The story of TaylorMade’s new SIM lineup of drivers boils down to a single word: Geometry.
If that’s a little bit more complex than your vocabulary is comfortable with, we can go with Shape instead. In fact, Shape is the reason for the S in SIM (the name of the driver family). The I and the M, those set you In Motion.
Shape in Motion – there you have it.
Considering we’re talking about TaylorMade – the company that brought us Twist Face (and Speed Injected Twist Face), T-Tracks and Y-Tracks, and once shifted weight so far forward, we all needed to Loft Up – ONLY putting shape into motion kinda feels like a letdown.
Here’s the thing, though. When it comes to golf club innovation and performance, the best stories are rarely the sexiest stories, and the most impactful and often true stories tend to be the simplest.
For whatever it’s worth, it doesn’t get much simpler than shape (in motion or otherwise).
The Evolution of M6
In each of the 3 SIM Models – SIM, SIM MAX, and SIM MAX D, you’ll find plenty of M6 DNA, and that means an unusual shape that’s rapidly becoming common. Your requisite refresher – and yes, there’s some similarity with Cobra’s recent offerings as well as a clear point of divergence which we’ll cover in a bit – TaylorMade’s goal was to create a driver with outstanding mass properties (Low and Back Center of Gravity, High MOI) that wasn’t…shall we say… aerodynamically deficient. Like the larger story, the math here is pretty simple: Better aero = higher clubhead speed = more distance.
Simple. And that means it’s easy, right? Not exactly.
There’s Always a Trade-Off
We’ve talked about engineering trade-offs before. With the driver, low CG has typically meant forward CG. That’s great for lowering spin and boosting ball speed, but it doesn’t get you much in the way of forgiveness (it’s low MOI). Back CG is more forgiving, but typically results in higher centers of gravity, which gets you more spin, and the shaping required to put weight back often brings with it an aerodynamic penalty.
So how did TaylorMade lower the CG, increase forgiveness, and improve aerodynamics? Much like it did with M6, it raised the crown and increased the height of the skirt (the part of head between the crown and the sole that nobody talked about before last year), and it put a big chunk of mass it calls an inertia generator on the bottom to help drive mass low and back.
The result is what not so long ago would have been considered an unconventional shape for a driver head. These days, what TaylorMade and Cobra are doing is likely at the leading edge of a trend.
Unfortunately, TaylorMade says it’s not all rainbows and puppies (my words).
The existing mass bar, Inertia Generator, or whatever you want to call it, brought a new aerodynamic compromise. When it runs more or less straight from front to back (as it does with M6 and similar designs), the head delivers excellent aerodynamics at impact, but what about pre-impact? You know, the rest of the swing?
TaylorMade’s testing showed that in the final portions of the downswing when the face is still open and beginning to move towards square (hopefully), airflow was being disrupted over the heel portion of the inertia generator. Airflow disruption is a more genteel way of saying turbulent wake or drag, but ultimately, what we’re talking about is the loss of potential clubhead speed. The solution, it seems, was causing a new problem. To fix it, TaylorMade engineers used computer simulations and wind tunnel testing of the clubhead in various orientations to test alternative designs before ultimately validating the revised design in player testing.
“If you’re seeing it in the computer, and you’re seeing it in the wind tunnel, and you’re not seeing it in player testing, then the aero improvements you’re making aren’t working,” says TaylorMade’s Tomo Bystedt. Player testing showed that the new rotated design is more aerodynamically efficient. Its aerodynamic improvements worked.
With SIM’s Rotated Inertia Generator (it’s visibly tilted from heel to toe), airflow over the heel isn’t disrupted. It gives each of the drivers’ soles an asymmetrical appearance, but as long as you’re getting more speed, who cares? Rotating a sole feature sounds simple enough (remember, simple can be a good thing), but TaylorMade says it has patents to ensure it will be the only company to implement this particular solution.
So what does all of this shaping and aerodynamic stuff get you? Tomo Bystedt says the result is TaylorMade’s lowest CGs, with the same or better MOI, and more efficient aerodynamics. The shape is giving you more head speed, more forgiveness, and higher launch. The shape, along with the Speed Injected Twist Face, is also giving you more ball speed.
