Putting the ball in play. That’s what it’s all about. How much easier is it to hit your second shot from the fairway than from the rough or the trees? It’s even easier if your drive is longer and closer to the green, right? No question about it, driving the ball long and straight sets up the hole for low scores. Good drives give you a feeling of confidence; knowing you can drive the ball in the fairway makes the game of golf much easier. Let’s look at some equipment pointers to help you select the right driver to match your game.
First, the club must look good when you sit in down in playing position. Do you like the color? What about the direction the face points? Is there an arrow or some other mark on top of the club to help you line up? Does the head look too big or too small? What looks good to one player may look terrible to another. Go to a shop or store that has many drivers in stock. Take each one off the shelf and look at it; some will seem attractive. Keep these in mind as potential choices for you. The ones that don’t look good to you probably will not perform well either; it is best to put them back on the shelf. One of the keys to choosing the right driver is that it must look good to you when you rest it on the ground at address.
A driver has a number of important characteristics that make it perform a certain way. Your pro or clubmaker should be able to tell you the specifications of the drivers that you like. Let’s start with the size of the club, a feature better known as volume. A club with a larger volume will be more forgiving if you don’t hit the ball in the center of the club all the time. You should try to play with the largest driver that you feel comfortable with. Normally, larger clubs are made from titanium. Unfortunately, they are more expensive than clubs made from stainless steel or wood. But considering that the driver will be hit about 14 times per round, the more expensive club may be worth it.
A fact to keep in mind though; no matter whether the club is made of wood, steel or titanium, the material will not make the ball go any further. Once a certain hardness is reached, the ball does not know it is being hit by a more or less hard or expensive material. Maraging steel is harder than stainless or titanium; some of the new “supersteels” are harder yet. Clubs made with these are no longer than others for most players. There is no one material that guarantees longer and straighter shots. If there was such a magic material, don’t you think everyone would be using it?
What stronger metals do allow though, is that in production, the club faces can be made thinner. Beginning in 1998, the USGA began exploring the concept of face rebound or the “trampoline effect” as they called it. The newer metals actually allow the face to flex just a bit. If the face flexes, the thought is that it will rebound, launching the ball at a higher speed, equating to more distance. While this concept is very much up for debate, the USGA does test drivers to ensure their faces do not flex too much, causing too great of a rebound. All top brand name and component clubs conform to the USGA’s requirements for rebound or lack thereof. The conclusion: The metals in the club themselves do not create longer shots; the fact that the faces can be made thinner when stronger metals are used may -and emphasize the word may – create a potential for added distance.
How high the driver hits the ball is a result of the club’s loft. Typically the loft of a club is engraved on its sole. A club with a higher loft will hit the ball higher. If there is such a thing as a “standard” loft, it would be in the 10 degree range for a man’s driver and 12 for a lady’s driver. If you usually hit the ball too high, try to find a driver with less loft than normal. On the other hand, if you have trouble getting your drives in the air or if most of your drives end up in the rough instead of the fairway, you may want to look for a driver with 12 or 13 degrees of loft. Usually golfers who swing slower are better off with higher lofts, while stronger players who swing fast may do better with lower lofted drivers.
It is also important to be aware that, as hard to believe as it may seem to be, different manufacturers measure loft differently. One company’s 10 degree driver may actually measure at 12 on a another’s specification gauge. The lofts of some of the most popular drivers in the game are actually weaker than what the sole engraving indicates. This is probably not a “bad” thing though. Most players have a “macho mentality” with a driver; they think a lower lofted club is better and will hit the ball longer. The sole may show 9 degrees, which satisfies the macho thing, while the actual loft is closer to 11, most likely producing straighter shots that are easier to find in the fairway.
Another feature to look at when considering how high you hit your drives is the club’s face height. Clubs with deeper (taller) faces will hit the ball lower. Drivers with shallow (not as tall) faces will help you to get the ball in the air. Deeper face drivers are usually better for player with higher swing speeds or for those who have a tendency to “sky” the ball. The added depth of the face turns the skied shots into shots that go longer and lower.
Shallow faced clubs have become very popular in the last couple of years. Their lower centers of gravity (CG’s) make them easy to get airborne. Due to the lower CG’s stronger lofts produce shots similar to higher lofts of standard faced clubs. That is a 9 degree shallow club will tend to produce similar ball flight to a 10 degree standard driver. One advantage of the shallow drivers is that they are easier to hit from the fairway should a player want to attack a long par five in two shots.