Let’s face it, when new equipment gets released, fairway woods and hybrids often get the middle child treatment – and frankly, there are several solid reasons why this is the case.

First, fairway wood and hybrid tech stories can feel a bit redundant as they often carry over a reasonable percentage of the materials and design features of the accompanying driver. Secondly, as long as the sun rises in the east, OEMs know that the driver is what moves the metalwood needle – at least until distance is no longer a viable selling point.

As expected, TaylorMade’s SIM Fairway Woods and SIM hybrid employ the same aesthetic footprint and basic construction as the SIM driver, though the shape story takes a bit of a nostalgic twist. At address, it’s the same chromium carbon weave with white chalk topline and blue accents (dare I suggest TaylorMade is infringing on a country casual vibe).

The engineering tradeoffs around CG location, MOI, and optimal aerodynamics present in driver construction still exist with fairway woods and hybrids, though not necessarily to the same degree. Because fairway woods and hybrids have smaller footprints, it’s less efficient from both a monetary and performance standpoint to try and pack in every bit of available technology in a club which is at most 40% the volume of a 460cc driver.

SOLE FOOD

With the SIM driver, it was all about “S” of the Shape In Motion acronym, and one could argue shape ultimately drives a host of decisions around other design elements and materials. Maintaining the trend of SIMplicity and brevity, the SIM fairway woods and SIM hybrid stories are still primarily shape-driven, but this time it’s a Versatile sole that takes center stage.

Aerodynamic concerns with the driver address primarily the challenge of airflow considering its comparatively blunt geometric design. With fairway woods and hybrids, the native geometries are already more aerodynamic, and ultimately the primary point of consideration for most golfers is going to be what happens at impact. Therefore, fairway wood and hybrid designs tend to focus more on efficient turf interaction than aerodynamic efficiencies during the swing.

With that out of the way – and apologies to LL Cool J, but don’t call it a comeback –  the iconic (yes, it’s fair to use that term) V-Steel sole design is back. Nearly 20 years ago, TaylorMade’s V-Steel fairway woods garnered an enthusiastic following from both general consumers and touring professionals primarily due to the sole design. You might even remember special “tour only” models with the paint-break hosel, which allowed for loft/lie adjustments.

Conceptually the V-shaped (versatile) design works a bit like heel/toe relief on a wedge –though the premise isn’t without some contemporary alternatives  (see also: Cobra Baffler). The raised portion of the sole functionally limits how much of the toe and heel areas of the sole come into contact with the turf. Alongside a more rounded leading edge, the design promotes cleaning club-turf interaction and, with it, more consistently solid contact. The result is TaylorMade believes coupling the V-Steel sole with modern design and materials gives it a class-leading complete performance package.

3 MODELS

As with the SIM driver, TaylorMade will be offering three fairway models alongside a single hybrid model. Additionally, the models are sufficiently different to provide meaningful performance separation, but similar enough that even when positioned side by side, it can be difficult to tell them apart.

All three (four including the SIM Max hybrid) feature the V-Steel sole design, Twist Face bulge/roll, and Speed Pocket technology, which works to increase forgiveness on shots struck low on the face.

SIM TITANIUM

Of the three fairway models, SIM Titanium should attract the most attention if for no other reason than it’s the first golf club to use ZATECH titanium in its face construction. According to TaylorMade, ZATECH is available only in small quantities from a single overseas supplier. To date, TaylorMade is the only known OEM using this specific material.

We’ve covered this before, but titanium (of which there are several different commonly used grades) is lighter and stronger than steel. It’s also more expensive, which is why we mostly see it used in driver construction where price points are higher, the weight savings can be significant, and faces are much larger.

The multi-material construction of SIM Titanium utilizes a carbon composite crown alongside the ZATECH titanium face and massive 80-gram steel soleplate. Rather than continue with the sliding weight structure of the M5 Titanium fairway, TaylorMade used the V-steel plate to help create a low/rear CG location, which makes it the highest-launching/lowest-spinning of the three fairway models.

Additionally, at 180cc, it’s the smallest (just barely) of the three and the only one to come with a 2° adjustable loft sleeve.

SIM Titanium is available in Rocket 3 (14°), 3 (15°), and 5 (19°) variants. The stock shaft is the Mitsubishi Diamana FW Limited 75, with a variety of no-upcharge shafts available as well.

The retail price is $399.

SIM MAX/MAX·D

The remaining two models, which TaylorMade has priced a bit more attractively ($299), target the meat of the bell curve from a performance standpoint. The primary reason for the $100 price difference is that TaylorMade swaps out the ZATECH titanium face for a C300 maraging steel one. It also removed the 2° adjustable loft sleeve. As a point of context, C300 is what PING uses in the i500 series irons, so it’s not a compromise on material quality as much as ZATECH is a unique, albeit pricy, alternative.

SIM Max is 185cc in volume, and compared to the Max Titanium, it should be slightly higher spinning with similar launch. SIM Max•D (D = Draw biased) is incrementally larger at 190cc and features a more heel-side CG location to help golfers who fight a slice or can otherwise benefit from weighting, which helps to square the face at impact.

SIM Max is available in Rocket 3 (14°), 3 (15°), 5 (18°), 7 (21°) and 9 (24°) lofts. Shaft offerings include Fujikura Ventus* Blue FW 5 (R and A flexes) and Ventus* Blue FW 6 (S and X flexes).

SIM Max•D is available in 3 (16°), 5 (19°), and 7 (22°). The stock shaft is the UST Mamiya Helium.

A variety of no upcharge shafts are also available.

Left to Right: SIM Titanium, SIM MAX, SIM MAX D

Why the asterisks on both Ventus shafts? As with the driver, the SIM Fairway Woods offer a Made For version of the shaft. The stock Ventus in the SIM Max looks nearly identical to the aftermarket version save for the absence of the small VeloCore silkscreen logo because, well, there’s no VeloCore technology in the stock shaft. You can argue semantics all you like but riddle me this – What’s a Ventus shaft sans VeloCore?

The bottom line is that the practice (regardless of why it happens) is deceptive, confusing, and limits room for necessary conversation around why the not the same, but it looks the same stock version might fit you better.

SIM MAX RESCUE

The most common knock on hybrids (aka rescue or utility clubs) is that there’s a proclivity to induce more of a draw-biased shot shape than some golfers would prefer. Conversely, the primary selling point – and the reason the category exists – is the versatility hybrids can offer.

With that in mind, TaylorMade incorporated V Steel technology and reshaped the design a bit to offer more playability for a broader range of golfers.

Specifically, TaylorMade tweaked the face angle and modified the leading edge to work in conjunction with the V Steel sole. It also rounded the toe area to craft a slightly different look at address. The maraging steel C300 face offers a hybrid-specific Twist Face technology, and a corrective SpeedPocket design works to help assist shots struck off-center.

Generally, what professionals play should have little, if any bearing, on what we laymen choose to bag, but It’s worth noting TaylorMade staffer, Dustin Johnson, put a 22° Max Rescue in play during last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. If a guy who swings his driver at 120+ MPH finds value in ditching a long-iron, particularly in windy conditions, it’s reasonable to think the SIM Max Rescue is designed more as a long-iron replacement than an alternative to higher-lofted fairway woods.

The SIM Max Rescue is available in 3 (19°), 4 (22°), 5 (25°), 6 (28°), and 7 (31°) lofts. The stock shaft is the Fujikura Ventus* Blue.

Retail price on the SIM Max Rescue is $249.99

Retail availability for the SIM family of metalwoods begins 2/7/2020. For more information, visit TaylorMadeGolf.com.