Do You Need a Mini Driver in Your Bag?
Why should someone decide to use a mini driver? Golf Expert Adam Ditcher breaks down everything you need to know about this curious club.
When assembling a golf bag, players have some options as to what clubs they want to make up their set. A good amount of players have some consistency in their clubs—a putter is a standard fixture in almost every player’s bag, same with some combination of irons and wedges, although the precise number of wedges a player uses and the irons that are used vary from bag to bag. Some of the largest variation in players’ bags occurs with the longer clubs.
Does a player want to use longer irons, or replace them with hybrids? Does a player carry a higher lofted wood instead of a long iron or hybrid? I’m sure many of you have at one time or another met a player who refuses to carry a driver in their bag. The main objective in the options for the longer clubs is to find something that will put your golf ball in the short grass more often than not. There is a great deal of variety between sets, and one club that really adds to that is the often misunderstood mini driver.
Now, for those of you who don’t know, the modern mini driver is a club that was inspired by the “Phrankenwood” that Phil Mickelson had Callaway design for him in 2013. Mickelson did not want to have a wide mishit from his driver take him out of a tournament, so he leaned heavily on this club Callaway had created for him: an X-Hot 3 wood with the loft and shaft of a driver, and a slightly larger club head than the regular X-Hot 3 wood. Mickelson claimed that this concoction had a much lower spin rate and would cause the ball to run further off of the tee.
Specs & Models
Unfortunately for those of us that love weird club specifications, that’s not how the publicly-released mini drivers are configured. The TaylorMade SLDR S Mini Driver was the first one in my memory to hit the market back in 2014, and this is also the model that I currently play today. It does come with a club head that is sized between a regular 3 wood and a standard 460 CC driver. The shaft length is 43.5 inches, which is shorter than that of a standard driver as well.
Most modern mini drivers share similar club configurations, although the club head designs vary. TaylorMade also later put out an AeroBurner model of mini driver, as well as this year, they launched the TaylorMade 300 Mini Driver. Callaway has also put out a Big Bertha 1.5 Mini Driver, which is modeled after its famous line of woods.
Is the Mini Driver Right for Me?
Now, this is all great information, but why should someone decide to put this club into their bag when they are already limited to a 14 club maximum? What would this club replace distance-wise in a bag so that there aren’t huge gaps between clubs at the top of the bag? How can this club keep average amateur players in play? And where in the stance should you play the ball with a mini driver?
First off, I will say that this club isn’t for everyone. Some people really don’t prefer the club head being between a driver and a 3 wood. Additionally, there are models of many mini drivers that do not carry that much more loft than a strong 3 wood, which is typically around thirteen degrees. The club should only be added if you are going to receive some type of benefit from it, either, over a regular 460 CC driver or over other options such as a fairway wood. The ball is played right near the lead foot (right side for left-handed players, and left side for right-handed players). They can also be used for some difficult shots, like a very low, barely off-the-ground punch shot. There’s a lot of versatility in this club that players can unlock.
Going back to the driver—plenty of golfers out there struggle with accuracy off the tee and the driver is one of the toughest clubs to consistently hit in the bag of most players. For a player who is not really confident off the tee with a driver, or who hits a lot of other clubs off the tee box and leaves the driver in their bag, the mini driver could be a viable replacement option. The first key is to realize that in this scenario, the player is likely giving up distance off the tee for accuracy, as the strongest mini drivers in loft still are about 2-4 degrees weaker in loft than most of the standard drivers. However, being 10 yards shorter off the tee may be worth it if you hit significantly more fairways and find the mini driver easier to control from the tee. With a shorter club shaft and a little extra loft, the radius of misses from a mini driver should be less spread out than that of a regular driver.
The alternative option is to see the mini driver as a replacement for your 3 wood, or whatever the second-longest club is you’re currently using in your bag. The first key here is that unlike the significant size difference between a driver and mini driver club head, the 3 wood is slightly shorter and smaller in club head size than a mini driver. Not every player will feel that the switch is positive, as the smaller club head size will allow for easier maneuvering of the golf ball for highly skilled players. However, one key aspect that helps the case for the mini driver is that you can get models in 12-degree lofts, which is lower than that of a standard 3 wood and even a bit lower than the typical strong 3 wood.
I personally replaced my own 3 wood with a mini driver a few years back, and my reasoning was that with the lower lofted mini driver, I could gain extra yardage off the tee when I didn’t want to hit my driver, as well as having a few extra yards to be able to reach a par 5 in two that was just out of reach before using a 3 wood for my second shot. Players who simply like the larger club head of a mini driver do not necessarily need to get a 12-degree model, and the higher lofted mini drivers will still provide a larger club face and more confidence for players who are interested in that aspect of the club. However, for the pure yardage chaser out there, it isn’t really worth the switch unless you have an opportunity to try the mini driver off the “deck,” so to speak, and are comfortable using it as an approach to par 5s on those long holes you still want to stretch and try for an eagle.
Now, how do you know if pulling the trigger and ordering one of these clubs is the right call for your golf swing? First off, I’d highly recommend you have a conversation either with myself or another Curated expert to discuss the details behind using a mini driver, as they’re not as common of an addition to the bag like a driver, irons, or a putter would be for many players.
Once you have an idea of what you’d like to use it for, definitely take an opportunity to try one out. This could be a demo opportunity at a local golf store, or try one that a golf buddy has sitting around in his garage—that is, if you’re lucky enough to have a club junkie as a golfing companion.
Finally, be sure to come back to Curated to price out your mini driver if you do decide to purchase one. Historically, mini drivers are generally quite expensive, especially compared to other woods (not including new driver models). We would be happy to help get you out to the golf course with a model that will help your game and not break the bank. Many of the older mini driver models are available at a reduced cost compared to when they were released, especially if you are open to purchasing a used model. Mini drivers definitely are not for everyone, but I absolutely love mine, and I’m confident if you follow these steps before throwing one into your bag, you too can fall in love with this unique golf club. It could be just the missing link you need to see lower scores and better results. If you need any more great tips, come chat with a Curated expert.