The center of gravity location of your driver matters, and not just because the golf equipment makers say so. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about low and forward, low and back, deeeeeep, or somewhere in-between, golfers would benefit from an understanding of how center of gravity positions influences real-world performance.
The basics are simple. Forward CG positions often produce higher ball speeds, lower launch, and less spin. Back positions bring higher ball flight, more spin, and increased MOI. That last one usually leads to more forgiveness, which is nice. Extremely high CG positions are generally less than ideal, but they can benefit golfers who consistently hit the ball high on the face, while low CG designs typically work for high spin players and golfers who hit the ball low on the face.
Finding the perfect driver is rare. As you’d expect, every design brings with it a trade-off or two. Forward CG positions often lack the forgiveness many golfers need, and there are instances where too much MOI can cause both swing speed and ball speed to drop. There’s balance in the middle, though sometimes playing it safe leads to unremarkable performance.
All of the above bring one unfortunate caveat; the designs that produce the performance attributes you desire may not be what works best for your swing. Simply put, what you want may not be what you need.
If you’re just stumbling on this data the for the first time, don’t expect easy answers, but as you become familiar with the information and the implications it has for your game, you should start to gain a better understanding of why some drivers work for you, why some don’t, and where to focus the search for your next driver.
If you’re not familiar with the concepts like center of gravity, MOI, and the neutral axis, before digging into the charts I encourage you to read some of our previous posts on the subject. At a minimum, you should read the Golf Geeks article below.
- Golf Geeks – How Center of Gravity Makes a Huge Difference
- 2015 Driver CG Data
- 2016 Driver CG Data
- 2016 Driver CG Data Update 1
- 2017 Driver CG Report
- 2018 Driver CG Report
THE FINE PRINT
Before we get to our charts, it’s important to understand that although heads were measured according to USGA standards, tolerances (both in measurement and in manufacturing) come into play. Here are some things you should keep in the back of your mind as you tackle the data.
- The tolerance for our measurements is approximately .7mm. To account for this, we represent CG using large dots rather than a smaller fixed point.
- We should also note that companies that publicly state driver CG locations mostly do so based on measurements from CAD drawings. Between manufacturing, assembling, welding, and polishing, CAD projections don’t always align with the finished product. There is also an expected variance from one finished part to another.
- Where the dots on our charts are touching or are close to one another, CT differences notwithstanding, it’s reasonable to assume the heads have similar performance mass properties.
- While the majority of samples measured qualify as standard retail parts, the PXG 0811X GEN2 measured is heavier than standard (custom build), and so it’s reasonable to consider our measurements approximations.
- We do not yet have measurements for the Titleist TS1 and Titleist TS4. We will add those at a later date.
- Finally, although we’ve blown these charts up to make them a bit easier to read, every last one of the CG locations represented is within that tiny little 14mm x 12mm box previously described in our CG Primer.
Interacting with the Charts
We’ve done what we can to make these charts readable on mobile devices, however; when possible, we suggest viewing on a larger screen.
For each of the charts displayed below, the default view includes mostly new (2019 season) drivers. You can view previous years by using the YEAR dropdown menu under each chart. Note that the observations made below are specific to our 2019 models.
We have provided filters that will allow you to add or remove clubs based on any combination of Year, Manufacturer, and Model. We recommend that, for additional context, you view the charts with previous year’s models selected. Additionally, you can:
- Click on any model name at the top of the chart and then click the highlight icon on the extreme top right to isolate that club or clubs
- Hold down Ctrl while clicking to isolate multiple clubs
- Hover over any dot to reveal additional information, including the relevant weight setting and the actual measurements
With all of that out of the way, let’s get to our 2019 center of gravity and MOI data:
CG YZ (CG RELATIVE TO FACE CENTER)
The chart below shows the YZ (top to bottom/front to back) CG location relative to the center of the face for the drivers measured. Conceptually, it’s a cross-section of the driver, with the left side of the chart representing the face of the driver and the right side, the trailing edge. These measurements depict CG locations without consideration for their relationship to the neutral axis. As such, they are not loft dependent. Basically, the chart shows the actual CG location in space for each driver measured.
- Once again, a TaylorMade offering (this time M5) offers the greatest amount of true adjustability with 6.6mm worth of front to back CG movement.
- With roughly 5.5mm worth of change, the 0811X GEN2 offers significantly more front to back CG movement than PXG’s previous models.
- Cobra offers ~4mm of front to back movement, while others who move mass front to back don’t do so by any significant amount.
- The 9° Cobra F9 Speedback is the lowest CG driver of 2019, followed closely by the PXG 0811X GEN2.
- The Sub70 839D has the highest CG of any 2019 driver, followed, perhaps surprisingly by the TaylorMade M5 in the FADE settings. It’s worth mentioning that Sub70 is a high forward design, while TaylorMade offers a more forgiving, high back location.
- The PING G410 Plus offers the most rearward CG, while the Sub70 839D provides the most forward CG.
- Top/bottom CG movement across all models tested is again minimal.
CG Relative to the NEUTRAL AXIS & MOI
As illustrated by the image above, the neutral axis is an imaginary line running perpendicular to the center of a lofted driver face. Before you ask, let me tell you why that matters. As the center of gravity moves closer to the neutral axis, you get less gearing (twisting), and a more efficient transfer of energy between the club and ball. As with everything else in our CG discussion, the distance from the center of gravity to the neutral axis (or CG NA as it’s called for short) is measured in millimeters and those millimeters matter.
