TaylorMade has for years been synonymous with innovation and progressive thinking, and though they may catch a hard time due to the frequency of their releases, no one can say that they do not push the limits of playability. That's why it may come as a surprise that they resurrected a club that was first released back when Michael Jackson first purchased Neverland Ranch and the song that would years later become the subject of the infamous (and played out) internet prank known as the "Rickroll" was a number one worldwide hit.
Of course, I would be referring to the TaylorMade Raylor, which for those of you that may be too young to remember, was a very popular fairway wood back then. The Raylor name has been brought back for their newest hybrid club, and as you can imagine, there is a bit of difference between the old and the new. Along with the Raylor, Taylormade has also brought us their latest irons, which share the name with their very popular line of woods from 2009.
The first order of business is the Raylor, which you may have spotted as far back as this year's U.S. Open, as it made its way into the bag of Kenny Perry as a replacement for his 3-iron and Mike Weir as a replacement for his ability to get the ball in the fairway. The rough conditions at Bethpage Black commanded a club that ensured crisp, clean contact from any lie, which the Raylor was designed to provide. It became an invaluable tool for cutting through the tall fescue, due to a somewhat sharp, pointed leading edge, and the "Raylor Sole." This sole design resembles the hull of a ship, as it slopes up at the sides, providing a means to separate blades of grass as the head accelerates towards the ball. In fact, Taylormade says there is a 23% reduction in the surface that would otherwise rob you of precious clubhead speed.
The design of the sole also serves another purpose: the sole radius provides a great deal of assistance for sidehill lie shots. The Raylor's sole radius presents an angle of 17° up from horizontal, as opposed to the previous Burner Rescue, which was only 10°. That leads to 70% more sole relief on the heel and toe side, and effectively makes it much easier to make clean contact with a ball above or below your feet. Another benefit to the Raylor is a near-guaranteed increase in clubhead speed, due to the inch of added length in the RE*AX 65 gram shaft.
Price & Availability
The Raylor is available in two lofts, a 19° 3-iron replacement, and a 22° 4-iron replacement, for both right- and left-handed players. Though the MSRP is listed at $229, it can easily be found more in the neighborhood of $180. It is available in stores now, and if you have already had the opportunity to try the Raylor out, let us know what you think in the comments section below.
For the R9 and R9 TP irons, TaylorMade sought to design an iron that combined modern performance (as in forgiveness) with superb distance in a classic frame. In order to pay special attention to each iron across the entire set, TaylorMade's R&D took different approaches for the long irons and the short irons.
The long and mid-irons are said to be extremely long and easy to hit, thanks to the enclosed, foam-filled chamber that resides behind the clubface, under the cavity insert. The virtually weightless foam actually originates as a powder that is sealed in this chamber, and then transforms into the foam substance after the clubhead is heated during production. This design, which acts much like a shock absorber, has been titled the "Velocity Control Chamber," and it provides the means for a large area of the 2mm thick face to exist without any support behind it. This allows the face more freedom to flex, much like a driver. This trampoline effect leads to an increase in distance as you can imagine. The Inverted Cone Technology on the inner side of the clubface helps maintain a consistent ball speed, even on shots struck a little off-center. Perimeter weighting emphasis in the long and mid-irons helps to maintain stability throughout impact.
The design of the short irons is intended to promote a higher degree of control and accuracy while giving the player the desired amount of feedback. They feature a deep, undercut cavity, with a broad, low center of gravity sole and heel-toe weighting for added stability. They have a clearly delineated leading edge and beveled sole which promotes solid contact and playability through the reduction of surface resistance, so that contact is made with as much force as possible, every shot. All of this is wrapped up into a compact, simple teardrop shape that should be pleasing to see at address. There also resides a thin layer of visco-elastic adhesive (made by 3M) on top of the black badge in the cavity, which provides vibration dampening. Like the long irons, weighting was pushed to the heel and toe for added forgiveness. The iron is then capped off with a nickel chrome-plated stainless steel and pearl finish.
Options and availability
The groove-rule-conforming R9 comes with a KBS steel 90-gram shaft (either regular or stiff flex) as its stock shaft option, though the Fujikura Motore is also available. The cool thing about the KBS shaft is that the wall thickness increases proportionately as the shaft diameter decreases, which promotes stability throughout the entire shaft, and should give the player more control and consistency. The standard set contains 3-iron through PW, and has a MSRP of $999, though a quick search led me to quickly find them for $799. They are available and in stores now for both righties and lefties.
R9 TP Irons
The compact head of the R9 starts off with a semi-straight leading edge and a semi-square toe. The thin, cambered, beveled (sounds like hash browns Waffle House, doesn't it?) sole again allows the club to pass through the turf without becoming stuck. At address, the thin topline should be appealing to most all players, as it is beveled along the back edge, creating the appearance most golfers like to see on approaching the ball.
Remember the VCC (Velocity Control Chamber)? It's also used in the R9 TP, but only in the 2-iron up through the 5-iron. This again allows for a low and deep center of gravity and assists in increasing the MOI. Perimeter weighting (provided by the undercut cavity) also contributes to MOI and stability.
One standout design feature in the R9 TP is the variable progressive face thickness. As the irons get shorter, the face gets slightly thicker. The 2-5 irons have a face that is 2mm thick, whereas by the time we get to the 8-iron, 9-iron, and PW, the face is up to 2.5mm. Why, you ask? Because this results in a progressively higher center of gravity in the mid and long irons, and adds to the great feel in the short irons. The Inverted Cone Technology is again utilized throughout the entire set to provide consistent distance from off-center contact.
The shape of the R9 TP head is very similar to that of the popular Tour Preferred irons, but by use of the Inverted Cone Technology, and the way the face blends into the hosel, there is a larger overall contact area.
Options and Availability
On top of the normal 3-PW set, TaylorMade is also making a 2-iron available for those brave souls out there, though they say it's extremely easy to hit, thanks to a low CoG and even more extreme perimeter weighting. The stock shaft offering is the KBS Tour Series steel in either X-Stiff, Stiff, or Regular flex, and there is no graphite option. The R9 TP irons are available to both right handed and left-handed players, and though TM lists them at $1125, they can be found for $899.
We'll be reviewing the R9 and R9 TP irons before the end of the year, so stay tuned.