What are the Best Golf Driver For Mid Handicappers in 2018?
Let’s face it:
Game improvement drivers are a dime a dozen these days.
All the big names in the club manufacturing business churn out new models on a nearly annual basis.
But top end models can cost you anywhere from a couple of hundred to close to a thousand dollars, making drivers the most expensive golf clubs in the market by some distance.
Picking out the right club for you from the crowd can be a complicated chore unless you know exactly what you need.
In this comparison review we determine the best golf driver for mid handicappers and all you need to know to select the perfect fit for you.
Our top choices include:
Our Roundup Selection
Editors Choice: Cobra King LTD Driver
Following a common practice among golf club manufacturers, Cobra decided to resurrect a legendary series from its past, resulting in the latest iteration of the King series.
The King LTD may be a re-imagination of a past legend, but the club is one of the most futuristic looking drivers in the market.
Incidentally, the series also includes some of the best fairway woods for mid handicappers. Using space technology, Cobra has managed to bring down the weight in its drivers and woods.
MoI is increased with a lightweight carbon fiber crown, and the CoG is placed as far back as possible (calling it Zero Gravity CG), increasing the size of the sweet spot.
There is a unique space-themed removable weight at the sole, and you can peer into the driver club head in the King LTD.
- Probably the best game improvement driver for long distance shots.
- Good accuracy and forgiveness, helps even mishits get good distance.
- With a great cracking sound on impact, the club gives good feel and feedback.
- Manages to look futuristic yet classic at the same time, the spaceport at the sole is unique.
- Favors mid handicappers with higher swing levels more than those with low swing speeds.
- The whole “Space Port” design might feel a tad too gimmicky for some.
Best Value: Wilson Staff D200 Driver
With a 460cc club head and an adjustable hosel, Wilson offers a lot of advanced features on their lightweight driver.
They have managed to shave off weight strategically from the shaft and club head to accommodate these features.
The D200 series also has some very popular irons, which can be considered as some of the best golf irons for mid handicappers. The D200 driver, on the other hand, can also be found in our womens golf clubs reviews, due its the light weight, forgiveness and competitive pricing.
- One of the easiest clubs to point and shoot across long distances.
- Consistent and accurate, helping you to keep errant shots down to a minimum.
- Adjustable loft helps change launch height at will.
- A simple classic design and look, with a sober matte black finish and chrome appendages.
- Impact sound is disappointing.
- Not suitable for fast swingers.
Best Seller: Callaway Great Big Bertha Driver
The Big Bertha is another one of those famous old driver series brought back by its manufacturer in recent years.
The original was one of the best drivers ever, redefining the way people looked at golf clubs. The new standard version of the Great Big Bertha is arguably the best game improvement driver in the business right now, aimed at golfers with average or slow swing speeds.
It has a generous 460cc club head with a broad and shallow design that heavily favors forgiveness. The crown is forged composite, with generous perimeter weighting, and there are sliding weights that add something extra regarding adjustable features.
- Has the “wow” factor when it comes to distance, you can hit booming drives with this club.
- One of the most forgiving drivers in the business.
- Easy to swing, gives you the confidence to just let it rip from the tee.
- Sliding weights can be used to fine tune the driver to your preference.
- The dark finish offers sophistication and elegance.
- The alignment aid is not prominent or distinct enough for the job.
- Some golfers dislike the inherent draw bias.
Worthy Competitor: TaylorMade M1 Driver
With a distinctive black and white finish on the large 460cc clubhead, the M1 from TaylorMade does manage to stand out from the pack.
With a lot of carbon used in the club head, they have managed to shave off precious weight and used that to place several adjustable weight features at the sole.
There are two sliding weights, one to increase and decrease CoG and MoI, while the other tweaks fade or draw bias.
Add an adjustable loft hosel, and you have more customizable settings on the M1 than most of its peers, making it one of the best game improvement drivers.
- One of the best in the long distance game, capable of getting serious distance even on mishits.
- Best in class adjustability, with lofts and twin sliding weights.
- Keeps it simple yet distinctive in the looks department.
- Excellent playability, you can tweak the club to prioritize distance or finesse.
- Probably not one of the best golf drivers for beginners.
- Too many adjustability features might force some golfers to seek the help of a club fitter.
Worthy Competitor: Mizuno Golf JPX 900 Driver
Mizuno is known for making some of the best golf irons for mid handicappers, but with the JPX series of drivers, they have upped their game in the longer clubs market as well.
If you can look beyond the sharp blue finish, you will find a driver with serious technology backing it up. It is one of the few drivers we tested in this category that sports a 440cc club head.
But despite the smaller head, a shallower and wider design helps the driver to keep up with its peers in the forgiveness department. With two 8g sliding weights, the driver offers a high level of customization.
