Golf Driver Technology

Golf Driver Technology

The “big dog” is the club everyone loves to hit, especially if they can hit it well! Modern driver technology has moved on leaps and bounds over the past 30 years or so. Wooden driver heads have been consigned to golf museums and steel shafts are an endangered species. Driver designers are finding more ways to help you become a better player by improving your driver performance. Let’s take a look at how drivers have changed.

What Are Drivers Made Of?

Improved driver materials have changed the game for golfers everywhere. TaylorMade has been at the forefront of this technology, allowing for weight savings and overall improved performance from the tee. Drivers are made up of a few different components: club head, shaft, and grip. The club head is the most important piece and is where the lion’s share of the development and marketing budget is targeted. It has seen the most changes.

For centuries a driver’s head was made of wood but during the 20th-century people started to experiment with metal for driver clubheads. Aluminum was initially tried before steel became the standard. Probably the first successful model was produced by TaylorMade in 1979 the “Pittsburgh Persimmon” model.

Over the next 40 years, the size and composition of drivers have developed to include titanium and carbon.

About a hundred years ago steel replaced hickory as the choice of shafts. More recently graphite or hybrid shafts have become the norm in drivers and fairway woods and also increasingly in irons.

Grips which originally would have been pieces of leather wrapped around the top of the club were replaced by rubber grips.

What Has Changed In Golf Driver Technology?

The modern golf club and driver are designed to help the golfer hit the ball further and more accurately than ever before. The size of the head has increased massively from the days of persimmon. So much so that the USGA/R&A imposed a limit of 460cc. If you’ve ever compared today’s drivers with one from 30 years ago then you’ll see that the size of an old driver may be intimidating particularly to new golfers or high handicap players.

The majority of drivers now come at or just below this limit in an effort to increase the effective hitting area. Modern drivers offer massive improvements in forgiveness compared with the wooden clubs of yesteryear.

Manufacturers are using artificial intelligence to try to eke out further performance gains. The centre of gravity has tended to move lower and deeper in an effort to help players get the ball in the air more easily.

The advent of metal as the material of choice meant perimeter weighting could be applied to drivers and this has been taken to an even greater degree with the use of lightweight materials like titanium and carbon.

Some drivers on the market will have their CG tweaked by placing more weight toward the heel or toe in an effort to reduce a draw or fade.

Improvements in the design of the face have increased ball speed on both center and off-center strikes to help generate more distance. These are at or very close to the allowable limits set by the governing bodies.

The advent of the Internet also makes choosing a driver easier as you have a vast array of information at your fingertips so you can better understand which models and settings will suit your particular swing.

How Does Driver Adjustability Work?

With many new drivers from brands like Cobra, Titleist, Ping and Callaway you can use adjustability to customize the driver for each individual player. This enables golfers to change the loft, center of gravity and on some models the lie angle to get maximum distance and accuracy out of their drives.

Driver adjustability can be an important factor when selecting a driver. Being able to swap the shaft for a different model in a matter of seconds makes the fitter’s job so much easier and should give you confidence that your golf equipment suits your swing as much as possible.

The most expensive drivers will usually offer the ability to adjust the loft by changing the hosel settings. This varies by manufacturer but you will usually have the ability to move up or down by around 1.5°. You will also find a lot of the premium models have movable weights that you can use to fine tune your ball flight and shot shape.

Additionally, adjustable drivers often have moveable weights which allow for increased MOI (moment of inertia) around the clubface for enhanced forgiveness on off-center shots. Driver adjustability is key in helping golfers optimize performance from drivers and hit straighter shots with greater consistency.

How Does Shaft Flex Affect My Driver?

Shaft flex is a major factor in determining how well you will hit the ball. Depending on your swing speed and other factors, the shaft flex can have a big impact on the trajectory and distance of your golf ball.

Generally, if you have a slower swing speed, then you should choose a shaft with a softer flex to help increase ball launch angle, spin rate and overall distance. On the other hand, if you have a faster swing speed, then you should opt for a stiffer shaft with more control to help reduce spin and improve accuracy.

The kick point of the shaft can also affect the trajectory of your shots. If you tend to hit the ball too high then you may benefit from a shaft with a higher kick point, conversely, if you tend to struggle to get much height then you might benefit from a low kick point.

Ultimately, selecting the right shaft flex for your driver can make or break your game so it’s important to find one that works best for you.

What Driver Loft Should I Choose?

When choosing a loft for your golf club, it is important to look at the numbers you are producing on a launch monitor. Most golfers tend to suffer because they pick a driver with an insufficient amount of loft so bear this in mind when you go to a custom fit session.

Generally speaking, a player that generates plenty of ball speed will probably require a clubhead with less loft than a player who doesn’t. For many club golfers with a 90 mph speed, 10.5° is probably a good place to start. Since most people are looking to maximize their carry distance you need to find a combination of head and shaft that puts your launch numbers into the optimum window.

Having too little loft can cost you distance and also accuracy as a lower lofted driver will usually be harder to hit straight.

How Often Should I Buy A New Driver?

To be honest, if you have a driver that is less than about five years old and you were custom fit for it then it is unlikely you will see much improvement if you purchase a brand-new model. My own driver is about eight years old and at a recent Titleist fitting, I was only able to gain about 10 yards which I didn’t think was worth parting with $600. Obviously if your swing has changed since your last custom fit or your driver is getting old then you might see more benefits from new technology.

Golf Driver Technology: Summary

Drivers from the last 20 years are much easier to hit than a persimmon driver would be and also are much easier to look after. I know I struggled with the old Browning driver I started with!

These improvements have come at a price though with modern clubs from top-tier manufacturers now costing $600 or more!

Of course, you can save money by looking out for discounted models or buying used from sites like eBay. If you have your heart set on a new driver then check out these tips for buying a driver.

Rick Shiels compares two drivers 20 years apart

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

Can a draw bias driver actually correct my slice?

Draw bias drivers are designed to help those who suffer from a slice, which is when the ball curves too far to the right (for right-handers). A draw bias driver can be used to counter this and bring the ball back on course or at least reduce the slice enough to make it playable.

It works by putting extra weight on the heel side of the club which helps pull the ball back toward the fairway as spin is imparted on the golf ball by gear effect.

If you’re having trouble with a slice, then a draw bias driver could definitely help you. It’s important to get fitted for one though, as not all clubs are made equal and some may not provide you with the best results.

What is MOI?

MOI is an acronym that stands for “Moment of Inertia”, which is a measure of an object’s resistance to changes in its rotation rate. In terms of golf clubs, a high MOI means they will resist twisting and therefore should lead to straighter shots.

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