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TaylorMade’s latest and greatest: the R9

Back in the day, you could flip to the back of Golf Digest or Golf magazine, to that pseudo-classifieds section filled with mischievous products like exploding balls, muscle pills and telescoping putters, for proof positive that the notion of adjustable golf clubs has been around for some time indeed.

Someone, no doubt a curmudgeonly inventor fed up with the notion of having to drag 14 clubs with him around the golf course, had invented an iron with an adjustable face, allowing its owner to dial in the loft of anything from a 1 iron to a pitching wedge.

TaylorMade's new R9 driver

TaylorMade's new R9 driver

But everything old is new again, of course, and so it is that the concept of adjustability _ first movable weights, then swappable shafts, and now TaylorMades concept of Flight Control Technology _ has once again taken the golf world by storm.

The new R9 driver takes last years concept of the removable shaft and brings it to a far more sensible, logical place by allowing the clubs face and lie angle to change, depending on how the shaft is re-inserted into the clubhead (as does Nike’s latest offering, but that’s for another post).

Combine that with the movable weights, a concept TMaG refined with great success in 2004 with the madly popular r7 Quad driver, and you have what the company bills as one of the most revolutionary clubs it has ever produced.

The shaft _ a proprietary 65-gram Fujikura model in the R9, with a slightly stiffer version in the R9 TP _ is secured to the clubhead with a specially made bolt that nests in a well in the sole of the club. A sleeve in the clubhead meshes with a similar sleeve in the shaft, allowing the two components to mate in eight different positions. (Oh, settle down).

Each position results in a subtle change in the face and lie angle of the club _ two degrees open, two degrees closed, square, etc. Between the adjustments to the clubheads position and the re-arranging of the movable weights (three instead of four), 24 different configurations are possible for a side-to-side ball-flight variance of 75 yards, plus a host of different trajectories.

The best part, however, is in the R9s classic good looks _ or new classic, as the company describes it. The clubheads triangular shape is decidedly less jarring than some of the square or half-watermelon iterations you see these days, and lacks the sharp edges and alien looks of the r7 predecessor. tm-r9-clubhead
It sets up cleanly and boasts the cool new TP graphics, putting TaylorMade once again at the top of the food chain when it comes to asthetics. The fact that you can now tweak the setup until it provides a look that instills confidence for you is the icing on the cake.

The different ball-flight options with the R9

The different ball-flight options with the R9

Because of the dramatic shift in thinking the R9 represents, TMaG included a FAQ with the news release that heralded its arrival (which, in point of fact, doesnt happen until late March). Two of the more interesting questions revolve around the impact of a re-positioned shaft.

Since FCT requires that the shaft and FCT sleeve both rotate into different positions to change the characteristics of the head, won’t the rotation of the graphics on the shaft and grip be distracting to some players?

TaylorMade gave the R9 shaft a special “rotating graphic” that looks the same no matter what position the shaft is locked into, thus eliminating potential distraction. The grip is graphic-free, also to eliminate distraction.

Some golfers believe that every shaft has a distinct spine running from top to bottom, and that the spine needs to be positioned a specific way in order to maximize the shaft’s performance. Since the R9 driver shaft needs to be rotated in order to change the characteristics of the clubhead, that means the spine’s position will change too. Won’t that lead to inconsistent performance?

TaylorMade’s opinion on shaft spines has always been that if a shaft is well-designed and well-constructed, then the shaft will perform the same way no matter where the shaft is positioned in relation to the clubhead. As the world’s premium maker of metalwoods, TaylorMade pays special attention to offering shafts that meet our strict criteria for quality and performance. Besides, for shafts to conform to the Rules of Golf, its properties have to be symmetrical.

(In other words, shaft spining is a myth, according to TaylorMade.)

TaylorMade Introduces R9 and R9 TP Drivers

Combination of Flight Control Technology
and Movable Weight Technology Together Promote
up to 75 Yards of Side-to-Side Trajectory Adjustability

CARLSBAD, Calif. (January 19, 2009) – TaylorMade-adidas Golf pioneered adjustability in modern golf clubs with the r7® quad, which launched in 2004. It incorporated TaylorMade’s revolutionary Movable Weight Technology„¢ (MWT®), which gave golfers the power to change the clubhead’s center of gravity (CG) to promote different types of ball flight. The r7 quad driver spawned a long list of TaylorMade clubs with MWT, including fairway woods, Rescue® clubs, putters, and of course, more drivers. Each subsequent r7 driver introduced offered a significant boost in performance over the last, including the recently launched r7 Limited, which promotes 35 yards of side-to-side change in trajectory.

