Buying Guide for a New Driver

So you want to replace the big dog? Tired of those weak, fading 200 yarders and searching for a driver that will crush the ball 350 yards? Well that probably won’t happen. Unless you’re upgrading from a driver that is still made of wood, you probably won’t find much distance increase in the technology of today. New drivers won’t hit the ball far for you. What you will find, are drivers that make hitting the ball easier. As all golfers know a club that is easier to hit will inspire the confidence you need to step it up to the next level and start bombing those drives.

Modern drivers have come a long way from the wooden counterparts. Today’s drivers are metal monsters. Just about all big name drivers of today are 400cc or above with a good majority of them coming to us at the USGA’s 460cc limit. (For those who don’t know cc= cubic centimeters, a measure of the clubhead’s volume). Without getting technical, and throwing around big golf physics words, bigger clubheads are easier to hit. Most, if not all, of today’s drivers are very even in terms of how far they can hit the ball. What you need to worry about is which one allows you to hit the ball farther.

When looking for a new driver you should consider head size, loft, shaft flex, and bias. Size and bias are both mostly matters of preference. A head size of 460cc can be easier to hit, but it is also very large, something certain golfers don’t like. Shaft flex choices are primarily determined by a golfer’s swing speed and consist of, from most to least flex; ladies, senior, regular, stiff, and extra stiff. Loft is the clubheads angle. Generally, the higher the handicap, and lower the swing speed the higher the loft. Most golfers think that lower lofts mean more distance. This is only true if you have a high enough swing speed to go along with it. Most amateurs would benefit from higher lofted drivers. Lastly, the newest option is bias. A club’s bias is its tendency to hit the ball in one direction or another. A club with a draw bias will tend to curve the ball slightly left and a fade bias will do just the opposite. A club with a draw bias is a slicer’s best friend, but keep in mind that these clubs usually only have a slight bias. They won’t fix your swing for you.

Club head size is all a matter of preference. Larger clubs may be easier to hit, but only moderately so. If you hit a driver well, don’t worry about what size it is. Plus, if you buy a relatively new driver you don’t have much choice in the matter, because they’re all big.

Loft is probably the choice that is left least to preference. It is most easily determined with a demo of the clubs you are considering. Unlike the other factors there is a loft that suits your swing best. Try out different lofts from the same manufacturer to determine what suits you. Keep in mind three things here. Lower does not always equal longer, lower lofts magnify sidespin and are thus harder to keep in play, and that most golfers will benefit from higher lofts.

Shaft flex, like loft, requires experimentation. It is important to keep in mind that the designations on the shaft of regular, stiff or whatever flex are all subjective. One manufacturer’s regular could be another’s stiff. So make sure that if you don’t know the specifications, you hit the exact club you are considering. Try hitting two of the same exact drivers with two of the flexes you are considering and see what feels better and flies truer. I recommend finding a head and loft you like and then trying out different flexes.

Choosing bias, the last consideration, can be tricky. Although some clubs make it easy. The new TaylorMade r7 quad (picture) for example has adjustable weights and can be adjusted for several different ball flights. I personally don’t advocate buying a club with a set bias for the purpose of fixing your swing. If you slice, I wouldn’t recommend buying a draw bias club unless you plan on a total avoidance of improving your swing mechanics. If you buy a draw bias but fix the swing error causing your slice you’re now drawing the ball with a swing that would normally put the ball straight. Example: I’ve run into golfers who bought draw bias clubs in order to fix their slices, but eventually fixed their swing mechanics and are now hitting sharp hooks off the tee because the club is so heavily biased. So perhaps if you’re an older golfer who’s been slicing for the past 15 years and you know it’s not going anywhere, a fixed bias might be for you. If you plan on changing your swing, stick with a neutral bias or movable weight clubs. Keep in mind that almost all large drivers have a draw bias of some kind. Physics dictates that larger clubheads are harder to square at impact, so larger clubheads have this bias to help square the face more consistently. If a club isn’t advertised as having a bias, consider it neutral. Also, some clubs have a very slight bias that may only cause a light draw, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Most importantly, test the clubs you are considering.

Here’s a tip for those of you looking to save some cash. Slightly older drivers, like the TaylorMade r580 XD, (picture 2) offer golfers modern technology without the inflated price. Many of the models that are a year or two old are still on the shelf, perform just as well, and are half the price.

Lastly, it is important to note that, the driver is a specialty club. Like the putter, it requires a different swing than all the clubs in your bag. If you’re unsure of how to hit your driver consult with your local pro or google it. The point here is, if you’re a new golfer, you need to realize that a player must learn to hit the driver. Don’t give up on your new stick just because you can’t hit it perfectly yet.

Buying your new driver can be exciting. It is important however to avoid rushing the process. Look over different manufacturers and consider head size, loft, shaft flex, and bias. Taking the time to try different clubs and determine what works best for you will make sure you have the most fun on the course. It will also likely convince you that the club that came out in 2006 does not perform twice as well as the one that came out in 2004, even though the price tag would suggest so.

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