Golf Driver Buying Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Driver

With the advancement in golf equipment technology, the driver has become an integral part of every player’s bag. But how important is it actually?

In a typical par-4 or par-5 hole, there’s no other way to start your game on a strong foot other than the driver. Hence, it’s very important that you select the right driver for your set depending on your skills.

In this golf driver buying guide, we’re going to get deep into all the different features of a modern-day driver. After you’re done reading, you’ll know exactly how to choose the perfect driver for yourself.

What is a Golf Driver?

Before anything else, you must know what a golf driver exactly is. Given the awareness of today’s generation, it would be very unlikely if you didn’t know what a golf driver was. Nonetheless, we’re going to introduce you to it formally.

A golf driver is part of the woods family. If you’re concerned about what number is it, you can call it a 1-wood.

Drivers are usually the longest and most expensive club in a golfer’s bag. Players use them to start off their hole from the tee. The purpose of this golf club is to shoot the ball as far toward the target as possible.

Your final score often depends on your driver’s performance. So, you can only imagine how important it is to select the right one.

The Head Size Restrictions with Golf Drivers

As the sweet spot on a driver is usually very large, regulations stop a driver club head from being too big.

The size and the weight goes hand in hand. There was a time when manufacturers struggled with the head size because if they tried to make it bigger, the weight would become unreasonable.

However, with the introduction of the latest technology and the use of lighter materials, manufacturers now have more freedom over their productions.

The standard club head size for a driver is set at 460cc. When compared to a fairway wood, it’s almost twice the volume!

When you go shopping for your shiny new driver, you’ll find that most of your options hover around 440cc to 460cc.

440cc club heads are designed for advanced players who know how to shape their shots from the tee. On the other hand, 460cc clubs offer more forgiveness.

Apart from the size of the club head, you need to understand a few basic concepts as well to truly dial in your needs for a driver.

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Center of Gravity and Golf Drivers

Shortly known as CG, the center of gravity dictates how a driver feels when you swing it and hit your golf ball with it. It’s a very common term used in both physics and golf.

The center of gravity is the single balancing point on a golf club. You can think of it as a cross-section of weights. It’s a point where the earth has the strongest pull on the club.

In most modern golf drivers, you can control the center of gravity by moving the adjustable weights on the club head.

A rule of thumb to remember when getting your driver is that the lower and the farther back your center of gravity is, the higher the ball will launch. In general, a higher launch angle means more distance.

But it’s only true until your launch angle is 45-degrees. When you send the ball over 45-degree of trajectory in the initial launch, you’ll lose distance.

On the contrary, when the CG is moved forward, you can increase the ball speed. But your overall ball spin and MOI will drop.

The CG being pushed too far forward or backward results in incorrect distances. You’ll either send the ball too high or too far.

When learning how to choose a golf driver, you should always remember the concept of the center of gravity.

You might be wondering what is an MOI. Well, it stands for Moment of Inertia. Let’s find out what it means for you.

What is Moment of Inertia?

For golf clubs, the moment of inertia translates to forgiveness.

You can understand it if you imagine your club head hitting the ball in slow motion. As you’re approaching the ball with tremendous swing speeds, the club head is carrying a lot of kinetic energy. And when it finally hits the ball, the ball will return some of the energy back to the club head.

That’s when the twist happens. It happens in the blink of an eye. That’s why we suggested you to think of your shots in slow motion. As the club head hits the ball, the shaft will twist and change the face angle.

The result? Well, sending the ball too far to the right. Also, known as a slice. For veteran players, they know this concept and they also know how to control it.

But for rookie players, a twist can make or break your par.

That’s where the knowledge of MOI comes into play. The higher the MOI on a driver, the less likely it is to twist on impact. When you invest in a higher MOI club, you minimize your chances of slicing the shot.

Golf Driver Club Head Materials

Just like with any other golf club, the material used to make the club head has a great impact on the overall performance of your driver. It may belong to the woods family, but the club head is not made out of wood.

In most cases, the club head of a golf driver is made from titanium.

It came as a shock, didn’t it? You may have expected steel to be the dominant material here as well. Remember the time we said that a driver is the most expensive club in a golfer’s bag? This is one of the reason.

Titanium is very lightweight yet very strong. The strength to weight ratio is phenomenal on this metal. It allows the manufacturers to generate larger club head sizes without the penalty of weight. The larger the club head, the farther back the center of gravity can be pushed.

Lightweight drivers mean you can swing your club faster to generate more force. And more force means more speed. Finally, more ball speed means more distance!