“Five years after the debut of the r7 quad, the time has come to unveil the next revolution in golf club adjustability, a revolution made possible by a technology so groundbreaking that it warrants a passing of the torch,” said Sean Toulon, TaylorMade’s executive vice president of innovation. “That’s why this driver isn’t the next in the line of r7, but rather the first in the line of R9.”

TaylorMade Flight Control Technology
What sets the R9„¢ driver apart from all other drivers is that it incorporates our new TaylorMade Flight Control Technology, or FCT for short. With a simple twist of a wrench, FCT allows you to change the R9’s face angle, loft and lie angle. How does FCT work? It starts with a small metallic sleeve positioned over the tip of the shaft. The shaft is secured to the clubhead with a specially made bolt in the bottom of the clubhead. The FCT bolt is designed to be retained in the well to eliminate the chance of losing it. The sleeve, made of high-strength 7075-T6 aluminum alloy, is ringed around the bottom with small teeth, which tightly mesh with a second ring of matching teeth within the hosel. You can change the clubhead’s characteristics (face angle, loft, lie) by loosening the FCT bolt, removing the shaft from the head, rotating the sleeve and shaft into a specified position, then locking them into that position within the head with the FCT bolt.

“The R9 driver offers eight positions, and changing from one position to another is easy and takes only a matter of seconds,” said Dr. Benoit Vincent, TaylorMade’s chief technical officer. “When changing, it’s important to recognize that as the face angle closes, the loft increases; and as the face angle opens, the loft decreases.” Thus the R9 driver is engineered to promote trajectories that are 1) increasingly higher, long-carrying and which move from right-to-left; 2) increasingly lower, more controllable and which move from left-to-right; or 3) which are neutral, with relatively straight flight and at mid-level height.

“Every golfer, whether a tour pro or high-handicapper, knows that the position of the face angle at address is critical to confidence,” said Harry Arnett, TaylorMade’s senior category director of equipment. “Strong players prone to hooks much prefer looking at a square or slightly open face at address, while slicers find reassurance in seeing a closed face. FCT gives the golfer the ability to adjust the face to the position that they like best, which is a huge advantage.”

Most previous TaylorMade metalwoods can be bent to adjust the face, loft and lie angles; it happens every week on the PGA Tour in the TaylorMade Tour Trailer, as tour pros commonly request such tweaks to improve their performance. However, the process requires a tour technician to immobilize the clubhead and bend the hosel by hand. FCT makes it possible to quickly, accurately and easily adjust the face, loft and lie angles.

FCT + MWT = Total Adjustability
What makes the R9 driver totally adjustable as opposed to partially adjustable is that it unites FCT with MWT. The clubhead features three weight ports and comes equipped with one 16-gram and two 1-gram weights. Put the heavy weight in the heel port to promote a draw, in the toe port to promote a fade, and in the middle port to promote a straight flight.

The combined effect of FCT and MWT gives golfers an amazing amount of influence over their trajectory, and gives the R9 driver a tremendous advantage over other drivers. TaylorMade testing indicates that the R9 driver promotes up to 75 yards of side-to-side trajectory change, depending upon how the clubhead characteristics are set and the weights are configured.

Do the math on the multiple settings made possible by combining FCT with MWT: Eight clubhead positions made possible by FCT multiplied by three MWT configurations: 8 x 3 = 24. Twenty-four drivers with the purchase of one club!

The R9 driver includes a new white wrench that must be used with both the FCT bolt and the movable weights. This wrench and this wrench only must be used with the R9 driver because the FCT bolt requires 40 inch-pounds of torque to tighten fully; older MWT wrenches deliver only 30 inch-pounds of torque Like previous wrenches, the R9 wrench emits a loud and powerful “click” when either the FCT bolt or MWT weights have been sufficiently tightened.

