Sunday, December 20, 2009

Am I in love ? Ask my Taylor Made r9 Driver and 3 wood....

Earlier this year, I switched to Taylor Made's (revolutionary at the time) r9 driver. I wrote my initial evaluation of it in June (you can read it here), in which I was quite impressed. This post will focus on my "extended use" review of the r9 driver, as well as the r9 3 wood, which I put in my bag mid-summer. Since the initial post provided all of sorts of technical stuff, I'm not going to rehash all of that (you're welcome....). Rather, I will provide you my full impressions after playing the club for (most of)a full season - hopefully, for those of you who are looking for a new driver or 3 wood this Christmas (yep, I still call it Christmas...feel free to use your own terminology,tho) this info will prove helpful to you or to Santa.
The specs on the clubs are as follow:
  • r9 driver, 9.5 degrees of loft, stiff shaft (stock TM Motore)
  • r9 3 wood, 15 degrees of loft, stiff shaft (stock TM Motore)
  • both are set with the weights "neutral", and the faces one degree open
Since my initial review, I've played over 40 rounds of golf with the clubs - much of it in a competitive situation (The Golf Channel Amateur Tour, primarily). I think this is relevant because one learns quite quickly in these situations that control of your driver and 3 wood is at least as important as distance. Having set the stage, following are my observations on the two clubs:

r9 Driver
  • The r9 driver is the longest driver I've played to date, and as a long time TM driver user, this is a good sign for prospective buyers.
  • The adjustable face technology really DOES work. As I have improved my skills on the course, and worked hard to learn a correct weight transfer, I had fixed any tendency to hit a tee ball to the right side (aka a slice). However, in the process I had overcompensated to the degree that my "misses" were now left - and those misses tended to lead to big numbers on the card. My efforts to use the movable weights (a hallmark of the r7 series) were fairly effective - however, the adjustable face angle REALLY nailed this issue. By setting the face 1 degree open (effectively de-lofting the club), I found that I was able to really go after the ball, swing as aggressively as I wanted, and rarely have to worry about snapping it left. On the days I was really in a groove, I could tell because my drives were long, with a boring trajectory, and a slight fade at the end. The point here is simply that between the movable weights and an adjustable face, anyone with a "consistent problem" can improve their ball flight.
  • Since I settled on a "neutral weight,1 degree open setting", I have not made subsequent adjustments. While frequent adjustments are easy and straightforward, I was happy with my settings and never saw fit to change them. The tool that's included is easy to use.
  • I'm a mid handicapper (fluctuating between 8 and 12 throughout the year) - and I found the r9 to be plenty forgiving. It's not what I would consider a "players club" in the sense that you must hit it exactly on the sweet spot to get good results. I did notice (after reading a great review on another blog) that shots hot in the center of the clubface flew the "expected" distance, but a shot hit above center ( a little high on the face) REALLY took off. Once I figured this out, I gained at least 15 yards on my tee shots. That being said, the club retains some workability if you need it - when I was hitting the ball well, I could draw or fade it on command....but on the days I wasn't striping it, I could just as easily play for the center of the fairway and generally hit it straight.
  • The face and head still look good after much use - no unusual wear or premature fatigue. The sound is pleasant (no "aluminum baseball bat" like ping, or dull, muted "thud") - and this has been consistent since my first shot with the r9. If sound is important to you, this won't disappoint.
  • As much as I liked the Matrix Ozik shaft in the r7 Classic, I've been very pleased with the Fujikura Motore that comes standard in the r9. It's lively, consistent, and looks good with the red and white paint. The only complaint I have with this shaft is that it tends to scratch easily. Hopefully,no long term damage here - but it's worth noting.
  • Overall impression of the r9 driver after a full season is a resounding "thumbs up with a snap" (that's for all of you In Living Color fans out there)... I highly recommend this driver.
r9 3 Wood
The 3 wood has been the most frequently changed club in my bag (except for putters) over the past 10 years. Unlike my driver, I've played many different brands - Callaway,Ping,TaylorMade, Titleist, Sonartec ('memba them ?), and Orlimar. Prior to getting the r9, I was playing the TM Burner, and was pretty happy with it. However, my fondness for the r9 driver, and my propensity to experiment with 3 woods, led me to decide to give the r9 3 wood a shot. Oddly, when I got the club to the range for the first time, the face was already set at 1 degree open...a strange coincidence for certain. Here are my observations on the r9 3 wood:
  • Initially the larger head was visually distracting - and I struggled to hit this club solidly off the deck. Accepting this as a temporary issue, I decided to hit some off the tee. After hitting 10 shots off the tee, WOW... a very similar experience as with the driver. Long, predictable, and right where I was aiming. I went back to hitting balls off the deck, and had some improvement - but still could see I needed to work on this.
  • Taking the r9 3 wood to the course, I decided to use it on all par 4s that were less than 400 yards. My great results from the range carried over to the course - my tee shots were long, accurate, and I was able to go after the ball aggressively without worrying about hooking - thanks to the 1 degree open face. I was hooked...
  • Throughout the remainder of the season, my shotmaking abilities with the r9 3 wood continued to improve. In tournaments, this became a real "go to" club when hitting the fairway was a must. I also found the distance with this club to be incredible. In some of the late season events, I was sometimes hitting this club 240 yards plus off the tee. No question, its long...
  • I was also able to overcome the early problems hitting the r9 3 wood off the fairway - practice and a focus on tempo seemed to cure this - so it was obviously user error!
  • The face and head had held up well, and remain in great shape.
  • The issues with shaft scratching that I described above also presented themself with the 3 wood - not really sure of the cause here, as I'm pretty careful with my sticks. At any rate, its something that we hope TM pays attention to and addresses.
  • My overall rating on the r9 3 wood is a big thumbs up. If you are in the market for a 3 wood, I highly recommend you give this one a try - I feel sure it will be among the finalists for the VP slot in your bag for 2010 !
As I've lamented before, there is no telling what the Golf gurus at Taylor Made are cooking up for 2010 - but for right now, the r9 driver and 3 wood had a secure spot in the bag at Bushwood. I've paid careful attention to the TM staff players, and practically all of them have switched to the r9 - so even the pros seem to agree with me here.

If any of our readers are r9 users, I'd love to hear your thoughts on them !


footai said...

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John Kenly said...

Great post.
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