Getting a great drive off the first tee is a powerful, positive thought and emotional boost to the start of a round. Hitting 14 fairways is pure nirvana. So powerful, both psychologically and physically, the driver is the king of the golf game.
While suffice it to say that the majority of golfers would be well advised to use a 3 or 5 wood off the tee, the American golfer is so machismo and devoted to their driver!
Whether you use a driver or a fairway wood, do yourself a favor and get fitted by a professional golf fitter. It’s worth the extra dollars. There is absolutely no reason to buy a driver off the rack. Avail yourself to the use of a launch monitor and as importantly, match the ball to the driver, based on your swing speed.
Today’s drivers offer numerous design characteristics such as bendable hosels, movable weights, preset shot bias, deep or shallow faces, low CGs and shafts matched to your swing speed.
Each year we feature those drivers that are in the greatest demand, perform exceptionally well, and are the “buzz’ of the American male golfer. Over 20 new drivers have been introduced since the beginning of the year. Many more are in the pipeline to be introduced this year. The ten below are, in our opinion, the best so far this year.
To this end, this article will cover those drivers that have made the biggest explosion in terms of hype and actual performance. These are “powerful” tools compared to just 2-3 years ago. The most ubiquitous marketing themes seem to be that each manufacturer is into comparison testing of their driver versus those of the major manufacturers – stressing that their particular driver’s MOI (moment of inertia) allows less twisting, is longer, and the weighting systems designed into their particular driver is the end all of drivers.
Until now, perfect launch conditions have been reserved for higher swing speed players and PGA Tour pros. Research shows that these players produce the optimum launch angle (the initial angle at which the shot leaves the clubface) of approximately 12-14 degrees, combined with a ball spin rate of 2800-3000 rpm for maximum driving distance. However, today’s drivers make it a lot easier for slower swinging golfers to achieve those numbers.
Additionally, we decided to use three replacement shafts; the UST Proforce V2, Aldila’s NVS and the new Stulz Shaft, to see whether distance and feel could be increased over the drivers’ standard/stock shaft.
What an interesting experiment this turned out to be! With the Aldila NVS shaft, every one of our 25 testers gained at least 15 – 18 yards in total distance and every tester remarked at the feel of this shaft. The Stulz Shaft garnered similar reviews as to feel and consistency, yet only gained about 8-11 yards in distance. The UST Proforce V2 gained about 11- 13 yards distance, but lacked in the feel category. Moral of the story: get acquainted with the Aldila NVS.
We have identified the following drivers as being the top performers
and most sought after drivers so far in 2006:
Ashton Golf’s E3 460 cc Driver with ‘MicroSpec’ Technology
A rare discovery in the saturated driver category, the Canadian based company has brought to market one of the best drivers we have ever tested. The term “MicroSpec” Technology is used, according to the company, because one needs a micrometer to measure any variances in specs.
The E3 features a 3 piece cast head with a 15-3-3-3 Beta Titanium crown that is just .41mm thick. The Japanese made TVC forged Titanium cup face is not used in any other component head that we could find. For techies, the TVC Titanium is the lightest to strongest ratio titanium.
The E3 also features a very high MOI club head due to its very low COG and is an excellent high-launch/low spin driver. The 90-6-4 Titanium body is also 100% CNC Milled Face, and it too is not offered in any other component head or OEM head. Finally, the black finish of this square- faced driver (using 3 coats of paint), has a silver brazed crown and faceplate that has zero welds and X-1 score lines used in their previous driver, aptly named the X-1.
Available in 11º plus additional lofts of 9º and 10º
Bridgestone J33R Driver
The J33R Driver boasts a 420 cc traditional oversized club head designed for a slightly higher launch, with less spin. The J33R driver is specifically designed for high launch, low spin and is crafted from Forged Beta Titanium.
The new Bridgestone J33 driver also features an elastomer compound insert within the club head for reducing vibration throughout the crown, sole and face of the club. The reduction in vibration accounts for a more efficient energy transfer resulting in more distance. Additionally, a tungsten weight in the sole helps to lower and deepen the center of gravity, creating an optimized launch and ball flight.
