Don’t worry guys, I’m working on the Beyond the Data post I mentioned last week. It’s going to be the part of the story that can’t be told by the numbers. Why things performed the way they did…club specific details that I think are worth discussing…those sort of things.
And yes…WE WILL BE POSTING THE DATA! Sorry for shouting. Those charts take quite a bit of effort (and time) to pull together, but I’ll get everything posted for you as quickly as we can.
What Did Your Tester’s Love?
It was mentioned several times in the comments/questions, and we actually got the same question from a couple of golf companies too:
What were your tester’s favorite clubs?
Certainly we hear things during the testing process (both good and bad), but given the interest in the subject, I thought it was worth asking our testers which 5 drivers they liked best. As you might expect, there is some correlation between what they hit the best, and what they liked best, but some of the guys certainly had an affinity for something that might not have been near the top of their own list.
I’ve included some small bits of info about each tester. Let us know what else you’d be interested in knowing about these guys, and we’ll look at including it next time around.
A Partially Subjective Look at the Top 5
Before we get to our tester’s pics, one reader asked if I had any thoughts on what the “Best” drivers in our test were. I probably like the word best only slightly more than the golf companies whose drivers didn’t finish on top. So let’s just say that based on what I saw across all of our testers, these are the drivers that separated themselves from the pack. My personal Top 5 is included with everyone else’s.
Prefaced with “assuming a good fit”, these are the clubs I think really stand out, and I’d go so far as to say that the top 3 are, a bit more special still.
TaylorMade SLDR – I think there’s so much potential in this club, and while proper fitting always matters, I believe the probability of bad fit (mostly related to poor loft selection) is higher than with any other club in this test. SLDR could be the best driver you’ve ever bought, but it risks being the worst. If you’re normally a 10.5° guy, there’s a very real possibility you’ll need the 14° head. Embrace it, and there’s magic to be found in the TaylorMade SLDR.
PING G25 – Even at 8.5°, there are some out there for whom the G25 will simply spin too much, but I believe that’s a minority – and if all other aspects work for you, PING’s custom fitting options should help to mitigate that. The larger footprint may be an issue for some as well. For many others, the PING G25 should prove to be an outstanding blend of distance and forgiveness.
Callaway Big Bertha Alpha – It might seem like a stretch to put our #10 into my opinion-based Top 3, but I believe there is incredible potential in the Alpha. While it didn’t hold up on an average basis, several of the longest drives in our test were hit with the Alpha…and that’s with the limitation of a 9° head. A 10.5° is on the way to retail, and I suspect we’ll see a smaller “Pro” model too before the snow melts here in the Northeast. The only limiting factor (other than the $499 price tag) on this driver right now is the lack of options. That’s going to change, and when it does, Callaway’s Big Bertha Alpha immediately shoots up the list.
As far as #4 and #5 go, I’m going to say it depends.
Higher swing speed players, or perhaps more accurately, guys who don’t need much help getting the ball in the air and/or who generally benefit from drivers that produce lower than average spin, should definitely be looking at the PING i25 and the Tour Edge XCG7 Beta.
Racing stripes aside, the drivers are fairly similar with respect to how they perform. I’m inclined to give a slight edge to PING because of the breadth of their stock shaft offering (3 different weights and flexes, plus “tour” versions – none of which impact swing weight). The Tour Edge XCG7 Beta offers a variety of shafts as well, and even though they are of the “made for” flavor, performance isn’t too far off from the aftermarket (“real”) versions.
For slower swing speed (higher launch/higher spin) guys, the lines are a little less clear to me, but of a very tight group that would also include Cleveland’s 588 Altitude, PowerBilt’s AirForce One, and the Yonex EZONE XP, I’m going to suggest these two:
At $800 the ONOFF Type D probably isn’t going to be at the top of many lists, but since we’re only talking about performance, I’m going to suggest it should be. On the first day of testing it looked like the Type D was going to run away with it for our slower swing speed guys, and while it did come back to the field, it was only slightly so. Even if you don’t want to spend the money; if you can find one near you, it’s definitely worth a demo.
Callaway’s X2 Hot is another that suffered from a small fitting issue (no 12° or 13.5° option available to us), but looking over the numbers, it still performed very well. It was really good last year, and while Alpha and Bertha proper are getting all of Callaway’s attention, it’s really good this year too.
But Wait, Here’s More…
Not that you asked for two more, but for those looking for a #4 and #5 option that splits the middle, I’m going to suggest PowerBilt’s AirForce One, and Nike’s VRS Covert 2.0.
