Like all of you, I’ve had my trails playing the tight four-hole opening stretch at Twin Oaks.
I’ve probably played them 20 times or so now, achieving mixed results. Dozens of lost balls have gradually coaxed me into a less aggressive strategy that doesn’t make for as many birdies, but it makes for a lot fewer bogies. I’ve taken a bit of a survivalist mentality about the opening combination of two short par-4s, a long par-5 and a mid-length par-3.
I had a bit of a breakthrough on this stretch, however, two weeks ago thanks for a breakthrough in TaylorMade’s R & D department.
I was carrying TaylorMade’s new SLDR Mini Driver for the first time. The Mini Driver is a club between a driver and a 3-wood. It’s a driver with a 260cc and a Speed Slot, designed to provide the accuracy of a 3-wood off the tee while providing the distance of a driver, or just shy of.
TaylorMade gave me an advance chance to experience the Mini Driver, and I took to it immediately. My first shots on the range were dead straight, and I found I was able to hit it about 260-280 yards, sacrificing only 20-40 yards from my driver.
With this new weapon stashed in my bag, I approached the first tee at Twin Oaks. The opening dogleg doesn’t play to my draw, but I’ve learned to basically get by punching a 3-wood out left, just past the tree. Well, two weeks ago, I pulled the Mini, which is ideal for shorter par-4s, especially tight ones.
In short, I hit my best drive ever on this hole. I took it 280 yards right up the middle, leaving me about 50 yards. Due to a two-putt, birdie eluded me, but I felt like I was onto something.
Unfortunately, I pulled my tee ball OB with the Mini on the difficult par-5 2nd, but I executed the drive on No. 4 to just shy of the two fairway traps to set me up for another par. I got around the opening holes in 2-over, which may or may not be my best, but it felt different. This felt like success I could repeat, and hopefully drop a few putts the next time.
The Mini Driver comes in lofts of 12, 14 and 16 degrees. The lofts are supposed to remove sidespin from the ball to produce straight shots and thus more balls in the fairway.
At a media event for the Mini on Monday at La Costa Resort and Spa, TaylorMade’s Brian Bazzel, Senior Director of Product Creation for Metalwoods, explained the performance benefits of increased loft.
“If you take a player who hits a 10-degree driver and has lots of side spin, look at what happens when they hit a 16-degree driver,” he said. “They square up the face more often and decrease the sidespin by almost half. When you do that, you’re speed goes up, you efficiency goes up and suddenly you’re hitting it farther and hitting more fairways.”
Bazzel says shorter hitters in particular can benefit from increased loft.
“What’s most obvious from the research is the biggest benefit of high launch, low spin is for slow-swing players,” he said. “They already have low spin. We just need to get them to loft up and hit it higher and the yardage gains are there. They’re actually the ones leaving the most yardage on the table right now.”
Putting the Mini in of course means taking a club out. Bazzel says that decision will be different for each player depending largely on what loft their driver is and then gapping appropriately after.
But Bazzel says the evolution of club combinations in golf bags has already begun.
“Throughout every swing speed, you’re going to see a new club combination and bag makeup that utilizes the technology to achieve more distance. The average driver loft on Tour has gone up one degree to 10.5 degrees and several 12 degrees are in play. Their bag has completely changed, just in one year. The longest iron in the bag now often will be a 5-iron. You’re going to see those changes being reflected in recreational players from what they see on Tour.”
Don’t be surprised if it shows up in a bag of one of your playing partners soon. The club went on sale in May and retails for $279. The club is designed for enhanced performance off the tee, but can be played from the fairway as well. Bazzel says he’s still discovering the shots that can be hit with it.
As for me, my driver is out and the Mini is in. I’ve been experiencing a bit of the driver doldrums recently and the Mini has proven an excellent remedy.
For more information about the Mini, contact your JC pro and see if it’s a club that fits into your golf bag of the future.