The new club also uses Bridgestone’s patented Low Modulus (Thin) Crown, which flexes slightly at impact to add loft to the club head resulting in a higher launch and less spin off the tee.
The J33 driver is available in 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5 degrees of loft and comes standard with an Aldila NV 65 graphite shaft and Golf Pride® grips.
TaylorMade r7 460cc Driver
TaylorMade Golf has expanded its phenomenally successful line of r7 clubs with the addition the r7 460cc driver, featuring TaylorMade’s renowned Movable Weight Technology.
Compared to the original r7 quad, the r7 460 has an exceedingly high MOI (moment of inertia) and is designed with a natural draw-bias built in. Players can adjust a 14-gram and a two-gram cartridge to neutralize the draw effect for a straighter and more neutral trajectory. The third weight is permanently fixed between the two ports.
The 460 also includes a TLC (TaylorMade Launch Control) cartridge tool specially engineered to install and remove TLC cartridges, a TLC Trajectory Wheel for assistance with configuring cartridges to achieve specific types of trajectories, and a Movable Weight Technology user manual.
The r7 460 also features UTW (ultra thin wall) technology, a casting process that allows the club head walls to be just 0.6mm thick and Pull-Face Construction, wherein the clubface is made separately from the club head. Inverted Cone Technology allows a larger area of the face to deliver higher ball velocity, resulting in consistently longer drives. A new shaft, the RE-AX, made by Fujikura, helps to make the shaft dynamics more consistent and more stable, which promotes improved consistency and accuracy from shot to shot.
The r7 460 11.5º is available in X, S, R and M shaft flexes, is the ideal driver for those golfers preferring more forgiveness and seeking additional distance. Additional lofts of 8.5º, 9.5º and 10.5º are also available.
The new Cleveland HiBORE driver could be to Cleveland Golf what the Big Bertha was to Callaway – revolutionary and extremely profitable. This is the driver that is a “cause celebre” on the PGA Tour, so much so that contracted players for many of the other manufacturers have stated openly that they would be playing the HiBORE if it were not for existing obligations – a wonderful endorsement to say the least.
The HiBORE‘s origins can be traced back to the Spalding/Top-Flite Magma Driver – scooped out top and very low CG(center of gravity).
With a10% larger chassis (sole plate) than the 460 cc series of Cleveland drivers, the HiBORE is the ultimate high-launch/low spin driver.
With the design and implementation of its unique crown geometry, the location of the CG is lower and deeper than ever before, resulting in drives that go further and straighter from a larger portion of the club face than any other current driver available today.
The optimized CG location aligns the CGP (center of gravity projection) with the COR (coefficient of restitution) hotspot in the center of the face, resulting in maximum energy transfer with optimal launch conditions for greater overall distance. The sweet spot has been increased by over 20% and has been moved lower on the clubface, resulting in the unleashing of the distance potential from this driver.
Furthermore, 25 grams of discretionary weight has been added to the tail end of the club head for maximum MOI and forgiveness.
The standard shaft is the Fujikura HiBORE Silver available in X, S- Flex, a 65 gram Regular and a 55 gram A (senior) flex.
This is one of the most esthetically pleasing drivers on the market, which performs admirably and should definitely be considered when choosing a new driver.
It is available in lofts of 8.5º, 9.5º, 10.5º and 11.5º
Srixon W-506 Driver
This extremely well priced driver is one of the easiest-to-hit and most forgiving drivers tested. The 450cc driver features a larger elliptical hitting zone (sweet spot) that extends from high toe to low heel, matching the common strike patterns of all golfers.
Srixon’s “Autoturn” design is employed in the W-506 driver: the center of gravity moves progressively toward the heel as the loft increases, making it easier to square the higher lofts at impact for slower swing-speed golfers who typically prefer higher lofted drivers.
