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So long, old friend: Saying goodbye to my trusty driver has been painful but rewarding

January 13, 2020

This is a painful post to write, so forgive me if I get emotional.

I’ve been using the same TaylorMade SLDR S driver — equipped with a Graphite Design 7X shaft (the orange one) — for almost six years now, but a recent club-testing session proved to me, sadly, it’s time to move on.

For many of you GOLF.com readers, this may be the first time you’re seeing my byline. “Who is this guy,” you might be asking, “and why should I care about his driver?” Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Andrew Tursky, and I’m the new senior equipment editor here. I’ll be working alongside Jonathan Wall, who has taken GOLF.com’s equipment coverage to new heights over this past year. I hope to help in every way possible to make our coverage even better.

While I’m a newbie on this site, I’ve been working in the golf media equipment space my entire professional career. After playing golf at Rutgers University, and for a year at Hawai’i Pacific University, I began writing for GolfWRX, a golf forum and site that focuses primarily on golf equipment. After five years there, I moved onto PGATour.com where I ran the Equipment Report (after Wall left the post) and covered all things golf equipment as they related to the PGA Tour.

Now, I’ve followed in Wall’s footsteps again — to GOLF.com.

Although I’ve been in the equipment space for years and had access to all kinds of new clubs, I’ve remained reluctant to switch my gamers. I’ve always prescribed to the belief that if it’s not truly better for my game, then why switch out of something I’m comfortable with?

This driver has been with me through thick, thin, and that one time I tried hitting a range ball off-the-deck, leaving an ugly splatter mark on the heel of the face.
This driver has been with me through thick, thin, and that one time I tried hitting a range ball off-the-deck, leaving an ugly splatter mark on the heel of the face.
Andrew Tursky

Maybe I’m just stubborn, but I’ve never personally been a fan of switching out clubs every round. I know my misses, and I know where the ball should go when I make a good swing. That’s what you want, right?

So, for the last six years, I’ve been using a TaylorMade SLDR S. People often poke fun at me because the SLDR S driver wasn’t particularly popular at the time of its release — on Tour or at retail — and it’s among the lowest spinning and least forgiving clubs in recent memory. But it also fixed a big flaw in my game.

Throughout my entire golf career, I’ve probably swung too hard, and too steep, resulting in high-spinning balloon balls that seemed like O.B. magnets. The SLDR S, with it’s extremely low and forward CG (center of gravity), opened up a whole new world for me. I could hit penetrating bullets that stayed out of the wind and ran forever. I felt like I had control over my ball, plus I hit it farther than ever before.

My first round using the new driver — for which I was fit at a TaylorMade media session — I hit a drive more than 400 yards with playing partner Hank Haney. Yes, it was downwind and downhill in firm conditions, but that one shot always stuck with me as a good memory with the driver.

Maybe it was the nostalgia of a great drive, or maybe the driver really did fix a swing flaw, but I was never able to find a driver that produced the ball flight I wanted to see. Nothing gave me that feeling I got hitting absolute missiles with the SLDR S.

I’ve tested plenty of other drivers, and I’ve always been able to make excuses why the SLDR S is better. “Yeah, the new so-and-so driver is good, but…,” I’d say, with a nitpicking comment to follow.

The other day, though, I took a few 2020 driver models to my local range to compare against my coveted SLDR S. At this facility, there’s a towering net about 220 yards from the tee. With a decent poke, I typically hit the ball about halfway up on the net, and three-quarters of the way up when I bust one.

“Uh oh,” I said to myself after hitting one of the new drivers with 2020 technology. With one swing, I knew that my SLDR S days were over.

The ball shot off the face, with a low-spinning yet high-flying ball flight, and seemed to wave goodbye as it sailed over the net. I almost didn’t believe it. I teed up ball after ball, and each of them was a home run.

It was definitely time for a grip change, anyway.
It was definitely time for a grip change, anyway.

When did this happen? When did driver technology leave me in the dust?

For loyal, stubborn golfers like myself, there’s a lesson to be learned here. Even if you adore your driver like I did, there comes a point when new technology is simply better. For me, that tipping point was six years. For others, maybe it’s 10 years, or five, or even two.

There will always be golfers who upgrade their driver annually. Some golfers can’t afford to do that, and some, like me, just don’t want to. Like visiting the doctor, though, you should have a check-up every few years — at least when it comes to your driver. Schedule a fitting and hit the latest technology, just to ensure there isn’t something out there that’s significantly better.

It hurts to say R.I.P. to the SLDR S, but I’m actually excited for the future. Now that I’ve accepted the fate of my gamer, it’s time to find a new driver to fall in love with for the next half-dozen years.

I’ll be updating you on my quest to find a new driver on the Fully Equipped podcast, alongside Jonathan Wall and Tim Briand. Stayed tuned. If you want to start the search for your own new driver, make sure to start with a professional club fitting.