Best Golf Drivers – Then vs. Now
Drivers

Best Golf Drivers – Then vs. Now

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Best Golf Drivers – Then vs. Now

Our Job Is Your Game

To celebrate 10 years of Most Wanted Testing, we decided to put on a head-to-head Best Golf Drivers showdown.

We pitted the very first driver to ever receive the title of Best Driver versus the Best Driver of 2023.

Callaway X Hot versus TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus.

Then Versus Now. Let the battle commence!

Callaway & TaylorMade

Testing Parameters

A decade of separation begs the question, “Is newer better?”

Below you will find the parameters with which we tested both the Callaway X Hot and the TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus.

  • 10 Testers
  • Swing Speed Range (85 mph – 110)
  • 15 Shots with Each Driver

We are keeping it simple, analyzing the data from a raw data perspective.

Best Golf Drivers Background

Here is a brief overview of each driver.

Callaway X Hot Driver

The Callaway X Hot burst onto the scene in 2013, featuring a Speed Frame Face which assists with faster ball speeds while maintaining efficient launch conditions. Additionally, X Hot included Callaway Golf’s OptFit Hosel. This adjustable hosel allows golfers to change the face angle to a neutral, closed or open setting.

In 2013, our testing showed Callaway X Hot was the best golf driver overall. Its victory was propelled by accuracy and serviceable distance.

TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus Driver

The new TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus beat out a strong field of competitors this year to claim the best golf driver 2023. If you think the driver space was competitive in 2013, 10 years has amplified it exponentially. Manufacturers continually strive to find even the slimmest technology advancement to edge out their competitors.

For TaylorMade Golf, the magic is in their 60x layer carbon face as well as using more carbon throughout the driver head.

2013 vs. 2023 Results

As you can see, there is no question that 10 years makes a difference. TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus ousts Callaway X Hot in every category: ball speed, carry distance and total distance. Stealth 2 Plus is a low-spin driver so it isn’t surprising that it produces a lower backspin number on average.

Best Golf Drivers Head to Head

Product NameBall SpeedCarry DistanceTotal DistanceBack Spin
TaylorMade Stealth 2 PlusTaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus

Check Price
142.8 mph240.9256.42,265 rpm
Callaway X Hot DriverCallaway X Hot

Check Price
141.4 mph233.0246.12,605 rpm

Strokes Gained

For every 14 holes, gaming a TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus has the potential to be 1.1 strokes better than the Callaway X Hot on average. Why 14 holes versus 18? Well, in most scenarios, golfers are using a driver, or are able to use a driver, for 14 out of 18 holes on a golf course. (The understanding being that the other four holes are par-3s.)

Buying a New Driver

How often should you buy a new driver? It is a common question asked by golfers. If you’ve followed us long enough, you know our answer.

Our rule of thumb is three to five years. We’ve seen that it takes that period for manufacturers to truly enhance performance benefits in their drivers. This being said, you should only replace your current golf driver if a new one appreciably outperforms your current one.

In the end, you want to be using the driver that fits you the best. Your driver should be giving you the best opportunity to hit more fairways, maximize your distance and ultimately help you shoot lower scores.

Newer Is Better … Sometimes

Year to year, new golf clubs, especially drivers, hit the golf market. Some have one-year life cycles. Others have two-year life cycles.

Through Most Wanted Testing, we’ve seen products hold their own against the newest wave of technology. To which, we ask, “Is newer truly better?” and is it worth your investment. Inside that three- to five-year window, it it difficult to say a golf club, specifically a driver, is substantially better than the latest and greatest.

Having said that,  sometimes newer is appreciably better.

In this test specifically, 10 years does make a difference. The TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus produces higher ball speeds, more carry distance and longer overall distance. Additionally, in an admittedly small sample size, it can potentially provide an average Strokes Gained value of 1.1 per 14 holes.

If you are playing a driver that is 10-plus years old, it is time to consider an update. If you are using a driver that is five or more years old, it won’t hurt you to explore a new option.

For You

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Phillip Bishop

Phillip Bishop

Phillip Bishop

Cancer Survivor. Amputee Golfer. Essentially, a OneLeggedBoss. When he isn't facilitating testing or analyzing data, Phillip enjoys his family time, practicing and playing golf, unwinding with video games, capturing photos of nature, or devouring pretzels.

Phillip Bishop

Phillip Bishop

Phillip Bishop

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Phillip Bishop

Phillip Bishop

Phillip Bishop

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      Canabuc

      2 months ago

      Love articles like this and appreciate the work you do that goes into this.
      But what seems to be mossing in this data is launch angle and dispersion.

      There was a 1.4 MPH difference in Ballspeed which should equate to under 3 yards difference. The remaining 7 yards is likely due to launch and spin differences. Also often a lower lofted head has higher ballspeed compared to it’s higher launch version.

