Recently, TaylorMade has released two different driver and woods product lines. Last year it was the R11s line and the extremely popular Rocketballz line. For the 2013 season TaylorMade switched it up and released the R1 line and continued with the Rocketballz line, dubbing them Stage 2. It is my belief that the success of the Rocketballz driver surprised TaylorMade. At my club among golfers who used TaylorMade drivers the Rocketballz ruled over the R11s by a two to one margin. The Rocketballz price point is a bit below that of the R11s but still provided a great experience.
Hoping to continue with the fantastic success of the Rocketballz driver TaylorMade has released the Rocketballz Stage 2 driver. TaylorMade has taken some of the adjustable technology and crown graphics that they offered in the groundbreaking R1 driver and they added speed providing a driver with more control and distance. It is always a challenge to follow up such a successful club but leave it to TaylorMade to give it a try.
For this review I was given a 9.5° driver, with a graphite Matrix RocketFuel stiff shaft. Join me as I go through the details of this RBZ Stage 2 driver.
As with most TaylorMade clubs technology will always be a part of the equation. In TaylorMade's advertising they claimed that "Our longest just got longer-ier." The -ier is of course their tag line for the entire Stage 2 product line. To get longer the easiest way to do this with the driver is to make the club lighter. TaylorMade did this with the Rocketballz Stage 2 driver. TaylorMade states that they improved the aerodynamics of the clubhead to reduce drag to deliver a higher ball speed.
The biggest change from the original RBZ clubhead is the loft sleeve which provides the golfer the capability to change the loft of the clubhead approximately 1.5 degrees in either direction. Along with the change in loft the club also provides 60 yards of adjustability by making changes to the loft sleeve. The RBZ Stage 2 driver is not as adjustable as the R1 because the golfer cannot change the face angle or the weighting of the clubhead. This means when the golfer desires a lower loft they must accept that the face will be opened in the process. So if you are using a 9.5 degree driver and change the loft sleeve to 8 degrees the club will be lower loft and will also have a fade bias that is introduced. Conversely if you want to increase the loft to 11 degrees the clubhead will have have a draw bias introduced. The loft sleeve offers 7 standard and 5 upright loft options. With the R1 a golfer can lower the loft and in addition close the clubface to compensate for the face being opened by the lowering of the loft. Still the ability to change the loft and ball flight bias is a nice technology addition to the Stage 2 driver.
Another big change introduced to the Stage 2 driver is the size of the clubface. It has been increased to an expansive 4,100 square-millimeters to give the player more confidence at set up. This was done carefully considering the aerodynamics that I mentioned earlier to be sure that speed was not compromised. In addition to this the CG of the clubhead was moved forward through inventive design of the crown of the clubhead. The forward CG provides faster ball speed, high launch, and low spin.
As with the R1 driver TaylorMade is one of the first to introduce crown graphics to the clubhead to aid with alignment of the clubhead at address. This combined with the black clubface and non-glare white clubhead make the club very easy to align. TaylorMade outfitted the RBZ Stage 2 with an ultra-light Fujikura RocketFuel 50 gram graphite shaft to promote faster swing speeds.
The first thing you will notice when you pick up the new Stage 2 driver is the change in colors versus the original RBZ line. Gone is the lime green, and in its place TaylorMade has gone with a soft yellow color. The white color of course still remains on the top of the clubhead, and the bottom and face of the club TaylorMade has stayed with the black colors as they have done with the originals.
The biggest change in terms of how the club looks is the new crown graphics that now reside on the top of the driver. For colors they go with a very soft gray flanked by new yellow color and a touch of black as well. The graphic is mainly a triangle which has its point targeted on what seems to be the sweetspot of the clubhead. At the tip of the triangle is the Stage 2 Rocketballz logo which is a R done in the black and yellow colors. The side of the triangle that faces the golfer has a gray square and both tips of the triangle have the black, yellow and gray stripes. As we mentioned in the technology section, TaylorMade claims that the graphics help golfers line up the driver better at address.
The main part of the top of the club is done in the non-glare white "ghosting" that TaylorMade has now made famous. The face makes a nice contrast with the white clubhead which I think also helps with the alignment of the clubhead. The face is done in black and has five scoring lines, or grooves on either side of the center of the clubface.
