Driver Buying Guide
You hear a lot of jargon when shopping for a driver. So if you find yourself scratching your head at some of the terms that get thrown around, here are a few of these terms explained below so that you can decide which factors matter most in your buying decision.
Centre of Gravity (CG)
Technically speaking, the Centre of Gravity or CG of a club head is the point in the clubhead at which its weight is perfectly balanced. The lower and farther back the CG is, the higher the ball will launch because the lower CG will impart more spin on the ball. This also makes the club head more forgiving as it lowers its MOI. More on that later. Moving the CG forward will increase ball speed and reduce spin rate which promotes greater distance, but this will make the club head less forgiving because of reduced MOI. If you want to experiment with CG you might want to consider buying a driver with adjustable weights.
Coefficient of Restitution (COR)
This is a technical term used to quantify the percentage of the club head's energy that is transferred to the ball. So a theoretical COR of 1.00 would mean that 100% of the club head's energy is transferred to the ball. In reality, the maximum COR for any club is regulated to be 0.83. So don't be fooled by marketing material, there is no magic bullet (I mean club) for increased distance.
Driver Head Size
Driver head size volume is measured in cubic centimeters (cc) and currently, the largest permissible head size is 460cc. Typically the larger the head size the more forgiving the driver is for off-centered shots because the driver's face tends to be larger. Smaller head sizes will appeal to more advanced golfers who may not need the forgiveness of a larger head and who like to work the ball one way or another.
Gone are the days when drivers were made of only wood and steel. Composite driver heads made today incorporate a number of materials in their construction.
- Titanium is the preferred choice for making the club head frame because it is lighter and stronger than steel. This weight saving in the frame allows manufacturers to move the weight of a club head to where it most benefits the player.
- Tungsten is a very dense metal that manufacturers use to create adjustable weights at the base of the club head to manipulate its CG.
- Carbon Fibre is a lightweight material that is often used to make the top of a driver. Using the lighter carbon fiber on the top of the club also helps to lower the club's CG.
The lie angle of any club is the angle to the ground the club shaft makes at address. For drivers, this may not be as important a consideration as for choosing Irons.
Loft is a crucial element in getting the most distance out of your driver. The good news is that most drivers today allow you to adjust the loft of the club +/- 2 degrees up or down from the nominal club loft. Note though that changing the loft of some drivers may also change the lie angle of the club. This could have a slight impact on the bias (draw or fade) and this could be a good or bad thing depending on your natural tendency but this secondary effect is small compared to the effect of having the right loft on your driver.
Moment of Inertia (MOI)
This is another technical term that you will hear to describe anything from drivers to putters. Basically, it is used to express a clubs resistance to twisting on impact on off-center hits. The higher the MOI, the less likely the club will twist on impact which in turn reduces the ball's deviation from its intended path. In short, higher MOI means more forgiveness.
The legal limit for driver shaft lengths is 48 inches. The typical shaft length is 45 inches for men and 44 inches for women. The theory goes that the longer the shaft, the larger the swing arc and the more clubhead speed you should be able to generate. This should translate into more distance. In reality though, the longer the swing arc, the greater the chance of poor contact with the ball. Inconsistent ball contact is probably the biggest cause of lost distance off the tee for average players. So use the longest possible shaft length that allows you consistently make good contact with the ball.
Graphite is the material of choice today in drivers. As with club heads, there is a myriad of choice between shaft density and overall weight. This really does come down to personal preference on feel and which shafts produces the best launch conditions for you.
Shaft Flex is as important a consideration as club head in making sure you get the most out of you driver. Shaft Flexes come in the following range in order of most flex to least flex: Senior (A), Ladies (L), Regular (R), Stiff (S), Extra Stiff (XS). There can be additional stiff options (XXS, XXXS) depending on the manufacturer. Generally, the more flex in a shaft, the higher and more fade-biased the ball flight. The stiffer the shaft, the lower and more draw-biased the ball trajectory. Another consideration is that the faster you swing your driver the stiffer the shaft needs to be. Here is a general guide on which shaft flex and loft would best suit you depending on how far you typically hit your driver.
So there you have it. These are the most common terms you will come across when shopping for a driver. If you are just beginning golf and this is the first driver purchase you may want to focus on getting a driver with a head volume that is at or close to the 460cc limit to increase your accuracy and confidence with the driver. As a general rule too, if you are a male golfer who tends to drive the ball 200m or less, then an R-shafted driver should do the trick. If you are a lady golfer with a drive typically less than 170m, then an L-shafted driver should be the way to go.