Settle in, there is a lot to talk about. It’s what you expect when one of the biggies of golf serves up their latest products in what has historically been their key category.
Brian Bazzel, the Vice President of Global product Creation for TaylorMade Golf has been on quite a ride during his two decade tenure with the company. The equipment giant has risen to a prominent position in the metalwood category. They did so during a time when they had the backing of various parent companies.
Now, as they stand largely on their own, they are pushing to make their way forward. That’s not easy task for any manufacturer these days, performance gains, largely defined by distance, can be incremental with new drivers, for example, while the consumer market is ever the more puzzling to navigate. But, as they have done in the past, they plan to lean on technology as their key to success.
For consumers, that will start with the new SIM (Shape In Motion) drivers, fairways, and rescue (hybrid), that have recently debuted on the PGA TOUR, and will soon be available to every golfer.
“The products that we’re introducing for 2020, SIM, obviously changing the branding, a whole new era for us, the geometry, leveraging all that work on materials, we’re scraping away at every little bit to get more performance, whatever we can,” says a candid Bazzel during a recent chat at TaylorMade’s headquarters in Carlsbad, California.
“Whatever you can get, it’s smaller these days, but nonetheless, we’re going after it; we’re not going to stop going after it,” says Bazzel with believable determination.
Shaping The Path Forward
So what path does that put the company on for 2020, given their most recent products seemed to pack in as much technology as possible, much of it targeted at delivering maximum ball speeds off the club face? Well, if you can’t make the face faster, the other end of the equation is to make the clubhead move more quickly, thus “Shape In Motion”.
Bazzel says the recent introduction of the clubs to their tour staff players, including the likes of Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, John Rahm, and Jason Day, “exceeded their expectations” in positive feedback. They hope and expect it to carry over to consumers.
The SIM story harkens back to 2015 as TaylorMade staffers were at a crossroads in their driver designs. They had maxed what they could do with all-titanium headed drivers, began to take the path towards multi-material designs, and started to delve deeply into the geometry of their clubheads.
Long story short, carbon crowns began to appear in their clubs and innovations like Hammerhead slots, Speed Injection, and Twist-Face also came along. With each club iteration it became more apparent that the last remaining frontier where gains might be noticeable fell in the shaping department. Aerodynamic innovations were being made in other sporting arenas, like cycling. Sometimes it has involved unconventional looks, but that did not deter the TaylorMade engineers. They were, and are, chasing improved results.
The result is SIM, where the driver shape has been crafted to help the full volume of the head move faster throughout the duration of the swing, with a huge focus on the last three feet of the arc prior to impact.
To some that will sound like an easy pursuit. Just change the head shape and presto, the head is more aerodynamic. If only it was that easy.
Tomo Bystedt, senior Director of Product Creation for Metalwoods at TaylorMade, tells us that in metalwood design you have a puzzle where each piece affects another. So, to speed up the head, a designer would often have to compromise another element, like centre of gravity (CG) location. Raising a crown and sole for better aerodynamics brings the CG up with it, hindering launch conditions.
That led the design team to finding a way to get more mass low and back in the clubheads, to return the centre of gravity to a more effective position. The solution was a heavier steel back weight (the Inertia Generator) and more carbon fibre (the 5th generation of use by TM) high in the head to allow for mass displacement.
To then achieve aerodynamic goals, the enlarged sole element was re-aligned to rotate with the normal swing path.
The compromises were largely overcome and the key SIM design was in place.
“The history of driver design has been about prioritizing tradeoffs, relates Bystedt. “You could have great launch conditions, but poor forgiveness. You could have great forgiveness, but at the sacrifice of distance. You could have an aerodynamic shape, but with less than optimal launch conditions. But through the use of multi-material technology, we’ve developed a new shape that optimizes performance in all three areas. It’s forgiving, fast and promotes the ideal launch conditions.”
To address the needs of varying golfers, three SIM models were crafted – the SIM, the SIM MAX, and the SIM MAX•D.
