When TaylorMade first announced that the name for their newest line replacing the Burner series was going to be RocketBallz, the social media universe exploded. There were snickers, jokes, humorous pictures posted, threats to TaylorMade to never buy another club again and predictions that this signaled the end of this dominant golf company that we know TaylorMade to be. All this gossiping really did was give TaylorMade a lot of free advertising and created an enormous buzz around the product. Yes the name may have sounded goofy at first but TaylorMade knows what they're doing. TaylorMade made more money last year than every other golf equipment company in the world combined. To date, TaylorMade's market share in metal woods is 50% and their fairway woods make up 75%. The RocketBallz fairway wood is one of the most successful launches in golf history and yes there is also a driver and hybrid that is part of the line.
In case you didn't know the distinct name is based on testing TMAG tour staffer Dustin Johnson's experience with the prototype. “I brought the prototype out to some players and Dustin Johnson was the first one to test it,” said Todd Chew, Tour Product Specialist. “He's unbelievably long, as we all know, but he was just blown away by how far the Rescue was going. Dustin said a couple of times,'It's like a rocket." When the prototype returned from initial field testing, Taylormade's engineers took the creative liberty to etch the name, “RocketBallz,” into both the CAD model and the sole of the prototype clubhead. “I never thought RocketBallz would actually show up on the prototype,” said Todd Beach, Senior Director of Product Engineering, Metalwoods. "Typically, it's got an MW label and a number on there, whatever our number is. When the prototype came back, I was like, 'What are you guys doing?' I can't believe you put that on there. There's no way we're going to call the product that." The marketing department decided to keep the name. Never has a product name come from the R&D department.
How do the RocketBallz driver and Rescue compare to the fairway wood that boasts an increase of 17 yards? Let's start with the driver.
TaylorMade RocketBallz Driver
TaylorMade has been the #1 driver in golf for almost a decade. With each new line comes new technology, new designs and for TaylorMade, more sales. The move to white was a gutsy decision, one that no other company has done. Cobra makes a white driver but it's a limited release and this is probably the first time you've heard about it. Last year 20% of all golfers converted to white, that's a big move considering there wasn't a demand for a different color, let alone a stand out matte white finish. The 2012 TaylorMade RocketBallz driver is a continuation of this white domination. It doesn't have a speed pocket like the fairway and Rescue do but the driver does offer some unique features. The driver comes in two models, RocketBallz and RocketBallz Tour. For this review I will be focusing on the RocketBallz Tour. The great feature of both drivers it that they are tunable at $299. Something TMAG thought was important since they place so much emphasis on the golfer being fitter for correct equipment.
While the RBZ driver doesn’t have the R11’s moveable weights or adjustable sole plate, it does have adjustable technology so you can optimize launch conditions for your swing. This is TaylorMade's Flight Control Technology (FCT). This is a feature that wasn't available with the Burner clubs. The FCT system (a user-adjustable hosel) allows a golfer to select their choice of eight settings, each of which has a different effect on the club head’s face, loft, and lie angles. TaylorMade says the FCT settings are capable of affecting the ball’s side-to-side trajectory as much as 60 yards. If you’re a slicer, you can choose a setting that sets the face more to the left for a straighter ball flight. If you like to hit draws, you have the face more open, aimed to the right, at address.
A non-adjustable screw in the back of the head is actually a weight cartridge that lowers the head’s center of gravity. The club’s Thin-Thick crown design also lowers and moves the center of gravity closer to the face. TaylorMade says the result is less spin, a higher ball flight and more distance. TaylorMade also says the Inverted Cone clubface technology built into the Rocketballz driver promotes faster ball speeds even when the sweet spot is missed.
The standard (non-tour) RocketBallz driver has a more shallow profile. TaylorMade adjusted the face height to make the face smaller and more aerodynamic. TaylorMade says you'll see a benefit of two to three percent from the previous Burner Superfast. TaylorMade says this helps golfers achieve a higher launch angle and helps lessen the fade or slice because the CG is lower. The tour head looks more compact at address and the face is much deeper than the standard RocketBallz driver. The RBZ Tour driver is going to help players with higher swing speeds reduce or optimize their spin rates. TaylorMade says the RocketBallz and R11S go longer than any driver they've ever made. Both models are right at the speed limit that they can get them to in terms of aerodynamics, club speed and performance (FCT). Club head speed is maxed with the CG being further apart and closer to the face for more ball speed and one of TaylorMade's standard features the Inverted Cone design for optimal ball speed.
Last year's Superfast was a light and long (in terms of the length of the shaft) golf club. From TaylorMade's testing they found golfers preferred a club that was slightly shorter and offered better control. So the RocketBallz driver is half an inch shorter, at 46 inches, the company claims the shaft is still long enough to help increase swing speed, but the slightly shorter length also helps promote accuracy.
