Like TaylorMade’s SLDR driver, the company’s new SLDR fairway woods and hybrids promise golfers more distance from a lower, more forward center of gravity.
The SLDR fairway woods and hybrids have a new version TaylorMade’s “Speed Pocket,” which is no longer indented into the front of the sole like previous models. While it’s smaller than the Speed Pocket featured on the company’s RBZ Stage 2 fairway woods and hybrids, it now slices completely through the sole, creating a gap that is filled with the same polymer the company used in the design of its RocketBladez and SpeedBlade irons.
Mike Ferris, vice president of product marketing for TaylorMade, said that the new Speed Pocket makes the SLDR fairway woods even lower spinning and higher launching than previous models. The 1 mm more forward CG creates an estimated 200-to-300 rpm reduction in spin and a 1-degree increase in launch angle, giving golfers two options to improve their fairway wood and hybrid play. They can use the additional ball speed created from the clubs’ lower, more forward center of gravity to hit their fairway woods and hybrids farther, or they can choose to play higher-lofted models, which will allow them to raise their trajectory.
The draw back of moving weight lower and more forward in a club head is that it lowers a club’s moment of inertia (MOI), or its resistance to twisting on off-center hits, which decreases a club’s forgiveness. But Ferris stressed that the revamped Speed Pocket more than makes up for the loss of forgiveness, because it adds additional spring-like effect that improves the ball speed of shots struck off-center.
SLDR 3 Wood at address
SLDR 3 Hybrid at address
Note: The small alignment line positioned behind TaylorMade’s “T” logo will not be added to the retail versions of fairway woods and hybrids.
In 2013, 15 percent of the fairway woods TaylorMade sold were its “high launch” models, which have the shape of a 3 wood or 5 wood, but are designed with more loft to help boost launch angle. In 2014, Ferris said he expects that number to grow to 25 percent of TaylorMade’s fairway woods sales, as more golfers realize the benefit of hitting higher-launching, lower-spinning shots.
“The loft of fairway woods has been evolving,” Ferris said. “We think it’s good to be able to play a 4 wood instead of a 3 wood.”
Many tour players, including 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, have embraced higher-lofted fairway woods, which they are able to hit the same distance as their older, lower-lofted fairway woods but with a higher trajectory. And for golfers such as Rose, having more loft on a fairway wood has a visual benefit as well.
“It gives me more confidence to look down at a fairway wood and see more loft, especially if I know that it’s going to fly just as far,” Rose said.
The SLDR fairway woods and hybrids have a 3-degree range of adjustability (+/- 1.5 degrees), which is adjustable in 0.5-degree increments. They are made to be “visually square” at address, which means that in the neutral setting they will have a face angle that measures 2 degrees open.
The fairway woods are smaller in size than their predecessor, TaylorMade’s RBZ Stage 2 Tour, with the SLDR 3 wood measuring 20 cubic centimeters smaller (155cc versus 175cc), while the hybrids are about the same size as last year’s models. The combination of the shallower fairway wood heads and slightly shorter shaft lengths (both the fairway woods and hybrids are 0.25 inches shorter than TaylorMade’s RBZ Stage 2 Tour models) should make the clubs more playable for the majority of golfers.
The SLDR fairway woods and hybrids will be available starting Nov. 15. The fairway woods will sell for $249 ($349 with TaylorMade’s TP shafts), and the hybrids will cost $219 ($289 with a TP shaft).
Additional specs from TaylorMade