When we turn the clubhead over to look at the sole of the driver the first thing I noticed was the screw that is put about an inch back from the face. TaylorMade does not go into much detail on what this screw does, although likely it is used as weight to help move the CG towards the front of the club. The screw is a metallic silver and has an extremely unique pattern which is likely a proprietary screw design for TaylorMade. The rest of the sole is done mostly in black along with the RBZ logo and the traditional TaylorMade logo. The black is done by mixing in a matte finish with a shiny black finish to outline the logo and break up the sole of the club. The matte areas are sunken from the shiny areas to give the black area a more playful design. The heel of the club has a pit sunk into the clubhead where the screw is located for adjusting the club. The back of the toe area is the only white section of the sole and done there is the three stripes along with Stage 2 painted in white into the gray strip.
The first part of the hosel of the clubhead is done in white and then it quickly transitions to black before the black ferrel which has the painted loft options on it, adjoins the shaft. The loft options are done in white to contrast the black ferrel. White notches denote the different lofts with the last notch replaced with the words "lower" and "higher" to help you determine which loft you want to use. The opposite side of the ferrel houses the upright loft options. It is my opinion that there is not enough information on the ferrel to adjust the club unless you were very familiar with the club. Best to start by asking your local clubfitter on how best to setup your club.
The shaft design is a very modern design done mostly in black with the first two thirds of the shaft done in a black matte finish to reduce glare, and the top third of the shaft done in a shiny black finish with the RocketFuel logo and information on stiffness and weight of the club. The colors on the shaft match the clubhead with the yellow and gray mixed in.
For the headcover TaylorMade has gone with a mix of the yellow and black. The main top part is done in yellow and the sides and sock portion of the headcover is done in black. There is a strap along the top portion to make the headcover easier to pull off done in black with the Rocketballz logo. The headcover does look a bit like a bumblebee, but the colors are not offensive.
Playability and Feel
The question on everyones mind when reading this review will be, is it really longer-ier? I was lucky enough to find a demo club of the original Rocketballz driver at my local golf shop and I used it as a comparison versus the Stage 2 driver. My conclusion is that it is not going to provide you with the additional ten yards you might be hoping it will. Still, there are some distinct advantages by trying the Stage 2 driver if you are looking to upgrade from the previous Burner driver series, and even over the original Rocketballz driver.
First the Stage 2 more than certainly lighter than the original Rocketballz driver that I demoed. I would not rank it as ultra light, but it is certainly lighter than the R1 driver that TaylorMade released at the same time. I think if you were a golfer looking to pick up a few yards from increasing your swing speed this might help because the shaft and clubhead are so light.
The other big reason to get the upgrade is the adjustability that the clubhead offers. For one you can adjust the loft 1.5 degrees, but not only that you can adjust the face angle and amount of lie angle to help with shot shaping. I found this feature extremely successful because I could easily set the loft to 8.5 which opened the face a bit more and let me hit this incredibly consistent fade. Being able to review the R1 I found that I was about even in distance but more consistent hitting a fade that would find the fairway with the Stage 2 driver. This was a big plus for me in my scoring.
Because the club is so light, at impact it did not feel as solid as the original Rocketballz or the R1 driver. I would not say it had a clickly feel, but just generally not as solid as I would prefer. Some golfers may not find this an issue at all but I feel some better players may be turned off by this feel. My recommendation if this is concern for you is to hit this club a couple of times before making your purchase. This sort of feel issue could be found even in the hitting bays found at most places where you can buy clubs these days.
The sound of the clubhead was muted and very nicely done. This is another big improvement over the original Rocketballz driver which is overly loud in my opinion. I think TaylorMade has made some great improvements when it comes to sound with their recent drivers. The crown graphics on the Stage 2 driver are not nearly as bright as on the R1 driver. I do feel that the clubhead is easier to align than the original RBZ driver, but not so much so that I would say you will hit more fairways because of it.
TaylorMade made big news last year releasing the Rocketballz line and it was clearly a marketing success. With the release of the Stage 2 RBZ line TaylorMade is looking to continue upon that success with a better-ier club. I think TaylorMade did a great job taking some of the feedback from the original Rocketballz driver and working them into the Stage 2 club. The biggest change is the adjustability freedom that the new Stage 2 offers you. The other smaller changes are well done an provide an excellent driver.
I found the Stage 2 driver to be very easy to set up on the left edge of the fairway and reliably fade back in to the fairway. My recommendation is that if you are considering some of the lighter drivers that are on the market now that you give the RBZ Stage 2 driver a spin. I suspect you may like it.