How to Choose a Golf Driver
Golf expert Michael Pryor shares everything you need to know about the critical components of your next driver that will help you hit your drives long and straight.
On most golf courses, there are fourteen holes where you may find yourself grabbing your driver out of your golf bag to tee off. Considering that the driver is the club that is used the most (next to your putter), it makes sense that you take the time to understand how to find the driver that complements your golf swing and helps you to launch the ball long and straight.
When it comes to selecting the optimum head size for your new golf driver, bigger may not always be better, but it can help in some instances. In an effort to control distance, the USGA has limited the size of a “conforming” driver to 460cc (cubic centimeters). The larger driver heads can afford you with more forgiveness, as they usually have a larger sweet spot allowing for near optimum results when hitting the ball more on the heel or the toe.
If you are a golfer that likes to be able to work the ball off of the tee, then you may want to consider a slightly smaller driver head, such as 440cc, as you will likely find it easier to shape shots with a smaller clubhead. So, if you like to draw the ball or fade the ball, a driver with a smaller clubhead will be more beneficial for you.
Even though there is a limit, drivers are not one size (or two size) fits all. The limitations outlined by the USGA are measured by the volume of the head size, however, how a company designs its driver’s heads can differ greatly. It will be important to find a driver that looks good to you, but it is also important to understand from a technological and performance standpoint why the driver’s head is built and shaped the way that it is.
The club heads on most drivers today are made with titanium or are composite heads because it allows the club manufacturers to increase the overall size of the club head (up to 460cc) without dramatically increasing the overall weight. The larger overall size allows for a larger sweet spot which helps golfers hit the ball farther and straighter.
Composite drivers are typically made up of several different materials which usually include titanium, carbon, and tungsten. Titanium is used for the majority of the club head due to it being a strong, lightweight material. Since carbon is lighter than titanium, it is often used on the top or the crown of the driver in place of the titanium to further reduce the club’s overall weight. Tungsten, which is a heavier material, is used by manufacturers to strategically add and position weight within the clubhead to create a larger sweet spot and enhance the driver's perimeter weighting, which means that more of the weight is placed around the perimeter of the golf club instead of at the center. This weighting is done in an effort to optimize performance and increase MOI (Moment of Inertia)—making the driver more forgiving and less likely to twist on off-center hits.
MOI (Moment of Inertia)
MOI is a measurement of how resistant a golf club head is to twisting. The higher the MOI, the more resistance it has and the more forgiving it will be for the player on off-center hits, resulting in improved accuracy.
When a player hits a drive off the toe of their driver, the clubface “twists” open, and when a drive is hit off of the heel of their driver the clubface “twists” closed. Drivers with a high MOI won’t twist as much and as a result, the effect of off-center hits can be minimized. Higher MOIs will also help to transfer energy from the club head to the ball and produce more ball speed—minimizing potential distance loss on off-center hits.
CG (Center of Gravity)
The center of gravity is critically important when considering a new driver. The CG impacts the launch angle, spin rate, feel, and sound at impact, all of which are important to find a driver that best suits your game and helps you to hit long and straight drives.
The center of gravity is, as you can imagine, near the center of the clubhead. When you think about your driver, where would you guess that the majority of the weight is? If you said the club face and the hosel (which is also near the front of the club) you’d be correct, and for that reason, the center of gravity is slightly forward of center.
Slightly moving the CG can change the playing characteristics and the performance of your new driver. How the weight is adjusted or moved comes down to three things: the direction, how much weight is being moved, and how far the weight is being moved.
Lie Angle and Loft
The driver lie angle is the angle in degrees between the centerline of the hosel and the ground when the driver head is centered (the center point of the sole of the driver is flat on the ground). A typical lie angle for a driver is around 58 degrees.
Choosing Your Driver Loft
Loft is the angle in degrees between a plane that touches the center of the clubface and a vertical plane that is perpendicular to the leading edge of the club head. To ensure you have the optimal loft on your driver, you will need to consider your swing speed and your angle of attack. The higher your swing speed, the lower the loft you’ll need, and for slower swing speeds you will want a driver with more loft to help you to launch the ball in the air and get more carry distance.
It is also important to consider your angle of attack when selecting the optimal loft for your driver. Using a launch monitor, such as Trackman, is the most accurate way to determine your angle of attack, but it can be expensive to gain access and hit balls on a launch monitor. If you don’t have access to a launch monitor, you’ll want to ensure that when hitting your driver, you have the ball positioned inside your left heel and you're hitting further up on the ball with a positive angle of attack. If the ball position is more in the middle of your stance, you may be hitting down on the ball, and thus you would likely have a negative angle of attack.
