With Seattle, Washington State (where I live) suffering its seventh, eighth and ninth snow storms of the winter, the last couple of weeks have not been good times for golf club testing.
So before I start, you should know the following opinions of the TaylorMade R9 driver are based on a couple of visits to the driving range and a lot of swings in the garage.
But let’s start at the beginning and how I felt the moment the FedEx guy arrived with a long slender cardboard box from the TaylorMade HQ in California.
I loved the info-mercial we've seen on US golf channels with the TaylorMade R7 slowly changing into a TaylorMade R9 with a lot of clinking noises, but the point of the advertisement that said: ‘in 2004 TaylorMade optimized the driver and that in 2009 they were going to optimise me’ didn’t quite resonate.
Who, after all, were TaylorMade to tell me I’m not optimised already, or that if indeed I wasn’t optimised, a golf club was somehow going to finish the job? But I’m not going to lie to you. I ripped open that box like a hungry dog sniffing a bag of chocolate-covered meaty treats.
Not altogether surprisingly perhaps, my initial impression was that I had seen this club before. The head has a different shape to my old TaylorMade r7 425 and the 2007 TaylorMade Burner, both of which have more rounded crowns. But this more tapered, crown with a pointed end is certainly TaylorMade’s preferred shape just now.
I suspect is has something to do with improved aerodynamics and the fact it need accommodate only one MWT cartridge, as opposed to the two on my TaylorMade r7 Quad. Actually, I read that the head shape is referred to as ‘New Classic’ and that it’s a ‘pleasing cross between the TaylorMade r7 SuperQuad and the TaylorMade r7 Limited’.
I’d say it’s definitely more r7 Limited than SuperQuad and, if pushed, I’d opt for a more rounded crown. But it’s not a deal-breaker and the pointier end does have a certain sleekness about it.
To explain how it all works, the TaylorMade R9 comes with an instruction manual! Most normal drivers require only three instructions: 1) Remove driver from box. 2) Tee ball up. 3) Hit ball as hard as you can. But in order to ensure you set your R9 up correctly, further research is required.
In fact, there are two manuals, one for FCT, the other for MWT (or TLC – TaylorMade Launch Control). Read them carefully so you know not only which setting you might need, but also how to move the weights and twist the sleeve/shaft in order to configure the club.
The TaylorMade R9 arrives in the default setting of Neutral with the 16g cartridge in the middle port and 1g cartridges in both the heel and toe. So if, like me, you want to encourage a bit more right to left sidespin you need to engage the FCT and twist the sleeve/shaft to NU, or even L. I also moved the 16g cartridge to the heel to further promote that drawspin.
At the driving range with the club in the N position and the 16g cartridge in the middle port, I hit a series of rather discouraging push-slices which obviously said more about my swing than the club. However, after rotating the clubhead to the L position (face two degrees closed, standard lie angle) and moving the heavy cartridge to the heel (whatever your preferred configuration of weights, make sure that all three ports are filled as an empty port violates the rules – Appendix II, 4a), I was soon hitting the draw the manual suggested I would.
So, without actually having hit the TaylorMade R9 on a golf course, I can testify the theory holds up at the driving range. I literally cannot wait for the snow to clear, the temperature to rise just a few degrees above freezing and to have the opportunity of getting out on the tees, fairways and greens. The R9 feels powerful and makes a great titanium sound. And now it's set up to compensate for my shortcomings, it surely bodes well for a long summer of golf.