In case you haven't noticed, TaylorMade has been SLDR-ing most things in their range, so it was only a matter of time before the irons came in for the treatment.
Most people assume that SLDR is an abbreviation for 'slider', which they can't use as a brand name as someone else has the rights to it. That was clever marketing as the original SLDR driver had a sliding weight in the sole of the club.
SLDR became a brand name more than a descriptive name when the SLDR fairways and SLDR hybrids were launched without sliding anything apart from the money from your wallet.
Now we have the SLDR irons, that as well as sliding the money, will also slide through the turf. So are the golfing public going to buy into these too?
Visually they stand out in the current range from the matt silver finish of the TaylorMade Tour Preferred Irons and the TaylorMade Speedblade Irons because they have a shiny chrome finish, which looks pretty good.
However if you want to see this for yourself you may struggle to do so unless you head to a TaylorMade Tuned Performance Centre, as this is the only place you can get them.
So I headed along to Kingsfield near Linlithgow in central Scotland for the full fitting experience and to understand what sets these irons apart from the others in the TaylorMade range.
At address the heads were a little longer than the TaylorMade Tour Preferred CB irons, with a little more offset and a wider, mid-sized top line and I like this.
The SLDR trailing edge does not feature the slight grind on it that the CB has, so that might be important to some as it will change the feeling through the turf.
Mid-sized cavity back irons for better players have come on a lot in the last few years as the performance and feel of blade irons is married with the forgiveness of cavity backs to give the best of both worlds.
The SLDR iron is a classic example of this thanks to the new Speed Pocket that uses ThruSlot technology to create a gap that goes right through the clubhead and is filled with a soft polymer in the 4 to 7 irons.
This does make the SLDR very forgiving and pretty light too, even if it sounds a little hollower than the CB irons at impact.
Where the SLDR has the edge over the CB's is in the longer irons where that extra forgiveness really comes into its own. Otherwise the data I was getting on Trackman using the same True Temper S300 Superlight steel shaft was almost identical between the two 7-irons for ball speed, carry and total distance.
The lighter SLDR resulted in a higher clubhead speed and ball speed than the CB, but the overall distance performance was almost the same for me.
On the other hand the Speedblade iron was bionic by comparison. Using the same shaft I got 6 yards more carry on a 7-iron thanks to 3mph more ball speed and a higher smash factor. Yes, they have a 1.5° stronger loft, look chunkier and have a larger offset but boy, were they easy to hit.
Moving on to the 4-iron using the stock stiff steel shaft, the differences were a little clearer. The SLDR offers better performance thanks to being a little more forgiving than the CB, but it is way behind the Speedblade, even though the loft was only 1° stronger this time.
However these are aimed at high single figure handicaps upwards, which is not really much of an overlap, so who are the SLDR's aimed at?
Well, I am not sure.
For starters they are custom order only and could be a little more expensive to buy than the CB irons, which perform just as well, sound better and feel more solid.
The CB's do feel a little heavier and I grant you that the 4 and maybe 5 irons in the SLDR are easier to hit. You could blend a set of the SLDR long irons awith the CB short irons as the lofts are the same, but I am not sure this is a great idea as the bounces in the mid to short irons are different in each set.
The better option is to blend the CB's up to 5-iron with the Speedblade 4-iron, which is apparently what a few tour players are doing, as the lofts align better and the 4-iron bounce difference is only 0.8°.
There is nothing to discourage you from buying the SLDR irons per se, as they are lovely to look at and they perform very well. However when you look at the other models currently in the TaylorMade range there is nothing to encourage you to make the extra effort to go for them either.
If you are low handicapper then the CB's are the same price, plus they sound and feel better. The only difference is the SLDR's have a slightly larger profile, a different look and come with a graphite shaft too, but I am not sure this shaft would interest many better players. If you are around a 10 handicap or higher then the Speedblade has more forgiveness and goes further.
It seems to me that the SLDR iron is a price point model for single figure handicappers who like the feeling of having something that is only available as a custom order.
There's nothing wrong with that - you pays your money and you takes your choice.