This new carbon-faced driver delivers more speed and distance for your golf game

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BIG-HEADED DRIVERS take more abuse than any other club in a golfer’s bag: Their faces whack the ball at roughly 30,000 G’s. That’s enough force to obliterate even the fanciest carbon fiber, a material that—owing to its strength and lightness—has permeated other parts of driver heads over the last two decades. Faces that self-destruct in testing, however, have been enough to send manufacturers running back to titanium models, which have been the standard since the early ’90s. With its new Stealth driver, TaylorMade, the company that first ditched classic wooden heads for steel ones in 1979, has created a light carbon face durable enough to withstand thousands of strokes while delivering more ball speed—and longer drives.

Titanium has long been a go-to for very good reasons. It offers one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any metal on the planet, which means companies can make massive 460cc drivers that butt up against the PGA’s maximum size without adding weight that can slow down a swing. Like all metals, the material is also flexible, which allows it to bounce back after deforming at impact.

The allure of carbon fiber is that it’s even lighter than titanium, but it brings its own complications. By laying wafers of the fabric-like sheets on top of each other in different orientations and bonding them with resin or another polymer, manufacturers can create a substance that’s roughly five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff. The most common problems stem from imperfections and air pockets in the layers. When TaylorMade began researching the possibility of a carbon face in 2000, designers found that scanners used to seek out flaws couldn’t detect voids smaller than a coin. In order to toughen up the club, they needed to find bubbles measuring just a fraction of a millimeter, so they turned to machinery typically reserved for microchip manufacturing, a field in which the tolerances are absurdly tight.

Once it had the means to find potential problem spots, TaylorMade still had to tweak its manufacturing process. Elements on the top and sole of the club rely on up to nine carbon-fiber layers. The Stealth’s 4 mm-thick face, though, is made up of 60 sheets of much thinner material and resin to fill in space that might otherwise turn into air bubbles. The company says that as a result its face boasts the same durability golfers would expect from a titanium club while offering a weight reduction of more than 40 percent.

The club-maker hasn’t nuked all the titanium in the Stealth driver, however. The head’s internal frame is still made of metal. That also gives the club the satisfying sound golfers crave when it strikes the ball: TaylorMade tweaked the internal armatures to ring with a satisfying thwack similar to what you’ll get out of an all-metal head, instead of the muted clack you might expect from carbon.

This story originally ran in the Summer 2022 Metal issue of PopSci. Read more PopSci+ stories.

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Stan Horaczek

Executive editor, gear and reviews

Stan Horaczek is the executive gear editor at Popular Science. He oversees a team of gear-obsessed writers and editors dedicated to finding and featuring the newest, best, and most innovative gadgets on the market and beyond. He lives in upstate New York with his family, a three-legged dog, and a truly unreasonable collection of hundreds of vintage film cameras and lenses.