The W-506 driver is available in right-handed lofts of 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 and 11.5 degrees
KZG Golf GF 4 425cc 12º
The newest model from this performance manufacturer features KZG’s GF (Gravitational Force technology).
Cast in 6-4 beta titanium, the 425cc GF 4 Driver is a classically shaped driver that features an expanded hitting area from heel to toe for extra forgiveness.
The driver has seven moveable and different weights positioned deep inside the head, a la TaylorMade’s R7 series, allowing the GF 4’s swing weight, launch angle, and draw/fade bias to be adjusted in literally thousands of configurations to optimize a golfer’s launch conditions.
KZG uses the Graphite Design Y6 shaft, which produced excellent results by our testing group.
In fact, this driver was one of the top three drivers we tested. The ball explodes off the face and the accuracy factor was among the best of all the drivers tested.
Titleist Pro Titanium 905 R
Titleist’s newest addition to its very successful driver series features a 35% larger sweet spot than the 905T and 905S. The 905R is a Tour-proven 460cc pear shaped titanium driver with a shallow face for those players seeking the ultimate combination of ball speed, launch angle, spin and forgiveness.
The 905R uses a 6-4 titanium body with a beta-titanium face insert and a 6061 T-6 aluminum hosel tube. Its full pear profile, with raised crown logo and score-line paint fills highlights, define the face impact area for better alignment and elegant appearance.
Its performance is superb and Titleist devotees, who prefer a 460 cc head, should be ecstatic. Additionally, its multi-material sole plug optimizes acoustics and dampens vibration for improved sound and feel. These drivers are in great demand and the supply is limited.
Available in 11.5º, 10.5º, 9.5º, 8.5º and 7.5º
Vulcan V14 430cc Adjustable Driver
The V14 features a high C.O.R. “SP700 Beta Ti Face” for extreme distance. In order to gain accuracy, Vulcan developed an exterior perimeter “weight channel” system with over 50 ways to manipulate mass in the perimeter for precise custom fitting. The weight tuning channels work like an Air Traffic Control System for ball flight.
Stainless steel Bearings and nylon spacer bearings are used to alter head weight and manipulate over 18% of the total body mass from heel to toe or face to back of the club head. This weight can be adjusted, as well as from lighter (185 grams) to heavier (220 grams) head weights for precise custom fitting.
Moving “Weighted Steel Bearings” to the heel and “Lightweight Spacer Pearls” to the toe improves the Draw-Bias effect for easier hook spin. Moving “Lightweight Spacer Pearls” to the heel and “Weighted Steel Bearings” to the toe enhances the Fade-Bias effect to reduce hooking and increase the fade spin effect.
Moving “Weighted Steel Bearings” to the back of the head on both sides and the “Lightweight Spacer Pearls” to the front puts the center of mass farther to the back, and will slightly alter trajectory to the higher launch angle side. The reverse is also true for golfers who want to bring the ball flight down… move the heavier bearings toward the face and the spacer pearls to the back.
Available in 9.5 º and 10.5 º
Alpha Golf’s C830.2 460 cc Plasma Driver
One of the stars of the Long Drive Championships is the Alpha C830.2 driver. Specifically designed to deliver distance and workability without sacrificing accuracy. The C830.2 technology utilizes an innovative Increased Target Design (ITD) face insert for a large sweet spot and super hot face made of super-thin SP700 titanium.
Plasma welding technology is used to reduce unnecessary weight around the face to produce an extremely solid and lighter constructed head similar to that used in the Titleist 905R.
The driver is most forgiving and has a solid feel and terrific aesthetics.
Available in 7.5 º, 8.5 º, 9.5 º and 10.5 º
Our usual caveat: It is imperative that you take advantage of being custom-fitted via a launch monitor and a professional golf club maker/fitter before buying a driver. Work first on finding the ball you prefer, then the shaft and finally the head. This is how the pros do it, but you may feel more comfortable reversing the above methodology. So, do whichever works best for you.
Check with your golf retailer and/or manufacturer’s web site, as to the current prices.