TaylorMade SLDR Driver Review

Aug 29, 2013 (Updated Sep 13, 2013)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great distance, good feel, and good balance , Slider Weights work as advertised--Just ask Mizuno!


The Bottom Line: I really do believe this is TaylorMade's best driver. It has all the feel of a Mizuno--with the trademark "Whallop" of a TaylorMade.--But $500!?!--Really!?!

TaylorMade Meets Mizuno—Or How The SLDR  Ain’t No One-Sider
     I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to one of the local country clubs that was holding some of the “By invitation only” demoes of these clubs. I’m not sure if I was chosen because it is a well-known fact that I have bagged both TaylorMade and Mizuno Drivers in the past, and I am actually gaining a little notoriety as one who writes and reviews these things (hoping), or if my name simply popped up as an “officially registered “ (proper warranty paperwork etc…/more than likely) TaylorMade owner. Either way, it was an opportunity I looked very much forward to taking advantage of. Up until two months ago, I was a bonafide Mizuno Driver (JPX 800) type of guy. The club that replaced it was a TaylorMade. (RocketBallz Bonded) Neither club was my first rodeo with either brand, so when I hit this new SLDR----I was immediately taken by the fact that it felt as if the designers had pureed a Mizuno Fast Track MP630, with a dash of TaylorMade R7425, into a blender, and topped it all off with a shot of Adams Velocity Slot Technology.
     That may sound a bit strange to most folks, as Mizuno Woods are rarely looked to as, “The up and coming series to own”, and TaylorMade Drivers tend to be known more for their muscular feel rather than their cling and workability factors.  Let’s not even mention that Adams golf has built an entire company off of, “The Forgiveness Factor” built into their clubs, but eventually developed a technology so powerful that TaylorMade was forced to buy them out, rather than take them to court.  Yet I ask in all sincerity, “If you could take the balance and feel of Mizuno, and mix it with the power of a TaylorMade, and still gain the forgiveness of an Adams Driver—wouldn’t you be interested?! “
     Usually an attempt to make a club that is all things to all people results in a club that doesn’t have enough of any one thing to satisfy any of the people. I am not claiming that this is the five star driver of the century that is worth every bit of its $400-$500 asking price—because it isn’t. It is, however, the closest attempt at a multi-tasking driver that will appeal to all levels of player that I have seen in some time.  The fact that I went from an Adams Speedline, to a Mizuno JPX 800, and eventually to a TaylorMade RocketBallz Bonded Driver allows me to quantify as well as qualify this hypothesis with empirical evidence as well as subjective theory. So if you want to know more about my take on The SLDR Driver—read on Gungha Din.

Distance and Workability—4 ¾ Stars
   Usually these are separate categories, but in the case of this club's feel, it adds a lot of tactile cues that increase workability and make it an integral part of the club's distance factor. This is one of those rare occurrences where the feeling of raw power and muscular pop for which TaylorMade clubs are famous, is mated to a buttery “Cling” of the ball at impact for a split second before said ball explodes off of the club's face. That buttery “cling”, the very feel that keeps the rather small cult of Mizuno Driver Believers alive, helps this club gain distance in the consistency of yardage department as well as the raw yardage department. That’s a result of the increased workability which we will talk about later. I found this club to be exceptionally powerful at impact, which gave it extremely good raw yardage numbers,-so far—the highest of the year.
     My 97-105 MPH Swing laid into the Regular Flex Fujikura Motore Shaft on a 10.5* lofted head of the “TP” version of this club. It was a good fit that  allowed me to pick up a few yards as compared to my current RocketBallz Bonded Driver. But the feel, which enabled me to make micro swing adjustments throughout the session allowed me to gain even more yardage based on a consistency of distance ratio. When combined with the SLDR weight on the bottom—which acts more as a directionality adjuster than a forgiveness compensator—I was able to fine tune a nice slight to baby draw swing that could be repeated with amazing consistency.  This, of course led to the ultimate distance gain. Again, I must be Frank with you here. There is no magic 20 yards to be found-----but the usual B.S. claim of, “ 4-7 yards over last year’s model”, was easily justified, and usually to the higher side of the statement.

