Last Friday, I came home to find that my friends at TaylorMade had surprised me by sending me their new SLDR driver (said to be their longest ever) to test out a week before other commoners like myself could buy it. So like the sane person I am, I took it for a spin the very next day.
To review the club on its own, as a standalone piece of equipment, is fine. But since I also recently got the TaylorMade Black R1, I said to myself, Why not pit the two against each other in a battle royale? Fantastic idea! I'm terrific.
Up first, the superficial.
Out of the box, the Black R1 is striking. From the grip down to the head cover, I like looking at this club. That said, I would have preferred the top of the head to boast a matte finish rather than the gloss is currently has (you can't really see the R1 graphic), but other than that I have to give it the edge in this section.
The SLDR isn't ugly, but it doesn't grab me by the face and say "BUY ME." The top of the SLDR is a dark grey matte-like finish, which is fine, but I can't stand any kind of aluminum-looking finish on a driver, and the face and bottom are just that. You had me at matte, you lost me at aluminum. I'm a cruel lover.
If this were a beauty contest the R1 would win, hands down.
To be fair, the two clubs feel very different. The SLDR I received is the TP (Tour Preferred) model, which is fine because I try to move heaven and earth when I swing, but that also means it's more finely tuned, less forgiving, and it has a much stiffer and heavier shaft than my stock, stiff-shafted R1. This made switching back and forth between them frustrating as hell.
One thing I definitely prefer about the SLDR is that at address it sits more conventionally. The R1 leans away from the ball, when grounded, and it made me feel as if the loft was too high.
When it comes to feel, the SLDR gets the edge.
Both the R1 and the SLDR are adjustable in several ways. But here the hands-down winner is the SLDR. It has less options and as far as I'm concerned less is more when it comes to amateurs adjusting their clubs.
Right now, I can't confidently say one club is longer than the other. I'm comfortable with the R1, I've played about six rounds with it and I can get it out there 300+ yards. But I've only hit the SLDR a handful of times on the driving range, and while the shots feel solid -- like really solid -- my ball flight with the SLDR is significantly lower. And that is the odd thing because the SLDR has a center of gravity that is lower and more forward than any other TaylorMade driver, which means I should be launching this thing into the sky. But I wasn't, and that burns my ass. So advantage R1.
Picking one is a toss up. I don't think there is a definitive winner or loser between these two clubs. I honestly don't. They both have a really solid feel to them, and they are both incredibly long (each is longer than my TaylorMade RBZ was).
What I've really learned from this review, is having two extremely viable options for a driver is kind of a pain in the ass, but in the best kind of way.