Driver Shopping Do’s and Don’ts
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Driver Shopping Do’s and Don’ts

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Driver Shopping Do’s and Don’ts

Yes, friends, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. If you live “up north,” it seems like years since it’s been clear. But the sun is coming.

And it’s all right.

It’s officially been spring for a little over a week now and, every spring men, women, boys and girls get their fancy turned.  For golfers, that fancy turns to new gear. Specifically, a new driver.

There are three main reasons to buy a new driver. First, your current driver is at least five years old. In the half-decade since you last went driver shopping, OEMs have further refined their use of AI design and are getting good at minimizing distance loss when you miss the center of the face. Five years’ worth of technology is going to have tangible benefits.

Driver Shopping do's and don'ts.

The second reason to go driver shopping is, for whatever reason, your current driver doesn’t fit. Maybe it used to fit you, maybe it never did. But getting the wrong stick out of your hands and onto the right one can be a game-changer.

The last reason to go driver shopping, which is just a valid as either of the previous two, is that you friggin’ want one. It’s your money, you earned it and no one has the right to tell you how to spend it. One small bit of advice: when it comes to dealing with the House Ways and Means Committee, it’s often better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.

So in that spirit, let’s go over the top do’s and don’ts of driver shopping.

Do This, Don’t Do That …

… can’t you read the sign?

Or at least, read the blog?

Every year, MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted Driver Test is the most exhaustive and detailed driver test you’ll find anywhere. Is it a perfect test? Nope (not yet, anyway) but it does provide you with plenty of information as you start your driver research. Forgive us for saying it but it’s your best starting point and can help you get pointed in the right direction.

Don’t, however, let your research begin and end with YouTube videos of golf influencers taking the driver out on the course or the range and whacking a handful of balls. They’ll give you their impressions which, while helpful, should only be an ingredient in your driver-buying recipe. They’ll tell you how much they like, or don’t like, the driver they’re testing and, if they give you ball speed, launch and spin numbers, it’s fair to ask how those numbers relate to your game. Helpful? Somewhat. Definitive? Hardly.

Do Have Realistic Expectations

Conversely, don’t believe in magic.

“The 100 percent hardest fitting is someone who thinks a new driver will magically give them new distance,” says Steve Thomson, a fitter and instructor at Golftec in Danvers, Mass. “That’s the hard one.”

driver shopping do's and don'ts

Let’s say this once again and very clearly: OEMs are not promising you 10 more yards every year. Yes, they all talk about distance because no one wants to buy a shorter driver. But they don’t make outrageous claims.

When you look for a driver, it’s important to have an idea of what you’re looking for and why you’re looking for it. We all want more distance but Thomson says chasing distance only is a mistake.

“It’s important to understand your launch angle, spin and descent angle,” says Thomson. “Those are your basic launch conditions and are key ingredients to distance. Everyone wants a driver that goes really far but, with bad metrics, it isn’t going to help.”

DO Work With a Fitter

Look, the going rate for a new model driver has already cracked the six bills threshold. Sure, there are plenty of lower-priced options that perform (and you should consider them) but $600 is the golf equivalent of jacks or better to open.

If you’re going to spend that kind of money driver shopping, a good fitter can make sure you aren’t simply taking a few whacks in the hitting bay and reaching for your credit card.

“We want to find out where the golfer tends to hit the ball on the face,” says Thomson. “Once we know that, we can pick the right head, whether it’s draw-biased, fade-biased, low spin, whatever.”

However, if you’re also working with an instructor on a swing change or are planning on working on a swing change during the coming season, it might not be the right time for you to be driver shopping.

DO Try Different Shafts …

… but don’t think it’s all about the shaft.

Over the past half-decade, nearly every OEM has expanded its shaft offerings. Everyone has a selection of no-upcharge offerings as well as big-ticket premium upgrades. Somewhere out there is the right shaft for you. Again, this is something a good fitter can help you with.

But only after he’s fitted you into the right head.

driver shopping do's and don'ts.

“The best way to think of it is that the head does the performance,” explains Thomson. “If you tend to hit it low heel, that’s going to spin a lot and give you a right-ward curve. So we’ll fit you into a draw-bias head. Then we’ll look at the shaft to help you with speed and maybe together they’ll give you some distance.”

Look at it like this: a premium shaft won’t make the wrong head for you the right head for you. But if you’re into the right head for you, then a premium shaft might – might – make it even better.

Maybe the best analogy I’ve ever heard about the relative importance of the head versus the shaft came from a former designer at a major OEM. He told us it’s like an old TV set. The head is the big dial that selects the channel. The shaft is the little dial that finetunes the reception.

And when you get the right shaft in the right head and put it into the hands of the right golfer?

“Those are the most gratifying ones,” says Thomson. “Give a big slicer a draw-type head and they start reducing that slice by 10 or 15 yards? That can change someone’s golf game.”

DO Bring Your Gamer …

… and don’t feel bad if you leave with it.

I played with a guy a couple of years ago who was gaming an old Titleist 975D driver. He was smacking the ever-loving snot out of the thing and didn’t miss a fairway all day. As we walked up the 18th fairway he asked me if he’d benefit from getting a new driver.

