Some years ago I edited a magazine called Golf Buyer, which was launched with the ambition of becoming the What Car? Or What Hi-Fi? of the golfing world, an independent, impartial reviewer. We asked manufacturers to send us all kinds of golf equipment and when it came to clubs, we tested them against the manufacturer’s specifications; so if they said its 6-iron had a certain loft, lie, and swingweight, we checked. In the two years I worked for the magazine, three companies performed consistently well, and their clubs always matched their specifications exactly. One of those three was Titleist. As a consequence, I have great faith in the company’s ability to produce gear that does exactly what it says on the tin.
I was eager to see if Titleist’s new range of TSR drivers would meet my expectations and prove to be an improvement on the already excellent TSi range. The marketing department at Titleist will attempt to lure you in with seductive wording, beautifully shot photographs, and language that can be confusing to some. Sometimes you may feel like you need a degree in linguistics and engineering to understand some of the terminologies, with terms and acronyms such as COR, sweetspot, and MOI. So with all that considered, this article aims to debunk the jargon and help you understand how the TSR drivers compare, and if they’re the club for you.
The first thing to understand is that we’re not talking about one club but a family of them. The new range of TSR drivers is the third generation with the TS branding to hit the shops, and that’s significant. When a product, such as the Callaway Big Bertha driver, or Pro-V1 ball, becomes an instant best-seller, the maker will put it through several revamps and upgrades rather than introduce a new model or range. A bit of kit usually sells well because it works, so it makes sense to further improve what they know the customer likes, rather than try to persuade them that a name they have never heard of will suit them better. Titleist has gone one better by introducing three new drivers, all with the TSR branding, but each with specific build characteristics.
TSR clubs are the latest products in what Titleist calls its ‘speed project’ which, in simple terms, is a recognition that if you can swing the club faster, the ball will go further. This speed project is four years old and could be seen as a reflection of the philosophy of Dave Brailsford, the ultra-successful cycling coach who worked on the principle of ‘marginal gains.’ With this, you look at every aspect of performance and improve each element by 1% so that overall, you get a significant increase in function.
This is the driver of choice for maximum forgiveness. If you are that rare person who nails the sweetspot in the centre of the clubface every time, look elsewhere. However, if you sometimes hit the ball with the toe or heel of the club, or towards the top-line or near the bottom of the clubface, it is designed with you in mind. The clubface is comprised of a strong, high flexibility titanium alloy but in the TSR2 the face thickness varies to give more consistent ball speeds from off-centre strikes. Marketing alert: Titleist calls this a ‘multi-plateau VFT face’ but we’ll stick with variable thickness. The centre of gravity has been moved fractionally forward and the driver comes in lofts of 8, 9, 10 and 11 degrees, except the left-hand model is not available in 8. Then again, left-handedness is the mark of Satan.
This is the model for the golfer who consistently hits the ball in, or near, the centre of the clubface. This does not mean it is limited to single-figure handicap golfers – many seniors and those with a slower swing speed hit with the part of the clubface they’re meant to, they just don’t have quite the same oomph through impact. Incidentally, although some manufacturers are switching to carbon for their clubfaces, Titleist is sticking with titanium, despite there being a global shortage. The predecessor of the TSR, the TSi, was the most played driver on the PGA Tour for almost two seasons and visually the two clubs don’t look very different because Titleist has resisted the temptation to tinker for tinkering’s sake. The TSR3 has a ‘Speed ring face’ which essentially means it is thicker towards the perimeter and at its thinnest on the sweetspot, which means greater deflection, or spring when the club meets the ball.
This is the model that gives the lowest spin rate at launch and the first thing you notice is that the clubhead is smaller (430cc as opposed to 460cc). It features the same variable face thickness as the TSR2, and all three models have adjustable weights at the back of the clubhead. In the TSR4 these movable weights offer two centres of gravity and Stephanie Luttrell, Titleist’s director of metalwood development, told Golf Digest: ‘When you flip those weights you add spin, you add dynamic lofting, that essentially gives you the performance of TSR3 in a mini shape. We basically decided to make it a mini 3.’ Why low spin? Because, if you want the ball to dance around the flagstick, spin can be your friend, if you have a tendency to fade (slice) or draw (hook) the ball, it can exaggerate these characteristics.
All three clubs have a slimmer, squared-off design that Titleist calls ‘boat tail,’ to reduce drag, the etching around the edge of the clubface makes it look larger, instilling confidence at address, and the sole design is smoother, with unnecessary decorative pockets and ridges removed. Even the look of the hosel (where the shaft fits into the clubhead) has been tweaked.
The already impressive Titleist TSi has undergone numerous minor adjustments, all with the aim of improving aerodynamic performance and therefore increasing clubhead speed. The TSR2 is best for forgiveness, the TSR3 best for those who strike the ball with precision, and the TSR4 scores in reducing spin. All are offered with a choice of four stock shafts, the TSR2 and 3 are available in lofts of 8, 9, 10, and 11 degrees, while the TSR4 does not have the 11-degree option.
A good-looking, aerodynamically efficient, and extremely well-performing driver, popular with tour pros and recreational golfers alike, just got better. Be careful, though, to make sure that you get the model best suited to your swing characteristics, so visit one of our custom-fit centres at no extra cost.
About the Author
Martin Vousden - Golf Writer
Martin Vousden joined Today’s Golfer in 1988 as a staff writer and quickly rose to become editor; under his stewardship it became Britain’s best-selling golf title. He then became launch editor of Golf Buyer and Swing magazines, before moving to Scotland to take over at ScottishGolf. After five years he became (and remains) a freelance journalist, having written for numerous titles, including Golf Monthly, Golf Punk and The Clubhouse, which is based in Malaysia. He lives in Angus, about 12 miles from the Carnoustie course that beats him up every time he plays it, so he joined Kirriemuir GC. His handicap of 19.3 rises inexorably with every passing year.
Martin’s golf bag contains:
- Ping G400 driver
- King Cobra F/Speed 3-wood
- Kane Golf 5-wood
- Callaway Big Bertha 7-wood
- Wilson D9 irons, 5-gap wedge
- Yonex Z-Force sand wedge
- John Letters Golden Goose lob wedge
- Putter: GEL Ruby or Odyssey 2-ball blade (depending on which is behaving itself)
- TaylorMade Distance Balls (yellow, just because he likes the colour)