Golf Driver Buying Guide: What Should I Buy?

Written by Michael VanDerLaan 

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Golf Gear Advisor compiled a comprehensive golf driver buying guide to help you make the best decision before you buy a new club

With all of the television ads and social media craze over golf’s newest drivers, making a choice you can be happy with has become a daunting task. That’s why the experts here at Golf Gear Advisor have compiled a golf driver buying guide. 

Our goal is to give you all the pertinent information to sift through the salesman-like noise of the advertisers and find a driver that will have you hitting the ball longer and straighter. 

What Is A Driver In Golf?

In golf, clubs are separated into categories that can be broadly defined as woods, irons, wedges, and putters. Drivers fall into the category of woods, and are traditionally known as a 1-wood. 

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The driver is typically the longest club in a person’s set of golf clubs. It is also the club with the largest head. These characteristics make it the club that goes the farthest. There are drivers geared towards both men and women , however we find that it is more important to choose your driver based on things like swing speed.

So when do you use the driver? With very few exceptions, the driver is used from the tee box with the intent of advancing the ball as far as possible towards the green. While you will typically use the driver on par 4’s and 5’s, however there are times when it can come in handy on a long par 3. 

The face angle - known as the loft of a club - will usually be somewhere between 8 and 13 degrees. A lower loft will correspond with a lower launch angle and ball flight, so it’s important to understand your individual needs when buying the right driver for you. 

Modern Day Drivers

Golfer Hitting A Modern Driver

Twist Face. Speed Slot. Adjustable Hosel. These are just a few of the hit words you might read when you start to research drivers. But what does it all mean, and does it matter? Below, we have laid out the things that actually make a difference in the performance of a driver. These are the things you will want to know before you buy, so let’s quit dilly dallying and get into it. 

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How To Choose The Right Driver

Materials

The type of material used to build a driver has an impact on sound, feel, and ball speed. These are all highly important factors to finding a driver you will love. Each has different advantages and disadvantages, so understanding them is the perfect starting point. 

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Titanium

When you see a titanium driver, think lightweight and fast. Titanium was first incorporated into the golf industry with inspiration from the aerospace industry. It’s incredibly durable, flexible enough to produce an immense trampoline effect, and super lightweight. Some of the “best” drivers on the market today are made from titanium.

Carbon

Carbon Driver Face

Carbon drivers are the new frontier, so to speak. While titanium is fast, when you think carbon, think durable and forgivable. Carbon produces a more muted sound and redistributes force more consistently on the misses, meaning a mishit will go straighter and farther than with other materials. Taylormade’s newest installments are known for their higher carbon content.

Tungsten

Tungsten is a great material in golf club construction for bringing the center of gravity down (which helps you hit the ball higher). We don’t see a whole lot of new drivers using tungsten as the main material due to the density of the metal. It’s heavy and simply can’t be used in high quantities without throwing off the swing weight of the golf club. 

Composite

Composite, in it’s definition, is a combination of materials. Composite drivers will often combine some of the other materials we have already discussed in order to gain some of the benefits from each. You may see a driver with a carbon face, titanium crown, and tungsten weights for example.

RELATED: Best Driver For Seniors

What Loft Should I Choose?

The loft you choose for your driver depends on a couple of factors. Players with slower club head speeds need more loft in order to maximize distance, while players who swing the club faster and hit more up on the golf ball can get away with lower lofts. 

Below, we have given you a table detailing guidelines for what loft you should use based on your club head speed. These numbers are not a hard and fast rule. Our player-expert Michael swings the driver around 118 miles per hour and uses a 9.5 degree driver. There is room for adjustment based on personal preference. 

Driver Loft (Degrees)

Swing Speed (MPH)

Carry Distance (Yards/Meters)

8.5

>105

>250/228

9

97-104

216-250/197-228

10.5

84-96

191-215/174-196

12

72-83

170-190/155-173

14

<72

<170/155

These numbers aren’t very usable if you don’t know what your club head speed is. To give you another way to measure your needs, we have also included carry distance as a general guideline for understanding what loft would be best for you.

