The driver is the longest and largest club in your bag, used from the tee to achieve maximum distance and get you as close to the green in one shot as possible. Historically also known as a 1 wood, drivers are often the most expensive club in any bag and as such buying one is a big decision.
In recent decades drivers have become larger, more forgiving and easier to hit, with major technological advances being made in head shapes, the materials being used and even the weighting inside the club head. Large companies spend millions researching and improving their drivers every year and the range of styles and options on offer can seem a little staggering at times to the new golfer, but thanks to strict rules on what manufacturers are allowed to do all drivers actually exist within fairly limited boundaries. So let’s demystify the topic and look at the main choices available when considering a driver.
Top 10 Best Golf Drivers For The Money (2017 - 2018)
|2017 Cobra Golf Men's KING F7 Driver With Cobra Connect
|Callaway Golf 2017 Men's Great Big Bertha Epic Sub Zero Driver
|Cobra Men's Fly Z Driver
|Callaway Men's X2 Hot Driver
|Adams Golf Men's Blue Driver RH
|Callaway Men's XR 16 Driver
|TaylorMade Men's R15 460 Driver
|Cobra Men's KING F6 Driver (Adjustable Loft)
|Callaway Men's Great Big Bertha Driver
|TaylorMade Men's M1 460cc Driver
TYPES OF DRIVER
The size of the club head is measured by volume, in cubic centimetres (cc), and the maximum size allowed is 460cc. With this in mind almost all drivers on the market today are designed to be between 440cc and 460cc to offer the maximum distance and forgiveness available. The vast majority of modern drivers are manufactured from titanium, carbon composites or a mixture of the two. These lightweight materials have allowed club designers to make the club heads larger without making them heavier and to experiment more freely with how moving weight inside the club head affects results.
By making the club face larger and moving weight to the edges of the club manufacturers have increased the forgiveness of modern drivers compared to their wooden or steel ancestors; meaning a poorly hit shot has less drastic consequences and will not go so far off course, and should also stay straighter, which is helpful! This has also led to various shapes of driver. As well as endless variations on the traditional shape, brands have experimented with square heads and even triangular heads. Often the effects are negligible but personal preference and taste have made them firm favourites for some players.
When choosing a driver it’s important to remember that all of the top brands make excellent pieces of equipment and much of your decision will come down to feel, budget, the look of the club and which brands you prefer, if any, but more on that a little later.
LOFTS AND SHAFTS
Some of the most important decisions in choosing a driver will depend on your individual style of swing and playing style. The main options when choosing a specific driver are the loft and the shaft. That is, the loft of the club face, which is measured in degrees from vertical, and for a driver is usually between 8 and 13 degrees, and the stiffness or flex of the shaft. All drivers today come with graphite shafts and which type is best suited to you will depend on your swing speed and shot preference. Stiff shafts suit those with faster swings as they allow for greater control of the club head through the swing whilst the ‘lighter’ flex options will allow the club to bend more during the swing and are effective for those with slower swing speeds, allowing the shaft to do more work in transferring energy from the club to the ball. The best way to choose which loft you want or which shaft to use is through trial and error, ideally you should try different lofts and shafts on the club of your choice until you find the combination that makes you happiest.
Another vital part of choosing a driver is less measurable than some of the other factors but arguably more important. Confidence. An important aspect of a driver is the amount of confidence it inspires in you as you address the ball. Club designers spend a lot of time on designing the view of the top of the club head you’ll see before playing a shot, it’s important for alignment primarily, but more than helping you aim your shot it should feel good when you address the ball.
This idea of feel is an important one, just like with a putter, the driver is a unique club and one we often use on those especially important shots and so it’s important that we feel confident with it in our hands. The way it feels to us during the swing is in the same category, how the clubhead and shaft interact through the swing and how we feel using the club are important factors which add to the vital importance of trying different drivers before you choose one. Two drivers that look very similar on a shelf may feel vastly different to swing with.
The second thing to consider is control. Some drivers will go further than others but despite their function in the bag there’s more to a driver than how far it goes. If it’s going 300 yards that’s excellent but not so excellent if it’s 300 yards into the trees! It’s important not to be an egoist when it comes to driving. It’s always worth losing a few yards to stay on more fairways and sometimes hitting it long but wayward can get you into much more trouble than it’s worth! In this vein many club makers now offer drivers with adjustable weights or built-in weighting mechanisms to help players correct errors in their swing. For example a player who often hits a fade (high and right for a right handed player) might now choose a driver with a system of weights built into the club head to offset this characteristic and help the ball ‘draw’ left instead. Sometimes these weights can be external and clubs will come equipped with a tool, allowing you to alter the bias of your club as needed. Some see these options as gimmicks but for those who have solved long-term problems with them they are nothing short of genius-level innovations. Again, the best way to understand such things is to visit a pro and try some clubs.
A final consideration is whether your driver should match your other woods. Traditionally the case was that a set of clubs would include a 5, 3 and 1 wood of similar design, but as the driver has become increasingly specialised for tee shots and more and more players are using non-traditional club choices like recovery woods and hybrid clubs, instead of 5 and 3 woods, this traditional arrangement of 5, 3, 1 is less and less common. It can be helpful to have a fairway or 3 wood in the same style as your driver for consistency, and most brands continue to offer fairway woods that match their drivers, but the choice is very much now up to the individual player. If you like a utility club, a 3 wood and a driver from three different brands then there’s nothing to say you can’t use all three together. It’s about finding what works for you. Either way, whatever decisions you make, and whatever level you’re at, it’s always great fun to test out and shop around for drivers!
top image credit: www.tourprogolfclubs.com/Flickr, CC0 license