      I bet if we lofted the XHot down 1* you would see virtually no difference.

      Fact is the new drivers aren’t really longer as much as they spin a bit lower at same loft and maintain ballspeed a bit better across the face.

      So buy a new driver more for it’s forgiveness rather than seeing much more distance.

      Reply

      Greg

      2 months ago

      I still play a callaway xhot driver and I love it

      Reply

      Larry

      2 months ago

      Why did you compare an old Callaway driver to a new Taylor Made driver. You should have compared the same brand old vs new. For a fair comparison

      Reply

      Zach

      2 months ago

      The article clearly states that the Callaway X Hot was used because it was the first to receive the title of “best driver” from mygolfspy. This wasn’t meant to compare drivers from the same manufacturer.

      Reply

      Jim

      3 months ago

      The drastic change in the development of shafts would make this comparison difficult unless you put the same shaft in each club

      Reply

      Joe

      2 months ago

      Aren’t the improvements in shafts a major point of the comparison? The shaft developments prove the point all the more that the average player should probably explore a new driver every 3-5 years to see if there are meaningful improvements to be had.

      Reply

      bob

      3 months ago

      I am still playing a Cobra Fly-Z from 2014. It is long and gets me in the fairway when I am swinging B- and above.

      I may be in the minority here but I kinda like playing my 6,700 yard course and hitting between a 7 iron and SW on approach shots and being able to go for a par 5 or two in two shots here and there. I don’t desire to crush a drive and pull a wedge out on every hole. It is okay to use those other clubs and have approach shots from 150-175 yards out. I like the iron part of the game.

      Reply

      Horny Golfer

      3 months ago

      Wut? You make zero point about anything at all. Back in the day, Nicklaus and their cohorts would hit 3 iron-3iron on 450 yard holes just because

      Reply

      Brdgolf1

      3 months ago

      I would love to see this same type of article done for Irons. I am in the market for a different set of Irons and would love to try out Irons from 10 years ago vs today to see what the difference is for me. Seeing this for Irons would be very helpful.

      Reply

      Gordo

      3 months ago

      If I were a betting man, I’d bet the Stealth head is lighter and the shaft is longer and far superior to the 10 year old shaft. Simply put it’s what I’d expect to see. Drivers used to be 45″ now they’re like 46 1/4 “. From what I witness the Ping “G” drivers in the hands of young guys go the farthest!

      Reply

      Tom S

      3 months ago

      I’d bet against that. Driver heads are 200 grams. That’s always been the standard, AFAIK.

      Reply

      Duffer

      3 months ago

      What ball was used? Would be great to compare with a 10 year old ball, if any can be found. Most courses were designed WAY before the X Hot.

      Reply

      Mike

      3 months ago

      Interesting results but am I reading this article correctly? If you go from 2013 to 2023 (10 years), after all the tens of millions of dollars spent on club R&D & the hundreds of millions spent on advertising, my net gain w/b 10 yds & “0NE” stroke over a round of golf??? ONE STROKE??? Granted, I know both models could be tweaked with shafts and club head adjustments, but still, that’s a damning indictment of how the golf industry is pulling the wool over people’s eyes. If you bought a new driver every year, you basically gained one yard for each $450-600 investment.

      My current driver is a 2021 Cobra Radspeed. I like the club/shaft set it by. Currently have but I’ll definitely test it against the newest models. If I found a club shaft/combo that gave me 12-15 more yards with similar or better accuracy, I’ll consider spending the money. (BTW, that’s after several rounds of testing anything, not just a single fitting). Anything less, I’m good with what I got.

      Reply

      League Golfer

      3 months ago

      Ok. The 2023 Stealth beat the 2013 X Hot by 10 yards for distance. How did the two drivers compare for dispersion? You stated the 2013 X Hot didn’t win in 2013 because of its distance but because of its overall performance. So how did the longest driver from 2013 compare distance wise with the 2023 Stealth. How did the 2013 X Hot compare distance wise to the average of the 2023 drivers? Hmmm….

      Reply

      Gerald Foley

      3 months ago

      A Tour player took his driver out of play recently because he thought it had gotten too hot (exceeded allowable spec). You should do a test to try to replicate that and report what distance gain us normal humans might expect if we continue to play old drivers and if the curve eventually goes the other way. I’ve always heard from golf shops that drivers wear out from continued us but always figured they’re trying to sell new gear.

      Reply

      RC

      3 months ago

      Is is fair to say that if accuracy was not measured, you can’t really be certain of how many strokes you’d lose just from distance and spin measurements?

      Reply

      Bob

      3 months ago

      What are the numbers for each driver at 85 Mph swing speed? I’ll bet there’s not more than a yard difference in distance.

