Product Review: TaylorMade RBZ 3-Wood

Okay, I know this isn’t necessarily the most “timely” review since it’s a product that’s been out for quite awhile, but it’s current for me based on recent personal experience. And I do know there are some frugal golfers like myself out there who are looking for a bargain and have been waiting on the prices for this major product line to come down.

After all, when TaylorMade’s RocketBallz (a.k.a. RBZ) line came out late last year, it was introduced with a lot of hype from the manufacturer. Even though they had a full line of drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons with this brand, it was the first time I had ever seen such an emphasis on the 3-wood specifically. A lot of the marketing focused on the 3-wood and how it gave players an average of “17 Yards More” compared to competitors’ fairway woods.

I’ve been playing the past year with a Cleveland Hi-Bore model 3-wood that I picked up used at Roger Dunn at a nice price because it was a somewhat outdated design. I liked the feel, shape and weight of it and have enjoyed having it in my bag, though my eyes were always still open for a 3-wood that might help me get a little more distance, forgiveness and accuracy. So naturally, I took notice when the RBZ 3-wood came out with such fanfare and appeared to be the “magic bullet,” as it were.

I hit some demo models of the RBZ 3-wood on various visits to Golfsmith and Roger Dunn, but you never can really tell the real “feel” or performance of a club from hitting off mats and into netting. It never really felt so amazing that I “had to have it” and the price point was way up there, so I really didn’t give it much consideration. Also, I’m still not a big fan of the white-headed clubs, so that helped me stay away from it.

However, recently the prices have been coming down significantly on the RBZ items (usually meaning the manufacturer has more new models coming out soon). I had also noticed more and more mid- and high-handicappers I know carrying both the RBZ model driver and fairway wood in their bags and saying nothing but positive things. So I decided to take one more look at the RBZ 3-wood, and if I liked that, I may consider getting the driver as well.

A little over a month ago, I went to Golfsmith and found a used one in very nice condition for $129 (they were selling new there for $179). I used it for the first time when I played Journey at Pechanga. Fortunately, they have a great driving range, so I was able to hit it quite a few times before my round. I had mixed results on the range and decent results on the course. I hit a few mediocre shots (not bad, but not any better than my old 3-wood) and one exceptional shot that resulted in a great birdie.

I’ve been playing the RBZ 3-wood since then and, though I’ve hit a few really good shots here and there, I definitely wasn’t getting “17 Yards More.” More like “exactly the same distances.” I found it actually to be less forgiving than my old 3-wood on mis-hit shots from the fairways and rough. And in terms of accuracy, I was getting the same basic ball flight and overall results as my old Cleveland model.

One other drawback was the slot on the bottom of the club, which is supposedly key to the RBZ’s additional distance. However, it tends to grab the turf and I kept finding myself using a tee to scrape dirt and grass out the slot after shots. I think this is an issue TaylorMade ultimately realized. I’ve noticed that their new line of RocketBladez irons (which are the first irons to use a similar slot technology) have a little strip of rubber inset to keep the slots from getting clogged with turf.

The RBZ 3-wood is a fine club and I did fine with it. I know many golfers who swear by the RBZ line and have found it to live up to the hype. But for me personally, there was no significant “improvement” as a result of using it and, in the end, it was not worth paying the extra $129 for a club that didn’t perform much differently than the old one. So last week, I returned it. I put the Cleveland back in my bag and it felt great when I hit it again this weekend.

The experiment was worthwhile and ultimately didn’t cost me much, but it just reinforces the truth that it’s not necessarily the equipment that makes a difference. It’s the player. In my opinion, the technology of the so-called “game improvement” clubs may make a significant difference if you are replacing really old equipment. Otherwise, for us amateurs who play at mid- to high-handicap levels, it’s all about finding clubs that you are comfortable with. Any real significant improvement will come from within. If you really want to improve your game, you’re probably better off spending your hard-earned money on lessons and practice!

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