New Drivers for 2012

A new year and a new driver – sounds good, doesn’t it? In this month’s equipment review, the classic styling, enhanced adjustability, cutting edge aerodynamics, and even some subtle uses of technology are covered as all the major manufacturers roll out their 2012 models. So – bomb away (or just read along) and find yourself a new big stick for 2012.

The Adams Speedline Fast 12 and Fast 12 LS build upon a trend that Adams drivers started a few years ago – incorporating aerodynamic features into the clubhead shaping to

improve speed through impact. The Fast 12 and Fast 12 LS both have new clubhead shaping, including three “tri-steps” or lines across the back of the crown. Besides those changes, Adams has taken it even further this year with the finish on the shaft. To the touch, it feels rough, perhaps even unfinished, but that rough surface helps the shaft cut through the air and speed the club into the ball. The main distinction with the LS model is an adjustable hosel that allows for adjustments to loft, lie, and length. Yes – you read that correctly – with an adjustment to the hosel, golfers can make the 45 inch shaft a tad longer at 45.5 inches. So you can dial down the length of the club for control on courses with tight fairways or let it out when you need more speed.

Another addition to the adjustable driver arena is the Callaway RAZR Fit. This is the driver Phil Mickelson loves to hit as it propelled him to a win and a T2, both in the month of February. With a design goal to keep it simple, the club has an adjustable hosel that sets the club either open by 2.5 degrees, square, or closed by 1.5 degrees. Add to that a pair of weight screws in the sole (a 2-gram weight and a 12-gram weight) and golfers can adjust ball flight even more. The clubhead has a forged composite crown (that’s the stuff they developed with Lamborghini for use in high performance cars and golf clubs) on a titanium body. All that technology and adjustability make for a consistent golf club that performs very well on impact with the sweet spot and even not-so-sweet spots.

Performance and forgiveness via technology in a driver is good, but that kind of technology in a beautiful looking club is even better and the Cleveland Classic driver is exactly that. At first glance, you would swear the 460cc clubhead is made of persimmon with a classic gold sole plate and face insert. Even the large stylish “1” on the sole evokes memories of traditional drivers from a bygone era. Those good looks are more than skin deep, however, as the club incorporates the lightweight features and specific club-weighting for which Cleveland has been known in recent years. What that means is the club is a great performer whether you tend towards the lighter 270 gram (total club weight) or 290 gram model.

The Cobra AMP driver is the one you see Rickie Fowler busting fruit with in his commercial. If you haven’t seen it, I’m sorry if you just got mental images of Gallagher smashing watermelons. Think more along the lines of exploding oranges. Orange dominates the color highlights on this club that innovatively uses the bulge of the face to provide improved forgiveness for amateur golfers’ most common misses. The bulge is tilted rather than uniformly vertical or horizntal, which means shots high on the toe or low on the heel have a better chance of staying in the fairway. The club also has an adjustable hosel, letting golfers open or close the face by 2 degrees. Finally, an offset model can be put into play for slicers who need a little more help squaring the clubface through impact.

The new Nike VR_S driver extends many of the features seen in earlier Nike drivers and

incorporates what they call the NexCOR face. We assume the COR part of the name refers to coefficient of restitution, or the spring-like effect of the clubface when impacted. In a NexCOR clubface, it is thicker in the middle but thinner around the perimeter. Think of a miniature trampoline at the end of your club. Those thinner edges of the face are not unlike the springs on the edges of a trampoline, ready to propel your ball forward like an over-enthusiastic grade-schooler. The whole thing is held together by the STR8-Fit hosel, offering eight different settings of loft and lie.

Want long? Then check out the Ping i20 or G20 driver. Ping drivers always seem to have another gear when struck really well while still covering up less-than-perfect strikes. The former is more of a player’s club although when compared with its predecessor, it has more forgiveness due to two tungsten sole weights that improve the Moment of Inertia and set the center of gravity in a position that delivers great performance while maintaining a degree of workability preferred by better players. Even with improved forgiveness, the i20 is perhaps not well suited for slicers due to its overall design. Meanwhile, the G20 takes advantage of its special low-density, lightweight titanium head to place more weight where it’s needed in the clubhead. In this way, Ping can improve its overall performance and forgiveness, but in a way better suited for golfers who need to keep the ball travelling straight and are less concerned with working a tee shot right or left. And, yep, it’s got that second gear too, helping golfers unleash bombs from the tee.

And let’s not forget TaylorMade and a couple of models they recently released. The TaylorMade R11S has a lot of the features of the earlier R11 model, but features a larger head at 460cc as opposed to 440cc. That means a bigger sweet spot and more forgiveness in a great club. Of course, TaylorMade provides all the adjustability they’ve been known for with a soleplate that can be set to provide five different face settings from three degrees open to three degrees closed. The hosel, too, is adjustable, providing the ability to adjust loft by 1.5 degrees, while moveable weights in the sole provide even more capability to manage ball flight.

Another model, the TaylorMade RocketBallz driver is just fun to say. After you get over the joy of having a legitimate reason to talk about something called RocketBallz in public, you will realize that this is a very good driver. Like the prior Burner models, it has very lightweight construction with a standard 46 inch shaft. It also has TaylorMade’s Flight Control Technology that includes a hosel with eight settings for loft and lie. A Tour version of the RocketBallz driver is also available. As the Tour name suggests, it utilizes a differently shaped head to provide more workability and provides a ball flight better players are seeking.

–Tim Carrigan, Golf Writers Association of America