RELATED: The Lower The Loft On Your Driver, The Farther It Will Go

What Head Size Is Right For Me?

Most driver heads are 460cc, but some are a little smaller

Head size of a driver is something that has been standardized over the years. In the modern game, almost all drivers have a 460cc head. 

There are a few that are closer to 445cc and even some “mini drivers” that look like a cross between a driver and fairway wood. We don’t recommend these unless you are confident in your ability to consistently hit the sweet spot. The bigger the head, the easier it is to hit!

So the short answer is, get the 460cc head. It has the biggest sweet spot, it’s the most forgiving, and it is the most common size for a driver head, making it easier to find as well.

RELATED: Driving Range Tips For Beginners 

What Length Is Best For Me?

Just like with irons, the length of a driver that is best for you is the longest you can use and still control. As a general rule of thumb, start at the standard of 45 inches. If you are under 5’6”, go an inch shorter to 44, and if you are over 6’3”, go an inch longer to 46. 

There are some people who will change the length of their driver for different reasons. A longer shaft will produce more speed, and by extension more distance. A shorter driver will be a bit slower but also easier to hit straight. With this said, if you hit it short and straight, you can try out a longer driver. If you already have speed and struggle to hit fairways, give a shorter driver a go.

RELATED: Correct Tee Height For Driver

What Shaft Flex Should I Choose?

Similarly to loft, the shaft flex you choose for your driver should be based on your swing speed. To help you choose the ideal flex for your game, we provided you with the chart below. 

Shaft Flex

Swing Speed (MPH)

Carry Distance (Yards/Meters)

X-Stiff

>105

>250/228

Stiff

97-104

216-250/197-228

Regular

84-96

191-215/174-196

Senior

72-83

170-190/155-173

Ladies

<72

<170/155

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While this is again a great starting point, there is an element of personal preference as well as difference in need based on other swing characteristics, so we recommend testing different shafts before you make a purchase. 

How Does Adjustability Work?

Different drivers have different adjustability options

As you will see when you explore the different types of drivers, some are adjustable. There are screws in the hosel, as well as on weights that can be found in various different places around the sole of the club. Most of the adjustment is made via the hosel, which controls both loft and face angle. 

Any adjustable driver will come with instructions so that you understand both how to adjust it and how the adjustments work. An example of this is the Titleist Adjustment Chart that is included with every one of their clubs from driver down through the hybrids. Let’s take a little deeper look into what each aspect of adjustability means.

Note: Not all drivers are adjustable. If you want an adjustable driver, make sure to check before you make a purchase.

Loft

As we discussed earlier, the loft you pick depends on a combination of factors. Drivers with adjustable loft can help you to fine tune your launch and maximize the performance of your driver. Drivers with adjustable loft are able to be modified up to 1.5 degrees both higher and lower, depending on which driver you have. That’s a lot of versatility, being able to take a 9 degree to both 7.5 and 10.5.

It is important to know how a change in loft will impact face angle. The easiest way to remember is “add loft, add left”. This means that, for a right-handed golfer, if you adjust your driver up in loft, you are also adding a draw bias, while if you bring the loft down you will add a fade bias. 

RELATED: Best Left Handed Drivers

Face Angle

While changing the loft of the golf club has an impact on the face angle of a driver, you are also able to change the face angle directly. This happens through an adjustment of the lie angle - the relationship between the ground and the shaft of the golf club. 

If you flatten the lie angle (make the angle between the ground and the shaft more acute), you can add a fade bias. Conversely, a steeper or more upright lie angle adds draw bias. 

Weights

Weights In A Driver Head

Some drivers have different weights that you can move around on the sole of the club. These weights change the way the club head rotates during the golf swing. The most common weight you will see is a sliding weight that moves somewhat parallel to the face. The more you move the weight towards to toe, the slower the club face rotates. Basically, if the weight is in the toe, you’re adding fade bias, while if the weight is in the heel, you’re adding draw bias. 

