The golf driver is the most discussed club in a golfer’s bag. Driver technology has become synonymous with gold club manufactures in modern clubs with Callaway‘s patented “Jailbreak,” Taylormade‘s “TwistFace,” and Ping’s “Turbulators.” With every brand producing a flagship driver and several different models in each lineup, choosing the best driver for each golfer has never been a more talked about exercise. As performance among golf club companies is tightly regulated, the ability to tailor drivers to an individual’s swing characteristics and optimal ball flight has never been more important.
When Do You Use A Golf Driver?
A driver can be a valuable weapon for golfers armed with the right equipment. Par-5s, and longer par-4s demand shots that are in play, and of adequate length so that golfers are not left with long approaches into increasingly undulating greens and tucked pins. Your confidence with your driver of choice can make all the difference in your round’s score. Even the most skillful of golfer can prefer their drivers over safer, more accurate fairway woods, hybrids, and the emerging driving irons.
Finding the Best Driver for Your Golf Game
With all of the options and information circulating about drivers and club-fitting, it can be intimidating knowing which driver is best for your game. Choosing the right driver is a complicated problem. Are you a new golfer playing the game for the first time? Are you a high- or mid-handicap player looking to improve your game, or are you a scratch player looking to edge out the competition at the local “big-money” scrambles? Are you a gear-head that enjoys tinkering with your equipment, or do you prefer simple and sleek, and something that just works? With all the information flying around, our goal is to help you find the best driver for you and improve your game while making a splash in your foursome.
Another aspect to consider when shopping for your next driver is how much you are willing to spend. While the newest drivers offer the most advanced technologies, and more ability to customize the shafts and grips of choice, great drivers can also be found for reduced prices in prior generation models such as Callaway’s GBB Epic, the Taylormade 2016 M1 or M2 models, and the Cleveland Launcher HB. We have curated a list that uses performance, price, and availability metrics to offer golfers a streamlined buying process.
Key Factors in Creating the Ideal Golf Shot
While driving the golf ball 300 yards is the goal of most; optimizing ball speeds, launch angles, and spin rates can produce massive performance gains for any golfer’s swing.
Ball speed is simply the velocity of the golf ball as it leaves the club face post impact. Ball speed is a product of several factors; most importantly, swing speed and quality of strike. Players with faster swing speeds can expect faster ball speeds when comparing similar strike parameters to players with slower swing speeds. However, faster ball speeds can be achieved through improved quality of strike and driver performance technology. On the PGA tour, clubhead speeds average around 112MPH with ball speeds registering over 160MPH. While these speeds may not be achievable by all amateurs, maximizing ball speeds on each swing speed is critical.
Strike plays the largest role in determining the velocity and direction for each golf shot. Effectively, marrying the driver’s center of mass (“COM”) with the golf ball will produce maximum ball speeds. Golfers can calculate their own strike quality by dividing their ball speed by their clubhead speed. This number, termed “Smash Factor” or “Efficiency,” should fall somewhere between 1.2 and 1.5 for effective golf strikes.
In addition to ball speeds, launch angle can be optimized to help improve distance and shot shape. Drivers with too little loft can launch shots too low and result in distance carry losses. Conversely, drivers with too much loft can launch shots too high and create shots that stop when they land, robbing golfers of extra yards. Golfers should strive for a launch angle that increases carry distance and improves roll for maximum yardage.
Launch angle is determined by 3 key factors:
Clubface Loft =The loft of your clubface at address.
Dynamic Loft = Dynamic Loft is the loft presented at impact of the club. This can be different from the stated loft of the club at address depending on your impact positions. Golfers who strike the ball with their hands behind the clubhead tend to add loft to the drivers and may need lower lofted club heads to achieve their optimal launch. Other golfers who impact the golf ball with their hand forward of the clubhead tend to present less dynamic loft and may need a higher lofted driver to find their max distance.
Angle of Attack = Angle of attack can also influence the launch angle of each golf shot. Steeper angles of attack may lead to decreased dynamic lofts and more shallow or ascending angles of attack may work to add loft at impact.
While there is no one ideal launch angle for all golfers, launch monitor statistics have shown that most golfer’s optimal launch is around 12 degrees. Golfers should be familiar with their launch conditions and utilize matrixes of shafts, clubhead designs, changes in center of gravities, and head lofts to find the best combination for their unique situations.
