Pros: Look, Feel, Shaft Options, Forgiveness
Cons: Trajectory Control
In the past year Taylormade has been releasing their new line of Drivers, Hybrids, and Fairway Woods under the name "SLDR". Now Taylormade has designed a new iron under the same name. Lets take a look at these new irons that Taylormade has claimed,
Speed Pocket & Iron Progression
In recent Taylormade irons they have introduced the Speed Pocket. The Speed Pocket is a slot behind the clubface that allows it to flex more, especially on areas lower on the clubface. This also moves the weight to the edges for more forgiveness and launches the ball higher. Taylormade also claims that it allows the golfer to control their irons better because the ball will enter the green on a steeper angle and will stop faster. What Taylormade has done now is created a "Cut-Through" Speed Pocket on the SLDR iron. Basically the Speed Pocket now extends through the sole and into the cavity of the iron, extending the effect of the Speed Pocket to a wider area on the clubface. Taylormade claims this will produce a consistent, faster ball speed. Taylormade puts the speed pocket in their 7 iron through the 3 iron only. Also, in the Pitching Wedge and their Gap "AW" Wedge, the SLDR iron is a muscle back iron with no cavity. Their is a small cavity in the 9 iron and it develops into a larger cavity up to the 3 iron. So similar to previous Taylormade irons, they have created a progressive set of irons, adding more game improvement forgiveness as the clubs get longer.
In the new SLDR irons, Taylormade has introduced an insert into the back of the clubface that acts as vibration dampener, softening the impact feel, promoting a more "Tour" like feel. This is only in the 9 iron and above. The wedges do not have the Vibration Dampening technology. It seems Taylormade is taking serious consideration to the feel when they introduce technology like a Speed Pocket.
KBS Tour C-Taper Lite Shafts
In recent years, Taylormade has been offering more premium golf shafts in their clubs. Particularly aftermarket shafts instead of Taylormade own designed shafts. This has continued with the SLDR irons using KBS's C-Taper Lite golf shafts. This is a lightweight, low-mid spin, mid-high launch golf shaft. They will be offered in a Stiff and Regular flex, both weighting 90 grams. Taylormade uses this shaft to promote a higher launching ball, but still be able to control the spin. This is mantra is very similar to their SLDR driver line with a higher launch, lower spin design concept. KBS iron shafts are very good, and compete well with True Temper and Project X.
The irons I tested have the custom C-Taper shafts (X-Stiff), not the C-Taper Lite shafts. The custom C-Taper shafts are a low launching, low spin shaft.
They also offer a irons in graphite as well. These will come with shafts designed by Fujikura, which come in Light (57 grams), Regular (67 grams), or Stiff Flex (77 grams).
-Taylormade SLDR Iron Specs
The Taylormade Irons have a 5 degree gap from AW to PW, from PW to 9 iron, and 9 iron to 8 iron. Then proceed to a 4 degree gap, and finally a 3 degree gap between the 4 and 5 irons. Compare this to a more traditional iron which has the 4 degree gap between irons until the long irons. This gives the mid and longer irons of the SLDR stronger lofts compared to the more traditional irons.
The SLDR offsets are very much in the style of a better players club design. Which I prefer. Offset is purely an appearance preference rather than any sort of game improvement aspect of the club. They are actually slightly less offset than my Mizuno MP-59 irons that I play.
Club Length, the SLDR irons are typical when comparing stronger lofted irons. The length is about the same when comparing the same numbered iron, but the lofts are stronger. Lie angle is about 1 degree more upright, which isn't that big of a deal when comparing standard irons off the shelf. A player should get fitted for correct lie angles.
The bounce on the SLDR irons is slightly more than the typical better player iron. Though they have similar bounce profile to my Mizuno MP-59 irons. Also the sole is wider on the SLDR iron than compared to other better player irons, but not too large to where the club will look too chunky. The wider sole will help the club from digging into the ground with steeper angle of attacks.