Do I Need Offset?

Offset in a driver is intended to add weight in the heel and help you combat a fade. However, drivers today are designed to be forgiving and to help you hit it straight. 

If you are beginner and struggle with a slice, then a driver with offset may be the right choice for you.

RELATED: Best Driver For A Slice

Budget

Drivers are expensive, there’s no question about it. There are a few ways to save on a driver if you don’t have $700 or more to spend. 

First, you can wait for a company to release a new model, and then buy the previous year’s model. Similar to the automotive industry, when a club manufacturer releases a new model, they more or less liquidate the older one to increase demand for the newest one. 

Stores like PGA Tour Superstore and Golf Galaxy also have trade in programs. They will take your older clubs and give you a credit towards a new purchase based on the model, age, and condition of the club you are trading in. 

It is important to understand that, while there is some truth that you pay for a logo with the top brands, they also became the top brands for a reason. With very few exceptions, the drivers that are trusted by tour pros, and which have the best reputations, truly are the best options out there. 

What Is MOI?

MOI stands for Moment of Inertia

And you’re thinking, “I’m sorry, what?” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

First off, what is inertia? You know when you’re in a car that slows down or accelerates suddenly, and you get that whiplash-like effect? That’s inertia. Essentially, it’s an object’s tendency to maintain a status quo when at rest or in motion. 

Moment of inertia, in golf terms, relates to the way the golf club reacts to impact with the golf ball. Specifically, the way the face twists when you strike the ball off center. It is a measure of how resistant the club is to twisting as a result of a strike not on the sweet spot. The higher the moment of inertia, the less the club face twists, and the straighter the ball will fly. 

In essence, the higher the moment of inertia, the better. 

What Is COR?

COR stands for Coefficient of Restitution.

Bet you didn’t think you were going to get a physics lesson today!

Coefficient of restitution is a measure of energy transfer from one object to another upon contact. In golf terms, how much energy does the driver impart onto the golf ball?

COR is measured on a scale of 0-1, with a perfect 1 being impossible to achieve in a real world situation. In the case of drivers, it is measured by launching a golf ball at the sweet spot of the driver and measuring the speed at which it bounces off. 

For example, if you launch the golf ball at 100 miles per hour, and it bounces back at 80 miles per hour, the COR is 0.8. 

Drivers are manufactured with maximum COR in mind, with the legal limit being 0.83. If you are looking to get a driver that gives you the best chance to hit it a long way, look for the highest COR.

Best Drivers For Distance: Our Top Picks

Taylormade Stealth 2 HD Driver

From the brand known for making "the number 1 driver in golf", the Stealth 2 HD driver from Taylormade is designed to be long, straight, and forgiving. 

60 layers of carbon fiber make the face of the golf club flexible, and the nanotexture outer layer of the face creates a more forgiving surface in all conditions. Players love the way this driver performs, and as an added bonus, it looks great!

What We Like

  • The Stealth 2 HD looks and performs extremely well
  • It is a long, straight driver that still produces quality shots when you mishit it
  • The adjustable hosel makes it versatile for all types of golfers

What We Don't Like

  • It is difficult to shape shots with this driver, meaning your typical ball flight will likely change

Titleist TSR Driver

While Titleist has traditionally been more well known for their golf balls and wedges, they are quickly closing the gap in the driver game. 

The TSR has 4 different models that are each designed to do slightly different things. Take a look at our full review to discover which TSR fits your game the best!

With that said, we love the look, feel, sound, and performance of all the TSR models. Check out our full Titleist TSR Driver Review for more details!

What We Like

  • 4 different models of the TSR create a more customizable experience
  • We love the more traditional look of the TSR drivers
  • All Titleist drivers have a SureFit Hosel that allows for a wide range of adjustability

What We Don't Like

  • Since the models are very similar, it can be hard to differentiate which one is best for you

Callaway Paradym Driver

Going back to the Great Big Bertha, Callaway has built a reputation for producing some of the best drivers on the market.

