Golf Equipment


TaylorMade r9 and Nike STR8-FIT driver comparison

Written by: Tony Korologos | 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.


Comparing Nike STR8-FIT and TaylorMade R9 Today

Written by: Tony Korologos | Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
Categories: Golf Equipment
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My boy is in summer golf camp.  Rather than dropping him off and coming back 1.5 hours later, I’ll be on the range today doing a side by side comparison of the Nike STR8-FIT and the TaylorMade r9 drivers.

It should take me a few days to complete my writing after today’s research so stay tuned.


1st impressions of the Nike STR8-FIT driver

Written by: Tony Korologos | Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Categories: Golf ClubsGolf EquipmentGolf Gear
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On the 1st tee today I pulled the shrink wrap off my new Nike STR8-FIT driver.

I spent the evening last night reading the manual. Never read an owner’s manual for a driver before. Never even seen one. My conclusion for today’s round was to start the driver in neutral position and see how it worked.

This thing is much lighter than my old driver and it felt like I could swing it faster. On the first tee I yanked it left but after that I hit the thing very well. It has been raining for days here and the humidity is at about 90%. Even with the heavy air I hit this driver about 20 yards longer than my old one. The flight is a bit lower than I’m used to due to the fact that this model is 9.5 degrees and my old driver was a 10. I don’t mind a low trajectory though.

Poorly struck shots straightened out fairly well and I didn’t lose much distance.

So far so good.


SUMI-G golf head covers just might be the coolest ever, and they have a rigid exoskeleton. ’nuff said!

Written by: Tony Korologos | Thursday, June 4th, 2009
Categories: Golf AccessoriesGolf EquipmentGolf GearInterviewsReviews
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I’ve been touting how cool the products from SUMI-G are.  My new golf buddy Marius, the cranium behind SUMI-G, has a talent for making super hip, elegant, unique and functional golf accessories.  Every round of golf I play I have people drooling over my new head covers.  Just two days ago a military buddy of mine wanted the driver cover so bad I gave him the one off my personal set so he could have one in time for a trip to Hawaii.

Tired old head cover designs

Lame head cover #1: This one is a stretchy cotton sock which wears out and eventually just falls off.
Lame head cover #2: This one is leather or plastic and has velcro, which wears and and gets shabby looking over time.
Lame head cover #3: This one is leather or plastic and has a zipper.  The zipper may work for 1-2 rounds, then fails.

SUMI-G Mega-cool super stylin’ hip headcover

Looks

The SUMI-G head cover (hybrid shown upper right, driver cover lower right) has a stylish look with a silky black finish which feels like velvet.  I’m no fashion expert, but the black finish will match any bag color.

Mechanical enclosure

This headcover has a unique mechanical closure which protects the head.  The mechanical enclosure allows for installation of the cover with one hand can be put on the club from the ground without even having to bend over.  This one handed ground installation can save having to bend over dozens of times (drivers, fairways, hybrids) during around, helping guys like me with a bad back stay off the injured reserve list.  This 12 second video below shows just how quick and easy it is to slip the cover on:

Rigid exoskeleton

I’ve been excited to write this review not just because this is the coolest head cover on our planet and several others, but because I could use the words “rigid exoskeleton.”

The SUMI-G head cover employs a rigid exoskeleton to protect the club and the shaft.  Drivers these days are quite an investment and I don’t know about you but I’d sure want a rigid exoskeleton protecting my $500 driver with the $150 shaft.

On the course

These headcovers bring more enjoyment to my golf rounds because of their ease of use.  I just throw the head cover on the ground by the tee and slip it on with one hand when leaving the tee after blistering a drive down the middle.  It has become sort of my “post shot routine.”

Conclusion

Style, uniqueness and a perfectly useful functionality.  This is the coolest innovation in head covers in years and they’re so classy and sharp looking to boot.  Who wouldn’t love to own a head cover which has a rigid exoskeleton and convenient one handed ground installation?

Related links

If you just have to have a set of these head covers now, the new Golf Space SHOP carries the entire SUMI-G product line.

SUMI-G HOG Photo Gallery.

SUMI-G interview at the 2009 PGA Show.

SUMI-G web site.


Golfsmith acquired MacGregor

Written by: Tony Korologos | Thursday, May 28th, 2009
Categories: Golf ClubsGolf EquipmentGolf Gear
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About a week ago MacGregor golf was bought by Golfsmith.  I’ve got two sets of MacGregor irons, a MacGregor 3-wood and two Bobby Grace / MacGregor putters.  Or is it three?  Can’t even remember.

Another “classic” line like Ben Hogan is absorbed and has become a shadow of what it used to be.  It sounds like Golfsmith bought the brand for pennies if I’m reading this article right, $1.75 million over three years?  Maybe that is just for the “rights” to the brand.

Regardless, I’ve been a fan of MacGregor and had success with the gear I own from them.  While Golfsmith will have MacGregor be a “house” brand for them, this will obviously mean you won’t see it in other big name chains.

Greg Norman is now officially out of the golf equipment business and owns no stake in any golf equipment company.  Sell sell!


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