As we’ve mentioned countless times, the Nike VRS Covert 2.0 is just a HUGE improvement over the original. Color changes aside, I’ve felt that Nike driver performance has been stagnant since the VR Pro Limited (so good). The Covert 2.0 changes all that. It’s a clear step forward which should help remove any doubt that Nike is finally moving in the right direction.
If Nike’s red isn’t your thing, PowerBilt’s AirForce One DFX comes in matte black. Slower swing speed performance was excellent, and we think there’s more in it than we showed for our higher swing speed guys. Add a very impressive list of stock shafts coupled with some impressive up-charged options as well (Oban Kyoshi anyone?), and we think this is a driver that deserves your attention.
And Now Some Words from Our Testers
As I mentioned, I asked our testers to send their top 5 picks based on whatever criteria that wanted. Basically, these are what they liked best. I’ve included their first names, age (the parenthetical reference), and some basic swing info.
What I think is great about our testing pool is that the majority aren’t “MyGolfSpy Guys”. They’re not obsessive gearheads. They’re not always aware of the new hot club or the new hot shaft. They don’t visit the site daily (some of them may not even believe there is a site). They’re just golfers…regular golfers. How great is that?
As I said, based on your feedback, we’ll look to include even more down the road.
Lou (Gets a steep discount at the movies)
Swing Speed: low 80s
Angle of Attack: -5°
Swing Characteristics: Relatively controlled tempo, tendency to shut the face, reducing dynamic loft.
Ping G25 – I guess there is a reason why Ping hasn’t come out with a new club to replace the G25 yet – no need to. This one has it all – good looks – good feel and it performs as well if not better than this year’s new models. No fancy colors/graphics – just the basic tool to get the job done. I guess I prefer the more traditional look. This would look better with my lime green shorts/shirt than say the Agent Orange.
Cleveland 588 Altitude – This and the Wilson D100 felt the lightest to me. I felt comfortable with both and felt like I could expect pretty straight hits with them The Cleveland though also provided more distance. I also liked the clean look of the club, but was surprised that it was not adjustable. Maybe it’s my slow swing speed that made these light weights feel easier to swing.
Yonex EZONE XP – I’m not that enamored with the color scheme but the club felt good and was easy to swing. Like the sound it made when I felt I hit a good one.
Callaway Big Bertha – I wasn’t that impressed with this club until the last day. I found this a really nice club to hit. I would have liked more time to play with it. I think with a full fitting it could be the right club for me. I really do like the looks of it.
TaylorMade SLDR – What impressed me about the SLDR was that the gimmick really works. When you move the sliding weight you get a different result. When we moved it from ‘draw’ to ‘straight’ my ball flight changed from left to back to center, and since everything is on the sole when you look down to hit the ball you see nothing other the normal top of the club.
Swing Speed: 118
Angle of Attack: +6°
Swing Characteristics: Strong like bull. Smooth takeaway with aggressive downswing. Puts everything into every swing. Can get wild.
Taylor Made SLDR (430) – This club was by far my best. It was the only club in the entire test that consistently helped me with a lower ball flight and this was the hottest face of any driver I have ever tested….in this test or in any test for that matter. I remember warming up with this club and taking a 3/4 swing and getting 290 yards out of it. Aesthetically, it’s not my favorite club, but the numbers were so incredible that it really was every other club vying for second.
Ping I25 – This was the best all-around club for me. The combination of feel, sound, look, and results put this at the very top of my list. I like the subtle racing stripes without having to be gaudy and look like a hot rod from the ’60s. I have always had an affinity for the higher pitched sounds off the club face as a way of determining feel and solidity of contact. The club performed extremely well for me and was a front-runner from the very first time that I hit it.
Adams XTD – This was my biggest surprise. With all the big names in this competition, I didn’t expect to like this club as much as I did. It performed extremely well, looked great and was very consistent. The only real issue I have with the club is the name. For a sport that has more sexual innuendos than all other sports combined, XTD sounds an awful lot like…well you get the idea.
TaylorMade JetSpeed – TaylorMade certainly came to compete this year. Both of their clubs impressed me. I had some difficulty with accuracy with JetSpeed, but the hot face, that was reminiscent of the 430, put this club near the top of my list.
Tour Edge XCG7 Beta – This was a club that I had not heard of before the test so I didn’t have any expectations coming into this. The looks and feel are okay at best for me, but I can’t keep it off the list because it performed so well. This was my 3rd best club in overall results and one that I could conceivably put in my bag.
