Product review: TaylorMade R9 driver
Manufacturers cannot help but overuse the word 'custom.' They attach it to cars, clothes, shoes, and all kinds of commodities. Ultimately, most of those 'custom' products still fit many.
With its R9 driver, however, TaylorMade Golf has created an honestly customizable club for the mass market. An R9 with the proper shaft can, indeed, fit anyone with a repeating golf swing or regular flight tendency. Because of its adaptability, the R9 is the best off-the-rack club I have ever tried.
That is no small statement from a golfer who tries many clubs, but rarely writes about most of them.
As in its previous drivers, TaylorMade utilizes movable weights to change the center of gravity. But, the R9 is different because its shaft rotates and clicks into eight different positions, changing face, loft, and lie angles. When we factor the weighting options, this club offers a mind boggling 24 optimal configurations. TaylorMade claims they can alter side-to-side trajectories by 75 yards.
As such, the R9 will keep obsessive and compulsive golfers busy. The company allowed us to experiment with a 10.5 degree version. I clicked every possible option and finished, ultimately, with an upright draw setting that made this driver as straight and predictable as any, ever, including some that were truly custom built. Not long ago, a golfer might have paid four figures for a club with such capacity. The R9 retails for considerably less.
At 422cc's the R9 is smaller than some heads. There is a 460cc version, but I like the smaller one better. It is very forgiving across most of the club face, and has a subtle, muted sound. Fit and finish were excellent. The club weighed in D4 on a 45-inch shaft, true to the company specs.
For all of the advancement and flexibility in this driver, there is one area in which TaylorMade might improve the R9. At the factory, the company pre-sets a shaft into a sleeve, which then fits into the head in one of those eight desired settings. Esthetically, the shaft and grip have no up or down. They look the same no matter how they orient to the head. But, a custom club fitter will tell you that every shaft has a perfect spine angle which improves performance. With all those possible settings, the R9 shaft has only a one in eight chance of accommodating it.
That said, the 3.5 torque, 65 gram Fujikra Motore Shaft felt pretty much the same to my hands no matter what its orientation. For a stock shaft, it provided efficient and satisfying results. I swing at about 105 miles per hour, and measured ball velocities in the range of 150 miles per hour. That is very good, approaching numbers from some of those truly custom drivers. The R9 produced perfect launch angles, low spin, and excellent roll after tweaking the club to produce a gentle draw.
It is worth noting that TaylorMade offers a complete range of other shafts, leaving plenty of room for substantial improvement. Imagine the possibilities of customizing an already customizable driver.
So, if you like to fidget, and if the concept of 24 possible drivers in one appeals to you, the R9 is worth a try. Our only advice would be that you do not make yourself crazy in the process.
Learn more about the TayloreMade R9 at www.taylormadegolf.eu.
golf, wayne freedman
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