Need To Know
Confidence on the golf course is an essential ingredient if you want to play the game consistently and work on reducing your handicap.
Being able to stand over a shot with a clear idea of where you ideally need and want to put the ball in the fairway, is far better than clouding your head with thoughts of whether or not you're going to make a decent strike, avoid the bunkers on the left or miss the bushes down the right.
Most of us, surely, have had the experience that when we hit a trial club on a demo day or take it out on the course for a couple of rounds, our first impression is that we strike it like Nicklaus in his prime. But as soon as we've handed over our precious cash, our confidence drains and we end up playing like Nick Lousy!
Once it's paid for, you're stuck with it and it will probably end up among your souvenirs in the garage or shed. Alternatively it's in your locker so that your wife or partner can't see that the club you bored them rigid about, claiming it was the answer to all your golfing dreams, has now effectively been consigned to golf's equipment graveyard.
But today's clubmakers have a few tricks up their sleeve and since it was launched in the US I've fallen for their best yet. I've been totally smitten by the latest TaylorMade R9 driver, a club which has given me a confidence off the tee I thought I might have lost forever.
A niggling back problem had left me fighting to regain my best swing, with blocks to the right and the occasional compensatory duck hook leaving me frustrated with my tee shots and putting extra pressure on my short game as well as my back! But the opportunity to use the adjustable R9 meant I could investigate different ways to alter the club to suit my current creaking swing.
Moveable weights in the TaylorMade R9 driver's head and the ability to take the head off altogether and put it back with an alternative face angle, loft and lie means I can make my adjustments and really feel the improvement.
I tend to draw the ball with a somewhat flat swing plane and getting the timing of my hands through the ball is vital. Now the big, black 10.5 degree clubhead of the TaylorMade R9 just seems to sweep effortlessly through on the end of the Fujikura Motore 65 regular flex shaft and that suddenly become a magic wand of confidence.
Locking the head back in place with the torque wrench supplied free with the club, gives me four main settings to set up the trajectory:
*Towards L sets the club to give a maximum draw (presumably for those with a built slice or fade swing).
*Towards R sets the club for a controlled fade (for those who consistently over draw or pull tee shots)
*Neutral Upright (NU) delivers a slight draw (for those with a tendency toward a slight fade)
* Neutral (N) produces a slight fade (my preferred setting to counteract an occasional hook/pull)
Additionally you can set the shaft between the major marks on the hosel to make a more finite tweak in trajectory - from which probably only Tour pros would benefit - making a total of eight setting options. And with the three moveable weights in the back of the head that 24 alternatives. No wonder this club has been nicknamed 'the Chameleon of drivers'.
The weights sit at the rear of the Taylormade R9 driver and can be interchanged in seconds by using the specially supplied tool. The weights are made up of two 1 gram weights and one 16 gram weight. By changing the position of the heavier 16 gram weight you can influence the flight characteristics of the golf ball. To promote a right to left trajectory place the 16 gram weight in the port near the heel of the clubhead; promote a left to right trajectory by putting it near the toe. Meanwhile, to enable a straight trajectory, position the weight in the central port.
After some experimentation, I opted for the straight trajectory from the weights but a Neutral hosel position a setting which promotes a slight fade in a swing that produces straight shots but serves to counter-act my hands getting over-active hands during my flatter swings and hooking shots to the left.
It has also re-introduced much missed confidence from the tee. At 5ft 9ins, I have never been a long hitter and, now in my mid-50s, the good wine and good life attitude means I'm not going to be spending the rest of my life in the gym getting more supple so I can launch the golf ball 300 yards.
The benefit from the TaylorMade R9 has enable me to hit the ball with a slight draw around 230-260 yards depending on wind and ground conditions and taken some of the pressure off my short game. A round is now a far more pleasurable experience.
And if my back problems remain benign and the swing starts returns to more upright elegance, I can always brush the dust off the R9 wrench, make a few adjustments and keep my confidence strong.
Superb, confidence-boosting driver - with that distinctive TaylorMade 'mild crunch' feel off the face - which you can adjust and personalise to your swing foibles. Make small tweaks and plenty of them to find the setting that suits and keep a note of combinations you've tried and rejected..