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Review: TaylorMade SLDR Mini Driver

A Club You Didn't Even Know You Needed
Almost every golfer understand the standard make up of a set of clubs; Driver, 3-wood, 5-wood/hybrid, 3-iron–PW, SW, LW and Putter.  Within that set of clubs you can drop a 3-iron in favor of a gap wedge or an ultra lob wedge, or a couple hybrids in place of the long irons, but carrying two drivers is only something a tour pro might do or carrying two 3-woods sounds crazy.  The TaylorMade SLDR Mini Driver created a category of it’s own and might just be a perfect fit for your game, even though you didn’t know it.
The TaylorMade SLDR Mini Driver comes in a variety of lofts from 12*-16*, sized at 260cc and playing 43.5″ long.  By today’s standards it is mini, but I remember playing a driver smaller than that when I first started.  It could serve as a true driver replacement, a 3-wood replacement or a 2-wood “thriver”.  I opted for a 3-wood replacement since I got the 14* model which works off the tee or fairway.

This was one of the most intriguing clubs I’ve reviewed in 2104.  I wasn’t sure where it would fit in my bag and if I really even needed something like this.  I have 3-woods that hit the ball pretty far and drivers that I hit pretty straight so what was the need or use of a SLDR Mini Driver?  A 9-hole course close to home that I play often has an interesting layout that keeps driver in the bag for a number of the long holes because water hazards come into play.  With the SLDR Mini Driver in the bag, I could hit it and not worry about reaching the danger and felt very confident in the accuracy as well.  I hit it off the tee on 3 of the 9 holes and off the fairway on 2 of the 9 holes.  It allowed me to hit a couple fairways I often miss and go after a green I can’t often reach in 2.  I would say on a regular 18 hole course I probably pull it out between 4 and 7 times a round depending on the layout.

Between my on-course testing and Flightscope testing, I found this club to be long and accurate, especially off the tee.  I hit it longer than any other 3-wood, yet shorter than my driver.  It is also very straight and easy to elevate.  The weakness is the stock shaft.  It feels good and dispersion was tight, but spin and launch were too high to really maximize this club.  I’m going to be installing a lower launching/spinning shaft like what comes in the TP model.

TaylorMade isn’t the first to introduce a super-long 3-wood or 2-wood or mini-driver or whatever you want to call it, but they did create a very good version of it that many golfer will probably love off the tee for its accuracy and distance.  The issue will be what club will it replace and is it necessary?  I will be keeping mine in the bag for the rest of the season because I’ve found I really like it on those holes that I can’t decide between a driver and 3-wood. 

The SLDR Mini Driver head is bigger than other 3-woods.  The overall footprint as well as the face are taller than most.  You might find some struggles hitting it off the turf initially; I did.  After a practice session on the range, I learned to hit it just like any other 3-wood, not fearing the turf.  I learned to hit through the ball even brushing the turf resulted in solid strikes.  Tall-faced 3-woods always look hard to hit to my eye, like I can’t get under the ball to elevate it.  Once I cleared up that mental block, it could hit it just fine off the short grass.  I wouldn’t try off the tall stuff unless it was sitting up high in the grass almost like on a tee.

You didn’t even know you needed a mini driver, but now TaylorMade has golfers rethinking their set makeup once again.  While not everyone is going to want one or need one, I’ve found it can really be a handy club to have in the bag.  I hit it with confidence off the tee and learned to hit it well off the turf.  I didn’t know I needed one, but I’ll be keeping it in the bag.

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Quick Hits
+Easy to elevate
+Solid feel
+Great TM sound

–Poor stock shaft
–What club will it replace?

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