Also, larger club heads mean larger sweet spots on the face. You get more margin for error, just in case you need it!

Another type of club heads you’ll find on drivers is made composite material. It’s made with a mix of different metals like tungsten, and titanium. You’ll sometimes find carbon in the mix.

The combination results in a strong and lightweight driver. And it’s not entirely made of titanium, the manufacturers can cut costs.

Understanding Launch Conditions

If you get the opportunity to get custom fitted for your driver, you may hear the term ‘launch conditions’. It refers to a combination of conditions that determine your shot off the tee and the result of the shot.

Ball spin and launch angle are usually the two most factors that determine the launch conditions.

A 1700 rpm ball spin for a 17-degree angle is considered the pinnacle of launch conditions. But it’s nearly impossible to achieve, even for seasoned players.

The next best thing is a 3000 rpm spin with a launch angle of 10 to 12 degrees. It’s relatively easier to achieve and that’s what you should aim for with the perfect driver custom-fitted for you.

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Understanding COR and Smash Factor

If this is your first golf diver buying guide, you may be learning about a lot of new things, right? And if we’re not wrong, it feels very good!

At this point in our post, we want to introduce you to COR. It stands for the Coefficient of Restitution. Sound intimidating, right?

If you manage to transfer all of the energy from your club head to the golf ball, your COR would be 1.00.

However, you cannot do that. Regulatory bodies of Golf have set the maximum COR for a driver at 0.83. It simply means that your driver can transfer 83% of the energy to the ball.

Lucky for you, you don’t have to whip out a pen and paper to calculate your COR. A launch monitor will do the job efficiently when you’re getting custom-fitted.

Many rookie players confuse between COR and Smash Factor. They might be very similar, but they are not the same. Smash Factor means the transfer of speed.

In laymen’s terms, Smash Factor calculates the ratio between your club head speed and ball speed, instead of transfer of energy. For example, when your ball speed is 200 mph and your club head speed is 150 mph, you get a Smash Factor of 1.33.

There are no restrictions on Smash Factor. You can generate as much ball speed as you want with your driver as long as your COR is under the threshold.

The Concept of Loft in Golf Drivers

Whenever we create a buying guide for any sort of golf club, we include a section for the loft. Because for many beginners, understanding loft is a little difficult.

Let’s start with loft means. The loft on a golf driver is the angle created between the club face and the shaft of the driver. You’ll notice that most of the drivers have almost flat surfaces, looking toward the target.

It’s because drivers have the least loft. More loft means more ball flight. When you’re trying to send the golf ball as far as you can, you don’t need much height. The brute force applied through the long shaft will do the trick.

In general, drivers have a loft between 8 to 12 degrees. You may think why not 0-degree loft then? It would send the ball the farthest, right?

Well, you need minimum ball flight so that there’s no resistance on the way. If the ball were to roll along the ground, it would slow down due to the friction. Also, there might be a bunker, a water hazard, or even a rough in the way.

Your Adjustability Options When Choosing the Golf Driver

There are some aspects that you cannot control on the go. You have to determine them before you decide to purchase any particular driver. The club head material, shaft material, shaft flex, torque, etc. are some of the constants on a driver.

On the bright side, you get many adjustability options as well. When you’re willing to spend top dollar on a driver from a reputed manufacturer, you get options to adjust your loft, the face angle, and weights.

Let’s see how each of them can impact your gameplay.

Adjustable Loft

Now that you have a clear understanding of how loft works on a golf club, you may want the option to adjust the angle while you’re playing.

Many reputed manufacturers will allow you to change the loft angle by up to 5 degrees! That’s a lot of control over your shots from just one golf club!

When you’re playing at a 3-par hole, you may want to turn the loft up because you don’t need as much distance. Keeping the loft down may even result in you shooting the ball toward out of bounds!

You may either get a twisting knob at the tip of the shaft or an adjustment screw at the bottom of the club head. Whatever it is, you should always test different lofts to see how your shots interact with them.

Also, keep in mind that you cannot change the loft once you start playing a round of golf.

Adjustable Face Angle

It’s a fairly standard offering on almost all golf clubs, including drivers. A face angle refers to the angle of the face at the address. Ideally, you should play with a square face. A square face is when the club face is perfectly perpendicular to the shaft.

But if you have a tendency to either slice or hook your shot, an adjustable face angle driver will help you a lot. With a handy slider on the backside of the club head, you may open or close the club face as you need.

