TaylorMade's Nov. 13 launch of two new drivers -- the movable weight, multi-level adjustable R15 and the lightweight, swingspeed-focused AeroBurner -- makes the same case about what kind of driver you should buy that the company first made nearly a decade. The idea, which hearkens back to previous twin-driver introductions like the R9 and the Burner SuperFast, is that there are two kinds of golfers looking for two types of clubs: the technician and the bomber.
The technician is about dialing in precise launch conditions and navigating his way around the golf course strategically, with planned routes and trajectories. The bomber prefers high, far and straight, a less subtle approach that might be phrased as "swing first, ask questions later."
But both new drivers will build on the company's primary metalwood technologies of a center of gravity positioned more low and forward for less spin and improved energy transfer. Both also will feature a channel in the sole designed to enhance the way the face flexes for improved ballspeed all over the face.
The R15, which will be made available in both white and black versions, is the technician's driver. It features a sole channel with two independently movable 12.5-gram weights. The sole channel, or "speed pocket," is similar to the predominant feature on the successful SLDR drivers. It allows players to position weight in draw or fade settings, as well as positioning the weights in either a middle position or extreme heel and toe locations for improved stability. Compared to the SLDR, the R15's sole channel has been shifted slightly closer to the face (12 millimeters) to contribute to the way the face flexes at impact. That movement forward also helps further push the center of gravity forward. According to the company, more than 75 percent of the clubhead's total mass is in the front of the driver.
The R15 also utilizes an updated version of the company's adjustable hosel, which now accommodates 12 settings and a loft range of plus/minus two degrees. It's available Jan. 9 ($430, 9.5, 10.5, 12, 14 degrees) and will be offered in both a 460cc and 430cc head size. Golfers can pre-order the R15 starting Dec. 12.
The R15 line includes fairway woods ($280, 15, 16.5, 19, 20.5 degrees) and hybrids ($220). The adjustable fairway woods feature the same sole opening but with one sliding 25-gram weight to effect a draw or fade bias. Like the driver, the adjustable hosel can be set to one of 12 positions at plus/minus two degrees of loft. The hybrid or Rescue features a more compact 99cc head size and the neutral bias preferred by better players.
Although the R15 offers plenty of adjustability, some players simply want distance -- and at a more palatable price. That's where TaylorMade's debut of its AeroBurner line fits in.
According to Brian Bazzell, TaylorMade's senior director of product creation for metalwoods, AeroBurner "drastically improved the performance of the sole's speed pocket and significantly improved the aerodynamics to deliver maximum speed" compared to the successful RocketBallz line from a couple of years ago.
To assist with the aerodynamics, the club features a small fin -- present on drivers, fairway woods and hybrids—in the heel area of the club to reduce drag. A raised center on the crown, as well as a more rounded toe, also are designed to help get the club through the air more efficiently.
In the driver ($299), the speed pocket is twice as large as on the JetSpeed model. By not adding adjustability, the pocket could extend across the entire sole. Also helping speed is an overall lightweight design -- the total weight is less than 300 grams -- with a 50-gram Matrix Speed Rul-Z shaft.
The fairway woods ($229) and hybrids ($199) continue the company's pursuit of woods with low, forward centers of gravity, as well as a sole slot, something the company has been focusing on since its RocketBallz line.
The hybrids, called AeroBurner Rescue, also have the speed pocket as well as a shaft length that has been shortened a half-inch from the JetSpeed rescues to provide more consistent contact.
As with the R15 line, the AeroBurner, also available Jan. 9, comes with a new matte finish, "pearlized" white paint clubhead. TP options are available for all the metalwoods.
Its new JPX-850 fairway woods utilize an accordion shape in the front of the sole to help improve face flexibility, particularly on low-face impacts. That extra mass used to create the series of waves in the sole upfront is paired with a weight pad in the rear to expand the head's stability on high and low mis-hits, as well as heel and toe misses.
The club also attempts to enhance ball speed by using a 1770 high-strength maraging steel face. And for good measure, Mizuno adds an adjustable hosel that allows the three heads to fit eight settings each and a loft range of 10 degrees (13 to 23 degrees).
Available in November, the JPX-850 fairway woods ($250) come in 15-, 18- and 21-degree lofts with each being adjustable by plus or minus 2 degrees.
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The drivers -- the Z545 and Z745 -- each boast a cup-face construction with a titanium body and high-strength 6-4 titanium face. The face has been thinned in the heel and toe areas to boost ball speed on mis-hits, and the clubs are adjustable for face angle, lie angle and loft (via a 12-way adjustable hosel). The center-of-gravity position is also moveable with the use of three adjustable weights (3, 7 and 11 grams). The primary difference between the two drivers is size. The Z545 is 460cc while the Z745 is 430cc. Both drivers come in lofts of 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5 degrees and come standard with Mitsubishi's Kuro Kage Black HBP 60 shaft.
The company also touts a "Dual Speed Technology." The fancy term translates to a higher balance-point shaft, lighter grip and slightly heavier head. The theory behind it is that even though the head is slightly heavier, by reducing weight in the grip and raising the balance point in the shaft, the club can be swung faster and more efficiently, delivering more speed to the ball. This is similar to what Ping has done in recent years with its G and i series drivers, which have a higher balance-point shaft and heavier head as well. Both drivers sell for $400.
The Z F45 fairway woods (available in 3+-, 3- and 4-woods, $280) feature a similar adjustable hosel and weights as the drivers, along with a HT1770 maraging steel face for added zip. The same material is used for the face of the Z H45 hybrids ($230), which come in 2- 3- and 4-hybrid models. But unlike the drivers and fairway woods, the hybrids do not feature any adjustable elements.
The hallmark of the Z 545 and Z 745 irons (both $1,000 for a set of eight, steel shafts) is a tungsten weight placed in the toe area of the 3- through 6-irons, to produce more forgiveness in the harder-to-hit long irons. Both irons are forged from 1020 carbon steel and feature a new sole design that increases the leading bounce and decreases the trailing bounce to enhance turf interaction.
On the face, a double laser-milling pattern (one parallel to the grooves and the other on an angle) is designed to augment spin consistency. The cavity-back Z 545, which is more of a game-improvement club than the muscle-cavity Z 745, has a thinner, stronger steel face to bolster distance.
The same face material as the Z 545 is used on the new Z U45 utility iron (lofts of 18, 20 and 23 degrees). The hollow-construction, iron-like club ($180) has plenty of weight placed low to assist launch.