TaylorMade Stealth Irons – Key Takeaways
- Stealth replaces SIM2 MAX and MAX OS irons.
- Key tech removes 10 grams of weight from the toe to lower the center of gravity.
- $999 steel, $1,099 graphite
- Pre-order today, available at retail April 1
We can say one thing for sure about the new Stealth irons: TaylorMade is going to sell a lot of them.
How they’ll perform against a stacked and loaded pack of game-improvement irons is an open question, however. Looking back over the past four years’ worth of Most Wanted testing, TaylorMade’s game-improvement offerings have been, to put it kindly, meh performers. The M4 finished third overall in 2018 but, since then, the SIM, SIM MAX, SIM MAX OS, SIM2 MAX and SIM2 MAX OS haven’t sniffed the medal podium.
In last year’s Most Wanted testing, SIM2 MAX was high and long but it was neither the highest nor the longest. It finished smack-dab in the middle of the pack in overall performance which, for a performance-distance brand like TaylorMade, is decidedly off-brand.
Despite all that, the SIM2 MAX line was a huge seller for TaylorMade which is decidedly on-brand. Realistically, TaylorMade could throw damned near anything out there in 2022 and it’d be a top seller. But to the company’s credit, the upgrades to the TaylorMade Stealth irons are aimed squarely at the SIM2 MAX shortcomings.
TaylorMade Stealth Irons: Higher, Faster, Longer, Lower?
The SIM2 MAX finished seventh out of 14 in our game-improvement testing. All in all, it was an OK iron.
“OK”, however, is another way of saying “mediocre.”
While it scored well in the looks and feel departments, SIM2 MAX wasn’t the highest-flying nor the steepest-landing. In fact, its mid-iron descent angle (a key metric when it comes to stopping power) was nearly two degrees shallower than the category-leading Srixon ZX5. The long and mid irons finished in the top half for carry distance but the short irons were near the bottom in Strokes Gained.
Clearly, there’s some catching up to do.
Want to catch up when it comes to peak height? You need to lower the center of gravity. Want a steeper descent angle for more stopping power? You have to increase the peak height. How do you do that? You lower the center of gravity.
Want more carry distance in your mid and long irons? You need to increase your peak height. And how do you increase peak height? Yeah, you get the idea.
Ever since TaylorMade introduced the SIM line, the technology has been all about lowering the CG and creating a springier face. SIM gave us the Speed Bridge and the Thru-Slot Speed Pocket. SIM2 added Cap Back Technology (i.e., hollow-body construction). The new TaylorMade Stealth adds Toe Wrap Construction to the mix.
It all sounds like marketing mumbo jumbo. But just because TaylorMade is using marketing mumbo jumbo doesn’t mean the technology doesn’t do what it sets out to do.
And for the Stealth irons, it’s all about lowering the CG.
Cap Back Toe Wrap
According to TaylorMade, 72 percent of all iron shots occur at the center of the face or lower.
“We want to place iron performance where the game-improvement golfer needs it,” says TaylorMade irons chief Matt Bovee. “That means we need to drive the center of gravity down in the clubface because where the CG goes, the sweet spot follows.”
TaylorMade started driving the CG down in last year’s SIM2 lineup with Cap Back Technology. It’s essentially a hollow-body design but instead of a steel “cap” closing off the hollow body, TaylorMade developed a low-density polymer cap that’s nearly eight times lighter than steel. That weight savings helped push SIM2’s CG lower compared to the original SIM.
Toe Wrap Construction attacks another area of wasted mass. TaylorMade is carving up to 10 grams of steel out of the high toe area. The polymer cap is then extended into the void to replace that mass. The result is a CG that’s nearly a full millimeter lower. That may not sound like a lot but it’s enough to make a difference, especially with strong-lofted GI irons.
“We’ve carved away a large chunk of mass,” says Bovee. “We’ve repositioned that mass from high on the clubface to down low in the sole … That’s critical for creating that high launch and forgiveness that’s so important to game-improvement irons.”
While the offset, blade length and topline width are the same as SIM2, the new TaylorMade Stealth has a decidedly more grown-up look to it. First off, where the SIM2 had a chamfered trailing edge, the Stealth features a more squared-off backside. It’s a small thing but it does add a few more grams to the sole for an even lower CG. And it looks better.
“It’s a fine line in the game-improvement irons space,” says Bovee. “You can make something that looks too small and intimidating to hit and it’s easy to make it too large.”
