TaylorMade’s SLDR has had a fast take-up on both the main tours. The company claims this is the best driver they’ve produced, so we were keen to see what all the fuss was about. We hit both the SLDR and its predecessor, the R1 Black, on our GC2 launch monitor on the range at Stoke Park Golf Club. Here’s what we discovered...
TaylorMade responded to feedback on the R1 and attempted to make the adjustability simpler. They’ve certainly delivered on this – it took me seconds to unscrew the weight in the sliding mechanism, move it to my chosen position, and tighten it back up, hearing a reassuring “click”. It really works, too. I wouldn’t say I got the full 30 yards of claimed dispersion from one extreme to the other, but draws were easier to come by and fades more difficult to achieve on the draw setting, and vice versa. Even moving the weight a couple of slots either side of neutral had a noticeable effect on the flight.
The launch monitor doesn’t lie. I experienced marginally higher launch, faster ball speeds (2mph more) and lower spin numbers than with the R1. So the SLDR lives up to its billing. Average carry was up as a result, from 268 to 274 yards. Shifting the slider three clicks towards fade reduced my tendency to over-draw the ball. By sliding the weight a few more clicks towards fade I was actually able to shape the ball both ways, something I struggle to achieve with conventional drivers.
TaylorMade stand by its white technology, but the SLDR is a big move back towards a traditional colour scheme. The charcoal grey crown is glossy, but not overly reflective, and contrasts well enough with the silver face to have a similar effect to the white R1 to aid alignment. I don’t like the lighter section on the back of the crown; it doesn’t serve a purpose and isn’t as dashing as the R1 graphics. It also looks compact from the top – more like a 440cc head than a 460cc.
For a driver all about distance, the feel wasn’t as hard as I expected. The ball seemed to stay on the face and then jump off quickly. The swing weight didn’t feel as heavy as the R1 and it felt like my effort was being rewarded with extra yards. The SLDR head is the same weight as that of the R1, but the SLDR does feel lighter. The weight in all the heads of modern drivers comes mainly from the adjustability. With the SLDR, the adjustability, and therefore the weight, is exactly where they want it – low and close to the face for optimum launch.
While the launch monitor told me I was launching the ball on a slightly steeper angle, I wouldn’t say the peak height was any different to the R1, perhaps due to the lower spin I was getting. In fact, by increasing the loft 0.5º I was able to get a bit more distance due to the reduced spin.
The R1 had the big plate towards the rear of the sole that adjusted the face angle and gave it a high-pitched sound at impact. The SLDR doesn’t have this and, consequently, the sound is less offensive. It’s powerful and explosive, but still quite high-pitched.
More than enough. The adjustability itself is one way golfers can negate their bad shots, but strikes away from the sweetspot also made little difference to the flight or carry.
TaylorMade’s new SLDR driver is replacing the R1 as the top club in the company’s range. It has a 20g weight on the sole, which slides inside a rail that goes from the heel area to the toe – giving golfers the ability to create 30 yards of shot shape adjustment.