TaylorMade, the king of drivers, has done it again. Bold moves visually and performance tweaks make what was a great driver perform better. It’s hard to do but fitters around the country support our opinion that the 2013 R1 Driver can stand proud. Below you will see GolfWRX tried to stay as objective as possible and also add a lot of technical information to describe the differences over last years R11s.
Pros: The TaylorMade R1 improves on the company’s premium driver from a year ago, the R11S, offering slightly more ball speed and less spin thanks to a lower, more forward center of gravity. It’s also quieter than the ear-ringing R11S, and more forgiving on misses low on the face.
Cons: The racing stripe on the crown isn’t as bold as TaylorMade’s decision to go white, but it will still irk purists. A “real deal” stock shaft offering is absent, as is a stock shaft option over 65 grams. A new “loft sleeve” means previous TaylorMade driver sleeves won’t fit in the R1.
Bottom Line: TaylorMade has crept ahead with the R1 with more adjustability and more performance, but word is out on how golfers will receive the graphic-infused crown. Golfers upgrading from the R11S should expect to add 0.5 degrees of loft or more from their current setup, which will give them the high-launch, low-spin conditions necessary for more distance.
R1 Driver Review
The paint on the crown of TaylorMade’s R1 driver will get all the buzz early in 2013, taking the focus off what’s really impressive about the new driver unrivaled adjustability.
According to TaylorMade, data from the company’s MATT club fitting systems across the country showed that 80 percent of golfers were playing the wrong loft in their drivers, and that 35 percent of them were 2 degrees or more away from their optimal loft.
That’s why the new R1 driver has a 4-degree range of adjustability, from 8 degrees to 12 degrees, giving golfers no excuse for having the wrong loft.
The wide-range of lofts are possible through through the company’s revamped loft sleeve (formally called FCT), which is adjustable in 0.5-degree increments to give golfers 12 different loft settings.
That’s an improvement over R11S, which came in three different lofts — 9, 10.5 and 12 — and only allowed golfers to adjust the loft 1.5 degrees higher or lower.
The loft sleeve was designed in conjunction with the driver’s revamped adjustable sole plate, which has seven different settings that can change the R1’s face angle as much as 3 degrees open or closed in 1-degree increments. This is another another upgrade over the R11S, which gave golfers 5 settings that adjusted in 1.5-degree increments.
7 face angle options: N/square, open, medium-open, maximum-open, closed, medium-closed, maximum-closed
The added loft settings are extremely important because of the R1’s lower, more forward center of gravity, as most golfers will underestimate the amount of loft they’ll need for optimal launch conditions. And the face angle adjustability is a necessity as well, because a 1-degree change in loft on the R1 will result in a 2-degree change in face angle.
The R1 is shipped with a standard loft of 10 degrees and face angle that is designed to be “visually square” at address (TaylorMade says a visually square face angle actually measures 2 degrees open). If 1.5 degrees of additional loft is added, the face angle will close 3 degrees. But by wrenching the face angle adapter to the 3-degrees open setting, a golfer can return the face angle to visually square.
Like the R11S, the R1 has two adjustable weight ports that give golfers even more control over their trajectory. Golfers can adjust the driver’s two interchangeable weights (10g and 1g) to give their driver a draw bias (10g in the heel, 1 g in the toe) or a neutral setting (10g in the toe, 1 g in the heel). Most big-box golf retailers sell additional TaylorMade weights to help further tune trajectory and swing weight.
Performance: Faster ball speeds, lower spin/launch
Todd Beach, assistant vice president of R&D for TaylorMade metalwoods, said engineers made the R11S bigger than the orignal R11, but they weren’t weren’t able to get the center of gravity as low as they wanted. On the R1, engineers were able to move more weight lower and closer to the face thanks to the driver’s thick-thin crown, which is as thin as 0.4 mm in certain areas, creating a driver that has faster ball speeds in the middle of the face as well as more forgiveness on shots hit below the sweetspot.
“Golfers weren’t getting full flexibility on shots hit in the center of the face on the R11S,” Beach said. “With the R1, the sweetspot is lower — closer to the center, which gives golfers more of a hot face. The transfer of energy is also more efficient, since the CG is closer to the face.”
We tested an R1 and R11S with the same specs on TrackMan. Both drivers had UST Mamiya VTS TourSPX 75X Red shafts (installed straight in), and were 45.5 inches long with swing weights of D6 (the R1’s standard swing weight is D4). Prior to testing, I hit both drivers to find the most optimal loft/face angle setting. After the drivers were tuned, I hit 15 shots with each club and compared the three shots that were most similar in smash factor, swing speed and dispersion.
The R1 required an extra 1 degree of loft (from 9 degrees to 10 degrees) than the R11S to create optimal launch condition. While the launch and spin numbers were nearly identical, the average ball speed of the R1 was 168.8 mph, 1.1 mph faster than the R11S, which is in line with TaylorMade’s claims of increased ball speeds of 1-to-2 mph. Those numbers gave me an added carry distance of about 1 yard, and an average overall distance increase of 2 yards.
