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Equipment Report

    TaylorMade SLDR MiniDriver lands on USGA Conforming list


TaylorMade is on the verge of becoming the latest equipment manufacturer to add a "driver fairway wood" to its metalwoods line, after a club called "SLDR MiniDriver" was spotted on the USGA's List of Conforming Driver Heads.

The club is listed as having 12 degrees of loft with an "S" logo on the sole of the club, underneath the "SLDR" script. It also looks like the club will feature a non-adjustable hosel.

“We frequently test new technologies and concepts,” said Dave Cordero, TaylorMade's public relations manager. “The SLDR mini driver is an exciting product that was designed based on tour player feedback and requests. We look forward to testing with them in the coming weeks.”

While TaylorMade wouldn't confirm a release date or the club's specs, GolfWRX reported that the club is expected to be unveiled around the time of the Masters, and has a head that's "roughly 250 cubic centimeters."

Based on the USGA photo, it appears the club won't have anywhere near the adjustability of the SLDR driver, which features a sliding weight channel in the sole. The SLDR MiniDriver more closely resembles the SLDR fairway wood that has the company's Speed Pocket technology in the sole.

Larger-headed "driver fairway woods" have become a popular option for TOUR players in the past year. While standard fairway woods still dominate the professional golf landscape, a handful of players have opted for alternative models that offer distance, workability and control in a slightly more forgiving package.

Phil Mickelson put the "driver fairway wood" on the map last season when he used Callaway's X Hot 3Deep — a taller-faced version of the X Hot Pro fairway wood that, for Mickelson, was almost as long as his driver and gave him the ability to work the ball both ways — to win the 2013 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and British Open.

Callaway released an updated version of 3Deep this year — called X2 Hot 3Deep — along with X2 Hot 2Deep, a 12.5-degree, smaller-headed driver that's 210 cubic centimeters and similar to the XHot Phrankenwood Mickelson put in play last year at the Masters.

PING also unveiled a deeper-faced, multi-material 3-wood called Rapture — the head is 210 cubic centimeters — at the PGA Merchandise Show.

The fairway wood has Ti-8-1-1 titanium body and a beta-titanium face that's 30 percent stronger than standard titanium and enlarges the hitting surface for increased forgiveness. PING engineers also added a tungsten sole plate — the plate is almost 25 percent of head mass — that shifts the CG lower in the head and improves forgiveness and lowers spin.