- The club looks bold in blue, the black face and white alignment aid on the crown meld nicely with the overall finish.
- With a loud metallic sound on impact, the club is easy to swing.
- Excellent forgiveness on a smaller club head, even mishits are not severely punished.
- Highest levels of adjustability and adaptability, you can spend a lot of time creating your own unique driver configuration.
- Many golfers dislike the blue paint job.
- The driver lags behind the rest of the competition in the distance game.
A Brief History Of Drivers
Golf has a history stretching back to hundreds of years. The earliest clubs used for driving from the tee were called “longnoses.”
In case you didn’t know, drivers are the lowest lofted and longest shafted fairway wood, the 1-wood. In the past, these clubs were crafted from the harder woods of European tree species like apple, holly, beech, pear, and later, persimmon and hickory.
The shafts were also carved from wood, usually from the Ash or Hazelwood. Golfers were still using wooden clubs until the latter half of the 20th century. Gary Adams created the first all metal wood, cast from stainless steel, and labeled it the “Pittsburgh Persimmon.”
By the 1980s, metal woods had largely replaced their wooden predecessors. Modern drivers have even left steel by the wayside, opting for even lighter materials like titanium, carbon fiber, graphite, and composites.
A Brief Introduction To The Modern Driver
Unlike the best irons for mid handicappers, drivers are solitary clubs. The modern driver is the longest club in golf and usually have the largest club heads as well. Regarding looks and design, drivers share many features with the best fairway woods for mid handicappers. Manufacturers usually release drivers and woods in the same series.
Related: If you are a beginner or need to gift a driver for a starting golfer, check our selection of the best drivers for high handicappers.
The modern driver has a large clubhead made from either titanium or carbon fiber. Multi-material club heads are very common as well, with an emphasis on creating the lightest as fastest swinging clubs with high forgiveness. To aid in swing speeds, graphite is the preferred choice for shafts. Drivers have loft angles anywhere between 8-20 degrees. Many clubs also sport adjustable features like movable weights and multiple loft angles.
Drivers And Legal Club Head Size
When manufacturers started sampling with lighter materials like titanium, they were able to make club heads larger than ever before. Within the short span of a decade in the 1990s, driver club head size went from 195cc in wooden drivers (150cc in metal versions) to over 300cc by the year 2000 and touched 500cc in 2002. This was when the USGA decided to step in, to protect the element of skill in the game.
The maximum permissible club head size for drivers was kept at 460cc in 2003. And that is where you will find almost all game improvement and max game improvement drivers these days. Better player clubs can be found in a slightly smaller 440cc configuration.
Ideal Characteristics For A Mid Handicapper Driver
Club Head Size: 460cc club head size is the best choice. It is legal, and offers the maximum forgiveness. The best game improvement drivers should have large club head designs that improve their overall Moment of Inertia or MoI. MoI determines the overall size of the sweet spot on the clubface. The larger the sweet spot, the easier it is for golfers to get good contact with the ball on their swings. The better the contact, the longer and faster the ball will travel.
And the larger club head size also has other advantages. For instance, the club face area can be made wider as well. Have more area to work with makes it easier for designers to tweak the thickness of the surface, to further improve the club’s Coefficient of Restitution or CoR. Higher CoR on a club face allows for more efficient energy transfer from your swing to the ball on impact, resulting in higher ball speeds. When a club face has low CoR, it will twist or flex away upon impact with the ball, resulting in less energy transfer and slower ball speeds.
Shaft Flex: There is little choice in shaft materials since graphite is the best option out there. If you have above average swing speeds closer to the triple digit mark, you may opt for stiffer flex options for optimal ball speeds and launch height. Shafts of regular and increased flex like “Senior” for Senior Players and “Ladies” for Women are recommended for players with swing speeds below 85mph.
Driver Loft: Look for a driver with adjustable loft for added versatility. Ideal loft for a golfer is linked to their individual swing speeds. The basic rule is to look for higher lofts when your swing speed is on the lower end of the spectrum. The average golfer with 80-90 swing speed will find loft ranges between 9-11 degrees ideal. Higher swing speeds and Driving Distance are rewarded by lofts under 9, while speeds below 80mph require lofts upwards of 11 degrees. When you buy adjustable drivers, do remember that a single club will not cover all the possible loft angles. It is common to find drivers which can swap 3 or more angle settings, usually within a range of 6 degrees, from 8-13 degrees, 11-16 degrees and so on.
The Importance of Custom Fitting
Many golfers in the higher handicaps have a common misconception that custom fitting is only for the elite pros. In fact, custom fitting is imperative for golfers at all skill levels. Manufacturers tend to create clubs with a standardized demographic in mind. The current drives are designed keeping mind golfers of a particular height, usually between 5’8″ and 6’2″.