To put some numbers on all of that, from the aerodynamic improvements alone, TaylorMade is seeing a .7 to 1.5 MPH increase in head speed compared to its 2019 models. The fine print here is that that data comes from a test pool with an average swing speed of around 104 MPH. Even taking TaylorMade at its word, I’m still inclined to remind you that aerodynamic advantages disproportionally benefit higher swing speed players. If you swing less than 104 you probably won’t see a 1.5 MPH bump, but if you swing faster than 104, you could see more.
In much the same way that you can loosely correlate CT and COR (the two metrics the USGA has used measure how much the face of a driver flexes), TaylorMade has a metric (eCT) it uses to correlate aerodynamics gains with CT. I’d wager some its competitors will question the validity of the parameter, but for what it’s worth, TaylorMade says that the enhanced aerodynamics yield a driver with an Effective CT of 265-270. That’s up from 250-255 with M5/M6. Stripping away the technical bits, 10ct points is good for around ½ MPH of extra ball speed, so under TaylorMade’s eCT metric, you’re looking at approximately .75 MPH more ball speed.
As far as actual CT, or more precisely, real CT targets are concerned, Bystedt declined to be specific about TaylorMade’s engineering target. Still, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s similar to what everyone else is trying to hit. Bystedt says TaylorMade will push the limit while respecting the rules, adding, “but you can’t live within the machine tolerance.” TaylorMade wants to be as fast as it can, but it also doesn’t want to see its drivers getting DQd when the USGA comes knocking on the tour van door.
For 2020, TaylorMade will be offering three models. They have plenty in common, but as the photos suggest, there are considerable differences in the shaping of between the three. That speaks to the efforts TaylorMade undertook to create greater performance separation between the models.
All three feature the rotated inertia generator discussed above. All feature a rear-mounted steel weight to boost MOI (18-grams in SIM MAX, 12-grams in SIM and SIM MAX D). As you would expect, Speed Injected Twist Face carries on across all three models as well. The face screws are blue this time, which is nice.
All three models offer 2° of adjustability via TaylorMade’s loft sleeve.
It’s not something I generally delve too much into, but the cosmetics of the SIM family warrant a brief mention. Blue is the accent color du jour. The crown is a dark silver color that TaylorMade calls Chromium. What’s unique in the details is that the carbon fibers are ion-plated before they go into the weave. A satin finish completes the look. The white on the leading edge is actually what TaylorMade calls Chalk. It’s slightly off-white and nonmetallic.
The ion plating gives the crown depth and makes the logo appear almost suspended between layers. While ultimately, it should count for nothing, it is exquisite. It’s the best-looking driver I’ve seen this year.
The SIM (no suffix) is the flagship offering and the only one of the three to offer movable weights. What should be immediately apparent is that TaylorMade has streamlined its movable weight system. M5’s Y-Track has been replaced by a single heel/toe (dare we say SLDR-esque) 10-gram sliding weight. “The way we wanted to move forward,” says Tomo Bystedt, “was to make it the best performing product we could and make it intuitive for the golfer, and give people the adjustability they need.”
I’ve talked about this before. Movable weights require structure, and structure comes with a weight cost that robs performance from the clubhead. Sure, you get greater fitting capability, but the trade-off is almost always some amount of lost performance.
TaylorMade’s thinking was that there are several ways to tweak launch and spin (loft, shaft, etc.), so you don’t really need weights for trajectory control. It removed the front-to-back track, saved the mass from the structure, and effectively took one of the weights from the track and mounted it to the back of the club. All of that said, we can revisit this line of thinking next year should the front-to-back track reappear.
Think of it as locking one of M5’s weight in the back position (which is where the majority of TaylorMade’s tour players put it). You get a bit more forgiveness, though loft for loft, SIM can be expected to spin 100-200 RPM less than M5.
It’s not the 430, but it is the lowest spinning offering in the SIM lineup.
Because the track itself creates some aerodynamic issues, TaylorMade added features (its take on sole trips) to help reduce drag as air flows over the track.
