Welcome to Devil Ball's Proving Ground, where we put the latest golf equipment through its paces. Today we work over TaylorMade's new R11 irons.
Tester: Jay Busbee
Handicap: Driving age
Target Golf Audience: Up to 20 handicaps
I rotate out drivers pretty frequently, and wedges a little less so, but irons? It's been years since I picked up a new set, and while my current set of [name redacted] irons is a familiar set of lead pipes, they're still lead pipes, you know?
So I was ready to bring some new horses into the stable, and TaylorMade's R11s seemed to be a perfect fit. While some of us at Devil Ball are high-level golfers, even playing in U.S. Open qualifiers, I am of the "those who can't do, write about those who can" mold, and happily so. The R11's are lightweight, balanced and calibrated for the higher-handicap player.
One of the major elements of the R11 set is the "Precision Weighting Port," that distinctive red hexagon you can see in the clubs above. The weight is now in the clubface, rather than being partially or fully in the hosel, and it provides for a more expected and consistent swing and sweet spot.
From the first swing, you can tell the difference the weight makes. Once you get over the initial feel of the weight not being in the hosel, and it doesn't take long, you recognize the smoothness and balance in the clubs. In terms of distance, I was getting half a club to a full club extra length on each swing, but that's not the most important change; the more forgiving sweet spot and the "Inverted Cone Technology" on the club's face meant I was firing straighter shots and getting more reliable distances shot over shot.
The clubs don't have quite the same satisfying ball-striking sound as some others I've played, but a) that's nitpicking and b) since many of my strikes are followed by "Fore!" or "Anybody see where that went?" it's not such a big deal.
Technology can dominate the game, but technology can also decrease the distance between you and the game you want to play. That's the case with the R11s, as the balance and forgiving nature lets you swing without concern for whether the club is going to do what you want it to. These clubs play well and look great, besides. They're not cheap, but if you can make the investment, you'll find them well worth your golf dollar.
Rating: For the golfer who knows the game but doesn't need to be discerning down to the millimeter, these clubs are straight-up 10/10.
Price: $799 (steel), $999 (graphite), taylormadegolf.com
(Samples of the clubs were provided to Devil Ball Golf for review.)