If you have a negative angle of attack, you will want a driver with a higher loft, and if you have a positive angle of attack you may be able to produce an optimal launch angle with a lower loft on your driver. Ideally, when it comes to hitting drives, you’ll want to hit slightly up on the ball to optimize ball flight by minimizing backspin in order to carry the ball farther.
Finding the Right Shaft
When searching for a new driver, finding the right shaft for your swing is just as important as finding the right clubhead. Shafts are made with different flexes, lengths, weights, kick points, and torque ratings. Nearly all drivers today come stocked with graphite shafts. The primary advantage of graphite over steel is the weight of the shaft. The graphite shafts are much lighter than the steel shafts, with some graphite shafts weighing half as much as steel. If you want more information about the difference between graphite and steel shafts, this article by a fellow Curated Golf expert goes into more detail.
In determining which shaft flex is best for you, knowing your club head speed is important, along with ball flight. If you have a slower swing speed, you will likely want a shaft with a softer rating that will flex at your swing speed. If you have a faster swing speed, you will likely want a shaft with a firmer or stiffer rating. To find the optimal shaft for your new driver please see the chart on driver carry distance and recommended shaft flex below:
Often overlooked is the length of the driver shaft. Varying lengths can affect the feel and playability of your driver, not to mention the point of contact. A longer shaft may produce a few more miles per hour but may be more difficult to consistently hit the sweet spot. If a driver shaft is longer than you are used to, you may find that you are hitting the ball more on the heel of the driver. A shorter shaft may be easier to swing and control, but the tendency will be to hit the ball more on the toe of the club. For more information, check out this article to determine the right golf shaft length for you.
The weight of the shaft seems to impact the launch angle more than it does swing speed. A heavier shaft will help to produce a lower ball flight with less spin, while a lighter shaft will have a tendency to produce a higher ball flight with more spin.
Shaft Kick Point (or Bend Point)
In order to produce an optimal ball flight, finding a shaft can help. The kick point can be “Low” (closer to the clubhead), “Mid” (near the midpoint), and “High” (closer to the grip). Shafts with a lower kick point will have a tendency to produce a higher ball flight, while shafts with a higher kick point will have a lower ball flight.
The torque rating of a shaft will determine the shaft’s resistance to twisting during your swing. A shaft with a high torque rating will have a tendency to twist during your swing while a shaft with a lower torque rating won’t twist as much. Golfers who have higher swing speeds and a tendency to draw the golf ball will likely prefer a shaft with a lower torque rating. Players with slower swing speeds and a tendency to fade the ball will likely prefer a shaft with a higher torque rating.
Today, manufacturers are building adjustability into their drivers to allow the golfer to fully customize their driver to produce drives that are longer and straighter. Many of the drivers today can be adjusted in several different ways from the adjustable hosel to the movement of weights.
With an adjustable hosel, you will have the ability to change the face angle (more open, more closed, or neutral) to help correct and optimize your shot patterns. The hosel adjustments also provide for loft adjustments allowing you to add or reduce loft on your driver. If you hit the ball high, you may want to adjust your driver to lower the trajectory of your drives, or you may want to add loft to help you hit the ball higher.
Some drivers have moveable weights that you can adjust in different directions to affect the ball flight. Weights can be moved both forward (closer to the face) and backward (further back from the face), as well as closer to the heel or closer to the toe.
- If you are looking to create a higher ball flight, then you will want to move the adjustable weight back (or add weight) further away from the club face.
- If you would like to have a lower ball flight, you will want to move the adjustable weight forward, closer to the club face.
- If you have a tendency to fade your drives, then you will want to move the adjustable weight closer to the heel to produce more of a draw bias.
- If you have a tendency to draw the ball, then you will want to move the adjustable weight closer to the toe to produce a fade bias and help you straighten out your drives.
Based on how you hit your current driver, when you select an adjustable driver you will be able to go out to the driving range or on the course to make the necessary adjustments so that you can hit your drives straighter and farther.
While you may now have a better understanding of some of the key factors to consider when investing in a new driver, working with a golf expert that has familiarity with the different brands and models can help you to find the perfect driver for your golf game. When you work with the experts on Curated, as they begin to learn more about your golf game, they are able to recommend the perfect driver for you that will have you hitting the ball long and straight off of the tee.