with Robert Bicknell
Well, it's nice to be home again…
TaylorMade just launched its newest drivers series, the Aeroburner and the R15 at a huge get-together in Bali and yours truly was invited to come along. Disclosure: I am a "Home Staff Pro" for TaylorMade / Adidas, meaning that I am sponsored by them, in the same way that Tiger Woods is sponsored by Nike.
OK, not exactly the same. Tiger gets millions of dollars in addition to equipment, whereas I get 2-3 extra pairs of Adidas golf socks in addition to equipment. But I do want to make clear that I am a TMA guy…
The Aeroburner is a return to the original concept that made TaylorMade the leader in metal woods way back in the 80's. Anyone who played golf back then will remember the "Burner Plus" and the many models which followed, including the Burner Bubble (which I hated).
I remember owning a Burner Plus when they first came out. We would buy 10 at a time during the PGA Club Pro Tournament at PGA National GC in Palm Beach Gardens for US$75 bucks each and resell them in our pro shops up north for $150. Imagine a brand new driver for that price today… unbelievable.
The original Burner Plus was a cannon compared to the wood-head drivers we used back then, but not as accurate. So we'd have two drivers in the bag, Wood for tight fairways and the Burner Plus metal wood for the Par 5's.
The Aeroburner is along that same tradition, but is highly accurate and very long. It's a fun club to hit and it's fast. The designers worked to make the head as sleek and fast as possible. The fairway woods complement the driver quite nicely.
The R15 replaces the SLDR series, but continues the technological trend of sliding weights and adjustable hosel. In fact, this is the probably most adjustable driver on the market today, which can be bother a good thing and a bad thing. Too much reliance on adjusting the club and not enough time spent learning how to swing it properly won't do you any favors.
The R15, like the Aeroburner, is getting back to the roots and continues the famous "R-series". Most players remember the R7 drivers, but want to forget the R1 (which in my opinion was a disaster).
I play the R15 with a 430cc head instead of the more popular 460 head because the smaller head makes me focus more. I use a Fujikura 757 Speeder X-flex shaft and tried out the new shaft / head combination at the Nirwana GC in Bali.
I gotta be honest here. On the range back home in HCM City, I really wasn't impressed with the R15 head and was mentally preparing to stay with the SLDR. I didn't like the feel and the shape of the shot. But when I tried it under very wet conditions in Bali, I was amazed by the performance.
Equipment designers believe that the optimum launch angle and spin rate is 17 degrees and 1700 RPM. Hit those magic numbers and you'll be amazed at the result. I have to honestly say that while those numbers are still not easily attainable, this club comes closer to helping players reach it.
OK, to be fair, I have also tried the Titleist 915 and the Ping G30. Both are, without a doubt, also excellent drivers. I used to play the 913D a few years ago and thought it was the best I've ever hit. I have heard many good comments from players using the 915, so if you're looking for a new weapon of choice, you might want to consider the 915D.
The Ping G30, was a pleasant surprise. Ping seemed to disappear from the main markets for a while, but returned with a vengeance in the last year. The new G30 feels great and performs very well. A great addition to the Ping line of clubs and also something you might want to give a try.
The Nirwana GC is a Greg Norman design, so no complaints from me there. It's a great tract with some amazingly scenic holes reminiscent of Pebble Beach.
But, believe it or not, I still think The Bluffs in Ho Tram is Norman's best design to date. — VNS