What you need to know: TaylorMade Kalea Premier women's clubs
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: TaylorMade introduces a complete overhaul of the look and design of its 7-year-old line with the Kalea Premium set for women. “Light, easy to launch and forgiving” was the mantra for the project’s lead engineer, Michelle Penney. That has been accomplished in numerous ways. For the driver, available in one setting of 12.5 degrees, it’s the use of a carbon crown and carbon sole to create a light head for faster swing speeds to go with a 22-gram steel rear back weight for lower center of gravity (CG). The face of the fairway woods is 37 percent larger, and each head is the same size to create more a consistent visual, while the rescues’ faces also got bigger. The irons have a shape that is unique to the new set, with a "cap back" design that intends to provide stability within the topline and upper perimeter while reducing vibration. The set’s putter is a Mini Spider that is 15 percent smaller than the Spider Tour while still featuring the company’s grooved-face technology for better roll. It has a specially designed 70-gram graphite shaft.
PRICE: The 11-piece set (driver, 5-wood, 5-rescue, 6-rescue, 7I-PW, SW, putter and bag) is $1,699. A seven-piece set (5-rescue, 6-rescue, 7I-PW, SW) is $999. Individual clubs are driver, $449; fairway (3-wood, 5-wood, 7-wood), $249; rescue (23 degrees, 27 degrees, 35 degrees), $199; irons (5-piece set), $599; individual clubs, including 6I-PW, AW, SW, $119 each; putter, $279. Kalea Premier launched via presale on Aug. 15 and will be available in retail on Oct. 14.
THE DEEP DIVE: In 2015, TaylorMade introduced the Kalea line of women’s clubs that targeted golfers who wanted to take a step up from true beginner’s sets, such as the company’s RBZ SpeedLite offering. That was fine at the time, but as the women’s segment continued to grow—25 percent of all golfers now are female, according to the National Golf Foundation—TaylorMade felt that it needed to step up its offering to a growing demographic of women who want more performance in a set without having to do a bunch of tinkering with men’s clubs. The company had the perfect leader for the project in Penney, a principal engineer of woods who has played a key role in the development of numerous men’s clubs used by major champions, while also owning a great passion for the women’s game. “This one was special for me,” Penney says. And not just for her, but all of the women at TaylorMade. The manufacturing engineer is Jenny Luoma.
Over the four years from conception to production of Kalea Premier, TaylorMade and Penney enlisted the NGF to do a massive study of women golfers, asking them everything from how often they play to what their favorite color palette for clubs is. For the latter, the consensus was “feminine, but not girly.” A women’s panel at the company’s offices in Europe was put together and dozens of golfers were recruited to hit balls on polo fields not far from TaylorMade’s headquarters in Carlsbad.
“We got some really strong opinions,” Penney says. “Ultimately, we ended up in a really good place. I don’t think any of us can claim that we totally understand this customer, but it’s a really good first step. … We’re TaylorMade; once we start doing something, we’re not going to take our foot off the gas.”
As a woods specialist, Penney was deeply invested in creating a signature driver for women. The goal was to better concentrate much of the weight low and in the back, and part of that was accomplished with lighter carbon and aluminum for the crown and body. That 22-gram back weight is key, and the Inertia Generator was repositioned to encourage better launch. The graphite shaft is an in-house model coming in at 40 grams. The total build of the Kalea, Penney notes, is 35 grams lighter than on a men’s driver. The team eschewed the idea of having an adjustable element, Penney says, because that requires 6 extra grams that could be used elsewhere in the weighting. There also was much discussion about what degree the face should be and 12.5 was the ultimate choice. “You want higher launch and lower spin,” Penney says, while she leaves open the possibility of other face angles should the demand require it.
Penney also is excited about the choice by the team to create larger face sizes for the 3-, 5- and 7-woods, while also making the head sizes “non-progressive.” So, the clubheads are the same size to be more forgiving throughout while also creating a consistent visual. Penney thought the previous Kalea woods were too flat. The entire head of the 7-wood for example is 60 percent larger. “The 7 has the same forgiveness as the 3, but I can get the ball in the air,” she says. For the rescues, the face height was increased with a raised topline so that players could see more of it, while the CG is lower, Penney says.
The irons follow the same strategy in terms of weight and forgiveness. The "cap back" construction, first seen with the company's SIM2 Max irons and then refined further with this year's Stealth irons, was designed to provide stability and more forgiveness on the perimeter while it also reduces vibration. The long-favored slot in the sole, or "speed pocket" in company lingo, remains a staple in all of the irons. “The Speed Pocket is huge for us,” Penney says. “Most people miss low and it keeps your ball speed up.”