Filed under probably not coming to a retail store near you, TaylorMade and Callaway, the market leaders in the driver category both have new models on the USGA’s Conforming Clubs list this week.

As per usual, the USGA doesn’t provide the measure of specificity we’d like, and so while we wait to hear back from both companies, all we can do is speculate.

TaylorMade SIM Tour

taylormade_sim_tour_driver

Missing among a 3-deep sea of SIMs at retail this season was a SIM Tour. For the past several generations of drivers, TaylorMade has offered an undersized tour head in the 430-440 cc range. With three drivers in the lineup and golfers still clinging to the myth that TaylorMade has too many SKUs or updates its driver lineup every six months (it doesn’t – hasn’t in years), it made sense not to offer a small driver at retail. Given a choice between a wee-headed, low spin, low MOI Tour head and a high MOI draw-biased head, the numbers say SIM MAX D was the smarter choice for the mass market.

As I said, it’s speculative, but given how TaylorMade has used the Tour designation recently, the odds are that this is the sub-460 model missing from January’s launch.

Whether or not the SIM Tour comes to retail likely hinges on whether the company feels there’s a legitimate hole in the SIM driver lineup or extending the lineup as a means to keep SIM fresh in our minds would boost sales.

SIM has been the #1 Driver at retail this year. That would suggest there’s no real urgency to extend the lineup. That said, with the chaos of COVID-19 and reports that Callaway is gaining share in the driver category, anything it possible.

My 2 cents, I’d love to see it offered.

UPDATE: We’ve heard back from TaylorMade. Nothing to see here, in the most literal sense. The difference between the TaylorMade SIM Tour and the standard model isn’t size, it’s purely cosmetic. The TaylorMade logo alignment aid on the crown has been removed from the Tour model. Apparently there’s someone who wants to play a TaylorMade SIM, but doesn’t want to look at the logo. Speculate away.

Callaway MAVRIK Sub Zero (version 4) – LS (Three Diamonds)

For those of you trying to count the number of Mavrik offerings that have cleared the USGA, might I suggest you take at least one of your socks off. You’re not going to get it done with fingers alone. By my count, excluding the left-handed offerings, SZ LS Diamond Diamond Diamond makes lucky 13 for the Mavrik family. That’s not Callaway flooding that market (most aren’t’ actually on the market). Instead, it represents Callaway designing for a narrower golfer specification.

Renowned for their low spin performance and neutral to fade-biased weighting, Callaway’s Diamond offerings have a small cult following among golfers who knew where to look for them.

Like the SIM Tour, an LS Triple Diamond isn’t likely to be a major boon for Callaway at retail, but you may very well see the company release the head in limited numbers to select accounts – and not say too much about it. That’s what it did with the Epic Flash Sub Zero Triple Diamond, so it stands to reason it might take a similar approach with the Mavrik.

The Market for Sub-460 Tour Heads

Like the Titleist TS4, which did come to retail, both the SIM Tour and the Mavrik Sub Zero LS Triple Diamond are designed for a small niche of the market. As center of gravity locations have pushed lower and deeper, their use has declined. Even on the PGA Tour, the overwhelming majority of golfers play 460cc driver heads.

Smaller heads might fit 10% of the market, though 5% is likely the more reasonable estimate.

It remains to be seen what the future holds for either of these models and whatever undersized models follow them in the future, but there’s little doubt that the equipment industry is slowly evolving towards more specialized designs.

As custom fitting, particularly in the driver category, continues to grow, it makes sense to put these specialized parts in the hands of select fitters who understand how to maximize their benefit for the admittedly small percentage of the market for whom an undersized, low spin, lower MOI tour design works.

More info as it becomes available.