We’re setting a new standard in the driver category as speed, adjustability and Tour-validated performance have never been so affordable, said executive vice president Sean Toulon. ―The name RocketBallz is obviously polarizing and helps capture the distance performance story but golfers cannot overlook the power of tuning these new products. Never before have we had so many fitting options in a single driver franchise; there’s a RocketBallz driver out there for everyone.Sean Toulon, TMAG Executive Vice President/div>
Like all TaylorMade drivers now the crown is matte white with a PVD black face. TaylorMade first used this white/black color combination in it's most recent Burner and R11 clubs. TaylorMade says this will help your alignment and eliminate glare. The white color also makes the 460cc RBZ driver appear slightly larger, which when compared to the size of the ball, TMAG feels, adds confidence when teeing off.
Also on the crown are lime/silver graphics towards the outer edges helping with the visuals. I'm sure they did some testing and found the head might look awkward if the entire crown was white, the graphics help frame everything at address. The tour head has much less of a triangle look and the deeper face helps prompt you to tee the ball high, which I like for a driver. Hitting the ball with a high/center contact helps launch it higher with less spin due to vertical gear effect. The black finish of the clubface really pops against the white background, and accompanied by the ahina ion plated shaft, it's a unique and great looking club. If I'm being picky I'd like to see less of the face towards the heel section of the club. At address that was a part that stood out to me. The heel is a little too prominent to my eye.
Both the standard and tour RocketBallz heads are more traditonal looking than the Burner Superfast. As I said earlier, the Burner's design is more progessive, triangular shaped. The biggest difference between the tour and standard RocketBallz is the added depth to the face of the tour model.
Playability and Feel
For this review I ordered a tour head, 9 degrees with the Matrix X-Con 6. I think this is a good shaft and offers a little more torque than HD6, something I like for this head. With my initial swings I noticed the head has a heavier feel to it. I measured the swingweight and it came out to D5, which is close to what the TaylorMade website says it should be. The slightly heavier swingweight just gave me a better sense of control but didn't really effect any of my shots. I also adjusted the clubhead to the "Open" setting because I like the way a driver looks when it's aimed slightly right.
What really stands out with this driver is how forgiving off center hits are. Misses off the toe stayed pretty straight and distance was great even on mishits. Center hits are long as well, and with a high launch. Definitely one of the longest drivers I've ever hit. All shots come off fast. Testing the RBZ Tour driver on a Foresight launch monitor I found that I was averaging 295.4 yards total per drive with a spin rate of 2883 rpm. Good numbers for me since I use to battle spinning my driver too much. I've made some recent swing adjustments that has really helped me take advantage of technology like the RBZ driver. Making sure I'm playing the ball off my left toe and having my hips pushed a few inches more forward than with a standard iron shot.
One feature that I didn't like was the sound of the club. It's too loud for my liking, especially off toe-center hits. It’s a very loud somewhat distracting sound. Mishits sound more harsh, it is not a quiet driver. I'm not used to getting a few looks while hitting my driver on the range. Overall though the feel of the driver and performance negates any sound complaints, at least for me. What matters is that good swings result in huge drives and mis-hits are still long and playable.
The RocketBallz driver is offered in two models to cater to a wide range of players.The RBZ driver is available in three lofts – 9.5°, 10.5° and HL (high-launch), while the RBZ Tour comes in 9° and 10.5°. The standard RBZ SuperFast Matrix Ozik XCON 5 shaft comes in four shaft flexes – S, R, M and L. The RBZ Tour model comes equipped with a Matrix Ozik XCon 6, 55-gram shaft in X, S and R flexes, with the option of 25 additional shaft choices.
Both RocketBallz drivers are available at $299
TaylorMade RocketBallz Tour Rescue
TaylorMade says until now, hybrids have yet to benefit from a technology that adds significant speed to the face. The new TaylorMade RocketBallz Rescue golf clubs not only received high scores in every category on Golf Digest’s 2012 Hot List, but was the leader in three of those categories. According to TaylorMade, the RocketBallz hybrid golf clubs allow you to launch the ball higher and gain needed carry distance. The lighter shaft used on these hybrids and the lower center of gravity is what helps accomplish this. The large head accompanied with the white matte finish separates these hybrids from the multitude of generic black hybrids you'll find in your local golf store.
Two models of RocketBallz Rescues are being offered, standard and Tour. The standard model incorporates a lightweight shaft and lightweight grip to promote increased swing speed. The clubface is large and deep, yet the CG is located low and forward, a combination that’s desirable yet difficult to achieve. TaylorMade says they made this possible by employing both our Ultra-Thin Wall casting process and TaylorMade's Thick-Thin crown design. TaylorMade adds that this combination promotes faster ball speed, a higher launch angle and lower spin-rates helping golfers hit it longer. The RocketBallz Tour Rescue has a comparatively smaller address appearance, a slightly open face angle, a toe-weighted CG, and is equipped with a heavier, stiffer shaft. A much better fit for players that have faster swing speeds and don't need help reducing their slice.
