When you first get a look at TaylorMade's new SLDR driver (as in "slider"), you notice right away the adjustable slot mechanism on the sole. You might notice, too, that the clubhead isn't white like TaylorMade's last five drivers. You might even notice that it comes in multiple lofts, a departure from the single head, variable-loft configuration on this year's R1.
You might notice all of those things, but it's what you can't see that's the real story behind TaylorMade's latest driver innovation.
When the company introduced the r7 Quad in 2004, it launched the modern era of movable weight technology. At the time, movable weight came about by rearranging four weighted screws on the sole of a driver to change the location of the center of gravity and thus influence or even correct consistent misses to the left or right. More weight toward the heel meant shots could have more of a draw tendency (or less of a slice tendency), while more weight toward the toe would give shots more of a fade bias or less hook. The company that invented the modern era of movable weight in drivers almost a decade ago believes they've now found a better idea.
Just unveiled to the public on the company website through an extensive online tutorial
and already generating buzz and success on tour (Brandt Snedeker used it during his winning week at the RBC Canadian Open), SLDR will be in stores in less than two weeks. It features a 20-gram mechanism in a slot in the sole that can accommodate 21 possible center of gravity (CG) locations across a spectrum from draw to fade. Combined with its 12-position rotating hosel, the SLDR can be adjusted to 252 unique configurations.
The distinct sliding track design not only is more user-intuitive (with clear labels of "DRAW" and "FADE"), it's also better technology, says Tom Olsavsky, TaylorMade's senior director of product creation.
"We're not only moving more weight, but we're moving it a greater distance, and that's having a greater effect on how much we can move the center of gravity," he said, indicating the CG on SLDR moves as much as six millimeters or 50 percent more than on the R1. "One millimeter sounds very small but it makes a pretty big difference."
The hidden benefit of the SLDR's movable weight element, though, is its location, not just from heel to toe, but in its relative position front to back. Set in a position more forward of center, the slot and weight on SLDR yield a CG that's slightly forward and low. It continues a trend TaylorMade's engineers have been developing in recent years with clubs like the R1 driver and the RocketBallz fairway woods.
"A forward and low CG is the holy grail for creating maximum ball velocity and optimizing launch conditions," says TaylorMade's chief technical officer Benoit Vincent, pointing to how a low and forward CG creates a larger area of the face that will produce higher launch angles and lower spin. Higher launch with lower spin leads to a longer carry on tee shots combined with the potential for a more aggressive and shallower landing angle that can lead to more roll.
Vincent makes the point that trying to position the CG farther away from the face often ends up with the CG relatively higher with respect to the center of the face, not lower, which can lead to higher spinning tee shots that do not produce efficient launch conditions. Vincent says this idea should work for all players because a low, forward CG makes it easier for higher-lofted drivers to launch shots with less spin.
TaylorMade believes the new club could become the No. 1-played driver as early as this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and already 14 players have put the club in their bags.
The SLDR will be available in four lofts (8, 9.5, 10.5 and 12 degrees) and each loft is adjustable by a range of plus/minus 1.5 degrees. The range of lofts better allows players who prefer higher lofts without a closed face angle or lower lofts without a more open face angle to settle on a preferred loft and face angle combination. The club is due in stores Aug. 9 ($400) and will feature a sub-60-gram Fujikura Speeder 57 as the stock shaft. A TP version also will be available, featuring the Fujikura Tour Spec 6.3 shaft.