There is no busier golf club on any course than the driver. On a full-length track, it’s pulled out first on most holes—dog legs and par 3s aside. That concept seems simple enough, but complicating matters is the fact that the driver is the trickiest club to hit. Its length, light weight and materials leave less room for error (which is why we often recommend investing in a forgiving driver). Effective use of the driver comes down to choosing the right model for your game. Depending on your skill level, strength and comfort with a golf swing, there’s a mix of elements that add up to the best golf drivers, but one exists that’s designed to meet your needs.
There are drivers for high handicap players with ample balance and forgiveness elements. There are choices for low handicap golfers who can control the ball and shape shots. For most amateur golfers, club designers build “forgiveness” into their drivers to squeeze better shots out of questionable contact.
This collection assembles a small group of star drivers for the general categories of golfers, different budget levels and personal goals. While you still have to learn how to hit a driver correctly, we’ve rounded up a number of options to make that task easier. And because there’s far more to the world of drivers than a handful of recommendations, we sat down with Dave Neville, Senior Director of Brand and Product Management for Callaway Golf, to learn more about what you should look for in a driver.
How Do Golf Manufacturers Look At A Driver?
It comes as no surprise that the masterminds who design and build golf clubs see these products in a way the average player simply can’t. But that doesn’t mean talking with a pro can’t help you narrow down your options when the time comes to invest in a driver.
As the Senior Director of Brand and Product Management for Callaway Golf, Dave Neville insists that he doesn’t see just parts of a club—he also considers material sciences that affect its performance.
“The parts of a golf driver are the face and the body,” Neville explains. “Those are the key elements, but we will also look at materials. We work with forged carbon, titanium, tungsten—as well as different construction methods such as the 360 Carbon Chassis with use at Callaway.”
Beyond the face and body, manufacturers also look at the following variables when designing a driver:
Manufacturers pay close attention to the clubhead design, aiming to optimize the driver’s performance in terms of aerodynamics, forgiveness, and distance. They use computer-aided design (CAD) and simulations to refine the shape, weight distribution and internal features of the clubhead to maximize ball speed and stability.
Golf manufacturers select materials for the clubhead that offer a balance of strength, weight and flexibility. Once upon a time, drivers featured stainless steel clubheads, but modern drivers often incorporate titanium, carbon composite or other lightweight materials that increase clubhead speed and allow for weight redistribution to optimize performance.
Center Of Gravity (CG) Placement
The placement of the clubhead’s center of gravity is crucial for optimizing launch conditions and ball flight. Manufacturers carefully position the CG to achieve a desirable combination of high launch, low spin and stability. Toying with the CG location can affect shot shape, forgiveness, and overall performance.
The face of the driver is designed to maximize ball speed and reduce energy loss upon impact. Manufacturers employ various face technologies, such as variable thickness, flex zones or unique patterns, to provide a larger sweet spot.
The shaft plays a significant role in the driver’s performance and feel. Manufacturers offer a range of shaft options that vary in terms of weight, flex, torque and kick point. They consider factors such as swing speed, tempo and player preferences when recommending a shaft for a particular driver model.
Adjustability And Customization
Many modern drivers feature adjustable hosels, weighting systems or interchangeable components. These allow golfers to fine-tune the driver to their swing and desired ball flight.
Do Golf Manufacturers Design Drivers For Both Low And High Handicap players?
While there are drivers out there designed for general use among multiple players, the elite manufacturers aim their classes of clubs at different skill levels. The designers know what each player needs the club to do, and they look to build clubs accordingly.
“We definitely work to make clubs for all levels of experience and talent,” Neville says. “We have the new Big Bertha 23 line for mid-to-higher handicaps. We go all the way up to the Paradym Triple Diamond, used by Masters Champion Jon Rahm.” So even if you find yourself drooling over a driver that might not suit your abilities, there’s a good chance that same brand develops a driver that will aid your game.
What Should The Average Golfer Look For In A Driver?
Because the law of averages says there are bound to be more amateur or mid-handicap golfers in the world than there are highly-skilled, low handicap players, manufacturers make more club options for less talented players. Neville explains that Callaway considers speed and forgiveness as key elements to aid the average player.
“If you have a driver that is several years old, you could see big jumps in both categories of speed and forgiveness as technology advances. We always encourage all golfers to get fit to find out which driver is right for you.”
As for forgiveness, the term refers to a club optimized to deliver more consistent performance with an inconsistent swing. Such a stick should have a large face or hitting area and a larger head profile to make better contact.