The driver stands tall and proud over any golfer’s bag. It is often the most expensive stick in the bunch and everyone loves to hit it. There has also been more innovation in driver design, materials, and manufacturing than among all other clubs. Some of those innovations later find themselves in other clubs. Multi-material construction used to be confined to drivers with stainless steel faces and composite crowns, but now you see multiple materials being used in irons with a stainless body, a polymer insert, and tungsten toe and heel weights in some models.
The biggest trend in driver innovation continues to be with adjustability. It used to be limited to minor adjustments in loft, lie, and/or face angle, but now we increasingly see wider adjustments. It is getting more common now to buy a driver that is fully adjustable. Golfers don’t buy a 10-degree driver, for example, that has adjustability allowing a few degrees of tweaking in one direction or the other. Rather, manufacturers are putting out one driver model that doesn’t come in different lofts but is fully adjustable to any loft needed – from around 8.5 all the way up to 12.5 degrees for some. That certainly makes it easier on golfers and easier on retailers, shippers, and manufacturers too. Imagine how much easier it is to manage inventory. As these and other innovations continue to come out on the market, you owe it to yourself to visit a retailer, talk to your pro, or visit a demo day and see what the new drivers can do for you.
The TaylorMade R1 is one such fully adjustable driver. In fact, it might be the most adjustable driver on the market with five face angles and twelve loft/lie settings. With those settings, you can move between 7 standard and 5 upright lie options and dial up your own loft from 8-degrees to 12-degrees. Then, with an adjustment to the sole insert, you can further tweak how your driver sets up from two different open settings, two more closed settings, and one neutral or square setting. Finally, don’t for the shot-shaping movable weights in the club head. Based on how you set them up, the club can either perform with a draw or fade bias to match the conditions, your swing, or both. The club has the familiar glare resistant white finish, but with a new black, orange, and grey graphic across the crown.
Ping has a couple of new drivers out this year in the Ping G25 and Ping Anser drivers. The G25 is the next in a long line of G-numbered models. This model has a larger face and a thinner crown than the G20, making it a hotter club and one that is easier to hit with the weight and material saved via the thin crown re-positioned to improve forgiveness. Two measures of forgiveness are Moment-of-Inertia (MOI) or the resistance to twisting and shot dispersion on off-center hits, and the Center of Gravity (CG) where lower is often better if you are looking for a club that is easy to launch the ball higher for more carry. Ping claims the G25 has the highest (most forgiving) MOI and lowest (again, most forgiving) CG of any driver they have ever made. It also comes with Ping’s adjustable hosel that allows a ½ degree of adjustment either up or down to tweak your trajectory for given conditions.
Ping’s Anser driver has the same adjustable hosel and is constructed of a titanium alloy that is very light and strong, allowing engineers to move weight around within the clubhead to optimize ball flight and launch the ball with low spin which, for faster swinging golfers, translates into more distance. It has a cool matte black finish and comes in the same loft options as the G25, ranging from an 8.5-degree version to 12-degrees.
The Nike VR_S Covert driver is the latest from the folks that outfit the World’s number 1 and number 2 golfers and the first and only truly “cavity back” driver. By that I mean they have literally cut a section out of the back center of the clubhead to move weight to the toe and heel and improve overall MOI. The Covert is another driver that you won’t have to hunt the display stand to find the loft you want. It is fully adjustable from 8.5 degrees to 12.5 degrees and the hosel allows each loft setting to be coupled with one of three face angles. The club also features what Nike calls NexCOR Face Technology to maximize Coefficient of Restitution (COR), which is literally how hot or springy the face is. They claim the technology creates a 45 % larger hot zone using varying thickness across the face to position that hot zone where most golfers tend to make contact. Most of us are more likely to miss the ball somewhere low near the heel and higher on the center of the face, so that is where you’ll get more distance on mis-hits with this club. Plus, it comes in a cool red finish that is unmistakable on TV in the hands of the top pros.
The Cobra AMP Cell driver has a lot more to offer than your choice of paint job. While it does come in your choice of orange, blue, red or silver, it also comes with full adjustability. Again, this is another driver that can be adjusted to one of six settings from 8.5 degrees of loft up to 11.5 degrees, with two of those settings a draw biased 9.5 degrees and 10.5 degrees. The sole of the club has something they call their SmartPad technology to ensure a square face at address regardless of the loft setting with no additional adjustment required. There is an AMP CELL Pro model as well that features a smaller head at 440cc and incorporates all the same features.
Callaway also has a pair of new drivers this year in the Callaway X Hot driver and the Callaway RAZR Fit Xtreme. The former, X Hot, is a cast club with what they call their thinnest casting ever. The ability to cast a thin club gives them more ability to move the weight saved through that process to other parts of the clubhead, increasing overall forgiveness. They also incorporated a new Speed Frame face – a design to create more speed across more of the face while reducing sidespin (that means the ball flies straighter). This technology is what is in the famous “Phrankenwood” driver that Mickelson has been using with a 3-wood clubhead.
Like the X Hot, the RAZR Fit Xtreme has a three way adjustable hosel to change the face angle from open, closed, or neutral. The RAZR Fit Xtreme is a mulit-material driver though with a composite crown on a stainless body and face. It also has a pair of weights in the heel and toe. Moving the 13-gram and 1-gram weights allows golfers to create a draw bias or maintain a neutral configuration.
And that’s not all the options out there. Some other great options are available from folks like Adams, Cleveland, Titleist and more. All have great innovations and great new technology that might be a good fit for you. The best way to find out is to work with a clubfitter to get some expert advice and help to find a new driver to stand tall and proud over your bag.
–Tim Carrigan, KC Golfer Magazine and Golf Writers Association of America