Golf review: TaylorMade R11S driver lives up to the hype

The TaylorMade R11S driver lives up to the hype as one of the most popular drivers to ever hit the market.

There’s something to be said about the adjustibility and ease with which you can tune your driver these days. TaylorMade might not have invented the adjustable driver, but they’ve nearly perfected it.

For the past two months I have put a TaylorMade R11S TP driver through the paces, both at the range and through a dozen or so rounds on the course. The company that scored major marketing and visibility points for its shift to white driver heads that are all the identifiable in the hands of the pros on TV, I entered the review skeptical. As much as I’d dismissed some of the success as a biproduct of marketing minds, rather than tech geeks. But my opinion was quickly swayed.

The R11S is the follow up to the wildly successful R11. Raising eyebrows, TaylorMade launched an ad campaign that basically focused on its own product as the primary competition, touting the R11S as significantly longer than its predecessor, the original R11.

“The R11S is a golfer’s dream come true; it’s the realization of every ounce of innovation, adjustability, and performance we could package in a bigger, more aerodynamic, white clubhead,” said Sean Toulon, executive vice president. “It would have been easy for our product creation team to rest on the laurels of the original R11 driver, the most successful product we’ve ever created. Instead, we’re delivering golfers yet another significant advancement in adjustability and performance. And, with the proper fitting, we know golfers of all skill levels will be longer and straighter off the tee.”

R11S Technology


Highlights, from TaylorMade:

  • At 460cc, the R11S is at the USGA limit for size. Similar to the original R11, the new R11S features a flat-white crown color and black PVD face to improve alignment and accuracy off the tee. TaylorMade testing indicates that the majority of golfers gain confidence at address from a head that appears large relative to the ball.
  • The R11S driver’s modern-classical clubhead shape is intended to suit the eye of better players, while still providing ample forgiveness and confidence for average players. The head boasts a contemporary, slightly more triangular appearance than traditionally shaped drivers that provides higher MOI and a deeper, farther-forward CG position.
  • Adjustable Sole Plate technology allows the decoupling of loft and face angle by using a sole plate to adjust face angle independent of loft sleeve setting. Very simply, that means you can adjust the face angle independently of the loft, and vice versa. The five face angles made possible by the improved ASP Technology of the R11S are neutral, slightly open, open, slightly closed and closed.
  • ASP works with FCT to create 40 combinations of loft and face angle, which can be used to further accentuate a face angle or counter a negative face angle due to a sleeve adjustment. This adds up to approximately 60 yards of side-to-side trajectory adjustment and 3 degrees and 1500 rpm of launch condition change.
  • TaylorMade introduced Movable Weight Technology, which gives golfers the ability to easily move discretionary weight to different areas of the clubhead to shift the CG location to promote changes in trajectory that produce greater distance and accuracy.

TaylorMade R11s driver playing review

R11S REVIEW AT A GLANCE

Pros:

  • The clean look of the white head is more than a marketing gimmick, it’s great to look at
  • Adjustability at the top of the class among drivers
  • High quality stock shaft in TP model
  • Long, hot distance

Cons:

  • With so many possible adjustment settings, it can breed indecisiveness and over-tinkering
  • Measuring 45.75″ helps with distance, but can hinder consistency

Bottom Line:
Believe the hype. The R11s isn’t a hit because of its paintjob and ad campaigns. This driver flat-out performs.


R11S REVIEW, THE DETAILS

Look: Flat out, the white looks sharp. I consider myself a traditionalist, but I can’t lie, the minute I took this puppy out of the box, I wanted to hit it. The ball sets up so nicely against the black face with the white crown. Even if white isn’t your cup of tee, I’d suggest getting it into your hands before writing it off.

At address, TaylorMade’s claims that the head looks bigger rang true for me. The color and the shape of the head create a visual dwarfing of the ball and it inspires confidence to be able to seemingly hit it anywhere on the face and make it go.

Performance: When TaylorMade sells distance, it can come with a requisite eyeroll, especially if you take their promises of “20 more yards” year after year at face value. But once you realize they’re couching their claims based on tuning the club to your swing, fitting you properly and adjusting the head to maximize performance, it makes all the more sense.