The differences are subtle, but the R1’s ability to dramatically reduce spin in higher loft settings will be pay dirt for golfers who have struggled to lower their spin rate with TaylorMade drivers in the past.
Looks: Bolder look, taller face
TaylorMade’s decision to go all-in with white drivers in 2011 boosted sales, as golf fans watching from home saw an explosion of white-painted drivers on their television screens. Since that time, other companies have entered the colored-driver arena — Ian Poulter first used Cobra’s white ZL driver in late 2010, although most Cobra staffers opted for the black version. Last year, Adams released its Fast 12 driver in silver, and Cobra has since expanded its product line to include orange, red, blue and silver drivers. Last month, Nike unveiled its Covert driver in red, which offers a modest-sized white Nike swoosh on the rear-portion of the crown near the heel.
As colored drivers become the norm and not the exception, TaylorMade’s Executive Vice President Sean Toulon said company leaders saw an opportunity to stand out from the pack with the bold crown graphics that made their way onto the R1. Toulon knew the graphics would be controversial, but trusted the input he received from tour player testing — as long as crown designs left the top line of a driver uninterrupted, they were OK with crown graphics.
A grey, orange and black racing stripe extends diagonally from the driver’s hosel to the rear-toe section on the crown, and is is accented with a white R1 logo on the heel section. A matte silver section on the toe meets the three-colored stripe to form a triangle alignment aid a few inches behind the familiar TaylorMade “T” logo that is positioned on the front center of the crown. Our first impression of the graphics resulted in a verbal “wow.” But after about 20 minutes, the crazy-looking graphic started to settle in.
Looking at the R1, we couldn’t help but think of the racing stripes on the Ferrari F430 Scuderia, which Ferrari made to showcase its racing technology in a street car. Just as racers ignore the aesthetics of cars when they’re driving, we forgot about the graphics during testing, turning our to the front of the crown. There, the black “T” logo helped us find the sweet spot, and the white crown and black face provided a strong perpendicular contrast that assisted us while squaring the face to the target line.
Don’t forget the first time you saw a TaylorMade white driver, which caused a lot of eye rolling from consumers in 2011. But most golfers grew to like the matte white finish, and TaylorMade’s record-setting sales numbers since are proof of that.
The face of the R1 driver is deeper (read taller) than the R11S, giving golfers a slightly larger face area. The heel-to-toe lengths of the drivers are very similar, but the rear-portion of the R1’s crown isn’t quite as round as the R11S, appearing more bulbous at address. The face angle adjuster on the sole is also much more prominent on the R1, adding more logos and textures that will give the driver a techy look on the shelf.
Sound/Feel: Powerful feel, quieter sound
Feel and sound are very personal and widely debated topics, but most will agree that TaylorMade’s recent drivers have felt hot off the face. But last year’s R11S was criticized for being a little too loud and feeling “pingy,” which Toulon said was caused by the company’s tendency to err on the side of “shock value” when it comes to sound. When designing the R1, engineers dialed in the frequency and duration range of the driver’s acoustics to offer a more muted sound than the R11S, while keeping the “pop” feel golfers like.
Shafts: 0.25 inches shorter shaft length
The R1 as two stock shaft options:
- Aldila RIP Phenom 55 — X, S, R, M and L Flexes
- Aldila ROP Phenom 65 TP — X, S and R Flexes
The R11S came stock with a 45.75-inch Aldila Phenom 60 or 65, so by comparison the R1’s shaft is 0.25 inches shorter and a little lighter. Last year, TaylorMade reported the lie angle of its R11S driver as 59.5 degrees, which technically was the driver’s lie angle when adjusted to the flat setting. This year, the company is reporting the lie angle in the standard setting, which is why stock lie angle is listed as 61 degrees — 1.5 degrees higher, but it’s actually the same.
Upright lie angles can be used as anti-slice measures, as 1-degree upright adjustments generally cause a 2-yard variation in left tendency (for a right-handed golfer) in robot testing. Tom Olsavsky, senior director of product creation for TaylorMade, said that adjustable face angles make driver lie angles less relevant, as robot testing has shown that closing the face angle of a driver 1 degree will cause a 10-yard increase in left tendency. This means that for the R1, a 1-degree change in upright lie angle is five times less meaningful than a 1-degree change in closed face angle.
Do you like the crown graphics? That question won’t be as important as driver purists might think. The R1 is one of three super adjustable drivers that will be available in 2013, none of which are black. The others are Cobra’s AMP Cell drivers, which offer the industry’s brightest color scheme, and Nike’s Covert Drivers, which are red with a white Nike Swoosh. That speaks to the current driver marketplace, where bold colors and graphics are becoming commonplace.
TaylorMade is offering the boldest graphics of any OEM with its R1 driver, but it is also the most battle-tested design, offering slight improvements over the extremely popular R11 and R11S models. For $399, the same price as the R11S, consumers are getting a driver with more adjustability, more ball speed and for good or bad — more paint.