When slicing is your problem, you should close the face by a few degrees to stop the ball from getting lost on the right side. Conversely, open the face by a few degrees to stop duck hooking.

Adjustable Weights

When you want to fine-tune the center of gravity and the MOI of your golf driver, you may want a club that comes with adjustable weights. You need to find the optimal CG on your driver by testing out different positions of the weights at the driving range.

Most top-quality drivers come with adjustable weights. You not only get the option to move the weights but also get to change the weights! In most cases, you can carry weight plugs ranging from 1 gram to all the way up to 20 grams!

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All About Golf Driver Shafts

Do you know what a shaft on a golf club is? Unless you’re an absolute beginner, you know that a shaft is the long handle you hold the driver with.

Speaking of drivers, the material, the flex, and the overall responsiveness of the shaft will have a huge impact on your performance.

Let’s start with shaft material. Then, we’ll move forward to shaft length, torque, and shaft flex.

Different Shaft Materials on Drivers

You’re very unlikely to come across a driver that has anything other than graphite as the shaft material. Drivers are one of the only golf clubs that come in various flex specifications. Coming up with different flexes is only possible with something flexible like graphite.

Graphite shafts are quite lightweight, as you may already know. It contributes to the overall lightweight nature of a driver along with the titanium club head.

Now, let’s move on to shaft flex.

Driver Shaft Flex

The common rule to go with is that the flexible the shaft, the more swing speed you can generate. Also, it will create more spin on the ball.

Stiffer shafts launch the ball lower and tend to shape the ball from left to right. It’s known as a fade in golf.

Depending on the course you play at and your playing style, you can choose between various shaft flex options. Extra Stiff (XS), Stiff (S), and Regular (R) are the three most common types of flex specifications listed by the manufacturers.

You may also find options like L, A, or XXXS, XXS, etc. The L stands for ladies flex, designed for the lady golfers. The A indicates that the driver is particularly made for senior citizens. And both XXS and XXXS refer to even more stiffness.

Driver Shaft Length

According to regulations, a golf driver shaft can be 48 inches long at most. While the longest shaft may get you more distance, you lose some of the control over your shot.

That’s why the majority of the players stick to t 45-46 inches of shaft length. It’s the ideal length to get the distance as well as keep the ball on its right path.

If you’re just starting out and getting your first driver, we recommend that you stick to a 45-inch shaft length.

The Kick Point

Have you heard of it before? Probably not.

The kick point of a driver is the heist point of bend on the shaft. Or, you can think of it as the point where bending starts when you bring the club down and hit the ball.

Generally, lower kick points result in more ball flight. And the opposite happens with a high kick point.

Torque on the Shaft

You may have heard about the concept of torque on a golf club shaft. For drivers, even smaller things like torque play a major role. Many players confuse torque with flex.

While flex refers to the bend in the shaft, torque refers to the twist. Yes, as you bring the driver down from behind your head, the shaft twists a little in your hands. Usually, the less the torque the better. More torque means more ball spin. And more ball spin often leads to incorrect flight paths.

Shaft Feedback and Acoustics

Interpreting the feedback of a club shaft is one of the most amazing skills you can learn. It won’t happen overnight. But in our opinion, it’s a skill every golfer should have.

When you dial in the right flex, torque, kick point on your driver, you will feel it when you impact the ball. Even the sound will say a lot about how well you’ve paired yourself with a golf driver.

If anything feels off to you after the impact, don’t be afraid to test other combinations. The importance of instinct is often neglected when it comes to golf. You can do everything by the book and still go wrong.

That’s why your driver should feel and sound exactly right to your liking. According to many experts, when the pairing is right, you’ll be craving more tee shots!

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Final Tip: Get Custom Fitted Whenever You Can

If you’ve read our golf driver buying guide so far, you may notice the intricacy of the information we’ve shared. A driver can be both a glory and a shame for you. So, you need to nail the choosing process.

That’s why we would always recommend you to get custom-fitted rather than buying a driver off of the shelf. A professional will have a launch monitor handy where you can get important insights about your launch control.

The bottom line is, having an expert on the premises when you’re learning how to choose a golf driver is very helpful. You can save yourself from a lot of frustration and losing money at the same time.

Final Words

The technology of manufacturing golf has come a long way in the past few decades. At the same time, it has become harder for beginners to choose from the plethora of options. So, we had to step up with an incredible golf driver buying guide.

So, if you’re in the market to get your first driver, keep all the information we’ve shared with you. Happy golfing!

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