For me personally, the R11s was longer than any of the three drivers I had been rotating through my bag at the time. The ability to tinker with face angle, lie angle and weighting in the head is helpful, although be careful that you don’t obsess over it. I found an absolutely measurable difference from one end of the spectrum to the other, but even as a low single digit handicapper, once I got into the general ballpark of how I wanted my settings, I found that my swing and ball flight day to day were slightly different enough that I’d quickly wonder if the settings needed to be changed. Instead of instilling confidence and learning to play with the club, I consistently found myself wanting to tinker and play around with it. If there’s a downside to so much adjustability, the endless second guessing is it.

Along with the look of the club, the highlight of this driver is the stock shaft, which is the best I’ve seen come standard in a driver. The RIP Phenom 60 gets some mixed reviews in the rabid golf gear online universe, but I was fully impressed. Having spent time on TrackMan and being fit into some pretty hefty shafts thanks to a 115mph swing and a rapid tempo, it was a pleasant suprise to find a stout X shaft in the R11s. On the TP version of the driver, the Phenom 65 comes standard and 25 more shaft options are available.

My primary gripe with the R11s is in my ability to swing it consistently. I chalk this up to its slightly longer length, which promotes distance but can rob you of the ability to control it. I found that my primary miss was a high, weak push or an uncharacteristic 60-yard slice. When I caught it on the screws, the R11s was the longest, most pure driver I’ve hit, hands down. But when I missed one, I really missed.

As someone who has long fought a hook, I looked forward to adjusting this driver into an anti-hook machine, by opening the face and adjusting the lie to promote a cut. But as it turned out, I ended up closing the face and setting it up as neutral in order to keep the ball in play and allay fears of losing the ball right. I think the best adjustment will be to trim half and inch off this 45.75-inch driver and sacrifice some distance to gain some control.


Feel:
The R11s has a unique feel that struck me right away as different. It’s got a really nice, deep feel at impact. I can best describe it as the feeling of hitting a baseball with a wooden bat. It’s solid, and when you catch it on the screws the ball simply explodes. The sound is quite different than the high pitched ding of many drivers on the market, although for some reason the sound didn’t quite match up with the feel, sounding a tad more high pitched than I would have expected.

One of the big pluses for this driver is the way the shaft performs through the swing. On older model TaylorMade drivers I’ve hit, I felt they were too light and too whippy, but the R11s stands up very well in this respect.

Conclusion:
If you’re a cynical SOB like me, and you’re doubting the quality of TaylorMade’s products based on their marketing prowess, let me dispel that notion. The R11s is so popular on Tour and in the stores because it’s a great stick. The white head is a plus and you’ll have a hard time finding a better stock shaft on the market. The TP version of the driver opens up a world of even more shaft choices and the adjustabilty will help you zero in on a driver that fits perfectly. For me, distance came at the expense of some control, so you might consider trading half an inch if you play a narrow, penalizing golf course like I do. TaylorMade has set the industry on its head with its white drivers, and count me among those buying in. These clubs are red hot, and I didn’t need TaylorMade to tell me that.

TaylorMade R11S specs

TaylorMade R11S

Shaft and Club Specs
: The R11S measures 45.75 inches and is equipped with an Aldila RIP Phenom 60 shaft (X, S, R and M flexes), which weighs 60 grams and which features a medium-firm tip profile.  RIP shafts feature Reverse Interlaminar Placement to provide more stability more stability at impact and promote more distance and control without the harsh feel associated with some firmer tip shafts.

Grip: TM FCT.
Lofts: 9 degrees, 10.5 degrees, 12 degrees in right-handed; 9 degrees and 10.5 degrees in left-handed.
Street price: $399.

TaylorMade R11S TP
Shaft and Club Specs: The R11S TP is equipped with an Aldila RIP Phenom TP 65 (X, S, R)
25 additional TP shaft choices are also available.
Grip: TM FCT.
Lofts: 9 degrees, 10.5 degrees in right-handed; 9 degrees and 10.5 degrees in left-handed.
Street price: $499.



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