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Deep dive into the Ai-Smoke Max D driver on TOUR

“I’m sitting here wondering why I didn’t put this driver in 3-4 months ago.”

-Akshay Bhatia

Remember two years ago when I was OBSESSED with the Rogue ST Max D?

The gist of that particular driver was the EASE OF USE. If you wanted to just hit soft draws all day and NOTHING ELSE, it was as good as you’ll ever get your hands on. My issue was although I was driving the hell out of it for a month plus, after the honeymoon phase, I’d get to a dogleg right or a straightish hole and try to shape it with the hole, and the ball would DEAD LEFT. Looking back, I could have just played Rocco Mediate golf, hit draws all day, and had a blast, but unfortunately, that’s not how my brain works.

So why are we here again?

Well, it has happened again. This time, on the PGA TOUR, not once, not twice, but four times. As of Hilton Head, we had two full-staff players Alex Noren and Akshay Bhatia in the Ai-Smoke Max D and two non-staffers (GM and AB)

That’s a ton of players for a driver that marketing would classify as “anti-slice” or “super game improvement”. In all honesty, it’s not a head that we keep on hand in the truck in any meaningful way. Even the Rogue ST Max D wasn’t really a thing back in 2022.

So what has changed? What makes this particular go-around different?

I could give you my answer, but I thought it better to get it straight from the man who actually dialed these things in for all four players…Callaway Performance Rep Johnny Thompson.

Few things to consider about the Ai-Smoke Max D driver before we talk to JT:

  1. The shape: It has a higher toe than the others meaning it’s UPRIGHT. At address you can see it. Left start line faders LOVE this look as it encourages the ball to start…left. (See Pics Below)
  2. Spin: The Max D will spin SLIGHTLY more than TD or Max (apples to apples), but with the Ai face, all our drivers tend to live in a tight spin window, so excess spin isn’t a concern here. This is key for the optimal curve to get the ball moving back on line (but not too much).
  3. It’s HOT: This head was always a heater in testing. For example, Alex Noren and Akshay picked up 2-4MPH ball speed with Max D. That’s a ton at the TOUR level.
  4. Heel-biased CG: This is the secret sauce for faders. When you have a heel-biased driver, open the face, and your path is left, the head counteracts any excess left-to-right spin, making the wipey right miss a thing of the past.

GM

JW: Describe the similarities between the four players in Max D on Tour at the moment. What do they all have in common, and what does Max D do to complement that? 

JT: GM (Non-Staffer), Shay, and Noren have extremely similar deliveries in that they swing across their bodies to create a “pull cut,” the lie angle and CG match perfectly because their swing DNA (path and face angle) create the fade, and the MAX D helps start it left, spin low and not over cut.  A pull fade is their comfortable swing; drivers that are too flat-lined and too neutral to fade CG bias will not start left enough and will slide off the face.  This will make guys swing too hard left and create lower balls speeds (glancing blow, a bigger two-way miss, screwing up their swing with other clubs)

Alex Noren

AB (non-staffer) is the outlier, he just never wants to miss it right. He swings hard to the right and down but only sees left curving balls. So in his case, it’s a draw machine as advertised.

AB


JW: Walk me through the process of getting Akshay to land/stay on this head.

Akshay Specs: Ai-Smoke Max D (9@6.8, Strong Cog, N/-2, 8G Lead Toe, 1G INT Crown, 1.5G INT Sole, D5) w/ Fujikura Ventus Black 7X (45 EOG, Tipped 1)

JT: The Rogue ST MAX LS is a VERY unique club. We never really had an option in Paradym that had the same lie angle, MOI but low spin and draw CG.  Last year, we had no chance with him, not without an effort, we tried. 

This year, MAX D aligned perfectly with RST MAX LS, the only problem was he didn’t want to change anything at the start of the year.  His MAX D has been 2-4mph faster, more forgiving, and lower spinning, 10-15 yards longer but he had such an attachment to the RST MAX LS that it couldn’t break through.  Luckily a few rounds of below average driving for him created an opportunity to take a flier on Sunday at The Masters.  It went great and after practice days at Hilton Head Island, over the phone, he said…

“I’m sitting here wondering why I didn’t put this driver in 3-4 months ago.”

-Akshay Bhatia

JW: On TOUR rank these things from most important to least explain why #1 is most important #1 Ball Speed #2 Start Line/Fall Line #3 Spin #4 Maneuverability #5 Forgiveness 

JT:

In testing

Ball Speed and Start line/Fall line are 1a and 1b

3rd is Spin

4th is Forgiveness

5th is Maneuverability

When it lands in the bag…

1a and 1b in Forgiveness and Start Line/Fall Line

3rd Ball Speed

4th Maneuverability

5th Spin

That’s my opinion and you might get something else from the others.  

Ball speed and SL/FL grab attention in testing and create curiosity, Forgiveness and SL/FL make a driver plottable and trustworthy when it counts and that’s what keeps it in the bag.

To conclude

Truth is any head with a savvy fitter and an open mind can create some REALLY FUN unicorn situations. We can tell you what something is ALL DAY but it’s up to the player and the fitter to go in deep and find the perfect answer. Max D a faders dream? Yes. Yes it is.

Happy Hunting

LFG

JDub

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