The other major difference you’ll see is the lack of backside color. Combined with the Stealth font, you have an iron that’s oddly reminiscent of the NIKE Vapor Speed sans the yellow swoosh. Appearance-wise, Stealth looks like a logical extension of the P-700 series.
“All players of all skill levels can appreciate a clean iron design,” says Bovee. “We use a Tour Satin finish to give this iron a serious tone at address and chrome accents allow it to pop on the shelf.”
This is something TaylorMade knows maybe better than anyone. Visual appeal starts on the retail shelf. The club needs to stand out from the crowd and say, “Pick me! Pick me!”
TaylorMade Stealth Irons – Legacy Technology
While all the new technology is wrapped up in the upper toe, TaylorMade is still bringing its legacy technology along for the ride. Along with Cap Back, the new Stealth irons feature an ultra-thin and flexible 450 stainless steel face with inverted cone technology, a longtime TaylorMade tech that optimizes sweet spot location for each iron. The net result is that long irons are more draw-biased than mid-irons, which are more draw-biased than short irons.
There’s also the aforementioned Thru-Slot Speed Pocket which disconnects the leading edge from the sole, allowing for more flex, especially low on the face. The past two SIM models included what TaylorMade called Speed Bridge technology which connected the back part of the sole to the topline for additional support. It also was the most noticeable design feature of the SIM lineup, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Apparently whatever support it provided wasn’t worth the aesthetic tradeoff, so it’s gone.
Not sure anyone will miss it.
As mentioned, our testers did give SIM2 thumbs up for both sound and feel. While sound and feel matter neither a jot nor a tittle when it comes to performance, they do tend to make golfers happy. To keep the good vibes going, Stealth features TaylorMade’s unique ECHO® Dampening System. It’s a soft polymer shock absorber that spans the entire face. Each iron has a uniquely designed damper that aligns with both the Inverted Cone Technology and the most common impact area.
You’ll also find TaylorMade’s fluted hosel design—a sneaky little feature that saves a handful of grams from the hosel. And there’s also a PING-like hosel-bending notch for easier lie and loft fitting.
No Stealth MAX or MAX OS
Here’s a bit of a shocker: there’s only one Stealth iron model. There are no standard, MAX or MAX OS versions as we’ve had in the past. And compared to today’s four-iron launch from Callaway, a single Stealth seems kind of meager. That could mean a few things.
Perhaps TaylorMade feels the Stealth is game-improvement-y enough that an OS version isn’t really needed. Or perhaps an OS version or a completely different super game-improvement lineup is in the works. Considering the growth of the premium, lightweight super-forgiving market, the latter seems to be a pretty good bet.
Additionally, TaylorMade is providing considerably more fitting options with Stealth compared to SIM and SIM2. The company says 60 percent of its game-improvement irons are being ordered through its custom department so it will be providing four times as many loft-fitting heads for the Stealth than it did for SIM.
“When was the last time you were fit for a driver when you didn’t take loft into consideration?” asks Bovee. “Loft is a critical component that you need to match with your golf swing and how you present the head at impact.”
The Stealth loft-fitting head allows fitters to adjust loft one degree strong or two degrees weak on the fly during a fitting. TaylorMade is also expanding its Any Shaft, Any Head program. Fitters won’t have to worry about taper tip versus parallel tip; they can just focus on finding the shaft that works best for the golfer. The program will include utility irons and wedges along with irons.
TaylorMade Stealth Irons: Specs, Price and Availability
The Stealth irons are game-improvement irons from TaylorMade so, yes, they have strong lofts. It’s the name of the game and it’s why that race to the CG bottom is so important. With strong lofts, you need high launch.
That standard set includes 4-iron through pitching wedge with optional gap, sand and lob wedges available. The stock steel shaft is the KBS Max MT 85 in stiff and regular flexes. The Max MT 85 isn’t listed on the KBS website but KBS says the standard MAX is high launch and high spin with a low kick point designed for mid- to high-handicap players.
The Fujikura Ventus Red is the stock graphite shaft. It’s not listed as an iron shaft on the Fujikura website so it appears to be a TaylorMade exclusive (or made-for if you prefer). It’s available in A, R and S flex.
The standard men’s grip is the 48.5-gram Lamkin Crossline 360.
The women’s offering features the Aldila Ascent Ladies shaft as stock. The 38-gram Lamkin Ladies Sonar is the stock grip.
The TaylorMade Stealth will retail for $999 in steel and $1,099 in graphite, in both cases a $200 price increase over last year’s SIM2 models.
Pre-order starts today with retail availability scheduled for April 1.
For more information, visit the TaylorMade website.