These hybrids use the same approach as the RBZ fairway metals to boost ball speed off the face. To achieve the higher ball speed, the RocketBallz fairway woods and Rescues were developed with a high-strength 455 steel face plate welded to a cast body. They incorporate improved sole geometry and a speed pocket to improve overall head and face flexibility and a slightly deeper face with a further-forward CG location than other hybrid designs. The speed pocket can be found on the sole of the Rescue, it's a larger and deeper cavity than the Adams woods that have similar technology.
There is also a Tour model which has, compared to the standard RocketBallz hybrid, a more compact appearance at address, a more open face angle, and a heavier, stiffer shaft.
The overall weight of the Rocketballz Rescue is less than 350g. Thanks to the lightweight 65g shaft, lightweight grip and the benefits of the Rocketballz technology, the Rocketballz hybrid is one of the longest in TaylorMade's history.
The RocketBallz fairway woods and Rescues represent a game-changing breakthrough in performance comparable to few products in the history of our industry. To hold a RocketBallz metalwood in your hands is to possess confidence, power, speed and distance potential that will regularly and quite literally redefine the long game for golfers.Sean Toulon, TMAG Executive Vice President/div>
For a hybrid club it looks great. The tour head is larger than other tour or pro model hybrids on the market but I think that works in it's favor. The standard and even the Tour Rescue comes closer to resembling the shape of a five or seven wood than utility irons. Both the standard RocketBallz Rescue and the Tour version will feature a flat white crown color and black PVD face for what TaylorMade says provides optimum contrast to makes it easy to align the face accurately at address. The white crown color also eliminates the glare and “hot spots” that you might notice with gloss-finish metalwoods.
Playability and Feel
I tested and played with an 18.5° Tour Rescue with a Re*AX 85 HB. Hitting ten shots on a Foresight launch monitor I averaged 229.29 yards with the Tour Rescue. I didn't put this up against my current hybrid because the hybrid I use is 20°. It also launches as high as my 20°. The sole has some nice camber from toe to heel which I feel helps the club be more versatile from different kinds of lies (lies in the rough, divots and in the sand). The RBZ Rescue has a similar crushing sound as the RBZ fairway which makes hitting the club an enjoyable experience. I think the head size of this club is perfect, sometimes "tour" model clubs can look overly intimidating. This Rescue gives you some confidence because of the slightly larger head. What I want in a hybrid is something that launches high, consistently hits a certain distance and doesn't curve very much. Out of those ten shots I hit on the Foresight monitor, the shortest was 226 and the longest was 231. If I can get that kind of control from that distance, I'll be very happy.
The overall balance and weight of the club feels great. For some with higher swing speeds it may be on the light side at 85 grams but for me it performs nicely. The weight and look of the club encourages you to take a little turf and even shots high or low on the face are given a better chance of turning out well. Golf, as we all know, is a game of how well you hit your bad shots.
The RocketBallz Rescues come standard with a 65-gram graphite shaft in four flexes (S, R, M, L). It's offered in four lofts for right-handed golfers only (Lofts: 3-19°, 4-21°, 5-24°, 6-27°).
The RocketBallz Tour Rescues come standard with an 85-gram graphite shaft in three flexes (X, S, R). They're offered in four lofts for right-handed golfers only (Lofts: 2-16.5°, 3-18.5°, 4-21.5°). Additionally, a selection of 5 custom TP shafts are available for purchase.
RocketBallz Rescues: $179 RocketBallz Tour Rescues: $179 RocketBallz Rescues with TP shaft upgrade: $229
The hottest name in golf lives up to it's hype. I was impressed with what the TaylorMade RocketBallz Tour Driver and Tour Rescue had to offer. I loved how each of them performed. My only complaint with the driver was about the loud impact quality of the RBZ driver. For some it might be too distracting but the driver performs well. The only "problem" with the Rescue is that it might go too far, causing some distance gaps in that 190-220 yard range. So if you buy one, you might find yourself saving for another one of a different loft. Good thing there are many different options and shafts to choose from.
If you're in the market for a new driver but don't want to spend four or five hundred dollars on a premium driver, the RocketBallz driver is a great option, for some maybe a better fit than the R11S, at $299. The RBZ driver gives you some great options for customizing your driver allowing you to adjust the loft (±1.5 degrees) and face angle (±3 degrees). The Tour Rescue has similar characteristics to the RBZ fairway wood and is an easy choice if you want to pick up some distance and forgiveness in this area of your game. If you're turned off by the white crowns, don't be, they can be just as attractive, and more functional, as a shinny black crown.