I hadn’t previously thought of the RSM Classic as one of the PGA TOUR’s seminal events but given that it coincides with the arrival (at least as far as the USGA is concerned) of new 2024 drivers from COBRA, PING, PXG and TaylorMade, it suddenly feels (to me, anyway) like the second biggest tournament of the year played in Georgia.
Here’s what hit the USGA conforming list.
Apart from the typical Version 1, Version 2, stuff common to the list, COBRA has three new DARKSPEED models on the list. If you’ve kept up with COBRA at all over the past few seasons, what’s on the way shouldn’t come as any huge surprise.
COBRA DARKSPEED LS
You can bank on the “LS” denoting “Low Spin” as that’s become almost industry-standard nomenclature.
The USGA photo clearly shows an updated three-weight system which suggests COBRA is giving golfers seeking low spin a new option to increase forgiveness beyond what the AEROJET LS offered.
Other key COBRA technologies (PWR BRIDGE, PWRSHELL, H.O.T FACE) are noted in the USGA description.
While not noted specifically, aerodynamics was a huge part of the story with the current model (it’s the Aero in AEROJET) and we expect that to evolve for 2024.
COBRA DARKSPEED X
For my money, the LTD X was the best of COBRA’s 2022 lineup so it was a bit of surprise when the X disappeared in favor of a standard model that lacked adjustable weights.
For 2024, indications are that the X is is back (DARKSPEED X) along with COBRA’s front-to-back flip weight system that debuted with the FLY-Z.
As with the DARKSPEED LS, a laundry list of COBRA technologies is noted in the description.
X should prove to be the most popular of the DARKSPEED family.
COBRA DARKSPEED MAX
“MAX” is how the equipment industry typically describes their highest MOI offerings, so it’s reasonable to assume that will be the case with the COBRA DARKSPEED MAX.
If the MAX moniker wasn’t enough, the heel-toe weighting shown in the USGA photo is relatively common in MAX designs as it gives golfers a choice between slice correction (heel bias) and maximum forgiveness by way of higher MOI when the heavy weight is in the back position.
It’s a bit strange, dare I say unexpected, to see a new PING driver hitting the USGA list. By PING standards, we’re not particularly deep into the G430 driver life cycle and one would think they’ve got the market more or less covered. Nevertheless, here we are.
PING G430 MAX 10K
The USGA won’t be winning any photography awards for this one so we don’t have quite the detail we’d like.
From the provided material, two things are notable about the PING G430 MAX 10K.
The first is that the rear weight appears to be fixed as opposed to the adjustable options found in current models.
Second, the USGA description denotes “CARBONFLY WRAP” printed on the crown. As you may recall, CARBONFLY is the term used to described the carbon-fiber crown which was previously unique to the G430 LS.
So what about the “10K” stuff?
Given its recent collab with Hideoki, I suppose it could suggest gold inlays and a $10,000 price tag. More likely, the evidence (fixed weight, carbon crown and PING’s brand identity) suggest a maximum forgiveness play that exceeds that of the current G430 MAX.
The fact that it’s still a G430 suggests the current MAX will stay in the lineup. To borrow from a PING competitor, the 10K is likely just MAX-IER.
It’s hard to know what to make of the new PXG drivers on the USGA conforming list. The company has previously stated a commitment to 0311(mainstream) and 0317 (better players) labeling for its products. Of course, everything at PXG can change with less than a moment’s notice.
Is BLACK OPS a prototype (maybe), a model name under the 0311 umbrella (probably) or a golf shaft brand that most of you forgot about (definitely).
Regardless, the USGA currently lists three PXG BLACK OPS drivers including a Tour-1 and a Tour-3. The whereabouts of the Tour-2 might be the most compelling mystery in all of this.
PXG BLACK OPS
The only PXG listing without a “Tour” designation hints at mainstream option. The USGA denotes “0311” on the sole, suggesting we may be past the prototype phase.
The standard BLACK OPS features a three-weight system and, as the case has been with the last couple of PXG releases, the weights are positioned to the extreme (or is it XTREME?) heel and toe.
In past iterations, the position of the weights has functioned to keep MOI extremely high while keeping spin in check.
PXG BLACK OPS TOUR-1
The most glaring difference between the standard and the TOUR-1 model is the position of the weights. The TOUR-1 still offers a three-weight system but, in this version, the heel and toe weights are placed more centrally while the rear weight is behind the pulled-down section of the sole.
To me, this suggests a more forward center of gravity design which presumably offers lower spin, albeit with lower MOI.
While the USGA’s photos are anything but conclusive (scale is always a challenge), they could suggest a driver that is a bit more compact front-to-back than the others.
The current 0311 lineup doesn’t offer anything that would challenge the lowest-spinning drivers on the market so there is room in the PXG lineup.
PXG BLACK OPS TOUR-3
It’s unlikely that both the 1 and the 3 will make it to retail (I’m still holding out for that 2). The underlying tech appears identical to the TOUR-1 though the 1 has sole accents that are missing from the 3. As noted, the USGA photos suggest the 3 is a bit longer front-to-back but, again, with scale lacking and the 3 showing a bit more loft in the image, that’s anything but a certainty.
2023 was an off year for TaylorMade, both in terms of sales numbers and the faces on their Stealth 2 drivers. The company has said in no uncertain terms that it’s committed to carbon-face tech so our assumption was that that tech would carry on but after two years (Stealth and Stealth 2) on the market, TaylorMade would rebrand its driver flagship carbon/metalwoods lineup.
TaylorMade Qi10 LS
The only new driver from TaylorMade currently on the USGA conforming list suggests TaylorMade has ditched the +/plus naming convention in favor of the “LS” designation.
Love it. Isn’t it better when everyone is on the same page? Now, let’s talk shaft adapters and shaft flex.
While you can bet there’s a story behind Qi (and probably 10 too), I’m willing to go out on a limb and say the LS will be the lowest-spinning Qi10 driver and, while they’re currently unlisted, there are almost certain to be at least two more options when the embargo lists.
The photos suggest the TaylorMade Qi10 LS will again pair a fixed rear weight with TaylorMade’s signature sliding (SLDNG?) heel-toe/draw-fade weight system.
What’s interesting is that the photos suggest a relatively compact weight track. That could mean TaylorMade is providing less ability to move the center of gravity around or that it’s using a heavier weight to accomplish the same result over a shorter distance.
To leave no doubt about its commitment to the technology, CARBONWOOD is noted on the sole which is a heavy suggestion that carbon-face technology persists.
This one was technically added to the USGA list last week, but, given the affinity among our readership for both Costco and inexpensive alternatives to the mainstream (I suppose those two go hand-in-hand), we felt the need to include this.
Kirkland Signature Driver
I suppose it’s reasonable to call this the one you’ve been waiting for. Like the irons that have seemingly been on the USGA list forever, we don’t have a release date for the driver. Frankly, we don’t have the highest of hopes for this one but the target audience isn’t likely to care.
The USGA photo suggests a no-frills design with just a single fixed rear weight. Unlike mainstream brands who pepper soles, crowns and skirts of drivers with buzzwords, the Kirkland offering is devoid of any signature tech.
Only a single loft (10.5 degrees) is listed and I don’t expect that will change. I’m also not expecting much in the way of shaft options though the Kirkland Signature driver will offer hosel-based adjustability.
The play here is almost certainly value-first. If the Costco can deliver performance within sniffing distance of the big names with a price tag significantly below $600, it should do just fine.
2024 is shaping up to be a surprisingly rich year for drivers. From what you’ve seen so far, what are you most looking forward to trying?