Of all of the new drivers of 2022, the Stealth from TaylorMade generated the most buzz. It looks cool, it performs like a dream and it has a cool back story. What more could you want?
When new drivers are launched there is an initial wave of excitement before golfers realise that actually, there isn't a great deal of difference from last year or even the year before. The Stealth has bucked that trend.
TaylorMade always do a great job promoting their products and visually this one looked really cool, but even allowing for that the Stealth seemed to capture the imagination of golfers far more than the brand’s recent offerings such as the Sim and Sim2. The reason for that is probably the intrigue stemming from an innovative technological advancement that saw TaylorMade re-introduce a concept first explored by Callaway twenty years ago.
While Callaway soon abandoned their Carbonwood experiment, TaylorMade continued to research and develop the technology and now say that carbon headed drivers are the future. The Stealth has been 20 years in the making, but has this switch to carbon made it one of the best golf drivers of 2022?
Last year I reviewed the Sim2 Max D from TaylorMade, which was the draw biased option in the 2021 range. It therefore made sense this year to go with the draw biased Stealth option, particularly given my tendency to frequently lose tee shots to the right.
Was the Stealth HD is as good as advertised and did it outperform the Sim2 Max D? Read on and I’ll tell you.
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The TaylorMade Stealth Range
There are three head variations in the Stealth range. The Stealth, the Stealth Plus and the Stealth HD.
Most of you will have seen the Stealth when watching the pros on TV. Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa and Tommy Fleetwood are among the many top players who have the Stealth in their bag.
As is standard with most brands these days, TaylorMade also offer a more forgiving option aimed at the average golfer. In last year's model, the SIM2, the more forgiving model was called the Max. There was also the draw biased Max D.
TaylorMade have rebranded with the Stealth and the instead of the Max you have the Plus, and the Max D is now the HD.
The Stealth Plus gives extra forgiveness and is aimed at the mid-high handicap golfer who doesn’t always catch his drive right in the sweet spot. You won't see it in the bag of any tour professional but it is the club you are most likely to see at your local course.
The Stealth HD provides that same level of forgiveness but has a configuration designed to promote more of a right to left shape.
TaylorMade Stealth HD: price and availability
The Stealth HD is not quite as widely available as the Stealth and Stealth Plus but you shouldn't have too many problems locating one in any of the major high street or online golf retailers.
It isn't cheap mind, and will set you back £469 in the UK (in the US you can expect to pay around $579 and in Australia you're looking at $799) but if you shop around online you may save yourself a bit of cash. The downside to that is you won't be getting custom fit and may not have the shaft or lie angle that suits your swing.
TaylorMade Stealth HD: Looks, Sound & Feel
Looks are subjective but the striking black and red design of the Stealth will appeal to the eye of most. The Stealth is the kind of club that will earn admiring glances from fellow golfers as it’s just so visually appealing and looks flashy, especially with the red club face.
The all black crown makes the head look a tad smaller at address than its predecessor and some may find that a little less inviting. One of the most appealing aspects of the SIM2 was the confidence it inspired when you stood over the ball. You perhaps lose a little of that with the Stealth while gaining in other aesthetics.
The stock shaft is a Fujikawa Air Speeder which is very striking and compliments the head nicely.
The carbon face gives it a much ‘deader’ sound compared to most drivers, which tend to be titanium headed. Some, not all, titanium headed drivers can sound very tinny although TaylorMade drivers tend to have a more appealing sound than most. The Stealth has taken that to a new level. It’s an extremely pleasing noise when you pipe one out of the middle, especially from a tee box surrounded by trees that provide greater acoustics.
The feel is solid and powerful even on slightly off centre strikes, yet there’s also a softness to it and you can really feel the contact in your hands as the ball comes off the face. Much like its predecessor the Sim2 Max D, the Stealth HD is a very nice club to hit and when you nail one out of the sweet spot there are few more pleasing sensations in golf.
TaylorMade Stealth HD - How it works
The Stealth HD is designed specifically to aid golfers square the club face at impact and minimise those horrible left to right misses that have ruined countless rounds of golf. And it works, to a point.
The best fix for a slice will always be lessons and practice, but there are other measures you can take to limit the damage of an errant right miss. Draw biased drivers do not provide a miracle cure but every little bit helps and ten yards can often be the difference between fairway and rough, or land and water.
Draw biased drivers are often referred to as “anti slice” but that is not the case. There isn’t a club in existence that can ‘stop’ a slice and if there was it wouldn't be legal anyway. A sliced shot will still slice even with a draw biased driver. Just not quite as much as it would with a standard head.
Draw biased drivers do work but you have to temper your expectations or you will be disappointed. Even if you have the best putter and the best golf balls, a good score still depends on sound technique.
Some golfers hit the ball to the right due to an in to out swing path. When this is coupled with an open club face at impact this will result in an extreme slice. The Stealth HD can’t really help much (if at all) in that situation. Other golfers, however, may have a relatively normal swing path but struggle to square the face at impact. A draw biased driver helps with that due to how the club head is weighted in the heel, but we’re talking very small gains here.
A ball struck on the heel side of the club will usually fade or slice, whereas balls hit more on the toe side will most likely draw or hook. By adding extra weight in the heel the Stealth HD helps to square things at impact and hopefully promote more strikes from the toe side of the club face.
These are very small margins of improvement though. Your club face isn’t going to be 10 degrees more square because of a small weight in the heel. But one or two degrees will translate into shots flying several yards further left than they otherwise would.
TaylorMade Stealth HD - The Technology
The last 20 years have been the age of the Titanium driver. TaylorMade claim we are about to enter the Carbonwood Age.