And besides factors like height, we all have unique swing styles and stances. Using a club that is not in sync with your physique and swing style can harm your skill progression in the long run. Custom fitting allows you to tweak the club to your unique requirements, with everything from loft angles, lie angle, adjustable weight positions, shaft flex, shaft length and grip size. If such a service is available at your local course or from the manufacturer, you should avail it. The benefits are well worth the expense.
Watch this informative YouTube video to learn about the importance of custom fitting, from a professional custom fitter himself:
Driver Buying Guide For Average Golfers and Mid Handicappers
The driver market is saturated with a bewildering array of clubs these days. Manufacturers are constantly honing the forgiveness, distance, ball speed and launch height of their drivers.
A lot of money is going into the R&D for the latest breakthroughs in golfing technology, especially in the game improvement section. And that is no surprise since that is the core demographic which accounts for the largest number of golf club buyers.
If you have recently broken into the below-20 handicap level, you should be looking to buy a new driver to improve your game further. Here are the key features that go into the best game improvement drivers:
There are strict legal restrictions regarding the maximum allowed clubhead size for drivers.
The upper limit is 460cc, and it comes as no surprise that a vast majority of the drivers sold in the market are of this size. The larger size means increased forgiveness, and that is an essential attribute for high handicappers as well as mid handicappers.
For better players who like to shape their shots, drivers in the 440cc size category and available.
Persimmon wood was the main choice for driver heads up until the 1980s at least. But these days, you will be hard-pressed to find one in the market!
More and more clubs have a composite construction, with titanium and carbon fiber being the materials of choice due to their lightweight properties.
Titanium is usually found on the clubface to improve ball speed, while carbon fiber is placed on the crown and rear primarily to shave off some precious weight.
Heavier materials like tungsten are often added to several areas of the club head to improve the perimeter weighting.
If you have been reading up on some of our other beginner’s club guides, you will doubtless be aware that perimeter weighting enlarges the sweet spot and improves the overall forgiveness of a golf club.
Instead of having static tungsten parts on the club head, many manufacturers offer moveable weights with their top of the line drivers.
When you move these around the club head, vertically or horizontally, it affects the overall balance of the club and its Center of Gravity (CoG) as well as Moment of Inertia (MoI).
Without going too much into complex physics, the basic rule of thumb is, when the CoG and MoI are lower, and towards the back of the clubhead, it causes an increase in spin and overall forgiveness of the club.
Result: you can launch the ball higher. Moving the weights forward will have the opposite effect, reducing spin levels and launch height while increasing ball speeds and distance.
Some drivers have specially designed surfaces on the clubface that claim to increase the Coefficient of Restitution (CoR).
If the CoR of a driver is one, then that means that all the energy (100%) from your swing will be transferred to the ball.
But the rule book states that the CoR of a driver cannot exceed 0.83 (or 83% energy transfer).
Higher CoR causes increased ball speed and distance on shots.
Loft and Lie
The loft of a driver is directly responsible for influencing the spin and initial flight trajectory of the ball. Higher lofted clubs will launch the ball higher into the air.
Adjustable loft angle is a standard feature on modern golf drivers. With a minor tweak at the heel of the club, players can alter the loft angle of the club, usually within a range of 4-5 degrees.
Standard loft angle on drivers ranges between 8-13 degrees. Medium to high handicappers will benefit from higher loft angles while better players can work better with loft angles under 10 degrees.
A change in the loft angle can have implications for the lie of the club face. The lie is how the shaft of the club aligns to the ground at the point of address where the club strikes the ball.
This determines the direction of the ball flight, to either the left or right. If you don’t want to mess this up, try looking for drivers that have special adjustable hosels that prevent any changes in loft angle from affecting the lie of the club.
there is not much by way of choice when it comes to shaft materials. Graphite is the industry standard and the best available option for longer woods and drivers.
Flex levels though, can vary and are dependent entirely on the swing speeds of the individual player.
Better players and low handicappers usually have high swing speeds and benefit from stiffer flex levels, while high handicappers and seniors with swing speeds below 90 or 80mph will need less stiff options like regular, senior, or ladies flex.
48 inches is the legal limit for drivers, though popular shaft lengths tend to gravitate around the 45-46 inch mark. This is the length at which there is a healthy balance between distance and control on shots with a driver.
Golf clubs are mass manufactured products. Golfers are unique individuals with their physical traits and personal swing and stance styles.
For the best possible results with any golf club, a custom fitting is indispensable.
Buy a driver that ticks all the boxes for you and then see a half decent club-fitter to get it tweaked to your individual requirements.
The ideal driver for mid handicappers is a club that combines great distance game with a right mix of adjustable features, and toes the line between forgiveness, feel and feedback.
From our top five list, the Callaway Great Big Bertha ticks all the right boxes and deserves my recommendation for the best golf driver for mid handicappers in 2017.