For both equipment manufacturers and golfers alike, the driver receives the most attention, scrutiny and even financial investment. And for good reason, too.
Driving the ball long and straight has unquestioned advantages when trying to score well and improve your game, and the joy of a perfectly struck drive sailing down the fairway will stick with most players for much longer than just the round of golf during which it occurred.
With all this in mind, we have cultivated the following list of the best drivers from the biggest brands on the market this year. From smaller head, low spin models aimed at better players, to ultra-lightweight, forgiveness-driven clubs for the moderate speed swingers of the world, there is a driver here to suit each and every golfer and ball flight.
CALLAWAY EPIC SPEED/EPIC MAX/EPIC MAX LS
Callaway’s original Epic drivers transformed the company’s offerings through the use of innovative ‘Jailbreak’ technology. The new Epic Speed, MAX and MAX LS taking that even further through the use of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and model specific performance characteristics.
The company utilised A.I. to refine Jailbreak, as well as its ‘Flash Face’ architecture, the resulting face design and ‘Jailbreak Speed Frame’ adding more ball speed regardless of where impact occurs. The new Jailbreak Speed Frame add torsional stiffness to the established horizontal stiffness created by the original bars connecting the crown and sole.
All using lightweight ‘Triaxial Carbon’ in the crown to save weight that can then be optimally redistributed, the Speed model is aerodynamically tuned to be the fastest Epic, the Max is built for long and straight drives and is the most forgiving model, while the MAX LS offers a neutral flight, low spin and high moment of inertia (MOI).
“The Speed is very much something that has a lot of those speed advantages and it achieves forgiveness in an unusual way,” Senior VP of Research and Development at Callaway Dr. Alan Hocknell told Golf Australia. “The centre of gravity (CG) is nearer the face than it is in most other drivers and for that the variation of spin rate when you don’t hit the centre of the face compared to your best shots is minimised. And that’s great for downrange consistency.
“The MAX model is designed more for the golfer who uses a lot of the face. So, it is a different form of forgiveness, a rear CG, more of the focus on high MOI, the sliding weight track so that we can steer the golf ball a little bit for those failures based on swinging across the path or missing the centre of the face.
“And then there is the MAX LS based on a lot of the feedback from modern Tour players. They don’t necessarily need the super low spin we had in our Sub Zero drivers. So, around the office L in LS stands for lower not lowest, and for that you get a great combination of speed, lower spin but a larger head size that is more forgiving than the better players have been used to.”
CALLAWAY BIG BERTHA B21
Drivers designed with feedback from the best players in the world are great. But not many of those players need the same attributes in a club that some everyday golfers require, particularly those suffering a slice. Enter the Big Bertha B21.
Designed for golfers to hit their best drives no matter how they swing it, the B21 is draw biased and utilises many of the premium technologies of Callaway’s other drivers to provide distance and forgiveness.
Featuring an A.I. designed Flash Face and Jailbreak bars for ball speed, lightweight carbon is used in the crown to save weight, while the CG is placed very low for a high launch, low spin flight that is setup to produce a draw.
The shaping, flight characteristics and suite of technologies make this a unique driver in Callaway’s long history that has been distinctly created to remove the big miss from your game.
COBRA RADSPEED/RADSPEED XB/RADSPEED XD
The name of Cobra’s latest driver range might at first seem a little abstract. But there is sound reasoning, the line named for its primary technology ‘Radial Weighting’, a breakthrough technology providing all golfers longer, straighter drives.
The technology is based in an engineering concept – Radius of Gyration – that covers the distance between CG, weights and technologies. Cobra uncovering that increasing the Radius of Gyration produced a combination of ball speed, low spin and forgiveness.
Available in three options, Cobra, like many other companies, has designed each model with specific players in mind. The high swing speed player best suited to the RADSPEED, RADSPEED XB for those looking for ball speed and forgiveness across the face and RADSPEED XD to reduce slices.
All three models incorporate Cobra’s ‘CNC Milled Infinity Face’ that is more precise than traditional hand polishing methods and creates ball speed and consistency, a lightweight ‘T-Bar Speed Chassis’ and thinner carbon fibre crown.
The standard RADSPEED owns a traditional shape combined with forward-biased radial weighting. The weight has been stretched towards the front and back with both fixed and adjustable weights to create extremely high ball speeds coupled with forgiveness.
Both featuring oversized profiles, the XB (Xtreme Back) and XD (Xtreme Draw) provide more specific flights than the workable standard model.
The weighting in the XB, which also includes adjustable weights, has been pushed to the back of the head to deliver the straightest flight of all three models, as well as increased distance and forgiveness, while the XD is heel weighted through fixed weights to help close the face and produce a draw shape.
MIZUNO ST SERIES
Mizuno’s driver offerings have come along in leaps and bounds in recent years, the new ST-Z and ST-X signaling the culmination of the Japanese manufacturer’s three-year, rapid-fire driver development project.
Powered by the second generation ‘SAT2041 Beta Ti face’, the two models offer different flight characteristics, while refined feel was a major focus to improve upon the already popular preceding models – ST190 and ST200.
“Most of our ST200 Tour feedback was on the sensory side, a desire for a sound our players generally described as solid or dense,” Mizuno’s Chris Voshall said. “We spent the next year working on improving feedback, hand in hand with releasing the additional ball speed we knew was left in our SAT2041 Beta Ti face.”
The face material is a combination of a variety of metals that make it stronger and more flexible than traditional titanium used in driver faces, and has been used in the automotive and cycling industries previously.
Carbon is used in both the crown and soles of the new models, the ST-Z built for an extremely high MOI and low spin via a central back weight and carbon toe and heel sections for a straight and long flight. Meanwhile, the ST-X is draw biased through the use of a heel side weight, more carbon in the toe, and has somewhat surprisingly proven popular with Tour players due to its deeper shape and more compact profile.