The Best Golf Drivers in early 2018
There was a time when a driver involved just a rubber grip, steel shaft, and a club head made from, believe it or not, a simple piece of hickory or persimmon wood. All that sounds like ancient history these days, as we review the latest drivers crafted using futuristic titanium, carbon fiber composites, graphite, and tungsten, just to name a few raw materials that go into the crafting of a modern driver. Current driver heads come packed with features whose names often feel more at home aboard a spaceship, not on a piece of sports equipment. Don't think that we are complaining Luddites though! All this technology has helped improve the performance and forgiveness of drivers, helping even an ordinary Joe feel like the longest driver on the Tour, similar to a Rory McIlroy, Luke List, or Brooks Koepka, just to name a few of the big hitters. If you too want to feel like a pro on the course, here are the best drivers in golf in 2017:
Modern Driver Technology GuideBuying a golf driver is a complicated business these days. A brand new driver can cost you anywhere from a couple of hundred to close to a thousand dollars. If you want to get the best out of such an expensive stick, you need to know the underlying technology that goes into a driver.
Optional Head SizeThis is one area where change has been nothing short of explosive. We were still seeing wood and steel drivers with 150-190cc club heads as recently as the 1990s. Then Mizuno introduced titanium to the golf industry, and the result was immediate. The club head size went from 250cc in 1995 to 300cc by 2000, and then 400-500cc within two years. The USGA stepped in to stop things from "blowing out of proportion" in 2003, and ergo, we have a 460cc restriction on golf club head size, to ensure that at least some skill is required to hit a driver in golf! 460cc is what you want if you are a beginner, or a mid-high handicapper, while 440cc and lower drivers are available for the lower handicappers and scratch golfers. Beyond just the volume, club heads also sport different shapes, shallow vs. deep faces, lofts and face angles to suit various types of golfers. You'll probably need the help of a club fitter to figure out your swing style, attack angle and the suitability of a particular driver design.
CoG and MoICenter of Gravity (CoG) is a term that you see on every golf club advert these days, not just the drivers. The lower the CoG, the higher the loft on shots and the higher the ball travels after impact. Beginners and average players with slower swings benefit from lower CoG since they need altitude assistance to help gain more distance on shots. A flatter trajectory will work for more advanced players who can generate higher than average swing speeds. So we also have deep faced clubs with higher positioned CoG, but the low CoG variants are more numerous to accommodate the larger number of mid-high handicap players. Moment of Inertia (MoI) is essential if you want club heads that deliver good distance even on mishits. When you miss the sweet spot on any golf shot, the clubface has a tendency to twist, preventing an optimal transfer of energy from your swing to the ball. High MoI prevents the club face from twisting on impacts farther from the sweet spot. This increases the forgiveness of the driver, something that is usually associated with perimeter weighting.
Adjustable Loft and Face AngleThe loft and face angle of a driver are deeply interconnected. Any change made to one feature will inevitably impact the other. The hosel of the club, the part that connects the club head to shaft, is where the tweaking usually happens. Adjustable loft drivers have a hosel that can be rotated to change the loft angle, usually within a maximum range of 4-5 degrees. Not all drivers have the feature to adjust the face angle separately. While some opt for a specially designed hosel offset that allows the loft angle to be changed without affects the face angle or lie, others use a screw mechanism to change the face angle/lie independently. While a majority of golfers show an inordinate amount of interest in drivers with adjustable loft and face angles, a vast majority of them never attempt to change any of the settings after buying these expensive clubs. Lower lofts are great if you have a tendency to sky the ball from the tee, while lofts around the 12-degree mark are ideal if the converse is true, that is, you are struggling to get meaningful height to your drives. As for club face tweaks, closed club faces can prevent slices, while more open clubface settings can effectively deal with a tendency to hook the ball.
Changeable Shafts and HeadsGone are the days when you had epoxy glue holding together the club head to the shaft on a driver. Several new clubs come with detachable heads, thanks to recent rule relaxations by the R&A. Some manufacturers employ a rotating hosel mechanism, while others use a screw in the system. The heads and shafts on such drivers can be swapped using a small tool, but not during a round of golf.
Bonus Theory for Golf Geeks: High CoR/Hot Face TechnologiesThe Coefficient of Restitution is a technical term that signifies the amount of energy transferred between objects. In our case, these would be the club face and the golf ball at the time of impact. Drivers with high CoR will generate higher ball speeds on shots since more energy from the swing is transferred to the ball successfully. The highest possible CoR is 1.000, which is impossible for a golf club, mainly because the club and ball are made of different materials and have vastly different weights/masses. The R&A and USGA rules stipulate a maximum CoR of .830. Leading manufacturers employ different tricks to get as close to this magic number as possible. These include using special "hot metals" that improve the flexibility of the club face, thinner crowns, and even nitrogen gas filled chambers in the head.
Adjustable WeightsMultiple weight sockets and sliding slots on club heads allow users to move small weighted pieces across the club head. These are usually located on the sole, at the heel and toe areas, to have an effect on the shape of your shots. These features can be used to tweak the trajectory of your drives, as well as any draw and fade bias. Sliding weights are more versatile than the socket based weights since with the latter you can have a maximum of 2 or 3 different settings. Sliding mechanism offers far more possible variations in weight positions. If you want some handy tips regarding all things golf, YouTube is a great place. Check ou this particular video for some neat tips on choosing a driver that best suits your attributes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IerZrMfGIEc
Titleist is one of the major brands that don’t stick to the standard yearly release cycle. They spend extra time on R&D to ensure that when they do eventually release a new club, it has some serious performance boost to offer.