      Reply

      don

      3 months ago

      I am reading this test slightly different than most. So a 10 year old driver beat out half of this years new drivers.

      Reply

      Chris

      3 months ago

      I feel like this would be a more useful comparison if the same shaft and loft were used for both drivers. No info is given other than the new driver goes further with less spin..so many variables to ponder….

      Reply

      mike

      3 months ago

      agree with above valid comments. perhaps an easier test is with Titleist drivers that can use the same interchangeable shaft? Then set drivers at same loft. Sure, the argument is that the driver is not fitted to the tester/golfer.
      Also, Titleist drivers have several model variations (for varying abilities, index, swing speeds…. Just trying to minimize variables…. …………..

      FYI: I saw a video of a woman who tested the Titleist TSR vs a 915D2. Since she was familiar with the 915D2; this tester swing, loft, shaft variables.
      Obviously impossible to set up perfectly equal test parameters….
      But ten year change always is an interesting topic for a test.

      ps: I recall a 7-8 yard gain in distance with the newer driver……

      Reply

      Mark

      3 months ago

      Phil- Like you said at the beginning, it’s Raw Data from ten testers.

      MGS is off to a good start, but more granular data needs to be collected before convincing me a new $600 driver is better for my game versus a 10 year old driver – maybe a shaft upgrade is a better route to go..

      How about examining the effects of both swing speed and across-the-face mishits. My driver swing speed is 95-98 mph, so data from 85 or 110 mph players doesn’t apply to me.

      Reply

      Ray Neese

      3 months ago

      What I find is the shaft has a major role in distance and accuracy as well a tacky grip. How many times to you see players with terrible grips. club will turn and create mis hits. Golf isn’t cheap anymore so saving a club might fit your budget. My Golf Spy does a great job in keeping us informed. Work on short game to improve. IMO.

      Reply

      Ben Hoagie

      3 months ago

      if you brought down the spin on the callaway, that gap would be a little narrower.

      Reply

      Paul

      3 months ago

      I have a 7-8 year old Callaway driver. Went to the Callawy fitting at the club and tested the Paradym against mine. Despite different shafts/lofts etc tried, my old club was virtually identical to the Paradym. Will try the TM and Ping models, but my guess is I keep my driver and get some lessons instead of a new driver.

      Reply

      Joe Karski

      3 months ago

      Wonder what results would have been on a machine with exact same loft & lie set up.
      I can tell you that I personally can still get numbers from my 20 year old drivers as I can from the new ones.
      And I hit my MP68 Blades further than anyone I know with the newer technology clubs.
      I think the modern drivers are made for modern golfers who are mostly smaller guys who would have had to play a game more similar to Corey Pavin than Tiger Woods given that technology..
      A really cool test would be to give guys like Justin Thomas, etc. a 975D and balata ball – see if they can still hit with the numbers they do today.
      Equipment modification/technology has ruined golf.
      It’s become very boring to watch as these guys are more like machines who play to algorithms and percentages than feel and guts. Tournaments are mostly won with the short game anyway – except for match play which I still like to watch..

      Reply

      Dave P

      3 months ago

      ….. What I am interested in is off center hits… i.e. are new clubs more forgiving., and if so, how much……. I have a 16 year old Nike SQ and I can hit it almost as far as my Callaway Epic Max LS, If I hit the sweet spot…. Has anyone done robot testing of old driver vs new driver and tested the effect of hitting different parts of the face ( high, low, heel, toe, etc…)

      Reply

      don

      3 months ago

      That’s a great idea, after all based on the ball speed, if I buy the old club and tweek it to reduce the spin it would only be a few yds behind and several hundred dollars cheaper.

      Reply

      Larry

      3 months ago

      I bought the XHot 5Years ago used for under a 100. bucks and till this day
      its the only Driver I seem to be able to hit and that includes G30 and i25
      It will never leave the bag ,Lar

      Reply

      Glenn

      3 months ago

      I agree with those that have suggested $600 in lessons vs a new driver.
      You will gain both distance and have a tighter desperation.

      Reply

      Gray_suit

      3 months ago

      I’m a Titleist brand loyalist but also a notorious tightwad. I’m picky about irons, wedges and putters (T300, volkey and a Scotty Phantom 5.5) all of which I bought new but discounted. On drivers, I’m a little agnostic about drivers but tend to stick to Titleist but my rule of thumb is get last gen. I was in TS2 for 3 years and just picked up a TSi2 for a significant discount. It’s definitely an upgrade. I might wade back in next year when the early adapter TSr guys sell off to buy the next shiny object. Anyway, I think if you’re 2 gen behind it’s worth at least getting the next gen. I don’t personally think being one gen behind is a big deal. My opinion, but hey I’m also a low volume level bluetooth speaker on the course guy.