Spin rate is another aspect that plays a significant role in the distance a golf ball travels, both in the air and on the ground. Spin rates that are too low can result in golf shots that prematurely fall out of the air with more aggressive curvatures. Drivers that spin too low can cause short drives or unstable ball flights that tend to curve more offline than their higher spinning equivalents. Driver spin rates that are too high can cause shorter golf shots that hold their direction better but rob golfers of their ability to hit the ball further. Again, while there is no one figure that is best for all golfers, a spin rate of around 2700 rpm is used as a reference for driver backspin rates. Marrying ideal launch angles, averages around 12-13 degrees, with adequate spin rates can create game-changing performance for golfers who previously were using inferior equipment settings.
Sidespin for golf shots is created by discrepancies between club face angles at impact and swing direction.
“Draw” sidespin is created when a club face is “closed” to the effective club path at impact. This results in a left curving shot for a right-handed golfer and a right curving shot for a left-handed golfer. Typically, shots with this curvature result in slightly more distance and roll due to the lower lofts presented as a result of the “closed” clubface. Effective draws should begin with club faces to the right of the target at impact, so they may curve back onto target.
“Fade” sidespin is created when a clubface is more “open” to the effective club path at impact, this results in a right curving shot for a right-handed golfer and a left curving shot for a left-handed golfer. Typically, shots with this curvature result in slightly less distance and higher spin rates due to the higher lofts presented as a result of the “open” clubface. Effective fades should begin with a club face slightly left of the target at impact, so the ball begins to drift back to target falling to the right.
“Topspin” or significantly reduced backspin can result in golf shots that dive out of the air and stop well short of their intended targets.
While the breadth of spins in golf ball flights is complex. It can be summarized by saying that each shot should be hit with an optimal spin rate to achieve the intended goal. Being able to control spin rates, hitting high spinning wedge shots that stop on demand, or wind-cheating stingers that penetrate cross breezes can greatly affect golfers’ shot distances and scores.
Top Rated Golf Drivers Features
Among the many factors that need to be considered when making a driver purchase, four main points should be at the top of the list. Clubhead build and center of mass, clubhead loft, the golf shaft, and the golfer’s budget. For each golfer these things can be different. Swing speed plays a large role in determining which club builds will be best. A general guide used to determine swing speeds is based on which clubs are used to achieve shots with 150 yards of carry. If golfers typically use lower lofted irons such as 5 or 6 irons, they fall in the “slower swing” category. Higher swing speed players typically use 8 or 9 irons to achieve such distances. While this is a general guide, the best way to tell which driver is best for you is to test them.
Beyond just the clubhead, manufacturers are working hard to offer a wide variety of shafts at no additional charge to help golfers get the most out of their new drivers. As difficult as it can be to put egos aside and chose shafts with lighter flexes, it is important to choose a shaft based on performance rather than flex. Flex is not the only important factor when considering different shafts. Kick-point is an industry term used to classify shafts for their launch condition when used in robot testing. High kick-point shafts tend to promote lower launch and lower spin through decreasing dynamic loft at impact. Low kick point shafts work oppositely to promote higher launch and higher spin by increasing dynamic launch at impact. As new drivers begin to offer more and more shaft choices, it becomes more important to consider shafts alongside clubheads when making buying decisions.
Driver shafts come in several different flexes: Ladies (L), Regular (R), Senior or Amateur (A), Stiff (S), and Extra Stiff (X). Traditionally, slower swing speeds have been encouraged to use softer flex shafts and higher swing speed players have been given stiffer shafts. Testing different models on a launch monitor can provide golfers with their ideal set-up.
Shaft compositions and weight can make a significant difference in a golf club’s performance. Steel and multi-material graphite shafts are predominately used through clubs sets to achieve ideal swing weight and balance in each club. Modern drivers, fairway woods, and hybrids typically have graphite shafts that range in weight from 55 to 110 grams. Graphite and steel options are available in iron and wedge sets. However, it is uncommon for wedges to be outfitted with graphite shafts as these are typically used for shots requiring less distance. Golfers would be wise to consider a graphite option for their iron sets if weight is important to them; as it should be. Steel shafts can weigh up to 130 grams and can put an unnecessary tax on a golfer’s body over the course of a round or season. The main concern when choosing a shaft for any club should be how it responds and helps produce repeatable golf shots. Remember, the shaft is the only connection a golfer has to the club head and should not be overlooked.
