This is one I didn’t see coming and I’m still a little shocked TaylorMade actually created this iron. But shocked in a good way—like when your teenager chooses to study for the SATs on a Friday night.
The TaylorMade Stealth HD irons broach new territory for a demographic that TaylorMade has historically underserved. Often referred to as “super game-improvement” equipment for the higher handicaps, the new designation is “max game-improvement.” It turns out that struggling golfers don’t enjoy being reminded of just how much room for improvement they have. In that case, there are a couple of kids from high school I should probably go back and reclassify as “Max seniors.” My apologies.
Nevertheless, the Stealth HD irons are engineered explicitly for the segment of golfers that relies the most on technology to help them enjoy the game. And perhaps most importantly for TaylorMade, it now has a complete line of irons to address the needs of every player’s swing speed and ability level.
Stealth HD Origin Story
Maybe the chief benefit of this product development cycle is that TaylorMade started with far more questions than answers. Because Stealth HD was entirely new, engineers could begin without any preconceived notion of what the final product should be—or how it should perform or look.
So, to better understand this golfer differently than TaylorMade did, it made perfect sense to start with a simple question: “What makes a shot successful?” Essentially, TaylorMade took this group of golfers and had them evaluate several shots and assessed each as either successful or not.
No Strokes Gained analysis or ball speed standard deviations here because that’s not generally how higher-handicap players relate to the game. Either the shot was acceptable (With apologies to Caddyshack: “That’s a peach, hon! Oh, golly, I’m hot today!) or it wasn’t: “Rat farts!”
What TaylorMade discovered is that successful shots met one or both of the following criteria: The ball got reasonably airborne and it stayed on target or missed 15 to 20 yards left of target (for right-handed golfers). So long as the ball got off the ground and didn’t slice, the shot was given a passing grade.
The challenge was clear: To create a confidence-inspiring club that achieved both outcomes.
Up, Up and Away
To help players get the ball airborne, TaylorMade employed a low-profile head shape in the 5- to 7-irons. By driving the CG low and rear, this helps increase dynamic launch. In addition, engineers increased the sole radius and included a step-down sole design. The modified sole arc allows for a wider range of dynamic lie angles. Think of a wedge with a lot of heel and toe relief. If you happen to come into impact a hair steep (or shallow), you can still get a decent strike on the ball. Also, in player testing, the new sole design also led to more shots hit high on the face—which in this case is a good thing. Finally, the step-down sole decreases the surface area that actually contacts the turf—again, a positive attribute for the target golfer.
Carry, Not Total
The industry lied to you and they should apologize. For too long, manufacturers have sold “distance irons” on the premise that hitting the ball further was uniformly beneficial. Spin, launch, carry distance, total distance were all variables in the equation. But if a golfer “found” 10 more yards, then at least they could say that they hit their 7-iron 10 yards further than they did yesterday. Ego is a powerful selling tool.
Other brands are following suit but the Stealth HD 7-iron has a static loft of 30 degrees. That seems very un-game-improvement-like. TaylorMade tested identical Stealth HD 7-irons with between 26 and 31 degrees of loft. The testing pool included golfers with sub-75 mph 7-iron swing speeds. What the testing concluded is that there was only a 1.5-yard difference in carry distance between the strongest and weakest lofts. So by increasing loft, TaylorMade gave up negligible distance while generating greater spin, launch and peak height. The lowest-lofted iron in the Stealth HD set is the 23.5-degree 5-iron. The pitching wedge is 44 degrees.
By changing the face -lex profile, TaylorMade induces draw spin on the ball at impact. It does this by stiffening the toe section, creating in what it terms an “asymmetric draw-bias face.” In player testing, the face technology generated five yards of additional right-to-left ball flight for a right-handed golfer. Also, TaylorMade is using the same basic face materials and architecture to keep COR (and, by extension, ball speed) at the legal limit.
I can’t imagine any golfer feels good standing over an original Wilson Staff 2-iron. Conversely, some golfers like to see a bit of the cavity at address and, coupled with slightly weaker lofts, seeing more of the clubface can be a positive visual indicator. Also, TaylorMade states the Stealth HD feels better than Stealth. In context, I thought Stealth felt like marbles bouncing around inside an empty Coke can. Which is to say, the bar isn’t necessarily all that high.
Stealth HD is a line extension and not a replacement for the Stealth irons released in 2022. So to keep things relatively simple, TaylorMade has one price for both sets of irons.
TaylorMade used to operate under the philosophy that the top of the pyramid mattered most. This Brahmin class included touring professionals and highly skilled competitive amateurs and club pros. But by acknowledging that a) higher-handicap golfers exist and are willing to buy equipment and b) they need fundamentally different solutions than lower-handicap players, this release is a proxy for perhaps a kinder, more welcoming, TaylorMade. Credit where credit is due.
Finally, if fitting for loft is a vital component for higher-handicap golfers, shouldn’t it be for everyone? Do you even know the loft of your 7-iron?
Pricing & Availability
Pre-sale for the TaylorMade Stealth HD irons begins Jan. 10. Full retail availability starts Feb. 17.
MSRP for the Stealth HD irons is $999 (steel)/$1099 (graphite) and will be offered in 5-PW with AW, SW, and LW available.
Stock shafts offerings include KBS Max 85 MT (steel) and Fujikura NX Red/Silver (graphite)
For more information, visit TaylorMadeGolf.com.
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