Pros: TaylorMade’s RBZ Stage 2 Fairway Woods offer even more of the ball speed that made the original RocketBallz fairway woods famous, but it’s housed in a smaller, more forgiving package that improves versatility off the ground and light rough.
Cons: Adjustability is only available in the Tour model. We’d also like to see shaft options that weigh more than 50 or 60 grams, like the Matrix RUL in the Stage 2 Tour TP, which is about 75 grams.
Bottom Line: TaylorMade’s Stage 2 Fairway Woods are better than the originals in every way. We love the Tour models, which have a 3-degree range of adjustability and a medium face depth that makes them just as much of a threat off the ground as they are off the tee.
The improvements TaylorMade has made to its newest line of RocketBallz fairway woods, the RBZ Stage 2, are pretty awesome.
The new face material, RocketSteel, is 38 percent stronger than the 455 Carpenter Stainless Steel that was used in last year’s models. The Speed Pocket, or slot in the sole, has also been improved to make the fairway woods even hotter and more forgiving.
According to TaylorMade, those changes add up to an extra 10 yards of distance over last year’s RBZ fairway woods, which is astounding considering how far they went for some golfers.
But some is the key word, because not all golfers were a fit for the original RBZ models. For many golfers, especially those with shallow or slow swings, the original RBZ fairway woods were almost unplayable off the ground because of their large, deep-face construction.
Photo: The Tour model of TaylorMade’s RBZ Stage 2 Fairway Woods (bottom), is lower launching and lower spinning than the standard model. It also has a slightly deeper face.
TaylorMade has fixed that problem with the RBZ Stage 2, which are hotter and more playable than last year’s models.
Stage 2 (non-Tour): $219.99
Stage 2 Tour: $249.99 (Stage 2 Tour TP has the same head with Matrix RUL shaft for $349.99)
The average club-head speed for a PGA Tour player with a 3 wood is around 105 mph. Because of that speed, Tour players usually required less loft in their fairway woods, which lowers their launch and spin to create a flatter, more playable trajectory. But we’ve seen a reversal of that trend since the popularization of high-COR fairway woods, which are launching the ball with more speed and less spin than fairway woods of the past.
Last year, several of TaylorMade’s staff players ditched their 13-degree and 14.5-degree fairway woods for a tour only RBZ “Tour 4″ model. The Tour 4 had the loft of a 4 wood, but because of the high-speed, low-spin nature of RocketBallz, it launched the ball more like a 3 wood.
This year, TaylorMade brought the Tour 4 to retail in the RBZ Stage 2 line, calling it a “3HL Tour,” which is the model we’ve seen quite a few of TaylorMade’s staff players using this year. Because of the Stage 2 Tour’s higher launch, smaller size and shallower face, we’ve also seen more of the 14.5-degree models on tour.
Photos of the RBZ Stage 2 Tour 3HL (16.5 degrees when set in neutral)
Our high swing-speed tester (swing speed between 106 and 109 mph in testing) tested the 14.5-degree Stage 2 Tour model on our in-house FlightScope with a UST ProForce VTS 85X Red shaft at 43 inches. He had struggled in 2012 with a TaylorMade RBZ Tour 13-degree model with the same shaft, which basically became a tee-only club for him because of its low launch, low spin and deep face.
Even with the smaller, shallower-faced RBZ Stage 2 model, our tester was still not producing a high enough launch and spin for the club to be a true threat from the fairway. But the beauty of the Stage 2 Tour fairway woods is that they have a 3-degree range of adjustability, which can be tweaked in 0.5 degree increments. He increased the loft from from 14.5 to 15.5, which gave him the launch and spin numbers he was looking for.
Looks and Feel
Did adjusting the loft change the face angle? Absolutely. But all of TaylorMade’s 2013 woods come with a face angle that is about two degrees open, or “visually square,” as TaylorMade calls it. That means that when our tester added 1 degree of loft to the club, he closed the face, which made the club closer to square at address. Did he notice that the club had a tendency to draw? Yes, a little, but he liked it.
If he wanted a more open face angle at address, which would have given him more of a fade bias, he could have opted for a 3HL Tour model and lowered the loft to 15 or 15.5 degrees. That would have given him a face angle that was more than 2 degrees open if he so preferred.
Another improvement of the RBZ Stage 2 fairway woods is the sound, which is more muted in both the Tour and non-Tour models than last year’s RocketBallz. Last year’s models made a distinct “crack,” which sounded a bit puny on misses. The Stage 2 fairway woods offer a quieter “thwack,” which makes a more consistent sound on hits across the face.
A lot has been made of the yellow and grey graphics on top of the RBZ Stage 2 fairway woods, but we think they’re pretty much a non-factor. They’re subtle enough and far enough away from the face that we didn’t pay them much attention.
Slower swingers will gravitate toward the higher-launching, higher-spinning non-Tour model, which like its predecessor offers plenty of ball speed and forgiveness. But for faster swingers, it’s the Stage 2 Tour fairway woods that will shine.
TaylorMade was the first major OEM to break ground into the high-COR fairway wood category with the original RocketBallz, and we applaud the company for making the second generation of those fairway woods adjustable. It allows serious golfers to tune launch and spin to their desired levels, as well as the ability to change directional bias based on specific course setups.
Need a high draw from your 3 wood for a certain hole? Crank up the loft. Need a low fade for a certain course? Bring the loft down.
We anticipate that future models of TaylorMade fairway woods will give golfers an increased amount of adjustability, but we’re pleased for now.