“New Classic” Clubhead Shape with Ultra-Thin Wall Technology
The R9 driver features a new clubhead shape that merges modern and classic lines with incredible effectiveness. It’s best described as a cross between the r7 SuperQuad and the r7 Limited “ a triangular shape with beautifully contoured corners. TaylorMade calls it “New Classic” because it is at once modern and traditional, and should prove to be popular for a long time to come. The triangular shape offers four distinct advantages: 1) it allows for a deep back, far-from-the-face CG location that makes it easier to launch the ball; 2) it contributes to a higher MOI for greater stability on off-center hits; 3) it allows for an exceptionally low CG location that’s lower than that of the r7 Limited and the r7 SuperQuad; and 4) it works more efficiently with MWT, allowing it to use only three ports and cartridges to more effectively influence trajectory than the r7 SuperQuad could with four.

The R9 clubhead is constructed with the aid of TaylorMade’s Ultra-Thin Wall (UTW) technology, which allows for clubhead walls measuring as thin as 0.6 millimeters, with the saved weight redistributed to make both MWT and the low-and-deep CG possible.

Inverted Cone Technology
The R9 driver also incorporates TaylorMade’s renowned Inverted Cone clubface technology, which expands the area of the clubface that delivers high ball speed. Characterized by an inverted cone that’s milled directly onto the inner side of the clubface, Inverted Cone Technology increases the R9’s forgiveness on mis-hits. The combination of the R9 driver’s Inverted Cone Technology, high MOI and exceedingly low CG makes it incredibly easy to hit.

New Fujikura Motore graphite shaft with High Inertia Tip (H.I.T.„¢) Technology
The R9 driver comes equipped with a brand new shaft by Fujikura Golf. The 65-gram Fujikura Motore graphite shaft is engineered with a new, advanced tip construction that promotes faster ball speed. Called High Inertia Tip (H.I.T.) technology, it’s characterized by an optimally designed tip architecture that promotes added kick through the impact zone to promote increased ball speed and distance.

The Most Advanced Driver in TaylorMade History
“When you consider the extraordinary list of technologies and innovations that make up the R9, the undeniable conclusion is that this is the most advanced driver TaylorMade has ever created,” said Harry Arnett, TaylorMade’s senior category director for equipment. “More important is how those technologies work together to make the R9 driver perform. It’s forgiving and easy to hit. Its total adjustability makes it easy to tune its characteristics to best fit the player, the course, the weather, etc. TaylorMade started making adjustable golf clubs five years ago with the r7 quad. Clearly, we’ve come a long, long way since then.”

The R9 driver is offered in 8.5, 9.5, and 10.5 degree lofts (9.5 and 10.5 left-handed), and in X, S, R and M shaft flexes. The manufacturers suggested retail price is $500, and availability to the golf public will begin on March 20, 2009.

The R9 TP driver is offered in 8.5, 9.5, and 10.5 degree lofts (9.5 and 10.5 left-handed), and in X, S, and R shaft flexes. The manufacturers suggested retail price is $600, and availability to the golf public will begin on March 20, 2009.

FAQs
Since FCT requires that the shaft and FCT sleeve both rotate into different positions to change the characteristics of the head, won’t the rotation of the graphics on the shaft and grip be distracting to some players?
TaylorMade gave the R9 shaft a special “rotating graphic” that looks the same no matter what position the shaft is locked into, thus eliminating potential distraction. The grip is graphic-free, also to eliminate distraction.

Some golfers believe that every shaft has a distinct spine running from top to bottom, and that the spine needs to be positioned a specific way in order to maximize the shaft’s performance. Since the R9 driver shaft needs to be rotated in order to change the characteristics of the clubhead, that means the spine’s position will change too. Won’t that lead to inconsistent performance?
TaylorMade’s opinion on shaft spines has always been that if a shaft is well-designed and well-constructed, then the shaft will perform the same way no matter where the shaft is positioned in relation to the clubhead. As the world’s premium maker of metalwoods, TaylorMade pays special attention to offering shafts that meet our strict criteria for quality and performance. Besides, for shafts to conform to the Rules of Golf, its properties have to be symmetrical.

