Gear: TaylorMade Stealth HD irons
Price: $999 with KBS Max 85 steel shafts and Lamkin Crossline Black grips. $1,099 with Fujikura NX Red graphite shafts
Specs: Cast stainless steel with polymer insert
Available: Feb. 17
Who It’s For: New and high-handicap golfers who need to maximize height, distance and forgiveness.
The Skinny: The Stealth HD irons were designed to get the ball up quickly for slow-swinging players who want a club that has an inspiring shape.
The Deep Dive: When TaylorMade wants to create a new, better-player’s club, it talks with staff players such as Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler. They discover what elite golfers prefer and look for, then create something that provides those attributes.
TaylorMade does not, however, have a staff of golfers who shoot in the 90s and 100s, so to make a new max-game-improvement club, the company did extensive testing with new and slower-swinging players. After hitting shots, reps asked if the player liked that shot, then asked why. TaylorMade learned that players who struggle with the game love seeing the ball go high into the air, prefer to see shots that fly to the left or go straight and want to see a club that inspires confidence.
Keeping the game-improvement Stealth irons in the stable, the brand now offers the Stealth HD, a max-game-improvement iron.
The rounded leading edge encourages golfers to make contact higher in the face, which leads to higher-flying shots. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Everything about the shape of the Stealth HD iron relates to who this club is for and what it is designed to do. It has a very low profile from bottom to top, with a wide sole, significant offset and a curved leading edge. The Stealth HD should inspire confidence in golfers who struggle to make solid contact, while the sole’s width helps it work through the turf while maintaining speed, even on steep swings.
By curving the leading edge more, TaylorMade discovered that slower-swinging players tend to make contact higher in the hitting area, resulting in a higher launch. Additionally, the hitting area is asymmetrical with a draw bias.
However, cosmetically, it looks similar to last season’s standard Stealth iron.
Flighted center of gravity and loft
The TaylorMade Stealth HD irons have a flighted center of gravity. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Two design traits can help slow-swinging golfers hit higher shots: the center of gravity location and loft. Within the Stealth HD iron set, TaylorMade used both to create easier-to-hit clubs that get the ball airborne more quickly.
The longest iron available is a 5-iron, and it has the deepest center of gravity. From there, the center of gravity gently elevates as the loft increases because even inexperienced golfers rarely have trouble getting 9-irons and pitching wedges up. This Flighted center of gravity concept debuted last fall in the P-770 irons, which were designed for better players, but the concept works here too.
Concerning loft, the Stealth HD irons each have more loft than the corresponding irons in the game-improvement Stealth. Why? Slow-swinging golfers lack the speed needed to create backspin and lift, so strongly lofted irons fly lower and rob them of distance. Adding loft can increase height for players with 65 or 70 mph swings without making significant distance differences. So the Stealth HD’s 5-iron has 23.5 degrees of loft compared to a Stealth 5-iron that has 21 degrees. The Stealth HD 7-iron has 30 degrees of loft, and the pitching wedge has 44.
The Speed Pocket slot in the sole allows the lower portion of the hitting area to flex more efficiently at impact. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Those design attributes are unique to the Stealth HD, but inside the heads are several TaylorMade technologies the company has used before to enhance ball speed, sound and feel.
There is a long Speed Pocket slot in the sole to allow the lower portion of the face to flex more efficiently on thin, low-struck shots, along with a polymer insert referred to as the Echo Dampening System. The insert touches the back of the hitting area in several spots, reducing excessive vibrations without inhibiting the face from flexing or reducing ball speed.
A dual 36-degree undercut and cavity-back design help create extra perimeter weighting for more stability, while a multi-material back badge soaks up more vibrations at impact.