The 917 doesn’t buck that trend, with an all new adjustable weight system that has been in the making for nearly five years.
In all drivers, adjustable mechanism brings added weight from the extra screws and similar support structures.
The 917 drivers overcome this by adding a slot in the sole of the club and providing several small cylinders ranging from 8g to 16g in weight, in neutral and top heavy configurations.
You can swap the weights to tweak the draw and fade bias of the driver, as well as the spin levels.
What we like
- The D2 is the larger club head in the 917 series and offers more forgiveness that traditional Titleist drivers from the past.
- The SureFit CG adjustable weight provides a lot of variations for the fullest customization possible on a driver.
- Excellent feel and feedback on shots, with a crisp, robust and metallic impact sound.
- Adjustable lofts and lie options make this a favorite of golfers who love to tweak their drivers.
What we dislike
- Probably not among the best golf drivers for beginners, with such advanced features.
- The gray finish divides opinion and looks decidedly worse than black Titleist drivers from the past.
- You will need the help of a club fitter to unlock the potential of this driver fully.
Evolutionary progress is the watchword with the M1 series, with this being the 2nd iteration of the club released in 2017.
It builds on the success of its one-year-old predecessor, without doing top much to fix something that wasn’t broke in the first place.
The main change is a redesign of the old moveable weights system, which has been tweaked to provide more launch and spin options.
Marketed as a better player driver, the new M1 is a serious contender for best golf driver award in 2017.
What we like
- Movable slots provide top of the line adjustability with numerous combinations of settings.
- The feel and forgiveness have also been improved with a slightly larger clubhead.
- The sharp black and white design on the club head looks good, and offer a great contrast that aids in alignment of shots.
- The shaft choices are excellent, especially the Kuro Kage and HZRDUS Yellow 65.
- Adjustable lofts provide further customization options.
What we dislike
- Very expensive when compared to its sibling, the highly competent M2 driver.
- Too many adjustable features for beginners and casual golfers.
Mizuno is not usually included in the list of brands reputed for making the best golf drivers of all time, but the JPX 900 does have some serious technology behind it.
You get two adjustable sliding weights on rails at the sole, a compact yet generous looking 440cc head, and an adjustable hosel that is par for the course in the driver market these days.
Clad in their traditional bright blue, the driver offers game improvement characteristics that make this one of the best golf drivers for mid handicappers.
And with the added adjustable features, Mizuno are reaching a stage where their drivers are not just for hardcore Mizuno fans anymore.
What we like
- Four sliding weights offer a nearly infinite amount of customizable combinations and permutations.
- The 440cc head looks larger at address, thanks to a deeper design that improves overall forgiveness. A lightweight club that is easy to swing, with excellent feedback on impact.
- Delivers consistently accurate shots, with extra distance on offer at the right settings.
What we dislike
- Blue is not a popular color choice in a world populated by shiny black drivers.
- Not the best golf driver when it comes to distance on shots.
We simply had to include a max game improvement driver in our top 5 list, and this is probably one of the best golf drivers for high handicappers in the market at the moment.
The Fusion drivers use a mix of a titanium exo-cage as the main body of the club head, with added carbon crown to further improve the MoI and overall forgiveness. The Speed Step crown guarantees faster swing speed, a must have in the max game improvement category.
While advanced movable weights are given a miss, you still get the adjustable hosel to tweak loft angles.
The driver is available in two shaft length options, as well as four different flex variants.
What we like
- The all black finish with the carbon fiber crown looks distinctive and quite cool.
- One of the best golf drivers for high handicappers, with class leading forgiveness and accuracy, even on awful mishits.
- One of the easiest clubs to hit out of the bag, just point and shoot.
- Excellent distance, especially for those golfers with slower than average swing speeds.
What we dislike
- Not the longest driver, especially for players with higher swing speeds.
- The triangular shape of the club head is not very popular among golfers.
Cobra has a history of having produced some of the best golf drivers of all time, some of which have been used by none other than Tiger Woods himself.
There are three different options within the latest F7 series of drivers from Cobra. You can opt for the F7 and if you want the added customization features like movable weights and adjustable loft angles.
The F7+ is for players with higher swing speeds, with a slightly smaller 455cc head and forward biased CoG for lower spin.
For those who dislike fiddling with their drivers, Cobra has the F7 TI titanium driver, which has one single fixed weight at the sole.
All three versions fall squarely into the game improvement category and can be considered among the best golf drivers for mid handicappers and beginners in 2017.
What we like
- Smart sensors in the grip can be connected to the Cobra app for course data and other stats.
- A very comprehensive line-up of drivers that cater to golfers of diverse tastes and swing capabilities.
- Offers a good balance between adjustable features and consistency on shots.
- Accuracy and forgiveness are also on the higher side.
- Soft and stable feel on impact, with a deep and satisfying sound.
What we dislike
- Doesn’t have any deep customization options comparable to sliding weights.
- Not the best in the business when it comes to distance shots.
The top drivers of 2017 all have a fair share of deep customization options, especially in the mid handicapper and better player segments. The best golf drivers for beginners, on the other hand, tend to have minimal configuration options so as not to overwhelm the newer players.
The Titleist 917 D2 impressed us the most as one of the best new golf drivers 2017 has produced, with its revolutionary new adjustable weights system, and overall playability on the course.
For beginners, we recommend either getting the Callaway Big Bertha Fusion or the Cobra King F7.