TaylorMade goes white with new R11 woods

What do the Oakland Raiders, Johnny Cash and Gary Player have in common?

All three are known for black apparel.

I can identify with this. I never liked football teams with white uniforms. I never liked singers dressed in white. I always thought golfers wearing white were sissies.

So why am I attracted to TaylorMade’s new white-headed R11 metalwoods for 2011?

The answer is pretty simple: TaylorMade, which has yet to talk publicly about the white clubheads, is being audacious in switching its woods from black to white. I admire the company’s bravado, and I can’t wait for the spectacle of the 40 or so touring pros who are expected to use the white-headed drivers at the 2011 Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.

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Martin Kaymer tests the new white TaylorMade R11 driver

TaylorMade’s official mass unveiling will occur at the Farmers, scheduled Jan. 27-30, although the R11 will be seen on Tour from the season opener, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Jan. 3-9.

Information about the R11 has slowly but steadily leaked out. A few samples have been circulated by TaylorMade, and I was able to hold the R11 and whisper sweet affections in her ear. Well, I didn’t go that far, but the white R11 is responsible for much wonderment and conjecture among golfers. Most of my friends can’t wait to hit this club. 

I can tell you this: If the R11 clubhead has to be white, at least it’s a pleasing white with a understated matte finish. There is no shiny gloss finish.

Meanwhile, the face is black, not white. Why? To make alignment easier. Many skilled players use the driver face to align their tee shots, and the process appears to be enhanced with this color scheme.  

There is a technology story behind the design of this new weapon – available in drivers, fairways woods and hybrids – but that information has been embargoed until the R11 makes its maiden appearance on Tour.

Part of me wanted to refuse this invitation to sit down with Whitey. No journalist wants restrictions on interviewing a subject or telling a story. On the other hand, part of me very much wanted to determine if the R11 is more than just another pretty face.

After TaylorMade began selling white-headed Ghost putters, I figured it was just a matter of time before the concept spread to other clubs.

That time has come. There is a persistent rumor that TaylorMade’s Burner line of metalwoods for 2011 also will have white heads. While I don’t know if this is true, I wouldn’t bet against it.

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Martin Kaymer hits the new white TaylorMade R11 driver

The adjustable R11 line is aimed at technicians, experimenters, gearheads and shotmakers. The nonadjustable Burner line is made for distance hounds and those who would like to fancy themselves as bombers.

If both the R11 and Burner show up dressed in white, it makes sense. White is cool in golf right now. White grips suddenly are very popular (say it ain’t so). White belts are making a comeback (retro hip). White shoes are experiencing a resurgence (shoe shine, please).

So TaylorMade could become a show pony for white.

The retail cost of the R11 is a matter for speculation, but I am guessing the street price will be $399. Golf companies today feel it is advantageous to duck under the $400 barrier.

What else can be said about white golf clubs?

Jack Nicklaus famously won the 1967 U.S. Open with a Bullseye putter painted white and known as “White Fang” to his adversaries.

John Daly won the 1991 PGA Championship with a white Cobra Ultramid driver, made with bulletproof Kevlar.

With a white golf club making major championship news every 20 years or so, TaylorMade seems to be predicting another milestone in golf’s history of colors.

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