Feel—4 ¾ Stars
     Right near the top of its class really.  You have to start talking Maruman’s , and/or other super high dollar forged drivers to match this one in the feel department. The very fact that there are drivers that feel this good is usually a surprise to most people who have, until recently, only viewed the driver as a distance club. Such clubs are out there, however, and this one is near the top of its class. The feel throughout the swing is not really one of finesse, but more of a strong muscular club, as detailed in the “Balance” category. At impact, however, there is a split second of the most buttery feeling cling before the ball literally rockets off the face. This really helps you make mental notes about your swing, as you can connect the feel at impact with the ball’s flight and trajectory, and this actually allows you to make mental notes and adjust the Sliding Weight accordingly until you have tweaked the club for maximum distance.
    I am very familiar with this feel, as I did bag the old Mizuno Fast Track MP 630 driver for a season.  Even though the weights on the Mizuno were more on the back end of the club’s sole, which lowered the center of gravity to help improve launch angle, rather than towards the front of the sole as they are on this TaylorMade SLDR, where it helps bring the center of gravity forward and decreases spin, the concept of using the feel at impact to adjust sliding weights is almost identical. What’s most uncanny about it is that this darned TaylorMade, at least for a split second at impact, feels very much like all of the Mizuno Drivers I have ever bagged. (Blue Rage, MP 630, MX500, and JPX 800). TaylorMade fans don’t despair—this club gives up nothing in the legendary TaylorMade “Pop-O-Matic”/Canonesque Feel once the split second of cling is gone.
Balance—4 Stars
     Though the feeling isn’t quite “Zen-Like” by any stretch of the imagination, this club is well-balanced. Club head awareness is not problematic in the least, but that is because it is just a touch on the head heavy side. Don’t get me wrong hear; I’m not saying this thing feels like a sledgehammer on a stick. What I am saying, however, is that this club didn’t get a D4 Swing Weight in all versions by being a featherweight either. I personally like a little heft to my clubs and prefer a swing weight of D2 in my Irons and D3 in my drivers.  
     Still, the advantages of knowing exactly where the club head is at all times, even if they are delivered in a somewhat ham-handed fashion, far outweigh a lighter feeling that puts some vague spots at important transition points in your swing. I think the standard issue TaylorMade fan is going to feel right at home with this heft as it offers a little more subliminal “oomph” to the “POP”   of the ball coming off of this club’s face at impact.

Techs and Specs—4 Stars
    At $399 for the standard version, and $499 for the “Tour Preferred” version, I’d like to see a little more differentiation between the two than just the shaft model. We’re not even talking shaft maker options here! Both shafts are very good shafts made by Fujikura, and they are extremely well mated to the head of this thing. Still, at those prices, maybe a shot at an Aldila and/or a Mitsubishi Rayon Model in addition to the two Fuji’s would be a nice thing to have without an additional upcharge tacked onto these already somewhat pricey MSRP’s.  Seriously folks, fitting carts are available at a lot of the not so high end golf stores, so at these suggested retail prices, they should be available at the big box versions as well. However, if TaylorMade were to drop the price $100 on each version, and maybe go with a $50 upcharge on the custom options instead, that would fall well within the realms of what is already considered standard accepted business practice in the golf club business.
  There’s nothing wrong with the Fuji Speeder 57, and The Motore Shaft may be one of my all-time favourites, but what about your average Joe Blow Weekend Warrior? He isn’t going to feel the $100 difference in shaft models, and if the Motore in Regular Flex wasn’t such a good fit for my current swing, I darned sure wouldn’t have felt it either.  As far as the shafts’ actual specs go—here’s the deal.

The Speeder 57 shaft comes in Regular, Stiff, and X-Stiff flexes. Its torque ratings are 3.5, 3.4, and 3.3 respectively. It is somewhat long at 45 ½” and features a .350 hosel size for more forgiveness, as well as a butt diameter of .620”.  This is the standard issue SLDR Shaft.

The SLDR TP shaft is a “Motore 63.” It also comes in Regular, Stiff, and X-Stiff flexes. Its torque ratings are 2.8, 2.7, and 2.6 respectively. It is also slightly longer than normal at 45 ¼”. It has a smaller .335 hosel for more workability, and a thinner butt diameter of .600. 

   As mentioned earlier, both models feature the same 460CC head, and both models come in at D4 Swingweights across the board. Aside from the different shafts, the available lofts seem to be the only other major difference between the two versions of this club. That is a little funny when one considers this club features a “loft adjustment sleeve” at the hosel that allows an adjustment of 1.5* either way, thus greying out even more of the subtle differences between “Tour Preferred” and “Standard” versions.  Regardless of all that, the standard version comes in lofts of 9.5, 10.5, and 12*. The “TP” version comes in lofts of 8, 9.5, 10.5, and 12* respectively.

Overall—4 ½ Stars
     This club is a real beast without question. Normally if a club comes in overpriced by roughly $100, I tend to tag it for a full star. This club, however,  really seems overpriced to me by a mere $50 in the TP version. The build quality is very good. The balance is definitely better than average when considering some of the slop TaylorMade has been known to throw out on the marketplace from time to time. The feel is definitely the very best I’ve ever experienced when hitting a TaylorMade Driver. Let’s not forget that this thing is a real powerhouse in the distance department, and in a rare occurrence for TaylorMade, it is strong in both the overall raw yardage, as well as the mean average—consistency of yardage departments. There are some very real technological attachments that, had I not used similar devices before, I might have labeled as gimmicks. –Slider Weights work, and I’m actually surprised that they are no longer used on Mizuno Drivers—the very guys that pioneered the concept.  I would, however, like to see the price cut, and the custom shaft options offered as a $50 upgrade. Then again, I am also a world class cheapskate.

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