ClubTest 2022: The inside story behind TaylorMade’s Stealth driver line (plus reviews!)
This year’s ClubTest is bigger and better than ever. To help you make sense of the mountain of high-tech new clubs on the market, we put all of the latest offerings from the top golf club manufacturers to the ultimate test, making use of a state-of-the-art swing robot to put each club through its paces. Below you will find our deep dive into TaylorMade’s new Stealth drivers, including full reviews and test results toward the bottom of the page.
You can find the full list of ClubTest driver reviews here.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2022? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf.
TaylorMade knows what you’re probably thinking: The carbon face thing has been done before. Yes—but stick with us.
In the early 2000s, several companies released drivers with carbon composite faces. Nothing stuck. The knock on the material was that it never produced the sound (too dull) or ball speed numbers (too slow) to make it a viable long-term option.
Plus, titanium was already on its way to dominating clubhead design. Still, engineers continued to tinker with carbon, finding the material beneficial for removing discretionary mass from the crown and sole and repositioning it in strategic locations to enhance launch, spin and stability. Indeed, carbon had a place in the industry, but it wasn’t in the face.
Or, at least, that’s what many assumed.
TM was definitely one of the major players to conduct research behind the scenes with carbon over the next two decades, all the while producing wildly popular and hugely successful titanium designs. It wasn’t until 2018 that carbon was viewed internally as a potential titanium replacement.
“We’ve always found ways to move driver technology and face design forward,” says Tomo Bystedt, TaylorMade’s senior director of product creation. “But, like anything else, there’s an expiration on certain materials and technologies. What we learned is there wasn’t a dramatic improvement timeline for titanium. We could see that writing on the wall about three to four years ago.”
Thus began TaylorMade’s push to bring the “Carbonwood” back to life. In TaylorMade’s eyes, the 60-layer Carbon Twist Face found on its new flagship Stealth series of drivers is the future of driver face design. The company is so bullish, in fact, they’re ceasing production of titanium drivers going forward. This is the point of no return.
“We’re sunsetting the entire technology that brought us to the game, which is metalwoods,” Bystedt said. “It’s going to be goodbye. We started this and now we’re killing it.”
Substituting a relatively unknown technology for a proven one came with some significant hurdles that had to be cleared before bringing the Stealth’s can’t-miss red carbon face to retail (though you can make it any color you want via TM’s online My Stealth customization widget; see p. 43). It started with figuring out the manufacturing process, which has more steps than you’d find at an automobile assembly plant. It’s one of the reasons TaylorMade started building the carbon face even before releasing last year’s SIM2 line.
“We needed to learn as much as we could about the manufacturing early on,” says Bystedt. “To make a couple thousand drivers is one thing, but to make 200,000 is a different deal.”
One thing TaylorMade learned was that carbon reduced the overall face weight (26 grams) by 40 percent when compared to a titanium face, allowing designers to increase the face size by 11 percent (versus SIM2) and add weight to the body to maximize energy transfer at impact. During GOLF’s ClubTest robot testing, data revealed an increase of 2 miles per hour, on average, across all nine points on the face in head-to-head testing between Stealth and SIM2 Max.
To give the face the right amount of spin with ideal launch conditions, a polyurethane layer was added to the carbon fiber that includes full-face score lines to improve spin in wet conditions. For dry rounds, a microtexture was added between the grooves to reduce spin at impact.
A titanium sole and internal sound ribs were also added to increase the “metallic” noise and feel at impact, thus eliminating the sound issues that plagued previous carbon faces. You’ll find all this and more in three Stealth driver options (Stealth, Stealth Plus, Stealth HD) and much of the same tech in a new lineup of fairways and hybrids (sans the carbon face).
Clearly this is a bold move for TaylorMade. Early adoption by its star-studded cast of Tour pros proves that the company’s perseverance in finding a home for carbon in driver design could disrupt the market for years to come. — Jonathan Wall
TAYLORMADE DRIVER REVIEWS
We tested: 9, 10.5, 12 degrees
Our take: Generating game-changing ball speed from one year to the next is a difficult proposition, but nearly every tester who gave the more forgiving TaylorMade Stealth a swing saw at least a 1-2 mph increase. Some saw a 5 mph speed bump. It’s all thanks to a new 60-layer Carbon Fiber Twist Face that delivers a more efficient energy transfer at impact. Even better? It doesn’t sound or feel like the initial carbon faces that were briefly introduced two decades ago. “It feels like a persimmon head, but it’s ‘solid’ — an extremely ‘different’ experience,” raved one GOLF tester. “It’s different than anything I’ve felt. I’m looking forward to trying it on the course.” You’re not the only one.
