Ultimate Buying Guide to Golf Drivers
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If you have played golf once, twice, a thousand times, maybe somewhere in between, you have had the pleasure of getting to hit a golf driver. It is arguably the most exciting club in the bag to hit. It can also be the most infuriating... but we try to suppress that feeling usually. If you have never played before, you have surely seen a driver at some point. It is the one used in stereotypical ads when portraying golf. The driver is one of the most fundamental clubs in golf, even if you hear someone swearing off using the 'stupid thing'. It's a complicated little tool alright, so let's go over some of the details in this ultimate buying guide to golf drivers.
What is a Golf Driver?
The golf driver is one of the many clubs a golfer has in his golf bag. Oftentimes, the most expensive one too. Relatively, it is a club that is designed to propel a golf ball the farthest. It is designed such that it has the largest club head, the longest shaft and the least amount of loft. A ball hit using a driver can travel up to an average of 225-300+ yards, if used correctly. It is the club that is used off the tee off box where one typically gets the most yardage on their shots. Today, the market is filled with a vast array of drivers that come in many sizes and characteristics.
What are the Characteristics of a Golf Driver?
Golf drivers have their own distinct characteristics that allow them to do what they do. It ranges from the grip to loft angle and almost everything in between. Let's have a look...
Club Head Size
Golf drivers come fitted with different sizes of heads. The head of a driver is measured in cubic centimeters. The volume of a club head can go up to 460cc. In the market today, most of the heads can be found in the sizes of between 440cc and 460cc. The size of club heads vary based on the vertical and horizontal depths each club head has.
Moreover, different golf driver heads provide different levels of forgiveness and launch conditions. Typically, a smaller driver, say one with a 440cc head offers less forgiveness compared to a 460cc club head. Manufacturers have found a variety of different ways to get the total volume into that head. Some have more depth behind a shorter face, some are wider, some have interesting contours to them. The really have spent a lot of money researching and trying out different ways to make the club head.
Club Head Material
Driver heads not only come in different sizes, but they are also made from different types of materials. When golf driver heads were invented, they were actually made from wood. Which is why your grandpa might still be calling it his 1 wood.
These days, driver heads are made of metals like steel, titanium, and composite. However, titanium-based club heads have become increasingly popular today. This is because, club heads made of titanium tend to be strong and durable, yet there are lightweight. Moreover, since golf driver heads need to be big in size, being made from titanium gives companies the liberty of producing bigger but lighter club heads.
A club head made from composite is a driver head that is made from the combination of several materials. For instances, a club head made from composite can be made from a lightweight material like carbon or a heavyweight material like tungsten, combined with titanium to improve the performance of the particular driver.
Again, hours of research have gone into finding the right combinations such as a titanium face, with a carbon backing, but even weight distribution with tungsten involved. Some companies will openly show you how they made the head, while others try to keep it as a trade secret; either way the technology continues to improve every year and we are happy for it.
Only a quick note on head covers here. Head covers are usually used to cover the head of the club when it is in the bag so as to stop it from banging off the other clubs and causing a ding or mark on the driver. Wouldn't want to spend all that money and then have a big dent in your favorite club!
One of the newer features of drivers is weights. These are small little interchangeable or adjustable weights on the head of the driver. Weights are used in order to adjust the center of gravity of a particular club. The center of gravity can significantly affect the flight of the ball it hits. A weight allows golfers to find the most favorable center of gravity in order to produce a good ball flight. Weights in the market today range from 1 gram to 20 grams.
Typically, these weights are positioned at the sole of a golf driver and altered according to a player’s game. A good example is TaylorMade's R15 driver. It has 2 small weights on the bottom. If, for example, you moved them both to the middle you would have more weight directly behind the ball giving you more distance. As opposed to putting one on each end to increase the control you had on the clubface at impact and thus ball flight.
To understand more on how adjustable drivers work, check out our post on adjustable drivers.
The loft of a driver is generally the angle between the face of the particular driver and the imaginary vertical line that it creates. If a driver has more loft, you will be able to hit a more elevated shot, which in most cases produces a greater ball flight. Generally, it is designed to have the least amount of loft compared to the rest of the clubs in your bag. You can find drivers with anywhere from 4 degrees up to 20 degrees at your Local Golf Shop. The normal loft angles you will usually see are between 9 degrees and 11 degrees.
To play a good shot, it is crucial to find the right loft angle. Finding the proper loft can be difficult, so we wrote a post titled What is the Right Loft for Your Driver?, the basics of which state that the lower your swing speed the greater loft you need on your driver. The quick explanation is that you want a certain amount of backspin on the ball when you hit it. What this does is create an upward force as the ball flies through the air, that way the forward momentum of the ball carries it further down the course as the ball stays in the air longer. Conversely to this, if you have too much loft you will end up putting too much spin on the ball, causing it to go too high and losing all that forward momentum or energy.
On today’s market, golf drivers come with adjustable lofts, and depending on the brand and model, some can go up to 4 to 5 degrees of loft changing. To make adjustments on a golf driver, simply remove a screw in the heel, connect the particular shaft to the golf driver head, and replace it to a predetermined setting. Having the liberty of being able to adjust the lofts of the golf driver, eventually allows a golfer to hit his shot better.
