WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The TaylorMade SIM2 driver family is not merely a pro forma technology follow-up to last year’s SIM lineup. Instead, the company reexamined every element of the three models in the family to push new frontiers in driver forgiveness. Those include the mid-launch, low-spin SIM2; the larger-footprint, higher-flying SIM2 Max and the slice-fighting SIM2 Max•D. The key changes focus on removing titanium from every section of the club outside of a new face-cup structure, and making the crown and sole two distinct carbon-composite shells. The weight difference means as much as an additional 11 grams is reallocated within the head, most notably in the extreme back weight on the aerodynamically angled keel feature on the sole.
Price: $530 (available for pre-order immediately, at retail Feb. 19.)
THE DEEP DIVE: To suggest that the three new TaylorMade SIM2 drivers—SIM2, SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max•D—are simply a more-of-the-same follow-up to last year’s trio of SIM drivers is to suggest that Terminator 2 is merely The Terminator with a better motorcycle.
In short, while SIM2 evokes a similar commitment to its predecessors’ pursuit of aerodynamic efficiency combined with a low-and-deep center of gravity for better forgiveness, this go-round is a completely different movie.
The reason is as straightforward as it is complicated: TaylorMade’s R&D team reconsidered every piece of the club, and as a result, each piece has fundamentally changed. First, the SIM2 drivers get rid of titanium everywhere but in the hitting end of the golf club. It’s a commitment to reallocating mass that includes not merely replacing nearly all of the crown with lightweight carbon fiber but very nearly all of the sole. The face structure is not only completely different for TaylorMade, it’s completely different in a way almost no one in the golf equipment industry is seriously considering: It’s safer to manufacture. No less remarkably, there’s now not a single welded element in the club, a feat that allowed the most specifically variable face-thickness design in the company’s history.
According to Tomo Bystedt, TaylorMade’s senior director of product creation, the goals with SIM2 were simple: Rethink every piece the way a Formula 1 design team might examine every winglet and cylinder head gasket.
“We’re really looking at each individual component and asking ourselves, ‘Is that part optimized for success?’ ‘Are we making that part in the best possible way?’ ‘Are we making that with the best possible materials?’ That’s really the approach we took with the driver,” said Bystedt.
“ ‘What if we didn’t follow the conventional wisdom on how to make the driver but we look at every part of the driver and say can this part be lighter, can this part be made stronger or could we move the weight to a different place and make the driver perform better?’ ”
By making not only the crown out of carbon fiber (something the company has been doing in widescale since it launched the M1 driver in 2015), but the sole as well, the company not only replaced titanium with lighter carbon fiber, but it let the company more freely and specifically explore the ideas of building forgiveness into an aerodynamic head shape. The change boosted the total moment of inertia (stability on off-center hits) in the horizontal and vertical directions by nine percent in the SIM2 and SIM2 Max•D and seven percent in the SIM2 Max, according to Bystedt.
The drivers again feature the keel-shaped protrusion in the sole for aerodynamic benefits, but that shape also houses a heavier mass in the extreme low rear of that wing. That feature is now a mass bolted on to a forged aluminum ring that’s bonded to the crown, sole and the company’s new face-cup design.
That face design is a departure for the company, which traditionally has used titanium face inserts welded on to the front of the driver. But it’s a better way because the cast shape allowed for a more precise (and weight-saving) variable face-thickness design that further enhances the company’s inverted cone shaping. Often, when the face insert is welded on to the front of the driver, it limits how precise the variable thickness changes can be. By setting the front of the face as a baseline, more detail and subtetly can be milled into the back of the face to get better face flexing.
“We’re not just blindly pursuing a bigger sweet spot, but we’re able to do it in a way where the likelihood of you hitting it in that area is higher,” Bystedt said, noting that the company also is using a new titanium 9-1-1 alloy for the first time. It again employs a post-production resin injection to fully optimize maximum spring-like effect, but the new face design more precisely targets and limits that resin for a more efficient design. Rather than ports on the face, the resin is injected through a port on the side of the club that also reduces the mass of the resin and the structure necessary to receive the resin.
The new face construction also is a healthier process, according to Todd Beach, TaylorMade’s senior vice president for research design and engineering. While many previous attempts at a cast titanium face required a “chemical milling” process that used hydrofluoric acid, in TaylorMade’s version, the back of the face is skim milled the way some putters might be, only much more intricately. That step is crucial for performance and smarter, too. It removes a thin but brittle layer off the back of the face (called alpha-case), and while that naturally improves performance, it makes the manufacturing more efficient and repeatable.
“Hydrofluoric acid is some pretty nasty stuff from an environmental standpoint, and so we as a company made a commitment not to do that,” Beach said. “Once you get that alpha case off, we’re just as strong as the sheet material in the insert that had been welded on there. Plus, we’ve also eliminated the weld bead. We’re dialing in that thickness much more accurately than you can with a standard casting process.”
As has been the case in many TaylorMade metalwoods over the years, each driver features a cut-through slot in the sole to further improve face flexing for better overall ball speeds, especially for impacts lower on the face.
All of those design freedoms also meant all three designs could move mass more selectively to enhance forgiveness, specifically in how heavy the weight is in the rear of the driver. The rear weight is now 16 grams on SIM2, 24 grams on the SIM2 Max (the most forgiving driver in the lineup) and 22 grams on the SIM2 Max•D, which is designed to fight a slice. This new approach with a carbon-composite crown and sole elevates forgiveness on the Max•D because it allows weight to be placed in the heel and deep in the perimeter. Previously, to achieve the draw bias most of that weight had to go in the heel, but because the keel feature in the sole is shifted and because the mass in the heel is more targeted than in the past, 11 more grams can go in that rear weight. That means slicers will get more ball speed on mis-hits to go with the extra draw bias.
One noticeable absence in the SIM2 lineup is movable weight. TaylorMade’s flagship drivers have had at least one model with movable weight since the company debuted the concept with 2004’s r7 Quad. Deciding against that option on the SIM2 was similar to all the decisions in this year’s driver: Smarter is better.
“It really was a tradeoff for performance,” Bystedt said. “First, the sliding track would have covered up a lot of the bottom part of the face where we were trying to machine the back of the face. There also are aerodynamic penalties with that track by not having a smooth area across the whole sole. Finally, by having the track, that’s weight that’s not ideally located for high MOI.”
One final benefit of the new approach is how the driver is really reduced to merely five distinct elements: the crown and sole carbon-fiber pieces, the rear weight, the aluminum ring and the new face-cup shape. All the pieces are essentially in a finished form and then bonded together.
“I keep joking that we’re becoming the kings of bonding,” Beach said. “But we feel that by making each component the best it can be and being very efficient in our bonding process, we end up with more efficiently engineered final products.”
It also allows the company to offer more personalization options than it has in the past, including color choices for individual parts like the aluminum ring and weight section. It’s part of the company’s new MySIM2 line, which gives more than 2,000 cosmetic options on the SIM2 and SIM2 Max models for a $100 up-charge.
All models will be available at retail Feb. 19 in the following lofts: SIM2 in 8, 9, and 10.5 degrees; SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max•D in 9, 10.5 and 12 degrees.