With the Paradym, we are seeing the newest frontier in Callaway's driver technology. The Paradym hits on some of the most important factors we considered in our golf driver buying guide, and includes a mass of new and improved features for increased forgiveness and speed. 

We tested the Paradym, and you can follow the link below to find out everything we discovered.

Callaway Paradym Driver Review

What We Like

  • The shape of the driver head is very satisfying. A great combination of size and proportion
  • It is designed specifically for a high MOI, maximizing forgiveness
  • It sounds different! Callaway uses a different combination of materials that produces a more composite sound than some of the other drivers on the market

What We Don't Like

  • We don't love the design of the crown on the Paradym. Simply put, there is too much going on when looking down at the golf club
  • Due to the high MOI, it is very hard to shape shots with the Paradym

Ping G425 Driver

The Ping G425 lives up to the company name. It produces a big, loud sound when you hit the ball. With this newest model, the ball speed and performance match the sound. 

The G425 is one of the most underrated drivers on the market today, mainly because Ping lets the product speak for itself rather than advertising everywhere. 

Check out what our experts found out when they got their hands on the G425 in our full Ping G425 Driver Review.

What We Like

  • This driver is LOUD, and we love the way it lets everyone around know when you hit one hard
  • The all black design is understated and sleek, providing a great visual experience
  • The G425 is hands down one of the best performing drivers. When hit solid, it produces some of the longest and straightest drives of any club

What We Don't Like

  • Ping only releases a new model every couple of years, so the technology in the G425 is a bit outdated
  • We don't quite understand the ridges on the crown of the driver. They are abrasive to look at
  • This is not as forgiving as some of our other top picks for in the golf driver buying guide

Cobra Aerojet Driver

Cobra drivers always seem to be sneaky good. Flashy looks and cutting edge trends tend to make Cobra's big stick a bit of an uncomfortable transition, but the results speak for themselves. 

The Aerojet is no different. As the name suggests, this driver is designed for speed, speed, and more speed. It is lightweight, aerodynamic, and flat out fast. With this, you sacrifice control. It's a great option for players who are currently short and straight, looking to ramp up their tee ball.

Here's a little more information we gathered from our testing of the Aerojet.

Full Cobra Aerojet Driver Review

What We Like

  • The golf ball jumps off the face of the Aerojet. We were surprised and excited by the ball speeds we were producing
  • While not all golfers will agree with us, we love the edgy design. Cobra is not afraid to be different when it comes to appearance

What We Don't Like

  • Because it is so lightweight, it is very hard to feel the club face in the downswing. This makes ball control more difficult
  • We don't particularly like the sound produced by the Aerojet. It doesn't match the look and feel of the club very well

Final Thoughts

A good drive sets up a good score, and the more you can string those together, the better you will play. There are a lot of things to consider when you are shopping for your next driver, from forgiveness to speed to looks.

We know from experience that a good driver and build your confidence, and create the foundation for a solid golf game. A driver that doesn't fit your needs can be one of the greatest detriments to your handicap and your enjoyment of the game. We hope that this golf driver buying guide has helped you on the road to finding your next gamer driver. 

RELATED: How To Spot Counterfeit Golf Clubs

Having a driver that incorporates the newest technology and design is a great way to get better at golf without taking lessons. While we know that some of you have an old faithful driver that you may love and think you can't improve on, we can assure you that all of new research and design that goes into these modern drivers is more than just hype. Try one out and see the ball fly farther and straighter!

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Michael VanDerLaan

Michael is an Associate Editor here at Golf Gear Advisor. He is a playing professional with a passion for finding the best equipment through product testing and evaluation. He has an intimate knowledge of the golf swing and a very effective way of communicating his knowledge to those that are interested in learning more. As an Associate Editor at Golf Gear Advisor, Michael shares his knowledge about the golf swing, fitness and finding the right equipment for your game.

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