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TaylorMade r9 and Nike STR8-FIT driver comparison

Written by: Tony Korologos | Date: Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
Categories: Golf ClubsGolf EquipmentGolf GearReviews
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I got an email from Nike a few weeks back asking if I’d be willing to do an unbiased comparison between their adjustable driver, the STR8-FIT, and the TaylorMade r9.  I thought that sounded like fun so I agreed to do it.  I did feel that I had to let them know that historically I haven’t been a Nike fan.  In fact, in some posts here I’ve quite critical.  I flat out told my Nike contact that if I thought their driver sucked I’d write it.

At this time I have no affiliation with Nike or TaylorMade, nor do I have any of either companies’ clubs in my bag.

Areas of comparison

The first thing I decided I should do is come up with a set of guidelines for the comparison.  Based on my typical golf club reviews here I decided I’d focus on the following areas:  features, looks, feel/feedback, ease of use and performance.

Left: TaylorMade r9 driver – Right: Nike STR8-FIT driver

I’ll cover each in a paragraph or two, and put a comparison grid showing my results below.  I used a stock r9 and STR8-FIT in a 9.5 degree head with stiff shaft.

Nike STR8-FIT v.s. TaylorMade r9 – Let the battle begin

Features

The Nike STR8-FIT comes with a special tool for removing the head as does the TaylorMade r9.  Nike’s tool goes around the shaft where the head connects.  The TaylorMade is used from under the head.  Each tool is essentially a torque wrench which allows you to tighten just right without over tightening.  The TaylorMade tool clicks when tight enough and the Nike actually makes a beeping sound and flashes a red light.


Left: Nike Tool  Right: TaylorMade Tool

I give TaylorMade a point because their tool is smaller and easier to store.  I take away a point because Nike’s tool is a bit too big.  Nike scores a point because their tool is easier to use than the TaylorMade as you have better leverage.

A feature the TaylorMade r9 has which the Nike STR8-FIT doesn’t is movable weights inside the head.  The r9 has three weights, allowing you to set the head up for a neutral, draw or fade bias.  TM scores a point.

Each driver has adjustments via changing the shaft/head combination for the club’s lie, face position (as in closed or open x degrees).  TaylorMade’s labeling of the different available positions is a bit easier to understand than Nike’s but neither is terribly difficult and I can’t quite award TM a point over the Nike on this one, but I do like it better.

Looks

The faces of each of these clubs are noticeably different.  The Nike is wider and the TM is deeper.  They are both so big it doesn’t really matter though.  If you miss either one you are a hack.

Standing over these clubs is a different story.  The TM is more traditional looking than the Nike and is a bit easier on the eye.  The Nike has a decent shape, but does have what I would call “fins” on the back of the head which are gray.  I’m not a fan of the fins but after just a few swings I don’t even notice them.  I’m focused on where the ball meets the club.  No winner here as both drivers have a decent look to them and nothing too wild or busy.

Feel and feedback

This area is probably the biggest difference between these two clubs.  There is a drastic difference in feel and sound at impact.

Sound

The Nike STR8-FIT is loud.  It is easily 10x as loud as the r9.  My golf pals all made fun of it the first few times I hit it and told me they’d have a hard time getting used to the sound.  The r9 is much quieter.  I give the r9 the edge here but if you like loud drivers the Nike may be the ticket for you.

Feedback

In golf “feedback” is referred to as the information you get back from the club regarding the quality level of your contact.  Many golfers can feel whether their shots are inside the face, on the toe etc.  I can usually tell with all of my clubs whether my shot is high or low on the face, inside or outside or on the sweet spot.  Knowing this information and getting the feel of the club allows you to make better swings and adjust your game as needed.

I found on the TaylorMade r9 that I had a very difficult time distinguishing where I made contact on the club face.  Often times I had to actually look at the face to see if the ball made a mark to determine where the contact was.  It seemed that no matter where I hit the r9 on the face, most of the shots felt the same.  No points here.

On the Nike the feedback is a different story.  Perhaps along with the louder sound comes more feedback.  I can tell on the STR8-FIT if I’m even a fraction of an inch outside of center.  I can hit a shot and tell my buddies where on the face the contact occurred and verify it by checking the mark out.  The Nike wins the feedback points in a landslide.

Feel

These two drivers are very different in the feel department.  The r9 has a generally soft and sort of “mushy” feel, for lack of a better description.  The Nike feels harder.  Neither of these is worth points per se,  just two different animals and you may make a decision based on whether or not you like a hard or soft driver feel.

Performance

I started my comparison with both drivers in as neutral a position as I could.  I found that each driver was about as easy or difficult to hit and that I didn’t hit either one amazingly well.  In neutral position my good swings flew well and my poor swings leaked right.

When I flattened the lie out of the Nike I noticed a huge difference in performance for my swing. I’m not terribly tall so the flatter lie obviously put the club face in a much better position for my swing.  The same was true when I flattened out the TaylorMade.  Neither driver “won” this round but I learned something about my swing.  But had I found the holy grail yet?  Soon.

The next position I tried with both drivers is the “right” or fade setup.  I hated both.  The contact of both felt terrible, I lost a ton of distance, and the ball flight was always weak right.  No power fade for me.

When I kept the lie flat but closed each driver one degree, something happened.  I found the holy grail.  The trees at the end of the range where I did my testing I’d lasered at 294 yards.  With the Nike and TaylorMade in one degree closed and flat lie position, I reached the trees on almost every shot with either a straight ball or a slight draw.  I love seeing a draw and I like the extra distance in roll.  I found that with both drivers in this setup, even my bad swings had good results.  I found the holy grail of driver setups.

For fun I started to try and “work” the ball (curve it).  Even in closed position I was able to hit a fade with either driver if I really wanted to.

Nike claims in their ads to have more distance.  I found both drivers to be quite long once I got them setup correctly for my upright hacker chicken wing granny swing.  Using either setup incorrectly, I lost anywhere from 30-50 yards.

Nike STR8-FIT Driver – TaylorMade r9 Driver Comparison
Criteria
My Pick
Looks
TaylorMade r9
Feel
Tie (soft or hard)
Distance
Tie
Accuracy
Tie
Features
TaylorMade r9
Workability
Nike STR8-FIT
Head Cover
They both suck
Sound
TaylorMade r9
Config Change
Nike STR8-FIT
Feedback
Nike STR8-FIT
Tool footprint
TaylorMade r9
Tool use
Nike STR8-FIT

So which one is better, the r9 or the STR8-FIT?

It is impossible to really say which one of these two drivers is better.  They’re both very very good.  Each one has definite advantages.  The TM has the movable weights and a softer feel.  The Nike has better feedback and a harder feel, and the tool is easier to use.  They’re both very long and workable.

You can’t go wrong with either one of these clubs and your decision may be based on more aesthetics versus performance.

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