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TaylorMade Stealth driver
The details: A carbon-fiber face replaces the titanium construction we’ve come to expect from nearly every driver on the market. TaylorMade, on the other hand, found significant benefits in a new material construction. Reducing the face weight by 40 percent allowed designers to increase the face size by 11 percent (versus SIM2) and add weight to the body to maximize the transfer of momentum at impact by positioning more mass behind the face for a higher COR.
To give the face the right amount of spin with ideal launch conditions, a polyurethane layer was added to the carbon fiber that includes full-face scorelines to improve spin in wet conditions. For optimal spin in dry conditions, a microtexture was situated between the grooves to reduce spin at impact.
A titanium sole and internal sound ribs were also added — SIM2 featured a mostly carbon sole construction — to increase the “metallic” noise and feel at impact, thus eliminating the sound issues that plagued previous carbon faces.
TaylorMade Stealth Plus
We tested: 8, 9, 10.5 degrees
Our take: One of the most requested drivers during GOLF’s player testing, Stealth Plus is the answer for golfers who need to reduce spin. Most golfers saw anywhere from 200-400 RPMs less spin, on average, during testing on Foresight’s GCQuad launch monitor. “I’m seeing a lower launch and spin right out of the gate,” commented one GOLF tester. “And it’s something I can visually see. My launch monitor is usually a few degrees higher, and you can see the ball continuing downrange. I could see this being a great option for guys who can move it.”
TaylorMade Stealth Plus driver
Robot’s take: Average ball speed increase of 2 mph across all nine points tested versus SIM2. One of the best distance balances on off-center hits on all of the models.
The details: Featuring the same carbon-fiber face construction as the standard Stealth, the Plus version features a weight track with an adjustable 10-gram weight that can be positioned in the heel or toe for shot shape purposes.
Expect to see plenty of Stealth Plus drivers on Tour this season. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood are just a few of the high-profile staffers wielding the driver at the moment. Most saw an increase of over 2 mph in ball speed during initial testing — a number that was validated by GOLF’s robot testing data. Even more impressive: the ball speed increase was an average of all 9 points tested on the face.
TaylorMade Stealth HD
We tested: 9, 10.5, 12 degrees
Our take: The most common miss for the average golfer is a slice. The arms lag behind during the swing at impact, causing the face to stay wide open when face meets ball. To help corral the dreaded banana ball, TaylorMade created the draw-biased Stealth HD to even the biggest miss on the planet. Robot testing data revealed roughly 15 yards of draw bias in the HD head, which comes compliments of a heavy Inertia Generator positioned in the heel. “Seeing the ball turn over is something that doesn’t happen all that often,” said a tester. “If I can turn it over, you can be damn sure those bigger misses will be a little straighter. That’s a few more balls left in my bag at the end of the round.”
TaylorMade Stealth HD driver
Robot’s take: Golfers who tend to hit the ball out of the center and upper-center quadrants, including the heel and toe, will notice minimal distance drop-off.
The details: A heavier weight in the heel is the big addition to the draw-biased Stealth HD. The rest of the tech remains the same. The unmistakable red Carbon Fiber Twist Face delivers ball speed, while the internal sound ribs ensure a titanium-esque sound at impact. The driver is available in three different lofts, including a 12-degree option for golfers who need a higher launch in their life.
MyStealth Plus Program
Custom wedges, putters and golf balls are everywhere you look. But what about custom drivers? In the last few years, major manufacturers have added a new level of customization to the longest club in the bag. For TaylorMade, that level of customization commenced last year with the introduction of MySIM2 — a program that allowed golfers to personalize every aspect of the driver, down to the face tuning pins.
The MyStealth Plus program builds upon the MySIM2 with new areas to customize, including the 60-layer Carbon Twist Face.
Having recently gone through the program, I can attest it’s extensive. That being said, the site is easy to navigate and allows you to see how the driver will look once it’s completed with a three-dimensional image that changes as you make color selections. Simply drag and rotate the club. That’s it.
Here’s a look at some of the areas you’ll be able to customize:
Face color: Six color options include red, green, yellow, blue, orange, and grey.
Body color: Two color options include black and chalk.
Crown finish: Gloss or matte, with or without the TaylorMade “T-logo.”
Sole decal color: Eight color options include blue, black, red, orange, green, gold, pale blue and volt.
Headcovers: Mono or Color.
The TaylorMade MyStealth Plus driver retails for $699.99 and goes up from there depending on the shaft and grip selected.