TaylorMade R15 Driver Review

When leading golf manufacturer TaylorMade announced that it was going to revamp and revive the ‘R’ range, fans of the brand were keen to get onboard with a little nostalgia. From the outset, it was clear that the company were happy to have the line seen as a bit of a throwback, but this didn’t stop them from wanting to create exceptional products at the same time. The R15 is a self-proclaimed ‘king of the drivers,’ but does it really live up to the title?

This review of the TaylorMade R15 Driver will identify some of its key features, discuss its main benefits, and uncover any major weaknesses.

What TaylorMade Says

According to the manufacturer, the R15 is one of the most technologically advanced drivers on the market. It is the product of fifteen years of innovation in metalwoods technologies, combined with the finest driver features around. With a significantly reduced centre of gravity and a cutting edge Front Track system, this club actively lowers the amount of spin and expands the area of the sweet spot for harder, faster impacts.

Getting to Grips with the Technology

Low/Forward Centre of Gravity

One of the most unique features of the TaylorMade R15 driver is the positioning of its mass. A rather remarkable 70% of the total mass of the head is located down towards the bottom front of the driver. This is designed to support greater launch distances, with a smaller amount of spin. The sole track is structured to do more than just secure the two 12 gramme weights. It is actually positioned closer to the face here so that untidy strikes can still get off the ground.

Front Track System

On older clubs, the SLDR track system takes movable weight technology right to the bottom front of the face. This is something that the R15 is inspired by, but the difference is that this driver brings the feature even further forward with the use of two weights. It is known as the ‘Front Track System’ and it works in much the same way as a Speed Pocket might. To be precise, it lowers spin, generates faster ball speeds, and enlarges the sweet spot.

The only minor downside to this feature is the fact that debris can easily get lodged into the slots and spaces of the system. If this happens, you’ll have to spend a few moments adjusting the weights to try and coax it out. It isn’t a huge problem, but it can be a little frustrating when you’re trying to keep your head in the game. Significant distance gains can be enjoyed by positioning both weights at the centre of the FTS.

Movable Weight Adjustments

It can be tricky to adequately describe the movable weight system on the TaylorMade R15 driver because it is intended to operate on a visual level. Therefore, it is much easier to understand once you have the stick in front of you. Nevertheless, pushing both weights to the bottom centre leads to a small decrease in spin and a boost to distance, at the expense of forgiveness.

If the weights are positioned at the two extremes, heft and power is directed to the outside of the sweet spot and, to a small extent, slightly upwards too. This increases the degree of forgiveness and adds extra stability to the head. For players who like to experiment with adjustability, the best advice is to leave a weight close to neutral, so that it pushes the other in the direction of the heel or toe.

Loft Adaptor

Another key feature of the R15 is integrated with its adaptor. It gives players the chance to modify the head of the driver in any one of twelve different ways. They stretch from +/- two degrees and allow for adjustments to an upright setting. The adaptor causes the loft to decrease a small amount as it is opened. The opposite happens when the face is closed. While the tool has appeared on TaylorMade clubs before, it is especially compatible with the moveable weight adjustment system.

Appearance and Visual Features

It is interesting that TaylorMade decided to return to a white crown for the R15 driver because the general opinion of this design has been unfavourable. Fans of the brand aren’t all that fond of the conspicuousness and overly clean look of white, but they can pick up a black version of the 460cc R15. Unfortunately, the R15 430 club is only available in white, so you’ll have to decide whether it is a compromise worth making.

Despite the unpopular colour, the wider design of the R15 driver is inoffensively pleasant. Whether you deem this to be a good thing will depend entirely on your preferences, because there will be some players who like the modest style and others who’ll wish it were a little bolder. The size of the club is pretty standard, with no surprises anywhere really. The distances from front to back and heel to toe are both typical of a premium stick.

Satisfying Acoustics

The TaylorMade R15 driver creates a sound that is pleasingly solid and sturdy upon contact with the ball. It does alter slightly (primarily, in volume) between the heel, which produces a duller noise, and the top of the face, which creates hollower acoustics. Yet, considering the infinite variety and endless combinations of impact, the sounds remains impressively stable. The volume is assertive and dominant, but it isn’t disruptive or discouraging.

Distance Potential

You’ll be glad to know that the TaylorMade R15 is capable of producing some serious impacts. It can do this because it is able to pick up speed easily. The club head acceleration is substantial and can help less precise players make longer, higher shots. Out on the green, the driver provides stronger swing speeds and substantially better carry numbers. If the weights are positioned centrally, higher spin players can achieve exceptional carry distances.

Launch Characteristics

Early reviews of the R15 driver repeatedly highlighted a tendency for more spin and slightly greater launch distances. This is made particularly clear in comparisons with the SLDR release. The discovery does indeed ring true, more so for launch distances than anything else. The manufacturer has been encouraging players to Loft Up since it brought the R15 to the market, but it probably isn’t all that important for most. The sturdy Fujikura Speeder shaft already produces a predictable mid to high flight for high spin, fast swinging golfers.

Forgiveness

The major sticking point for the R15 driver is its lack of forgiveness. This is, in effect, given up for the chance to throw out some remarkably long drives. It seems you can’t have dominating drives and forgiveness all in one neat package; with this club, it is all about having the skill and ability to consistently strike that sweet spot. If you struggle, however, it simply isn’t going to help you out all that much. There is little room for error and your mishits will stay just that.

The Bottom Line

Major Pros

As far as distance, the R15 produces some of the greatest results available anywhere, from any commercial driver. This stick offers sturdy and robust impacts, with lots of acoustic feedback so you can instantly determine where the head struck or missed. Plus, it carries anresponsive and flexible weighting system, so that players can make the club work for them and not the other way around. If you choose the R15, you’ll be treated to high flying, low spinning drives and a perfectly adjusted ball course.

Major Cons

The biggest drawback to using this club is the lack of forgiveness. Ultimately, if you are only a passable player (or have a less than average ability), you just won’t get a lot of satisfaction out of the R15. You need to be hitting the sweet spot on the regular to really feel its benefits and experience its true power. According to some players, this stick isn’t very accommodating of curved balls and it can be tricky to make experimental shots. For others, the TaylorMade R15 is a good driver, but it isn’t distinct enough from its predecessors to be a great one.

A Final Word

The truth is that the R15 driver isn’t perfect. There are better sticks out there, depending on what you are looking for and what you want to achieve. When it comes to making those wildly long drives, though, you’ll find few clubs that can match it. It can be inconsistent in terms of face angle and swing path, but it continues to lead the pack for launch distance and swing speed, particularly in the hands of skilled players.