TaylorMade introduces new R1, RocketBallz Stage 2

The new TaylorMade R1 driver and RBZ Stage 2 driver.

Many golfers and observers have speculated about TaylorMade’s strategy for 2013. After all, how could the company follow the great success it found with its white-headed drivers of recent years?

The wait is over: TaylorMade went with new adjustability, new graphics, new shafts options and new names. Say hello to R1 and RocketBallz Stage 2.

Rather than R13 -- the logical step from predecessors R7, R9 and R11 -- TaylorMade went back to R1.

In comparison to the R11 family (R11 and R11S) and the RocketBallz family, what’s new?

For one thing, racing stripes. Both the R1 and RocketBallz Stage 2 have stripes on the crown. They are colorful but hardly distracting. TaylorMade says they help with alignment.

Here’s the untold story behind these racing stripes: TaylorMade officials admit they made a mistake with the R11S for 2012. The R11, introduced in 2011, had a revolutionary white head with a black face. When the R11S followed the R11, it had the same color scheme.

And people couldn’t tell the difference.

“We learned from that mistake,” said TaylorMade executive vice president Sean Toulon. “The two drivers looked the same, and that made it more difficult to point out the changes we made in the R11S. We weren’t going to do that again.”

Thus the racing stripes. The predominant colors on the crown of the R1 are deep orange and black, while RocketBallz Stage 2 features gold and black. No confusion there.

Another huge change has been orchestrated by TaylorMade for 2013. The RocketBallz fairway woods were so popular in 2012 that R11 fairway woods died an untimely death.

For 2013, there are no R series fairway woods or hybrids. Just the R1 driver.

Meanwhile, RocketBallz fairway woods and hybrids are poised to carry the banner TaylorMade. The company says both the fairway woods and hybrids are longer for 2013, and considerable emphasis is being placed on proper gapping for the longest clubs in the bag -- that is, achieving uniform distance gaps between fairway woods, hybrids and long irons.

But let’s return to the drivers. Following are thumbnail sketches of all the R1 and RocketBallz Stage 2 drivers for 2013.

R1 driver: Optimizing performance through adjustability is a huge theme with the R1. The torque wrench, used to make adjustments, is quickly becoming a staple in the golf bag.

There is no loft number stamped on the clubhead. That’s because every R1 driver can be adjusted for loft between 8.5 and 12.5 degrees.

The R1 also has seven face angle positions. It’s a huge deal that the driver allows loft and face angle to be adjusted independently of one another. Lie angle also can be changed.

Never before has fitting been so important with TaylorMade drivers. Many golfers will need help from a launch monitor to compare ball speed, launch angle and carry distance at different loft settings.

The retail price, with a stock Aldila Phenom 55-gram shaft, is $399.

R1 TP driver: Features the same R1 head with an upgraded shaft, raising the retail cost to $499.

RocketBallz Stage 2 driver: There is talk among some PGA Tour players that the RocketBallz Stage 2 driver is the most surprising club among the introductions. Stage 2 usage on the PGA Tour could exceed that of R1.

The center of gravity has been moved lower and forward, and the entire clubhead is more aerodynamic this year. It looks different. It looks powerful.

The stock shaft is the 50-gram Fujikura RocketFuel, and TaylorMade confirms that this light shaft, combined with the mass properties of the driver, will create a moderate draw bias for consumers.

The stock RocketBallz Stage 2 driver will sell for $299. Available lofts in both Stage 2 driver models are 9, 10.5 and 13 (which is labeled HL). An adjustable sleeve allows for alterations in loft, lie angle and face angle. The loft adjustment range is 1.5 degrees up or down from the standard loft.

RocketBallz Stage 2 Tour driver: The center of gravity is shifted even lower and more forward for better players with faster swing speeds. The retail cost is $349.

The two R1 models, plus the stock RocketBallz Stage 2, are scheduled to be available Feb. 1 in golf shops and stores. The RocketBallz Stage 2 Tour is set to be at retail Feb. 15.

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