Can any type of grip be installed on the R9 driver?
Reminder grips aren’t recommended because when the shaft rotates, the grip rotates with it, changing the position of the reminder.

Why is the R9’s head shape being referred to as “New Classic?”
The R9’s head shape is being referred to by the term “New Classic” because it’s a true and highly successful combination of a classic driver shape and the modern, triangular shape of the r7 Limited. Imagine a pleasing cross between the r7 SuperQuad and the r7 Limited and you’ll arrive at the New Classic shape of the R9 driver.

What makes the R9 driver “Totally Adjustable” compared to “Partially Adjustable” drivers?
While other drivers have adjustable heads, they don’t have MWT. The R9’s combination of FCT with MWT makes it “Totally Adjustable,” which gives it a tremendous advantage over other “Partially Adjustable” drivers. TaylorMade testing indicates that the R9 TP’s combination of FCT and MWT promotes up to 75 yards of side-to-side trajectory change, depending upon how the clubhead characteristics are set and the weights are configured.

Why can’t you use an older yellow, black or silver MWT wrench with the R9 driver?
The R9 driver’s FCT bolt, which loosens to allow adjustments to the head characteristics, then tightens to secure the head to the shaft, requires 40 inch-pounds of torque to tighten fully. The new white R9 wrench delivers 40 inch-pounds, however older MWT wrenches colored yellow, black or silver deliver only 30 inch-pounds. It’s important to tighten the FCT fully to prevent the head from coming loose during the swing and posing a potentially hazardous situation.

One other TaylorMade torque wrench delivers 40 inch-pounds of torque and that’s the red-colored one that accompanied the r7 CGB MAX Limited driver, which incorporates TaylorMade’s SelectFit technology to give golfers the ability to easily install different shafts in the same clubhead. Because the red TaylorMade torque wrench delivers 40 inch-pounds of torque, it can also be used to tighten the R9 driver’s FCT bolt.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Any comment from a manufacture such as “we believe” or “we think” tends to suggest to most people that they dont actually know and are not prepared to find out.. Taylor Made would have people believe that shaft manufacturers put a spine in all graphite shafts for no reason at that if the shaft is made well it doesnt matter where the spine aligns when installed… This would have to be the greatest load of CRAP I have ever heard from a club maker…. If a players swing speed does not reach 100mph – then this may be true of most shafts. I can well assure readers that no company would waste any time or extra manufacturing costs putting a component in a shaft with out necessity, purpose, reason or need. As a shaft is “loaded up” with energy on the backswing and released by the wrists at impact, the spine alignment on shafts especially stiff models is essential… Probably why I am using the Callaway FT5 with UST Pro-Force I-Mix kwik fit technology – and hitting about 30 metres past any R9 I have trialled….. The R9 has so many setup options – any one with a solid ball striking game is likely to corrupt their game with this many settings and players will be always asking themselves have I got the right setup for each course they play. I use 2 different shafts the Fujikura E370 67gram, Mid Kick /Low Torque Stiff I-Mix and the UST ProForce V2 73gram High Kick/ Low Torque X-Flex, the only change I am after is trajectory.. The fujikura for high long carry (winter) and UST ProForce X-Flex in summer for penetrating trajectory and roll. Both of these shafts are set up neutral with the face 1degree open, with the spine where it has to be – on the bottom of the shaft as you address the ball…..
    I have been playing off 4 for over 30 years now and remember hitting the ball the same distance as today without all this technology…

  • I love grumpy people like Clank. However, I must point out that shafts have spines due to manufacturing defects. They are not a feature. It is far more expensive to create a shaft without a spine than one with a spine, which was why they changed the rule against spines.

    I also love people who hit the ball just as far 30 years ago with the clubs that were around then. Clank, you were 60 back then and had a lot more power!

  • ES just about covered it. A spine in the shaft is not a plus – its a minus.

    A bit like saying if you mark the centre of balance on your ball and line it up properly, it goes straight when you putt it.
    You dont need to do that if you buy decent balls.

    Something is definitely wrong if Clank hit the ball the same distance 30 years ago without the new technology.
    Why bother paying the money for a Callaway driver if it makes no difference.
    A 70 buck clone hits better than any club from 30 years ago.

    Of course these days theres a lot more head to chuck.

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