I stared at him and said, “What the f**k more do you want a driver to do?”

driver shopping do's and don'ts/.

Sometimes the club you have does the job you need it to do. That’s why you should bring your gamer with you when looking at new drivers. It’s only fair. It’s served you well and deserves the chance to defend its place in your bag. There are two types of drivers in this showdown: the quick and the dead.

DO Consider Brands Outside of the Big Five …

… but don’t ignore last year’s models.

Yeah, TaylorMade, Callaway, PING, Titleist and COBRA sell roughly nine out of every 10 drivers. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some others out there that flat-out perform. Every year we see sneaky good drivers from Srixon, Mizuno, Wilson, PXG and Tour Edge. Hell, even Costco is getting in the game. You may find that one of these smaller brands, with a slightly smaller price tag, can do the job you need it to do and for a lot less money.

By the same token, last year’s unsold leftovers can represent solid value. The closeout discounts aren’t as steep as they used to be but a 2023 Stealth 2 or Paradym (without the Smoke Ai) can be had for $400 to $450.

DON’T Swing Too Much …

… or too little.

A driver fitting can be tiring. You’re putting full effort into every shot for half an hour or longer. I don’t care who you are but if you aren’t in mid-season “golf shape,” you’re going to fatigue. At some point, your swing will deteriorate. Hitting any more shots or trying any more shafts or heads will only frustrate you.

What are the best drivers?

On the other hand, you do have to hit more than one or two shots with a driver to get any kind of an idea. I know it’s tempting to pick up a driver, hit a couple on the screws and feel like the driver has found you. You do need to give it a fair trial.

Additionally, it’s important not to base your decision on that one shot you smoked, especially if every other shot was all over the grid. Look at the overall shot groupings. Small ovals are good ovals.

Do Enjoy Demo Day …

… especially if more than one brand is involved.

If your course is having a Callaway demo day, you can certainly go ahead and book a fitting. But the only thing you’re going to try is Callaway. It’s the same with a TaylorMade, Titleist or PING demo day. We tend to like multi-OEM demo days where you can try everyone’s stuff.

If you’ve gone through all that and have chosen to go with Callaway, then by all means sign up and git ‘er done.

DON’T DON’T DON’T let them fit you with range balls.

Driver shopping do's and don'ts.

DO make sure they’ll let you demo the club on the course. You’ll know what it does on the launch monitor. It’s better to know what it does on the golf course.

Bring your glove and your golf shoes. You want the experience to be as similar as possible to game conditions.

DO Have Fun

Golf is a game and games are supposed to be fun. Remember, one of the three key reasons to buy a new driver is because you damn well want to. For many, driver shopping is fun. And fun is a perfectly good reason.

You don’t have to explain yourself to anybody.

For You

For You

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John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John is an aging, yet avid golfer, writer, 6-point-something handicapper living back home in New England after a 22-year exile in Minnesota. He loves telling stories, writing about golf and golf travel, and enjoys classic golf equipment. “The only thing a golfer needs is more daylight.” - BenHogan

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba





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      andrew osuszek

      2 months ago

      Very good guideline for buying new driver. Your analyses are very helpful. i cross reference to some other hitting info sources and there are discrepancies especailly for distances with a few clubs and wonder why. Just bought a new Smoke AI D to reduce dispersion cf Rogue ST D, which had great distance and easy to hit. Most bad hits were on heel and robotics report showed that the Smoke Ai had corrected this and was probably be the best for that.
      If you could do robotic testing a a recent commentor mentioned it would help dispel some variables and uncertainties. Untimately when analyzing , criteria selection introduces and inherent bias when trying to determine what is “best”. Ultimate variable is the hitter.
      Comment by a reader re choice options is so true, especially if you are a senior golfer using A shaft. I couldn’t even try the new PING even with regular. shaft Only got to hit the old 430 which gave me the best hit of the session but couldn’t close to it in any hit. Saw new Ping one one day and next day it was gone and no replacement for a booked fitting. I suspect it would have been a tough choice.

      Reply

      Max R

      2 months ago

      Great advice and insight in the business and marketing of these toys. Recently I had been fitted at my local Golftec for the Ping Max driver with a custom shaft length of 44 inches. This would replace my Mizuno ST190 driver. Spent 90 minutes going through a variety of driver heads (from different manufacturers) and eventually settled on the Ping driver. It was a gain of 12 yards carry using the ProV1 balls. Seventy one years young, too. My only reservation with fitters (even Golftec) is that don’t all have a wide variety of clubs (like Mizuno, Srixon, XXXIO, etc.) so, you’re really never going to get the best fit as no one can keep that type of inventory on hand unless the manufacturers have a consignment agreement to make their equipment available at the most attractive price point for them to stock their locations.

      Reply

      Robin C Owens

      2 months ago

      That’s a big line of clubs.

      Reply

      Jason S

      2 months ago

      I really looking forward to my fittings in May. The place I’m doing them (PXG on one day, multiple vendors on the next) is having their biggest vendor demo day right in-between my fittings. So that’s going to work out great with the multi-vendor fitting. I’ll hopefully have my options whittled down for them. This is a fun time of year. :-)

      Reply

      Max

      2 months ago

      Are they charging you for the fittings?

      Reply

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