SIM is 460cc but has the most compact address profile and the smallest face of the SIM offerings. It’s available in 8°, 9°, and 10.5°. Actual lofts should be close to stamped lofts (the number on the club). Stock shafts are the Mitsubishi Diamana S60 LTD (mid/low launch) and the Project X HZRDUS Smoke Green 70 (low launch). It should go without saying that the Smoke Green offering is not the tighter tolerance Small Batch version.
Retail price is $549
The MAX in SIM MAX speaks to the fact that it offers the highest MOI of the MAX family. At 18-grams, the rear weight is 6-grams heaver than SIM’s. The face is 8% larger and is the most similar to that of M5 and M6.
On a comparative basis, it should spin a tick more than M6 with more height. While SIM is the lowest spinning of the lot, TaylorMade says SIM MAX is still a low spinning driver – just not too low.
The SIM MAX is available in 9°, 10.5°, and 12°. Actual lofts will be a bit weaker than stated. Stock shafts are the Fujikura Ventus* Blue (mid-launch) and Ventus* Red (high launch) and NV Ladies 45.
Notice the asterisks on both Ventus shafts? I added them. While manufacturers like to use words like co-engineered, golfers are more familiar with made for, so let’s go with that. It’s exactly what we’re talking about there. This isn’t a real-deal Ventus (that one’s for you, JB). Unlike the aftermarket version, the TaylorMade version lacks full-length Pitch 70 fiber in the bias layer. It lacks VeloCore (Ventus’ signature technology) and will play softer in the tip section because of it.
That may not be a bad thing for the middle of the bell curve off-the-rack buyer, but guys, nearly 100% of the Ventus story revolved around VeloCore With no VeloCore, what you’re left with is a golf shaft that’s decidedly not a Ventus.
As some of the traditional shenanigans have been exposed, manufactures have found new and creative ways to transform premium aftermarket shaft offerings into lower-cost OEM stock products. I suppose you can argue there’s an art to it, but when you consider that except for the small VeloCore logo near the tip, the cosmetics of the Ventus* and aftermarket Ventus shafts are otherwise identical, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t a conscious effort to deceive golfers here.
The stock shaft game involves a good bit of back and forth between the club OEM and the shaft guys, and there are legitimate financial constraints in play, so rather than assign blame, I’ll just politely ask that everyone stop playing these kinds of games with golfers.
Retail price for the SIM MAX is $499.
SIM MAX D
The 3rd offering in the SIM lineup is the MAX D. In this case, the D is short for Draw, and that should tell you that this is the shot shape correction offering in the lineup. That’s a nice way of saying it’s for the guy who slices and has come to terms with it.
Like the SIM, it gets an MOI boost from a 12-gram rear weight. Additional weight has been added to the heel to create more left bias. Golfers often confuse shot shape correction with forgiveness, so it’s worth pointing out that, because of the placement of weight, the MOI of the SIM MAX D is less than that of the SIM MAX (that’s true for nearly any draw-biased club). It can also be expected to produce the highest spin rates of the three SIM Drivers.
MAX D has the largest face size of the three models – about 18% larger than SIM. The expectation is that the target golfer will produce a larger impact dispersion area, so TaylorMade is giving you a little bit more room to work with. Thanks, guys.
The SIM MAX D is available in 9°, 10.5°, and 12°. Actual lofts will be a bit weaker than stated. Stock shafts are the UST Helium 4/5 (a popular choice in the high launch space) and NV Ladies 45.
Retail price for the SIM MAX D is $499.
Gripes about the stock shaft offerings aside, SIM is an impressive release from TaylorMade even if casual observers may see the removal of one of the weight tracks as a step backward. There’s undoubtedly a risk anytime a brand removes perceived functionality, but pulling the track suggests that TaylorMade is taking an engineering first approach with SIM – even if it comes at the expense of some eye-catching though arguably unnecessary tinker toy bells and whistles. The result is a collection of three purpose optimized drivers, each filling a distinct and useful role in the lineup. The fact that TaylorMade has entirely abandoned the traditional driver profile and gone all-in with its inertia generator suggests that it’s a design that’s going to stick around a while. Expect more to follow.
As a reminder, retail price for the SIM is $549. SIM MAX and SIM MAX D will retail for $499. Retail availability for the SIM family of drivers begins 2/27/2020.
For more information, visit TaylorMadeGolf.com.