These differences in shafts can have a massive impact on the performance of club designs. Each individual golfer should feel comfortable with his or her selection. The advent of adjustable clubs has made it easier than ever to change shafts and find the one that is right for you. The right club-shaft relationship can give you longer, more effortless drives, more control over iron and wedge shots, providing confidence to shoot your best round ever.
The modern driver head size typically varies from 440 to 460 cc. These sizes can come in a variety of shapes and sizes because this is a three-dimensional measurement, manufacturers have the freedom to pull drivers long and back or make them short and tall. These differences can have massive impacts on how the center of mass is positioned in the club head and how the launch angles and spin rates are affected. 460 cc drivers are typically more forgiving with strikes across the face but can be less versatile for skilled golfers. 440 cc clubheads provide the ultimate in versatility but sacrifice some forgiveness with their distribution of mass.
Driver loft importance cannot be overstated. What the golfer presents at impact has a massive influence on what loft is best for him or her. Speed, impact position, and angle of attack can directly alter the dynamic loft. As a general guide, golfers with slower swing speed will need drivers with higher lofts and higher speed players will favor lower lofts. Driver lofts range from 4 to 20 degrees, so it is important that you properly fit the correct loft for you. Slower swing players may need to start with drivers between 14 and 20 degrees of loft and the highest of swing speed players may need lofts between 4 and 9 degrees. Most stock drivers come in lofts between 8 and 12 degrees but offer adjustability to fine toon ball flights.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions for golfers looking to purchase a new driver.
Q: Do Seniors Need a Specific Type of Driver?
A: A golfer’s age rarely has a correlation with which driver he or she should choose. Swing speed, angle of attack, spin rates, preferences, and skill will dictate which driver is best. Adjustable drivers offer golfers ultimate customization and different models can promote ball flight correction for those who want to eliminate a big miss. For senior golfers, club shafts can play an increased impact.
Q: How Do I Measure A Golf Driver’s Shaft Length?
A: For a playing length measurement: use a tape measure or 48-inch measuring stick, place the club in a playing position with the sole of the club squarely on the ground and measure from the end of the grip to the hosel of the golf club.
For a shaft-only measurement: if the golf club is adjustable, use the manufacturer provided wrench to remove the shaft from the clubhead and measure from the grip end to the end of the attached adapter. If the golf club is non-adjustable, measure from the grip end to the ferrule of the golf club.
Q: Driver vs Woods: What is the Difference?
A: The biggest differences between a driver and woods are their sizes, lofts, and typical utilizations. Drivers are typically used only from the tee and offer the largest clubhead size. Woods are more versatile and are used from the tee, the fairways, the rough, and even fairway bunkers. The lofts of the two clubs can be similar, but the ways in which these clubs have been designed make it is easier to launch woods higher when struck from the ground instead of a tee.
While it is possible to hit a driver off the ground, most golfers will have more success using their fairway woods. From the tee, Drivers typically fly further than woods and thus give golfers the best chance to hit the ball the maximum distance. Depending on the demands of the hole, golfers may opt to use woods when accuracy is put at a premium over distance.
Q: What is an Adjustable Driver, and Does it Really Matter?
A: Adjustable drivers feature hosels that allow the user to configure clubs in a variety of ways. Club loft can be changed along with lie angles. Adjustable drivers provide golfers and club fitters with unique abilities to customize a club to fit individuals better than glued counterparts. These clubs also allow golfers to adjust setups depending on course conditions or inclement weather. While adjustable drivers offer golfers a litany of options, it can be best to have them fit and then play golf in a setting that you become most comfortable with. These drivers are cool, but you always have the option of getting a modern driver fully customized without ever having to do any adjusting yourself.
Q: How Do You Know if a Driver is USGA Conforming?
A: The United States Golf Association, or USGA, provides standards to make sure that all clubs conform so that no player is offered an advantage by use of his or her equipment. Before a new club is released for retail sale, it is thoroughly tested to ensure that it meets their standards. This database is made public so that consumers can ensure their equipment conforms to the rules of golf and is legal for any and all tournament play. You can check out the database by clicking on the link below.
Deciding which driver is best for you can be overwhelming. Swing speeds, ball speeds, strike locations, launch angles, and spin rates can feel exhaustive. We hope to make your experience that much easier by providing information that can lead you to the perfect driver. Our reviews provide comprehensive product descriptions to point you in the direction of your ideal setup. Pros and cons of each product are detailed so that you can find something that makes your bad shots better and makes sure your good shots stay great.