With the improving weather golfers’ dreams turn to getting back on the course, smacking those soaring tee shots again and often part of that dream is a the purchase of a new driver. Everyone knows drivers today, though costing several hundred dollars, are marvels of technology and since they are usually used 14 times in a round finding the proper one is important.
The variety of models coming to market each year have what some may call a bewildering list of features created by latest technology, design, materials and construction techniques. It’s no wonder the search for a new driver can be frustrating not to mention disappointing if the choice is not the right one.
Here are the drivers for 2016 the staff of New England Golf Monthly has picked as being especially worth your consideration and as we always remind you, visit a PGA Professional for a fitting to determine the specifications to help you drive your best.
Callaway used the aerospace engineers at Boeing Co. to help with a new clubhead design in the XR16 driver and the result was a Speed Step in the crown for better air flow and less drag. Forgiveness was improved as well by stretching the crown so the center of gravity could be lower and deeper. The XR16 ($350) also uses a new version of the R*Moto Face Technology that’s almost one-fifth thinner which with a lighter body means this driver can be swung faster for more distance.
Callaway also has the Great Big Bertha driver ($450) with the R*Moto face and a multi-material head plus a sliding rear sole weight to adjust for a draw or fade tendency. The most intriguing point however is the availability of a 40 gram shaft for the GBB so that those with slower swing speeds have a driver weighing as little as 295 grams and if the user’s swing speed is higher a heavier shaft will increased the weight all the way up to 335 grams. And speaking of players with a really high swing speeds, there’s the new XR Sub Zero driver used on Tour by Phil Mickelson. A 440cc low spin design with 2 interchangeable sole weights, it sells also for $450.
Cobra is getting a lot of TV air time since their leading endorser is Rickie Fowler and he uses the King LTD driver that has a “Spaceport” in the sole that not only redistributes clubhead weight but also lets you see inside. The center of gravity has been moved so it’s on the neutral axis of the head, essentially the line perpendicular to the face running to the rear, but the significance is it produces lower spin and better energy transfer to produce more distance. The crown is a carbon composite and Cobra built in a channel around the perimeter of the face to let it flex more on impact.
The other notable Cobra driver is the King F6, a large profile very stable game-improvement design with an 18-gram weight that can be moved in either of two positions in the sole to adjust launch angle and ball spin. At $350 this a good choice for those looking for a game-improvement category driver and it has an adjustable hosel as well giving 16 different ball launch/spin settings when combined with the two sole weight positions. For those wanting more adjustments there’s the King F6+ at $400 with a carbon fiber sole track and a sliding 18-gram weight plus a carbon fiber crown. Both F6 models use the perimeter face channel similar to the King LTD.
The new High Heat fairway woods and hybrids also come with Knuth’s “Optimal Center of Gravity (CG) Game Changer” that has enabled the High Heat driver to provide amateur golfers with a 25% deeper and 18% lower CG compared to major brands’ average CG location. This technology resulted in the High Heat Driver being longer, straighter and more forgiving according to Golf Laboratories, which is the world’s recognized leading robot testing company. This year’s offerings promise the same distance and accuracy boost. Knuth’s “Fire Zone Face Technology”— with a combination of seven different zones of variable thickness, including patented “parabolic” lobes at the top of the toe and heel of the face. This configuration increases the spring-like effect across the entire face and increases the accuracy of the High Heat clubs while still conforming to USGA specs.
The new Vapor Fly family has three drivers and the company says each one has been engineered to create a higher ball flight than last year’s Vapor models. The Vapor Flex 440 ($500) has gone big in replacing titanium in the clubhead by doubling the amount of RZN reinforced by carbon fiber so now 60 percent of the head is nonmetallic. RZN is a very light but strong proprietary material Nike uses in both clubs and golf balls. It also uses the FlexFlight RZN tube weighted on one end in a sole chamber to adjust launch angle, spin rate, forgiveness and workability by flipping the tube end for end. The face is taller and thinner plus a compression channel allows for additional face flex. The Vapor Fly ($350) has 30 percent less weight in the striking blue-colored crown and a redesigned Hyperflight face with a compression channel in the sole. Forgiveness has been enhanced by the use of Nike’s Covert cavity back to distribute the weight more evenly. The Vapor Fly Pro model ($400) shares the lighter crown and being used by top players on the PGA Tour including Rory McIlroy. It has a five loft and three face angle hosel for a total of 15 possible launch settings.
Ping replaced the G30 model, a favorite last year, with the new G driver. It has an extremely thin exoskeleton construction in the crown (think dragonfly wing) to reduce weight but maintain the needed strength so the center of gravity is deeper and closer to the sole than they have done before. The crown “turbulators” have been retained and a vortex reducing design on the rear of the clubhead similar to flaps on the bottom of semi-trailers. Together they reduce aerodynamic drag by 37 percent according to Ping. The face is Ping’s variable thickness construction and the hosel adjustable plus with the weight lower in the head the MOI has been increased making the G a very forgiving driver. Besides the standard G model there is the G SF Tec with weight pushed closer to the heel for a more pronounced right to left slice-fighting ball flight and the G LS Tec that has the center of gravity forward to give lower spin and lower launch angle. Each is $400.
Srixon goes against what might be called conventional thinking about drivers in the Z355 ($350) by using a much heavier clubhead of 211-grams with a high balance point shaft that the company says is best for a consistent stable swing. The head is approximately five percent heavier than other drivers and is matched with a lightweight shaft of 53 grams. Srixon worked out this configuration saying golfers will gain distance by increasing the amount of energy in the swing. The adjustable hosel has 12 settings for loft, lie and face angle and titanium cup face with a large sweet spot.
The M1 and M2 models from TaylorMade both have a carbon fiber crown and an adjustable hosel. The M1 ($500) actually was introduced last August and within a week became the most played driver on the PGA Tour. It has a “T-track” sliding weight arrangement on the sole to adjust ball flight tendency. The heel to toe track adjusts for a hook or fade plus acts as slot to allow additional flexing of the face. The other track, from front to back, raises or lowers the launch angle and the amount of ball spin. A less expensive alternative, albeit without the T-tracks, the M2 ($400) uses TaylorMade’s Speed Pocket design in the sole. Both the M1 and M2 have an extremely lightweight carbon fiber crown with the weight saved compared to the usual titanium moved to the sole and slightly towards the rear of the head for a higher launch.
Wilson Staff has the very well received FG Tour F5 ($380) made especially for those with high swing speeds wanting a low spin design driver. It uses a lightweight clubhead and lightweight shaft similar to the D200 model of last year but moved the weight forward closer to the face and there a choice of sole weights of 3-, 7- and 11 grams. The adjustable hosel is very light in fact 5.3 grams or 12 percent less than the design of just two years ago and it has a really nice feature allowing the clubhead loft to be changed without removing the shaft.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?