With Tiger Woods and his son, Charlie, set to play in the PNC Championship this week, it’s not particularly surprising to see TaylorMade Stealth and Stealth Plus drivers on the USGA conforming clubs list.
As per usual, the USGA pics don’t tell the entire story. But, they do provide plenty of potential talking points.
Most of what the purposely generic USGA photos reveal is expected – Speed Pockets, adjustable hosels, and a relatively familiar sole design. Business as usual sort of stuff.
That said, my hunch is many of you will focus on two elements. The CARBONWOOD label on the sole and “Face: 60X Carbon” note in the section on identification markings. What this perhaps suggests is that Stealth will utilize carbon differently than in previous TaylorMade drivers. Given the potential deviation, it’s unlikely that TaylorMade would go down such a road without plenty of reason to believe that success is all but guaranteed. With that, too many of us probably remember previous carbon-face failures such as the 2001 Callaway C4. The primary foible with past attempts is that while much lighter than titanium, carbon is quite a bit more expensive. And a driver with more expensive materials without quantifiable better performance is well, likely why we haven’t seen any recent carbon-face drivers in the market.
Side Note: The gear head with a penchant for Japanese gear might remember the TaylorMade Royal Gloire, a composite-face driver launched in 2015. With a price tag well north of $1000, it was a niche offering that targeted golfers with mid-to-slow swing speeds.
TAYLORMADE STEALTH PLUS
Between the Stealth and Stealth Plus, the latter appears to be the more adjustable of the two. The weight track looks to contain a 10-gram moveable weight, allowing the golfer to introduce additional draw or fade shot-shape bias. I’d expect this to be the more “player-oriented” lower-spinning option as well. Yet, the “+” designation doesn’t entirely fit the narrative as it is often used to indicate higher-MOI (forgiveness) which, all things being equal, is often a characteristic of drivers that target low-mid handicap players. So, TBD on that.
Naming conventions aside, we can reasonably assume that the mass properties of the Stealth feature a lower CG and higher MOI than Stealth Plus. Why, might you ask? Without a weight track and sliding weight, TaylorMade wouldn’t have much reason to keep this discretionary weight toward the face. One possibility would be to allocate that weight low/rear to pull the CG back and boost forgiveness. Again, just a guess.
With the SIM and SIM2 driver families, TaylorMade ran with three models – standard, MAX and MAX D. If we surmise that Stealth and Stealth + assume more or less the space of SIM2 and SIM2 Max, that leaves one missing piece. Or, it might be that TaylorMade compressed three offerings into two. Again, TBD.
LEFT TO PONDER?
If this is some version of what many people are thinking it might be, the litany of questions is robust.
Did TaylorMade finally solve the carbon-face conundrum? If so, other than weight, what are the clear performance benefits? Are other manufacturers likely to follow suit? If so, how long might that take?
Will I need an additional mortgage to afford one? What does it feel/sound like to hit a driver with a composite face? And on and on and on…
As always, we’ll have more info on the TaylorMade Stealth drivers as it becomes available.