address than the D2, which looks more traditional from the top down. The Burners sole is smooth and convex, and seemed to me to make the driver look left when soled. Indeed, I felt compelled to crank the face open in my setup to mitigate the risk of a hook, and often found it difficult to do so.

However, the all-black finish and unique shape convey a strong sense of power at address, and you can take TaylorMades principal selling point _ a more forgiving head and face design that results in greater ball speed on off-centre hits _ to the bank. In other words, directional issues notwithstanding, this club is stupid long.

Tellingly, TaylorMade offers a Tour Preferred model thats bent two degrees open and ships with a standard-weight grip, with high-end Matrix Ozik, Mitsubishi Diamana Whiteboard and Fujikura Rombax shaft options. The premium shaft offerings add about $200 to the retail price.

The Tour Burner TPs open face angle works in conjunction with the characteristics of the three selected shafts to help prevent skilled players from losing the ball to the left, the company said in its media release earlier this year. With any luck, we can snag a TP demo for a future review.

Oh, yeah – the match. My partner and I lost 3 and 2 _ as much a result of the strong play of our opponents as my errant tee shots. Happily, the Chatsworth Cup remains unclaimed for the third straight year after yet another 5-5 draw.

A footnote: I raved in this space last week about the performance of the new Z TP wedges, and continue to find them _ a 56-degree sand wedge and 52-degree gap _ to be the most consistent, confidence-building players wedges I have ever hit.

Theyre a cinch to control, produce ridiculous amounts of spin and make it easy to manipulate the trajectory of your shots. The cooling-fin cavities on the back, flanking that sharp TaylorMade racing logo, seem to widen the sweet spot, while the C-grind shaping of the sole allows for consistent contact with minimal digging.

When it comes to scoring, you need your wedges to be go-to clubs more than any other in your bag. The Z TPs are more than that _ they’re precision instruments, to be sure.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

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