In the golf equipment world, everything old is new again…and nearly as often, new-IER just a few years later.

Case in point, TaylorMade’s new Original One Mini Driver, which is simultaneously a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Persimmon (which TaylorMade bills as the original metalwood) and the evolution of the Mini Driver. The former put TaylorMade on the map, while the origins of the latter, in the modern era anyway, can be traced all the way back to 2014 and the introduction of the SLDR Mini Driver.

My, how time flies.

 In 1979, golf was changed forever with the introduction of the Pittsburgh Persimmon™ – the original metalwood. For the past 40 years, TaylorMade has continued that legacy of innovation with game-changing technologies, engineered to help golfers perform at their best. The Original One Mini Driver incorporates that heritage of innovation with key performance technologies, packed into a confidence-inspiring shape that delivers on distance, forgiveness and accuracy. – Tomo Bystedt, Senior Director, Product Creation, TaylorMade Golf

About the (new) Original One Mini

From a design perspective, the new Original One Mini isn’t quite as mini is the AeroBurner Mini (which oddly, came before the Original One Mini). It’s 275cc, which makes it 9% larger than the last one, but significantly smaller than any driver on the market right now. According to TaylorMade, that means the Mini driver exists in the category between drivers and fairway woods. The key point here, mini drivers are every bit as much biggie fairway woods.

Other than the stated nod to history, what differentiates the Original One Mini from previous Minis is that it includes nearly the full complement of TaylorMade technology.

  • It’s adjustable. The discrete 11.5° and 13.5° models feature TaylorMade’s 2° loft sleeve.
  • It’s got a non-speed-injected Twist Face, which TaylorMade bills as “the ultimate path to straight distance.” YMMV.
  • It’s got TaylorMade’s signature speed preserving Inverted Cone Technology.
  • It’s got a Speed Pocket too, which is inarguably useful on a club that’s sometimes hit off the deck as it legitimately helps maintain speed on low face impact.

Worth noting, it also offers a titanium body with a 50g sole plate and a carbon composite crown. That’s good for the requisite mass distribution, ultra-low CG story.

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Who is the Original Mini Driver For?

Who needs, or perhaps more aptly, who benefits from a Mini driver? That’s the obvious question, and TaylorMade specifically addresses it in its press materials.  As you probably wouldn’t expect for what is quite obviously a niche offering, TaylorMade says the Original One Mini Driver is for golfers of all skill levels. The selling point – at least on paper – is that it offers an off-the-tee option that delivers the accuracy and control of a fairway wood with greater distance and forgiveness.

TaylorMade further suggests that higher swing speed players may find the Original One Mini beneficial off the turf and that most will choose Mini as a fairway replacement rather than take the conventional driver out of the bag.

None of this is untrue, though a deeper dive suggests an asterisk may be warranted. The math is reasonably simple on this one. A shorter club like the 43.75” Mini driver is almost invariably a straighter one (when compared to a 45.5+” driver). It’s not straighter through the magic of design; it’s straighter because the shaft is shorter. It’s really that simple.

Were it allotted more distance (or a longer shaft), dispersion is going to be similar to that of your driver. It’s also true that if accuracy and control are your objectives off the tee, you can accomplish the same thing by cutting down the shaft in your driver. The larger driver head will be less workable (which also means less susceptible to hooks and slices) and will bring with it higher MOI (greater forgiveness).

Point being, if you’re simply looking for more control off the tee, a Mini driver might not be the best way to achieve it. Taking the driver out of the bag to make room for a Mini doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Having said that, shot shapers will no doubt appreciate the greater workability, and there are still some golfers who prefer a (significantly) more compact head. My 2 cents is that TaylorMade isn’t stretching the truth even a little when it suggests there could also be some benefit with respect to using the Mini Driver from the fairway.

Having played the original SLDR for the better part of two seasons, I would classify the Mini as the ultimate distance fairway wood. It was easily playable off the fairway, manageable out of the rough, and more driver-like off the tee than any fairway wood on the market. I have no reason to expect the new Original One Mini will be any different.

The challenge for those who bag a Mini Driver comes in deciding what comes out of the bag to make room for it. In my case, I played the 12° model as my 3-wood, and I believe that’s the most logical place in the bag for golfers inclined to go the mini route – especially for those for whom the 3-wood is an as far as you can hit it club vs. a hit it a specific distance club.

I’m excited the Mini is back, though I’m perhaps less inclined to bag one then I would have been in the past (loved the SLDR Mini, but I’m really happy with my current 3-wood). The Original One Mini potentially offers the rare case where the utility both off the tee and off the deck have been understated. If you can hit it off the fairway (I confidently hit the real original out of just about anything), then everything else is just a bonus. Like any niche product, however, one needs to consider where it fits in the bag and if what you’re getting adequately improves upon what you’re giving up.

Given my fondness for the SLDR Mini, I’m certainly intrigued.

Specs, Pricing, and Availability

The TaylorMade Original Mini Driver is available for preorder today and at retail locations beginning May 1st.

It’s offered in 11.5° and 13.5° with an additional 2° of adjustability coming by way of TaylorMade’s Loft Sleeve.

The stock shaft is a Mitsubishi Diamana F in 55g (Regular), 65g (Stiff), and 75g (X-Stiff). At the stock length of 43.75”, swing weight is D3.

The stock grip is a Golf Pride MCC Decade Grip (black/orange).

Additional shafts and grips, including no-upcharge options are available through TaylorMade’s custom program.

Retail price is 399.99.