Swing Speed: mid-80s
Angle of Attack: +3°
Swing Characteristics: Smooth tempo, consistently inside to out to path. Closed-face setups often cause problems.
Callaway Big Bertha Alpha: I liked the feel at impact, and the sound when ball came off club head. Controlled ball flight was a plus for my hits.
PowerBilt Air Force One – enjoyed swinging this driver. Swing thought was geared towards hopping on a jet and taking off ! Tried to vision the ball doing the same thing.
TaylorMade JetSpeed – Simple adjustment, easier for the average Joes than some others!
ONOFF Type D – The ball coming off the clubhead sounded great. Easy to hit and looks great. Reminds me of a racecar.
PING G25 – Looked good again and felt as good as the year before. Smooth lines and features.
Tommy Armour TA-845 – Feels like a club priced 2-3x, more expensive. Reminds me of an old school driver. Good feel, but for me, not as good as my top 4.
Swing Speed: mid-90s
Angle of Attack: -2°
Swing characteristics: Strongly outside to in path. Adds significant dynamic loft at impact, excessive spin.
Taylor Made SLDR – Liked the adjustability. Consistent even on less than desired contact.
ONOFF Type D – I loved this club from the first day I saw and hit it. Great feel and sound. Hit it well even though there was no adjustability, and felt confident when using it.
Mizuno JPX-EZ – Good feel and sound. Gave consistent results throughout the testing.
Nike VRS Covert 2.0 – Even with its unorthodox design/look, was easy to hit. Love the stock grip on the club and it even looked good.
Callaway X2 Hot – I’m a big fan of Callaway drivers so no surprise this was one of my favs. Good feel, easy to hit and consistent results throughout testing.
Swing Speed: 105
Angle of Attack: level (plus or minus)
Swing Characteristics: Controlled tempo, with aggressive downswing. Swing path is slightly inside to out.
TaylorMade SLDR (430) – Head and shoulders better than every club in the test, easy adjustability. As a high spin player, I knocked down spin rate 500rpms, consistently 10 yards farther. Love the color of the crown.
Adams XTD– Matrix red tie stock shaft is a nice touch, as is the Iomic grip. Took a little time to get used to the top cavity slot. Ball comes off the face hot.
Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour – Most improved award doesn’t come close to explaining how much better this year’s model is from last. Ball found the fairway more often than not. Miss-hits seemed to stay in play and still had good distance. Biggest critique is the tour wrap grip; awful. I don’t notice the white swoosh on the red crown.
PING i25 – Matte black racing stripes actually look cool at address, and it doesn’t hurt that they also actually help align the ball with the center of the club face.
Cobra BIO CELL+ – My perceptions are based almost solely on looks. It’s the best looking club in the group. The blue might be the best looking club ever made. When you catch this driver the ball seems to go forever.
Tony (Not as young as I once was)
Swing Speed: 105 (and apparently declining)
Angle of Attack: -1.5°
Swing Characteristics: Quick tempo, aggressive downswing. Slightly outside to in. I generally hit a fade, but I refuse to embrace it.
Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour – Aesthetically this was my favorite club last season, and nothing has changed for 2014 (except the driver is just better). I’m not a Kuro Kage guy, so one of these days I need to get around to trying a different shaft or two. All things being equal, Nike’s VRS Covert 2.0 is the driver I want to play.
PING i25 – The shorter than average shaft is probably half the battle for me anyway, but I loved the sound and feel of this driver. Dig the matte gray racing stripe combo thing PING did on the crown too. The i25 is basically everything you’d expect from a PING driver.
TaylorMade SLDR – Played the SLDR most of the fall, so there is some familiarity. It’s very consistent for me from a distance perspective, and while I don’t hit an extremely high number of fairways with anything, my SLDR misses aren’t bad, and more importantly, they’re predictable.
Tour Edge XCG7 Beta – Halfway through my second session I realized that I was falling in love with the Beta. Outstanding feel, “made for” shafts aren’t too watered down, and shot for shot it’s as long as anything. Once again, the shorter shaft didn’t hurt a bit.
Cobra BiO CELL – Dialed in, the BiO CELL+ almost certainly is the better option for my swing, but I like the sound and feel of this model a bit better. It’s closer to last season’s brilliant AMP Cell Pro, than is the +.
Be sure to comeback for our Beyond the Data story, and then again next week for the data itself.