      Reply

      William Elliott

      3 months ago

      Was the exact same shaft used in both clubs ? Shafts have come just as far if not farther than club heads put a Ventus of the same weight and flex in both clubs and check the difference. use the exact same loft for both drivers with each tester, make it apples to apples testing. Just my question and opinion for what its worth and thanks for all the info you put out for us.

      Reply

      Charles DeVerna

      3 months ago

      Great review. . Bot a Callaway Rogue LS last year and have been happy with it. And like your 1//3/5 rule…some of these OEM roll out same products just use different language in the marketing.

      Reply

      Peter Trivanovich

      3 months ago

      To get as close to an apples-to-apples comparison, you would need fit each tester for the best shaft/EI profile, and then use the same shaft for each driver, and each tester should go through the basics of fitting each head to find the best launch characteristics for that driver/shaft. Only then will you get data that is truly comparative. Otherwise, you should be using an iron-byron to rule out the human error. In comparing a 10 year old driver head to a new driver, the question we want answered is: If a 10 year old driver head is fitted correctly to a person (high rate of center of the face strikes, optimum launch angle, optimum shaft), is there any significant advantage to a new driver correctly fitted the same way. Nowhere is it stated that was done. Because if I am going to spend $600, maybe it should be to get my current driver head fitted with the best shaft and setup for that combo.

      Reply

      John

      3 months ago

      How different were results across swing speeds?

      Reply

      Ant

      3 months ago

      We tried a test on Friday with a 70+year old player and his Titleist 913D2 vs 917D2 averaged 10 paces more with the 917D2 so possibly a little more with a TS, TSi or TSR.

      Only the 913 was fitted, 10 years ago, an we were trying to work out how many TM or Calli driver models there were in those 4 years.

      Reply

      Geoffrey

      3 months ago

      Now run the test again, but this time against a driver just 3 years old.

      Reply

      AndyS

      3 months ago

      Were they the same length?

      Reply

      Kevin Gyda

      3 months ago

      I play a Titleist 915D3 still, and was able to carry it 289-300 this weekend during our tourn. Although it’s old like me, I can’t see replacing it at this time. I’d rather invest in lessons w my pro.

      Reply

      DOC K

      3 months ago

      That is pretty impressive considering the avg total driving distance on the Champions Tour ( carry and roll) is 274 yds

      Reply

      Painter33

      3 months ago

      I’d pay whatever Tiger and Rory paid for their drivers…

      HARKSHARK

      3 months ago

      Let’s be honest though that any 2 or 3 year old driver could be had for 1/3rd the price of stealth and almost same results within a couple yards max.

      Reply

      Tampon Woods

      3 months ago

      But why wouldn’t you adjust the loft to the same 9.5????? Yes you could have swapped out the Stealth 2’s adapter to the old one with the 0.5-1.5 degree adjuster and not the current 0.75-2.0 degree one
      LOL
      This shows that essentially, NOTHING has changed in 10 years.
      Remember that they made the Hot “lighter” to help you swing it faster etc. What were the weight differences between the 2 clubs here? You have to spec them out completely the same to make the test fair, same head weights, same shaft (with same tipping), same grips, same loft. That’s the least you can do

      Reply

      Phillip Bishop

      3 months ago

      For the testing pool, a fitting took place for each tester. Similar to our Most Wanted Driver procedures. Loft on the Stealth 2 Plus was changed if needed.

      Reply

      What?

      3 months ago

      So it’s all wolly bollocks.

      Peter

      3 months ago

      I wonder how much the difference is if the spin was the same. A lower spinning xhot or a higher spinning stealth model.

      Reply

      Darren Jeffries

      3 months ago

      I’m currently gaming a Ping G30 LS, so I’m definitely close to that 10 year window. I hit the driver well, which is probably the reason why I’ve not invested in a new driver before now. That said, I have bit the bullet and getting fitted in 2-weeks time.

      Reply

      Bob Wilson

      3 months ago

      Here’s an alternate test. Take 15 people with a 10 year old driver, have them hit the new driver, then give them $600 worth of lessons with their old driver and let’s see what difference there is.

      Reply

      Jesús Arasti

      3 months ago

      Totally agree. Already in the case of senior players the differences will be minimal. I play with a Cobra F8 driver and testing models of ’22 and ’23 the differences are less than 10 yds. Better to invest in classes to improve swing speed

      Reply

      Bill

      3 months ago

      So you gain one yard a year total distance over 10 years?
      Hardly seems worth the upgrade more that’s every 5 years for a 20 rounds a year golfer.

      Scott Underhill

      3 months ago

      Since the ball technology has changed so much since 2013, I’d love to see a side by side comparison using a 2023 model ball.

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