The face angle of a golf driver is the angle of face at the stance of a golfer. A square face is the one that sits directly perpendicular to the target. An open face is when it turns the face away from the player, while a closed face is when the face turns towards the player. An open face reduces reduces the loft of a ball and a closed face increases the loft of a ball.
Generally you want to hit a ball with as square of a face as possible. This will create the greatest transfer of energy from your club to the ball at impact, giving you the best distance and best feeling shot. That being said, there are reasons why you would want to have an open or closed club face. Some golfers believe that they can buy a driver that has more of a closed club face and it will solve their slice problem. While, in theory, this can work, it doesn't address the root of the problem. You would be better off spending the money on lessons and fixing the issue, so that it doesn't transfer down into your other clubs.
Golf drivers have sweet spots too. Contrary to popular believe, the sweet spot of a golf driver is a very tiny point of a club face which cannot be made bigger by designs of equipment manufacturers. This is because, the sweet spot is actually the point at which, when you hit a golf ball, the center of gravity of the club head moves directly towards the center of gravity of the golf ball.
The reason why sweet spots are important is because, as the center of gravity of the club head moves directly towards the center of gravity of the particular golf ball, it provides the ball with optimal energy transfer from the head to the ball, thus creating a perfect shot. On the other hand, if a ball is away from the sweet spot, the energy transfer to the ball would be lesser, eventually losing distance.
There are manufacturers that claim to have 'more forgiving clubs', so you might think this means a bigger sweet spot, but it doesn't. What this usually means is that there is more weight around the head of the club. This allows for more momentum of the club and makes it less prone to twisting in your hands when you contact the ball.
The grip of a golf driver is a piece of material attached to the small area of the club that a player holds his club with. The different grip types include rubber and corded. Grips are important as they allow players to have a good grasp of the club, but can also absorb the shock of the contact on the shot.
Grips come in a few sizes, and to determine the right grip size for a player depends on the size of his/her hands. There are also different grips that you can get that can wick away water better if you play somewhere where it rains a lot. Also, there are manufacturers that are now producing grips that can help with hand placement. There are some that are softer, some that are lighter, and some with all different types of textures.
One should get properly sized for their grip, and also test a few different style out to see what feels best.
Drivers come in many different lengths. Determining the right club length a player should go after depends on the particular player’s playing style. If a player prefers hitting the ball far then opting for a longer shaft would be appropriate, as longer shafts provide more distance (this is because you can generate more head speed upon impact). On the other hand, if a player prefers having more control and regular contact with the ball, the he/she should opt for a shorter shaft. In today’s market, golf drivers can go from anywhere between 44 and 46 inches.
The right length for you has a number of factors such as your height, wrist-to-ground measurement, as well as your stance when approach the ball. The best recommendation I can give is to get fitted by a professional. It seems like a waste to spend a bunch of money on clubs only to have them fit improperly.
I probably don't have to tell you that the shaft connects the grip of the club with the head of it, but what I do need to tell you is that shafts come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. There are steel shafts and graphite shafts. Steel shafts are generally heavier and less flexible, which usually help you to hit the ball straighter. Whereas graphite shafts are lighter and more flexible, allowing you to hit the ball further.
Another important factor is the length of the shaft. Generally, if the length of your shaft/club is incorrect, it is going to affect the contact point on the ball on impact, which we touched on in Club Length, above.
Most Popular Brands of Drivers
TaylorMade drivers come in a great variety of of loft combinations. The two good drivers from TaylorMade are the M1 and M2. The M1 driver provides much adjust-ability that allows player to fine-tune the performance of the driver according to the intended swing. The M2 is somewhat similar to the M1, however, the latter one cost more.
Ping has been well known for its capability of producing quality golf equipment. It is not an exemption for their driver as well. The G driver from Ping is certainly a driver worth owning. The G driver has a more improvised re-modeling of its size and angle.
Callaway has designed another good golf equipment, which is the Callaway XR 16 driver. The Callaway XR 16 has been designed with improved air flow and friction on their mind. The XR 16 was designed based on aerodynamics engineering, making it one of the best drivers on the market today.
In addition to the vast array of golf drivers on the market today, as mentioned another type is the adjustable driver. The adjustable driver allows players to make adjustments in loft, face angle and lie angle of the particular driver by simply adjusting certain parts of the driver, instead of buying an entirely new golf driver.
Buying the Perfect Golf Driver
Looking for the best driver that suit your needs can be confusing at times, in view of the fact that the market is jam packed with options. It is definitely important to identify the style of your game to make the choosing and buying process easier. It is also advisable that you go directly to the store and grab hold of the driver you intend to buy, so that you get a feel of it.
Paying attention to the weight of the driver and making sure you feel comfortable holding it, makes a lot of difference. In fact, you should even hit a ball or two with the particular ones you like best, to see if it is the one you should take home. Spending some time surveying different brands and types of golf drivers too will provide you with good information on buying the one that suits you best.