TaylorMade Golf has surged to the top of the driver marketplace over the last few years. The company which first popularized the modern metalwood fell off the pace a bit in the late '90s, but rebounded strongly with its 300 and 500 series titanium drivers. TaylorMade successfully followed those products with the r7 Quad driver, which stands as one of the most-played - and most-imitated - drivers on tour and at retail.
This year, TaylorMade applied some of the design principles of the r7 Quad to the new r5 Dual series. We had a chance to take one of the r5 Dual models for an extended test drive. Read on to see what we thought.
At first glance, the r5 looks quite a bit like the r7. But a closer look reveals that the design breakthrough of the r7 - removable weights that can be changed to fine-tune your ball flight and trajectory - is altered considerably in the r5. Instead of having four TLC (TaylorMade Launch Control) ports like the r7, the r5 has two ports. And while the r7's weights are interchangeable, the r5 has fixed weights.
According to TaylorMade, the design rationale behind the r5 and its fixed-weight design was to simplify the process of configuring the weights. So the r5 is available in two standard versions: Type D and Type N. The r5 Dual Type D driver has more weight placed toward the heel and a "pull-heel" design that combine to help golfers hit a draw (or minimize a slice). The r5 Dual Type N driver has the weight distributed more evenly between the weight ports and a more pear-shaped head design to allow more workability to golfers who like to shape their shots. (There is also an r5 Dual TP driver with moveable weights, but more on that later.)
I tested the r5 Dual Type N driver with a 9.5° head and the stock M.A.S. stiff graphite shaft. The Sand Trap's Erik J. Barzeski also tested the r5 Dual Type N, and I'll include his feedback along with mine.
The biggest difference between the r7 and r5 drivers, literally, is the size. While the r7 is in the 400cc area, the r5 drivers spec out at 450cc, just a hair shy of the USGA/R&A limitation of 460cc. What makes bigger better for so many players is that a larger driver head has a higher moment of inertia (MOI), or resistance to twisting. So when you hit the ball off-center, a higher MOI will help stabilize the clubhead and keep your shot from going as far off-line.
Aside from size and the aforementioned moveable vs. non-moveable weights, the r5 drivers are built with the same proven technologies used in the r7 and other recent generations of TaylorMade titanium drivers. This includes Inverted Cone Technology (ICT), which is meant to create a larger sweet spot, and Super-Thin Wall (STW) technology to move unneeded weight from the walls of the golf club to the TLC ports. The r5 Dual drivers also have a deep face design, which helps launch the ball with less spin.
The r5 Dual drivers aren't the shy type. They are big and bold in every way. Even though TaylorMade is 10cc shy of the size limit, these drivers look even bigger than many drivers that claim to be right at the 460cc mark. The large, metallic black clubhead seems to dwarf the golf ball at address, making the small, subtle TaylorMade logo on the crown a very useful alignment aid. The clubhead seems to set up a few degrees closed - a little bit more than I'm used to seeing even with today's monster-sized heads.
When viewed from the bottom or side, the r5 drivers look very futuristic and high-tech. The polished metal of the club's sleek sole runs from the leading edge back to the TLC ports, which are positioned about a half-inch away from each other and look a bit like dual exhaust pipes on a sports car.
I really liked the looks of the r5 Dual Type N that I tested. The sharp angle of the toe and the keel-like sole actually reminded me of the "Star Trek"-esque esthetic of the old Big Bertha War Bird drivers, which is a good association.
The only part of the clubhead that didn't click for me was the clubface. The brushed metal finish is stark, with five short grooves on either side of the center of the clubface and a small r5 logo toward the high toe area. Compared with the rest of the clubhead, the face seemed a little unfinished. It isn't bad, it just stands out from the rest of the club's appearance.
The rest of the club is a very bold presentation. The stock M.A.S. S-65 graphite shaft is a strong red color for a few inches below the grip, then gray the rest of the way to the head. Aside from a small r5 logo, all the shaft's graphics are hidden on the underside of the shaft at address. This combination of colors, along with a bright yellow accent color, are repeated on the large, cushy headcover, which feels and stretches like neoprene and has a long sock-like extension at the end to protect the shaft while the club is in your bag.
Whenever anyone asks me for advice on buying golf clubs, the first thing I always tell them is to get fitted before they buy anything. The experience Erik and I had with the r5 Dual Type N drivers on the course is a good example of why fitting is so important. We both had issues with the performance of the driver that could have probably been eliminated from the start with a properly fit shaft.
The main issue both of us had was with hitting the ball left off the tee. The r5 Type N is set up with neutral weighting, but we both found it to produce draws on a regular basis. Erik reported that other testers who tried the driver had similar experiences with the exception of one tester who usually hits a cut off the tee - he hit the ball straight with the r5 Dual Type N.
Erik alleviated the problem by opening the face a few degrees at address, while I adjusted my setup by opening my stance a bit and playing for a fade. Once we made these adjustments, the r5 really came to life. Distance on drives was right there with other top drivers on the market, and off-center hits didn't lose much distance.
For me, the r5 had a medium trajectory and good roll in the fairway. Erik found the trajectory a bit high, but found that the ball still got through the wind with ease. We both thought the shaft rewarded a smooth swing, which is good, though it was harder to control the direction of the ball when, as Erik put it, you want to "step on it."
The thing I liked best about the r5 Dual Type N was the sound and feel at impact. I would characterize them as "meaty." When you make a good swing, you're rewarded with a deep metallic "ching" sound and very solid feedback to your hands. It reminded me of the old Titleist 975D driver in both respects, only amplified, which is a very good thing.
If properly fit, the TaylorMade r5 drivers can be very good drivers. Based on the experience Erik and I had with the Type N version of the driver, I would suggest the follow as a general rule:
- If you tend to slice the ball a lot, try the r5 Type D
- If you play a fade and your main miss is a big slice, try the r5 Type N
- If you hit the ball straight or fight a draw/hook, try the r5 Type N with a very strong shaft or look at the r7
That said, I'd love to try the r5 Dual TP (Tour Preferred) version of the driver. It has a clubhead that is the same as the r5 Dual Type N, but with interchangeable TLC cartridges. I'm willing to bet that shifting a bit more weight toward the toe of the club would have put an end to the leftward shots Erik and I both experienced.
I would compare the standard r5 drivers very favorably with other drivers with fixed weights, like the MACTEC NVG driver. In all the r5 Dual drivers are a solid sidekick for the r7 Quad drivers in the TaylorMade product line, offering a size and type of performance for nearly any golfer.