Callaway first introduced carbon drivers 20 years ago with the C4. It wasn't a success despite it performing well. Many didn't like the sound it made and it just didn't capture the imagination of golfers. In hindsight, the failing wasn't with the design or technology, it was perhaps just a case of the right club at the wrong time.
TaylorMade have spent the last 20 years perfecting carbonwood technology and it's impossible not to be impressed with the innovations that have resulted in the Stealth. It starts with a 60x Carbon Twist Face. Sounds cool, but what is it?
It is 60 layers of carbon sheets, strategically arranged for better energy transfer and faster ball speeds across a large area of the face. In simple terms, you get increased ball speed and more forgiveness.
As a general rule, draw bias drivers have not always been forgiving. TaylorMade have steadily been bucking that trend in recent years and in the Stealth HD they claim to have produced a lower spinning club that maintains the draw bias while delivering the highest *MOI (moment of inertia) of any driver in the Stealth family.
TaylorMade say that the Stealth also deliver increased speed and forgiveness due to their Asymmetric Inertia Generator which creates advanced aerodynamics at the most critical phase of the swing, which is the moment right before impact. This design also allows extra weight to be placed at the rear of the club to encourage a higher launch and increased MOI.
The draw bias is achieved by using weight savings from the Carbon Twist Face to shift the Inertia Generator closer to the heel. Extra weight positioned low and back makes the HD even more forgiving than the Stealth Plus.
* MOI shows how much resistance a club face has to twisting. So a higher figure equals more forgiveness.
TaylorMade Stealth HD - Performance
I was intrigued as to how this much hyped new club would perform on the golf course. I deliberately didn’t go to the driving range first as I wanted my initial experience of the Stealth HD to be on the course in a game situation.
My expectations weren’t high as I hadn’t played for a while and sure enough, I didn’t play particularly well overall. My driving was really good though, which was unexpected to say the least. I can’t give the Stealth full credit for that however. After all, if I'm not allowed to blame my putter for my inability to find the hole from four feet then I can't give the driver all of the glory for finding the middle of the fairway. Without a decent swing even the most technologically advanced driver in the world isn’t going to deliver for you. It's a joint effort and the Stealth and I hit it off immediately.
As I walked off the 18th green on my home course I was excited about the Stealth's performance and couldn't wait to use it again. I’d found most fairways, lost no shots to the right (a rarity for me) and on at least two occasions found myself further up the fairway than I’ve ever been before. For instance, I almost drove the 16th green, finding myself a good 20 yards in advance of where I would usually end up.
On the range the performance wasn’t noticeably superior than I'm used to, but then I didn’t expect it to be. When a new driver comes out there generally isn’t a great deal of difference in the data compared to its predecessor, which - as mentioned above - in this case was the Sim2 Max D.
A short session at the range with a GC Quad Launch Monitor showed that the Stealth HD gave me on average two yards more carry distance than the SIM2 MaxD. The STEALTH was spinning marginally less and the launch angle was slightly higher, which was reflected in the total distance which was five yards more than the SIM2.
I also put it up against another driver I have, the Cobra Speedzone. Unlike the HD and the SIM2 Max D, the Speedzone isn't a draw bias club. Usually you'll get a higher spin rate on draw bias drivers than with standard models. The SIM2 Max D spun slightly more than the Cobra but the Stealth HD showed very little increase. The launch angle was higher though, even with all three drivers set at 9 degrees and using the same shaft.
That was a relatively small sample size as it was a brief session, but further testing using the Rapsodo MLM (an essential bit of kit for any golfer who spends significant time on the range) showed similar marginal gains in distance and a higher launch.
I have since used the Stealth HD twice more on the course. I played really poorly the second time out and was fighting an unwanted fade all day. Everything went left to right but the Stealth HD gave me a very consistent flight so I was able to just aim up the left of the fairway and let the fade do it's thing. With a non draw bias driver that fade would perhaps have been a slice.
The third occasion was better as my game was in decent shape. Once again I found myself further up one of the fairways than I'd ever been before. It could just be a co-incidence and perhaps I would have achieved the same result with a different driver, but my gut feeling is that, for whatever reason, the Stealth just really suits my game.
Interestingly, on that third round I played with the Stealth I also had with me another new driver which I will be reviewing soon. I won't reveal its identity yet because I haven't used it enough to make a fair assessment. I did hit several tee shots with it over the course of that round though just to see how it measured up against the Stealth HD.
Full disclosure; I couldn't hit the bloody thing at all! While I would never say that is the fault of the club, what I found interesting was that I was swinging really well and striping drives with the Stealth, yet when I switched to the other driver I couldn't find the centre of the club face at all.
My take away from that is not that the Stealth is great and the unnamed driver is rubbish, it's merely that not every driver will suit the eye or the swing of everybody and therefore it's vital to get fitted when buying a new 'big stick' just to find the one you are most comfortable with.
I will be spending more time on the range trying to get used to the other driver, but with the Stealth HD it was instant chemistry. This may be due to the fact that I had the Sim2 Max D in the bag for most of last year so I'm therefore comfortable with TaylorMade drivers.
TaylorMade Stealth HD Verdict
The TaylorMade Stealth HD is an exciting option and slicers who are in the market for a new driver should absolutely add this to their list of clubs to try out. It might not be for you as choosing the right driver is very much about what looks and feels right to the individual, but if the Stealth wasn't all that it's cracked up to be then you would not find it in the bag of Tiger, Rory, DJ, Morikawa etc
The cost might be off putting to some as there are cheaper alternatives out there, some of which may actually perform better for you. As I say, the Stealth HD might not suit everybody but if you struggle to prevent the ball from leaking right off the tee you should absolutely ask your fitter to let you blast a few drives with this bad boy to see how you fare.
It remains to be seen if indeed carbon faced drivers are the future, but in 2022 at least, the TaylorMade Stealth is leading the way.