Many golf companies advertise some variation of fast and forgiving, and while you might not realize it, that has everything to do with the center of gravity relative to the neutral axis. If we assume reasonably centered contact, to be fast – to reduce gearing at impact, and to maximize the efficiency of the strike – the center of gravity needs to be near the neutral axis. To be forgiving, MOI (also shown below) needs to be high. Despite what various marketing claims may lead you to believe, truly fast and genuinely forgiving is perhaps the most difficult combination to achieve.
Note: because both the data and the scale is fundamentally different, this chart cannot be directly compared to the Front to Back CG YZ chart above.
CGNA & MOI Chart
- In 2016 and 2017, several manufacturers had driven CGs below the neutral axis. Last year there was one. This year, none of the heads we measured offer a CG location below the neutral axis.
- The PXG 0811X GEN2 and the 9° Cobra F9 Speedback are the lowest; both measured .1mm above neutral.
- Of the new drivers measured, the PXG 0811XF GEN2 is easily the highest MOI model for the 2019 season, offering slightly higher MOI than the PING G400 MAX.
- As you’d expect, the PING G410 Plus is among the most forgiving, followed by the Tommy Armour Atomic (surprise), and the Titleist TS2 (which some may also find surprising).
- The highest CG (relative to the neutral axis) of the drivers measured belongs to the Sub70 839D, followed by the TaylorMade M5, though it is worth noting that the M5 is mid-CGNA in its more forward positions.
- Once again, note that draw biased drivers are invariably lower MOI than the standard model equivalent. For example, compare the MOI of PING G410 SFT and TaylorMade M6 D-Type to that of the G410 Plus and the standard M6 respectively. Also note that in the draw positions, MOI for the Callaway Epic Flash/Epic Flash Sub Zero, Wilson Cortex, and Mizuno ST190 is lower than both the neutral and fade settings.
CG XY (Heel/Toe CG)
While the data provided in this chart is certainly interesting, it also comes with a disclaimer of sorts. CG XY is not a straightforward measurement. For example, we might find drivers with similar XY CG locations, yet very different face heights, face shapes, crown curvatures, bulge and roll radii, etc.. XY CG similarities aside, those other design factors will likely cause the clubs to play quite differently from one another. So while this chart will give you some indication of CG movement along the club’s x-axis, as well as any inherent draw or fade bias, the CG NA and MOI chart will offer a much better performance comparison.
Note, the toe side is depicted on the left. CG locations left of center suggest varying degrees of fade bias, while locations depicted right of center suggest a draw bias.
- While prior to last season, fade biased drivers were relatively rare, the number of toe-weighted models on the market has increased significantly.
- The most draw-biased model we measured this year is the Mizuno ST190G. Other drivers capable of achieving a significant draw bias are the Srixon Z585, Bridgestone Tour B JGR, Tour Edge Exotics EXS, and Callaway Epic Flash.
- Golfers looking for a fade biased driver should consider the PING G410 PLUS (weight in the fade position), TaylorMade M5, TaylorMade M6, Wilson Cortex (in most settings), or PXG 0811XF GEN2
- The most neutral driver we measured was the TaylorMade M5 (ironically in the draw position – everything is relative). The PXG 0811X GEN2 and Cobra F9 Speedback are also near-neutral designs.
SO WHICH CG LOCATION IS BEST?
There is no single center of gravity location that is ideal for everyone. There is no right CG or wrong CG – although I would argue that some (low-forward) are more niche than others, and a few (high-forward) are quantitatively bad for the majority of golfers. Different manufacturers have different philosophies and different design and manufacturing capabilities. That’s a good thing because more options mean a better chance of finding an ideal fit.
One exercise you may find interesting is to filter the charts to display only one or two manufacturers (showing multiple manufacturers helps with scale). What you’ll find is that some manufacturers (PING and Cobra) have pronounced design philosophies which are reflected in nearly every driver they’ve produced in the last five years. In one case (Titleist), a sudden change is observable. The TS series is inarguably a significant departure from previous Titleist drivers. In other cases, designs stretch from one end of the chart to the other. This could suggest that, rather than being guided by a single overarching design principle, some companies are every bit as invested in making new and different drivers each season as they are in making better drivers.
With that said, we believe that the widest part of the bell curve will achieve the best results with relatively high MOI and low to mid-CG drivers. Slower swing speed players, who need help keeping the ball in the air, generally do well with high/back designs. Golfers who are in desperate need of spin reduction (often aggressive swingers who hit down on the ball), will likely get better results with low and forward CG designs – even though that means giving up some forgiveness. High MOI isn’t for everyone. For golfers who consistently hit the ball high on the face, a higher CG driver may produce better results, while golfers who habitually strike the ball low on the face will likely benefit from lower CG clubs.
As we’ve said countless times, in golf there are no absolutes, and the correct answer is almost always it depends. We believe that by identifying a general center of gravity location that works well for you, you’ll be able to quickly narrow your focus to the few clubs that offer the highest probability of producing good results.
As we have in the past, we encourage you to experiment on your own. Try splitting our chart four ways. If you’re feeling motivated, split it six ways. Go out and compare clubs from the different areas you define and see if you find that clubs perform more similarly within boundaries, and quite a bit differently across them. Move weights around and take note of changes in feel – and sometimes in your clubhead speed. See if the drivers in one section work better for you than those in a different area. Understanding what works best for you can help simplify the buying decision next time around.