Pros: Extremely low-spinning, and more consistent than TaylorMade’s SLDR drivers. Offered in two colors — black and white. The ability to split the R15’s sliding weights for more consistency is a nice touch.
Cons: The R15 460 is not as impressive on mishits as other leading drivers. The R15 430 will prove too demanding for all but the best amateurs.
Who’s it for? Better players looking to increase launch angle, reduce spin or both. Lofting up is crucial to getting the most from the R15’s design, and can lead to some of the longest drives you’ve ever hit.
It is a safe bet that many GolfWRX readers have played or at least hit a TaylorMade R-series driver at one time or another. They have been a driving force of innovation in the driver category for many years. While TaylorMade went away from the series last year with its SLDR, the R-series is back for 2015 with the release of the R15 460 and R15 430 drivers.
The R15 460 is TaylorMade’s larger, more forgiving driver, while the R15 430 is a smaller, lower-spinning driver aimed at better players or anyone in need of an extremely low-spinning driver.
Taylormade engineers pushed the CG (center of gravity) of both drivers lower and more forward than any of their previous drivers, which is designed to create a higher launch with lower spin, a combination that produces really big drives.
That alone wouldn’t be enough to stamp the “R” on this club — TaylorMade also doubled the number of sliding weights from one to two. The dual, 12.5-gram sliding weights offer the ability to fine-tune the trajectory bias and CG of the club like never before. Set both the weights to neutral for example, and the R15 is built for distance and power. Split the weights out to the edges, and the R15 becomes more stable, especially on mishits. Compared with the SLDR, the R15 is considerably more stable and forgiving in any configuration.
Both the R15 460 and R15 430 continue to leverage TaylorMade’s 4-degree Loft Sleeve that allows golfers to adjust loft, lie and face angle.
The R15 460 ($429) is available in glossy black and matte white in lofts of 9.5, 10.5, 12 and 14 degrees. It comes stock with Fujikura’s Speeder 57 Evolution shaft (X, S, R and M Flexes) and has Lamkin’s 48-gram performance grip.
The R15 430 ($429, white only) is available in lofts of 9.5, 10.5 and 12 degrees and comes stock with Fujikura’s Speeder 67 Evolution shaft (S and R flexes, X-flex is custom only).
As I do with all my testing, I first started at the driving range under calm conditions. With the R15 460 (9.5 degrees), I noticed that the launch was as high if not higher than my current gamer and that the distance appeared right on track if not slightly longer. Moving up to 10.5 degrees, however, I started to see a really nice trajectory, with a subtle draw and the launch felt more effortless to me. My immediate impression is that TaylorMade had another good driver on their hands.
To get the actual launch data, I tested the clubs during two sessions. The first was outside on Flightscope at the Nike Golf 360 Fitting Center at Bentwater Golf Club in Acworth, Ga.. The second was inside on a GC2 launch monitor at Golfsmith Xtreme in Smyrna, Ga., where they were nice enough to open up early so I could spend plenty of time testing a variety of configurations. Too keep things consistent, I tested each head with the stock Fujikura Speeder 57 Evolution shaft.
Instead of burying the headline, the R15 460 (10.5 degrees) with the weights set to neutral performed the best for me. Not only did I hit more of my longest drives with this club, on average it was the lowest spinning (not including the R15 430) with the most consistent launch angle. A recipe for long drives that also stay close to the fairway. This was exactly what I expected.
While I’ve been playing a 9.5-degree Big Bertha Alpha (with the core down), the low and forward CG of the R15 will mean most golfers, myself included, will actually need to loft up. It isn’t just marketing, in order to truly maximize your launch conditions, increasing the loft of the club is often necessary. And not just for amateurs, this trend has been going on within the PGA Tour for quite some time as well.
While the 10.5-degree is the best performing head for me, I also wanted to test splitting the weights from neutral to the edges to see how that affected the stability on mishits, but also on the launch conditions for shots off the sweet spot. One thing to note is that because the weight track is curved, with the apex of the curve at the lowest spot on the head, keeping the weights at neutral offers the lowest CG. Splitting the weights out to the edges actually raises the center of gravity of the club and in turn, can increase the amount of spin.
I tested this using the 9.5-degree head and the numbers confirmed exactly what I expected. On average, the spin increased slightly, while the launch angle decreased by 1 degree. Mishits were more consistent, with ball speeds on slight mishits staying relatively consistent, but still noticably slower than shots off the sweet spot. Positioning both weights to the heel definitely created a clear draw bias to the club and positioning both weights out toward the toe created a noticable fade bias.
The 9.5-degree R15 430 driver was fun to hit, but it’s not a club that most golfers will fit into. The smaller, low-spinning design is the least forgiving of all the R15 drivers. I hit some stunners with this club, but it was feast or famine. On the other end of the spectrum, I did hit some long drives with the 12-degree R15 460 driver. Overall, the numbers were not as ideal, but it is further proof that more loft just might result in hitting the ball longer than ever before.
Looks and Feel
When it comes to looks, I’ve been critical of TaylorMade in the past. But this is a performance driver and I expected an edgy, sporty design. I tested the white version, but the black model is my favorite as the design elements blend more naturally. The dark stock shafts compliment the look and the overall design is clearly and distinctively TaylorMade.
Behind the ball, the 460-cubic-centimeter head is big, but not bulky and sets up nicely. What I do like is that the crown is relatively clean and includes a grey “T” and alignment mark. One thing to notice about the alignment mark is that it extends further back on the crown than some other drivers on the market, and I found that helped ensure a more solid alignment at address.
I’m also a fan of the headcover, which is clearly inspired by the likes of Stitch and other custom headcover companies. But for an OEM, the departure from the standard, bulky design is welcomed and unique.
During testing I hit drives that sniffed the 300 yard mark, something that for me typically only happens with a strong Florida wind at my back. While the 10.5-degreee R15 460 performed better overall, for a small number of golfers looking for an extremely low-spinning driver in a compact design, the R15 430 might be for you. The feedback, sound, and feel are all extremely solid and this driver has earned their “R” stamp.
Players who consistently hit the ball off the sweet spot will find the R15 generates crazy low spin and extremely long distance, possibly even their longest drives ever. However, as you move away from the sweet spot, the low, forward CG makes this club less forgiving on mishits than other drivers on the market.
As I found, it’s best to keep an open mind about the loft that might be best for your game and take the time to really dial in the right shaft, weight, and loft settings.
- Our review of TaylorMade’s R15 460 and R15 430 drivers
- Our review of TaylorMade’s R15 and AeroBurner fairway woods
- Our review of TaylorMade’s R15 and AeroBurner hybrids