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Review: TaylorMade RocketBallz Stage 2 Driver
TaylorMade drivers have always held a strange fascination for me. In my formative years as a golfer and golf fan, I was pummeled by those commercials for the 300 series drivers, with their thumping Afro-Celt soundtracks and intense-sounding voiceovers, each touting the 300 series’ status as the most popular drivers on every major professional tour. Flashing the clubs’ sleek design, giant clubheads and endorsements from Tour pros I fawned over (namely Ernie Els, whose swing I still try in vain to emulate when I have misguided notions of improving my game), those commercials wormed their way into my brain and demanded satisfaction in the form of TaylorMade’s striking balance of aesthetics and power.
As the years have passed, TaylorMade’s design team has gotten more adventurous, as illustrated by the RocketBallz Stage 2 driver. Joining the rest of TaylorMade’s recent driver offerings as love-them-or-hate-them fixtures in the market, the RBZ Stage 2’s angular head shape and futuristic-looking nontraditional color profile reflects a shift in the company’s design philosophy over the past few years. Emphasizing both modernity and high function, it’s a club built to provide performance, playability, and customization, all while maintaining the striking look that has been the company’s trademark for years.
Distance and Accuracy
I didn’t see a huge gain in distance between the RBZ Stage 2 and my current driver — a TaylorMade Burner Superfast 1.0 — there was, however, a remarkable improvement in my shot dispersion. My driver misses tend to be huge blocks that send me scouring rightward tree groves and pond edges. While the Stage 2 driver doesn’t work miracles – that ball you started 40 yards right of your target line is gone, and nothing is bringing it back – marginal swings seem to curve mystically back towards the target line. If you’re like me and have polished an inconsistent swing into something reasonably workable, the RocketBallz Stage 2 could fairly easily turn those three or four iffy tee shots a round that inevitably bounce off the fairway into a buried lie just behind a tree and put them down the middle, turning potential fives and sixes into threes and fours and, let’s face it, making you a generally happier and more fulfilled person.
Look and Feel
Like most of TaylorMade’s latest drivers, this club may not be for pure traditionalists. At address, the RBZ Phase 2’s white color and gray/yellow alignment art may be a distraction if you’ve spent decades staring at solid color crowns with small, elegant alignment marks. As a product of the Apple generation, however, I find the white color striking and attractive, and the large triangle alignment detailing practical and useful. The clubface is 4,100 square millimeters and feels massive, even for a modern driver, with contact feeling less like the clubface striking the ball and more along the lines of a bulldozer clearing rubble off the tee. TaylorMade pairs this beefy clubhead with an incredibly light shaft in order to maximize swing speed and add distance, which I don’t really care for. It made the club feel bottom-heavy and overall just too lightweight for my tastes, but this is an aspect of feel that varies from golfer to golfer.
Forgiveness and Workability
The RBZ Phase 2 is not a terribly forgiving driver, particularly by 2013 standards. Miss center-face contact and you will see significant losses in carry and total distance. This is somewhat mitigated by the club’s impressive ability to keep the ball in front of you; personally, I’d happily give up 25 yards of carry on a miss to keep it somewhere I can play it. As far as shaping shots goes, I was amazed at how easy it was to hit big, sweeping intentional draws and hooks with the RBZ Stage 2. Attempts to do so with my current driver inevitably result in painful snap-hooks, lost balls, global famine, St. Louis Cardinals World Series Championships, and other tragedies; the Stage 2 provided a high, gentle right-to-left action perfect for bending tee shots around doglegs and in general making me a contented and happy individual. However, intentional fades and slices – a shot shape I feel much more in command of and frequently rely upon under duress – seemed to balloon on me, sapping shots of needed carry and desired trajectory.
The RocketBallz Stage 2 is attractively designed, as accurate as you can reasonably ask a driver to be, and hits the ball a long way. But it feels like it’s missing something, something I can’t quite put my finger on. Is it a better club than my Burner Superfast 1.0, or any of its previous-generation contemporaries? Sure. After proper fitting (and maybe an aftermarket shaft), you’ll probably add a couple extra yards, hit a few more fairways per round, and see some marginal improvements in your game off the tee. Is it such a clear step forward that I’m clamoring to ditch my Superfast, and run out to buy the new Rocketballz club? I don’t think so, and I think my problem lies therein. I want to walk away from my first range session with a new driver shocked and a little bewildered at how much more it’s adding to my game — significant distance, dramatically improved accuracy, pinpoint control. The RBZ Phase 2 brings a little of all of this to the table, but not enough to keep me from wondering if I’d be lusting after a new club six months after purchasing it. I need a new driver to blow me away, and the TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2 didn’t reach that threshold.