It was a marketer's dream come true. When Pat Perez won the 50th Bob Hope Classic in late January with a score of 33-under par, he hit 75 percent of his fairways, with a driving distance average of 303.8 yards—better than his normal performance on the PGA Tour. And, he attributed it all to his new driver, the TaylorMade R9, calling it the best driver he had ever hit in his life.
The R9 is the latest incarnation of the long-popular r7 driver that revolutionized driver technology by creating a system of movable weights around the perimeter of the driver head. The system was designed to help players offset certain swing anomalies that caused balls to slice or fade.
The R9 retains the same concept of movable weights, or Movable Weight Technology (MWT), that can be switched between three ports, one behind the toe, one behind the heel and one at the rear center point of the driver. In addition, the R9 has an adjustable shaft that alters the degree to which the clubface is open or shut, and is known in the TaylorMade jargon as Flight Control Technology.
The shaft's eight settings range from a 2.0 degree closed position to a 2.0 degree open. That means there are 24 possible variations of clubface angles and weights, and you can literally fine-tune on the practice tee before your round starts. TaylorMade claims that the combinations of face positions and weights can create up to a 75-yard side-to-side trajectory difference, as well as a significant alteration of the ball flight height.
In my initial testing of the club, I traveled to Florida but forgot to bring the tool to shift the weights and alter the shaft angle. The club was set up with a fade bias (heavy weight on the toe) and the shaft in a neutral position. Unless I set up in a strong draw stance, and worked on nearly flipping my hands through the hitting zone, I could not hit anything but a strong fade. Teaching Pro Kevin Sprecher, who works with Jim McLean at Doral Resort Spa, also noted that with that set-up, the ball flight remained low, apparently without a lot of spin.
Once I had the adjustment tool, I found that switching the weights to a draw bias, with a slightly more closed face, immediately shifted the ball flight to a slight right-to-left draw with more spin and height. Same club. Same swing. Different ball flight.
Whatever the original intent of the new driver, it has become an immediate hit on the PGA Tour, with 35 golfers using the club at the Buick Invitational two weeks after the Bob Hope, a quick and positive feedback for the manufacturer. The regular R9 comes in three right-handed lofts with a Fujikara Motore shaft, while the R9 TP is available in nine different shafts. Both models offer two left-handed lofts as well. The R9 has a suggested retail price of $399 and the R9 TP is set at $499.