If I could only use one word to describe TaylorMade Golf for the past 3 or 4 years, I think it would be: Prolific.
pro·lif·ic (prəˈlifik) adjective: present in large numbers or quantities; plentiful.
TaylorMade is everywhere. Go to any major sporting goods retailer, golf store or green grass pro shop and you are likely to see TaylorMade clubs, balls, hats, bags and more. This is deliberate of course. In the marketing war to win over customers, more is better. The more you see their name on TV, in pro shops or on the course, the more likely you will become a TaylorMade customer yourself.
For this strategy to work however, you need a good product and money, and TaylorMade has both. Now backed by the adidas Sports Group, TaylorMade adidas Golf (TMAG) has a long history of industry changing products. It all started in the 70s when Barney Adams created the original “Pittsburgh Persimmon” cast metal driver. Once he got a few PGA Tour pros to try it and they started winning with it, the metalwood era had begun. By the mid 90s, wooden headed clubs were gone. In 1995, they introduced the Burner Bubble driver with a painted (imagine that) copper head and the innovative bubble shaft, and it took the market by storm. By 2004 when the R7 adjustable driver came out, TaylorMade had already established itself as an industry leader. Last year we had the famous (or infamous) white drivers and fairways, and while one TMAG staffer once told me “We’re all in on white”, they have returned to a more neutral color scheme with their most recent clubs, the SLDR Driver and the newly introduced JetSpeed Driver and Fairways.
TaylorMade SLDR Driver
The TaylorMade SLDR driver is almost old hat at this point, having come out earlier this summer. TaylorMade loves to introduce new products at several points in the year, making it seem like there is a constant stream of new goodies coming from the R&D folks in Carlsbad, California. They say what makes this driver long is the placement of the CG (center of gravity) low and forward in the club to reduce ball spin. When combined with greater loft at impact, balls are launching higher with less spin, and according to the magical club testing robots and launch monitors, it is their longest driver ever.
We’ve all heard this before of course. Longer, straighter, more forgiving – these words are attached to every company’s new product launch press releases nowadays. Will the TaylorMade SLDR driver deliver on this promise? In a word, maybe. Every golfer will get different results, and obviously a proper fitting makes a huge difference. I compared the SLDR driver side by side with two current “gamer” drivers. The Adams Super LS and a Cleveland Classic that is now my backup.
Having such a low and forward center of gravity (CG), the TaylorMade SLDR will perform better if you add some loft. If you normally play a 9.5 degree driver, try the SLDR with 10.5 degrees. The forward CG lowers ball spin to the point that too little loft will leave you unable to carry the ball very far. I had the 10.5 lofted TaylorMade SLDR TP, which is the “tour” model with an upgraded shaft. I usually play 7.5 (Cleveland Classic) to 8.5 (Adams Super LS) degrees of loft, so going to the 10.5 head was a big change. Naturally I launched the ball very high with the SLDR driver. Since I was basically comparing apples and oranges, I didn’t notice a gain or loss in distance with the SLDR driver. The SLDR driver carried a bit further than the Cleveland Classic and Adams Super LS, but because the conditions are usually soft and wet in my area I wasn’t able to see how much roll I would get. It seems that every year my swing speed goes down, but I don’t lose distance. Advancements in club and ball technology are the main reasons for that. In practical terms, distance depends largely on one’s golf swing and playing conditions. It is too hard for me to judge if this driver is really longer than my “gamers” in real world testing. One thing is for certain, this driver is as hot as any current driver, so if you have a club that is a year or two old, you will most certainly see a gain in distance with the TaylorMade SLDR driver if properly fitted.
I generally don’t mess with adjustable drivers much, because I like to work the ball both ways off the tee and prefer a neutral setup that allows me to shape shots without too much extra effort. The SLDR driver’s sliding weight allows a person to dial in up to 30 yards of side to side ball flight, according to TaylorMade. Out of the box I found the TaylorMade SLDR wanted to draw the ball, so I set it a few clicks towards to toe and found a setting that worked pretty well. Had the shaft been a little stiffer I think the default setting may have worked. Either way, this adjustment is simpler and easier to adjust than the removable weights and confusing sole plate of the R1 driver, and a welcome change.
Is the era of the white drivers over? I’m not sure, but for the moment it is on hiatus for the TaylorMade SLDR driver. This one is painted a nice charcoal-gray color, which is more traditional and looks great. The chrome accent at the rear of the crown and busy graphics let you know this is still a TaylorMade driver, however. The busy design on the sole is classic TaylorMade, as the MWT (moveable weight technology) has evolved to become a single weight sliding along a track for adjustments in draw or fade bias. The adjustable hosel is still there to allow the golfer to adjust dynamic loft by opening or closing the club face. Compared to some of the more recent offerings, the TaylorMade SLDR is a pretty good looking club.
The SLDR driver is a solid, low spinning club that strikes a decent balance between new technology and classic looks. If properly fit, I’m confident that most golfers will see an increase in distance, but depending on what kind of driver you are upgrading from, that gain may be negligible in the real world. To get the most out of this driver, I highly recommend adding loft. Even the 10.5 that I was hitting wasn’t producing a ball flight that was too high for me. Everyone differs of course, so go out and hit one and see for yourself. If you are looking for a good upgrade from a driver that is a few years old, the TaylorMade SLDR is a worthy choice.