TaylorMade R9 driver and friends

GM's deputy editor runs through what's in his bag

TaylorMade R9 460 driver

Working for the UK’s oldest golf magazine has certain advantages over your average 9 to 5 day job. Now, I’m not going to list them for the fear of sounding slightly smug (I realise that I’m already teetering on the brink) but without doubt the best of these perks is the opportunity to test golf clubs. At GM, we are in a unique position. We can test a broad spectrum of what’s on the market and anything we really like can it’s way into our bags, albeit with a quick, grovelling conversation with the manufacturer. So listed below is what I choose to play…

Driver - TaylorMade R9, 9.5˚ with Fujikura Motore 65, s flex shaft Despite having golf’s most adjustable club leading my line-up, I have it set up completely neutral. I have tinkered with the weights and the face angle while on the range but as I have been known to loose balls both left and right, I thought it best to go for a straight flight. The modern triangular shape took some getting used to at first but the powerful impact sound and strong flight really impressed. I have a feeling this will stay in my bag for some time.

Fairway wood - PING G10 5 wood with Aldila VS Proto s flex shaft Until this G10 came into my life last year, I’d never owned a fairway wood that I actually felt confident using. This has a 5-wood loft but the excellent shaft is quite heavy and so I’m able to eek out a little extra distance. Off the tee, fairway or light rough, this has become perhaps the most consistent area of my game. The simple, classic shape is a thing of beauty.

Hybrid - Mizuno Fli-Hi CLK 20˚ with a Dynamic Gold X100 shaft This is the oldest club in my bag as it first entered the line-up about four years ago. It has become my ‘go to’ club whenever the pressure is on. The steel shaft seems to offer me a really strong flight and plenty of control.

Irons – Titleist ZM 4-9 with DG X100 shafts, ½ inch longer than standard, 1˚ upright Last February I was lucky enough to be invited by Titleist to their custom fitting centre at Brampton. After an hour or so of tinkering with different heads, shafts, lie angles and lengths I walked away with the above spec. The distance control and feel from these blade-like heads is awesome and despite being fairly thin in the topline, they aren’t too daunting to look down on.

Wedges – PING S57 PW, PING Tour W 56˚ and Mizuno R Series 60˚ The only problem with my Titleist irons is that they are extremely soft. The wedge in particular doesn’t travel quite as far as I’d like so I’ve swapped it with PING’s S57 set wedge to plug a key distance gap. The spin on offer here is prestigious. My Ping Tour W wedge and Mizuno R series are both old favourites that I feel confident of playing a range of short game shots with.

Putter – Titleist Scotty Cameron Fastback Not being the best on the greens, I’ve always felt more confident using mallet putters. I love this one because it has a very simple design with clean lines and a great feel. I have to admit that I’m still a sucker for an Odyssey 2-ball and wouldn’t count against reverting back if my current good putting form dips.

In his current role, Neil is responsible for testing drivers and golf balls. Having been a part of the Golf Monthly team for over 15 years and playing off a handicap of 3, he has the experience to compare performance between models, brands and generations. For 2022 he thinks the main trend in drivers is: "In a word, consistency. Whilst all the brands are talking about ball speed (and the new drivers are certainly long), my biggest finding has been how much more consistent the ball flights are. Mishits don't seem to be causing the same level of drop-off or increase in the spin numbers. This means that more shots seem to be flying the way you want them to!" As far as golf balls are concerned the biggest development is in the, "three piece, non-Tour, urethane-covered section. For regular golfers, these models offer superb performance at both ends of the bag without denting your wallet quite as much as the premium Tour-played options."

Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he is now the brand's Digital Editor and covers everything from Tour player interviews to gear reviews. In his time at Golf Monthly, he has covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSi2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons (4-9): Mizuno JPX 919 Forged Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 46˚, 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X