Racquet Review: Gamma RZR Bubba 117

by: Jon Levey | April 28, 2014

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Price: $195
Head Size: 117 sq. in.
Length: 27.25 in.
Weight: 9.3 oz.
Balance: 7 pts. HH
Swingweight: 313
RA Rating: 62
Beam Width: 22 mm / 24 mm / 22
String Pattern: 16x19
NTRP: 3.0-5.0

“Can you please do some oversized racquet reviews? Something for the serious older player?”

I’m paraphrasing, but we’ve been getting comments like this posted to several of our recent reviews. It’s true we’ve been a little light in covering the oversized market, and there are certainly fans of those types of frames. But if we’re going do it, we’re going to go big, or go home.

As in Gamma’s RZR (Big) Bubba 117.

Besides having one of the great racquet names, Bubba also possesses that distinctive snowshoe shape. It’s clearly not a racquet for everybody; you’re not going to see it at Wimbledon, or even at the higher recreational levels. Aggressive baseliners or grinders who play with a lot of spin and want to provide their own pace will probably not find the consistency they seek from this frame. However, if you’re a player with a shorter swing looking for easy power and an enormous sweet spot, Bubba has got you covered.

What’s impressive about the updated RZR Big Bubba is it’s far more playable than you might expect, thanks in large part to downsizing from the 137 sq. in. head, 29 in. length, and 412 swingweight of the most recent version. That monster was a pure power broker. But as Gamma put it: This Bubba is set for bruise, not kill.

It’s much easier to manipulate which helps its maneuverability at net, where it’s a volley machine. But it’s also fairly quick through the hitting zone on ground strokes and serves. And while many oversized frames tend to be super stiff, in relative terms Bubba has a soft feel at contact. It actually has a lot to offer advanced doubles players looking for a little extra help from their frame.

In fact, one of our stronger playtesters, Mark Avedikian—a former standout at Georgia Tech and ATP tour player—found Bubba to be exactly what he needed on the doubles court. Here’s his take on the frame: 

Mark Avedikian: This was a racquet I knew I had to try out. I am always looking for oversized racquets that 4.0+ players can actually play with, as the oversized players frame seems all but extinct. What drew me to the Bubba was the swingweight, flex, as well as the thinner beam compared to most oversized frames out on the market today.

The pick-up feel of the frame is great; very sleek with the RZR technology designed to reduce wind drag courtesy of a more tapered beam width. I typically use polyester string, but decided to go with a 15 gauge multifilament as I felt that would give me an idea of how powerful the frame is while not having to restring after one play period. The 16x19 string pattern is fanned out, making it very open.

When I took Bubba to the court for some doubles fun with my usual 5.5 counterparts, I got hit with the expected catcalls of “old man” and taunts about how the fences were going to get a workout. Without hitting a ball, Bubba had gotten into their heads. I had a feeling of supreme confidence.

Once play began, the racquet proved itself more than just a mental tool. Even with all its size and unusual shape, the frame moves remarkably fast through the hitting zone. Serving was a breeze as it sliced though the air to give me great spin, power, and surprising control. Volleys had great touch due to the huge sweet spot and thin, flexible feel of the frame. Returns were easy to roll, chip, or take early and flatten out. The accuracy I was able to find surprised me as I thought I would fly my share of returns, but it never happened.

Ground strokes were easy to direct with spin as well, though hitting passing shots into tight spots may be a challenge for players with flatter strokes. And I did have to add more spin to my aggressive approach shots, or else they would sail long. But I feel that using poly or a very thin Kevlar main string would make this much less of a problem.

One drawback to the frame was the sound. The mains are so long and I strung it at 62 lbs, so when I made contact it was though I was ringing a cowbell. Using a vibration dampener helped, but it didn’t eliminate the noise entirely. In fact, the recurring joke on our court was referencing the classic Saturday Night Live skit ("More Cowbell!") anytime I smacked a winner.

Other than being scared to try a between-the-legs shot, those were my issues with Bubba. Pretty minor stuff, really. (I won all of my sets that night and told my friends they had been BUBBATIZED!!!) I do wish it came in a slightly heavier 110 sq. in. model; then I’d really be hooked. But all in all it’s a fun stick to play with for players of all levels, particularly those who like to use spin and touch, and want the extra pop and forgiveness of an oversized frame.

To buy, demo, or learn more about this racquet, go to: 


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