The long awaited BCC review of TaylorMade's bangin' new driver, the r9, is finally complete. Since this was such a revolutionary product, I took a LOT of time testing and evaluation this club - thus the delay in completing my evaluation. If you have read this blog for very long, you know that I am a long time believer in TaylorMade's big sticks (see BCC's review of the r7 Limited here). I've tried Ping's G10, a few Callaways, Titleist, and Nike - but for me (and seemingly a bunch of guys who get paid to play), TM totally has the driver game wired. So wired in fact, that they continually churn out new gear at an astonishing pace - but, I digress.
About the r9:For those of you who don't know much about the club, it combines the "Movable Weight Technology" of the r7 series with a new feature - one which allows you to move the clubhead on the shaft. This allows you to rotate the clubface into 5 different settings - from 2 degrees open to 2 degrees closed. For a pro, this functionality is nothing new, as they can get their clubs "bent" to fit - but for the rest of the mere mortals,this a completely new feature. The r9 comes in a variety of lofts and is equipped with a rockin' Fujikura Motore shaft. For more on the technological intricacies of the r9, just go here.
Intro: I've played TM Drivers since the 90's , and since late 2008, I had been playing the r7 Limited, and really,really liked the club. So much so, that I went into the "evaluation" of the r9 fully expecting this to be a fairly short process. I figured I would hit some balls on the range, play with the adjustments, complete a few loops with it in my bag, and come back and write the review. Well, that's where it started to get interesting...
First Date: Out of the box, my first thought was that the r9 is a very good looking club. The head cover has some nice,updated graphics, it is plenty durable, and overall very well finished. The head of the r9 is relatively similar to the r7 Limited, with a bit of a "triangle" shape. The black metaflake pain looks nice - nothing too flashy there. One kind a weird thing I did notice - the little alignment aid seems to be off-center, closer to the heel of the club...not a big deal, but something I thought odd. The new r9 logo is prominently displayed on the bottom of the club. Adjusting both the weights and the face angle are simple, and are accomplished with a special tool that TM provides with the club. As previously mentioned, a Fujikura Motore shaft, all dolled up in TM Red,Black, and White comes standard in the r9 - a kick azz upgrade for certain. IT comes in a variety of lofts, and mine is a 9.5 degree version. Another nit - with the popularity of the Golf Pride Multi decade compound grips, it seems that TM could give some thought to stocking those on the club ( I put a white one one mine to match my set - it looks shweeet), as it currently comes with a TM branded grip.
Making My Move: So my first trip to the range with the new bat, and I was excited. A few practice swings and I was impressed with how solid the club felt when hitting nothing but air...hard to describe, it just felt good. I had been fighting a bit of a hook off the tee, so I decided to take advantage immediately of TM technological wizardry - I whipped out the wrench and cranked the face 2 degrees open (max setting), but left the weights set on "neutral". 10 swings later, and I had yet to hit a drive left... a good sign. However, I was not happy with the ball flight ( a bit to high), so I adjusted it back to 1 degree open. It only took 3 shots, and BANG, I knew I was onto something. Based on this, I decided to take my new toy to the battlefield. The first hole at my home track has always been a challenge to me - the fairway is super tight, and I had long struggled with pulling this shot left. BANG again - right down the middle, high and straight as an arrow. 18 holes later, I had hit 10 fairways, and only missed two of them to the left (one a bad miss, the other only slightly in the rough). Initial Thoughts - This evaluation will take longer than originally planned. I was very,very impressed.
3 weeks later, I have played 7 rounds of golf and continue to be impressed. The adjustability has really helped me (I've not changed the setting of 1 degree open) fully release on my driver swing and not worry (too much) about going left. Meanwhile, I have consistently hit the best drives of my life. Distance, trajectory,ball flight - it's all there. However, one of the really amazing things I have noticed about this club - and something that I have NEVER been able to do consistently or predictably, is "work" the ball. Whether it is the club, my confidence, my swing, or some combination thereof - I can now hit a draw reliably when needed AND hit a fade. Now, for those of you scratch golfers out there (HOLLA, Shane B.), this may not sound like a big deal,because you have been able to do this forever. ..but for a mid handicapper like myself this is a pretty big deal.
Not content to write this review with just my assessment, I let a buddy use it this weekend (he normally plays a Ping G10). He immediately started bombing it - first 4 holes he used it, 4 split fairways, way long. By the 6th hole that he used it on, he was ready to buy one at the turn !
Here are my ratings by "category":
- Sound: Consistently receive comments on how "solid" the club sounds, which I have never gotten before (including on other TM gear). Very pleasing overall. Grade:A+
- Distance: I'm killing it and so are my buddies. I know they say the r9 460 is longer, but I'm hitting it onto the downhill lie sections (which is further than you'd like to be) on a lot of par 4s so far. It's a bomber. Grade:A+
- Trajectory: With the multiple adjustments, you should be able to fix this to your liking. I certainly was, with only two adjustments. My only advice - go slowly o the adjustments, make one at a time, and make them in the smallest increments possible. Grade:A+
- Grip: As mentioned, I wish they would offer the Golf Pride Multi Decade Compound grip - the white one or the red one would look great on this club. The stock TM grip is sufficient tho. Grade: B
- Other: The movable weights and adjustable face angle are simple,well constructed, and easy to understand and use. No complaints there. Grade: A
- Overall Performance: I won't belabor this - this is the BEST DRIVER I have ever played. I like everything about the club (ok,ok, except the grip...but that is so minor).
Will He or Won't He ?: This is a great club, and a huge advance in golf technology. If you are in the market for a new driver, do yourself a HUGE favor - give the r9 a long,serious look. I've never had so many people borrow a driver, hit it, and absolutely LOVE it as with the r9. If you are already a TM fan, just go buy it....it completely rocks. Grade: A+
Postscript - Check back soon, I'm hoping to do a review of the TM r9 Fairway wood as well !!!