We tested each of the three models; each is spot on in which needs they address. Just remember, that is not based on a factor like index, but more the launch conditions you are seeking in concert with your swing mechanics.
The SIM provides the smallest face of the three heads. The SIM MAX is 8% larger while the SIM MAX•D has an 18% larger hitting area.
“We know that the player who generally purchases a draw-bias driver commonly has the widest area of dispersion across the face,” comments Bystedt on the face differences. “So we wanted to give that golfer the biggest face possible. Using all the data we collected in the development of Twist Face – and learning how big the mis-hit zone is based on handicaps – we really tried to design them for the golfer who’s likely to purchase each of these drivers.”
The SIM is the lowest spinning of the heads and is best suited to the player looking to move the ball around the most. It has 10 gram sliding weight in a forward positioned sole slot.
Things start to get interesting with the SIM MAX. While it sounds like a driver for more average players, it has, in fact become the driver of choice for players like Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, who are now actually after a bit more spin and the ball flight stability that comes with it. It also brings with it slightly higher launch conditions.
As mentioned, the SIM MAX•D has the biggest face of the three drivers and blends in features to help golfers avoid the shot that works away from them. That includes internal heel-bias weighting and a tricky masking of the top-line that makes it appear more open and encourages golfers to close the face. It also, given equal impact variables, launches the golf ball higher than the other two models.
Golfers looking for a SIM driver model will be able to pre-order them (along with Fairways and Rescue) come January 10 or find them at retail on February 7, 2020. A variety of lofts will be available for both men and women, in left and right hand.
The Return of V-Steel
I started this piece with the SIM drivers so I can’t blame you if you assume they are the most notable of the new TaylorMade gear. Not so fast.
During my recent excursion to The Kingdom, it was the SIM fairway wood that raised my eyebrows and had my fitter suggesting a 5 wood over a 3 wood for the distance I was trying to achieve.
A larger head (about 20cc, or 13% more volume over comparable previous models), a new face material (ZATECH Titanium in the SIM Ti), an 80 gram sole weight, and the return of the storied V-Steel design on the sole to improve turf interaction (with a rounded leading edge and the heel and toe more elevated off the turf) makes the SIM Ti into a fairway monster.
In fact, I compared a fitted TaylorMade M3 fairway with the SIM Ti (in the same loft) and was able to achieve almost driver like launch numbers with the SIM. Thus, the 5 wood recommendation.
Hitting a 3 wood off the turf is hard task for golfers at almost any level so any boost to help is always appreciated. I think golfers will see that whether they are using the SIM Ti model or the increasingly larger SIM MAX (185cc 3-wood) and SIM MAX•D fairway (190cc 3-wood).
“For many golfers V Steel will trigger memories of an iconic product we released more than a decade ago, shares Bystedt. “As we reviewed the research used to develop the original technology, we discovered a massive benefit to having a fairway metal with significantly less turf drag through impact. By pairing V Steel with our technologically advanced materials, we’ve created fairways that are extremely playable, forgiving and provide explosive distance.”
So expect the V-Steel performance, but with a huge boost in ball speed and optimized launch conditions gained by the advancements that have taken place in the last 19 years since the original debuted.
Rescue – SIM MAX Style
Dustin Johnson received some attention for having the new SIM MAX Rescue club in his bag at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but he was not the only tour pro enamoured with its potential.
Word is that at the TaylorMade staff photoshoot Rory McIlroy could not get enough of the club. What’s remarkable about that is that he claimed he had never hit any type of hybrid/rescue type club in his life.
The new Rescue blends in the V-Steel sole and matches it with the C300 steel face also used in the SIM MAX fairway wood.
There will be five loft options offered in the SIM Rescue with option for both men and women.
Podcast Interview – Tomo Bystedt
For more in-depth information on the TaylorMade Golf SIM metalwoods, including details on initial players reactions, you can tune in to the Flagstick.com TeeTalk Podcast later this week where Tomo Bystedt is our feature interview. All the TeeTalk podcasts can be found here on Flagstick.com, on Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.