As stated by Taylormade, "The goal with the SLDR Iron was to build a classic looking iron and infuse it with the latest performance technologies from TaylorMade. By doing this, we are able to reach a wider audience of golfers, especially those who prefer a slim, compact shape but are also looking for maximum performance in their iron set."
I can say this with certainty, the SLDR is a very classic looking iron. It doesn't have the classic sole of an iron, being that it has a wider sole than typical classic irons, but with a thinner top line than typical Game Improvement irons as well as the minimal offset, they have create an iron that would appeal to those who seek a more traditional looking iron. Overall size of the clubhead is modest as well. The only time you see the back of the club is slightly in the long irons, but it still doesn’t look chunky. This is a very sleek, slim game improvement iron.
The chrome finish gives it a very classic look. To me this club has a very minimalist modern look to it. To me the chrome just harps back to the days of a classic muscle car with clean lines.
Overall just a very good looking iron. this iron would appeal to many golfers, from the person who likes a more traditional looking iron to a guy who needs to know the iron will help him out. Taylormade hit a home run with the overall look with these irons. I think the looks would appeal to a lot of golfers.
Taking the specs and comparing them to my current irons, I initially suspected them to go about a half of club longer when comparing the number on the iron. This was true with the longer irons, but less true with the shorter irons due to the fact they match closer to my current irons. As a golfer who test out irons yearly, because I am the type of guy who likes to test out stuff and not buy them. I find that when comparing similar lofted and length irons, on WELL STRUCK golf balls the distance is not that different between iron sets. The claim that the irons will give you extra distance is ONLY on mishits. Basically it is only in the forgiveness of the irons. I found this to be the case with these irons as well.
These clubs are forgiving. You do not lose nearly as much distance on mishits, especially on thinned shots on the mid and longer irons. The Speed Pocket does help create a more consistent ball speed on the lower part of the clubface. Shots caught slightly thin still went a good distance and a pretty decent trajectory. If you catch the ball slightly high, the ball would launch very high and end up coming up shorter than expected. I think this is due to the lowering of the Center of Gravity and making the top line thinner, there is just not enough mass at impact on shots that are hit slightly high on the clubface.
As for distance control, they respond like any other game improvement iron. They are very consistent on well struck shots, and give you good forgiveness on mishits. I found the distance of the irons to be very reliable.
"HIGH BALL FLIGHT", is the phrase to describe these irons. They are very easy to get the ball up. I also found it hard produce a repeatable trajectory. Some shots would flight decent, others would go very high. I was disappointed with the ability to control the trajectory vertically, especially in the short to mid irons. This made it difficult to control distances on anything other than full swing shots. Even then it was difficult to determine of the ball would launch higher than I wanted it to. This didn't effect overall distance, unless it was windy. The longer irons were actually really good. I prefer longer irons that launch slightly higher and land softer.
Feel and Sound
These are a very nice feeling club. The Vibration Dampening does its job well. I found these very pleasing to hit. I think Taylormade hit a home run with how well these clubs feel for a game improvement iron. The club interacts well with the ground. The wider sole does promote a larger divot, but doesn’t dig into the ground due to the bounce. The wider sole is very nice in longer irons.
Overall I think Taylormade have create a very good iron. I think this club would appeal to players of all skill levels. Better players with slightly slower swing speed will like these irons because they do launch higher. Players who swing fast might find that they launch too high, and find it hard to control the trajectory. The look of these clubs is fantastic. I love the thinner topline, and the chrome finish. I love the simple modern looking design. But, as a better player, I find it very hard to control trajectory. That is just me, and these clubs just don’t fit my swing the way I want them to.
I think Taylormade has achieved what they set out to do, and that is to create a game improvement iron that looks more like a classic iron. The clubs are a nice bridge between their “super” game improvement irons and their better player irons. I think a lot of people will be surprised by how well these clubs look and feel. If they happen to perform well for them, they will get a great club. Taylormade has created an iron that looks classic, but still gives the golfer confidence that the club will help them out. The irons are a very good blend of looks and game improvement technology.