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No two golfers have identical swings. Why, then, would we assume (or be led to assume) that any two golfers would require exactly the same thing from their equipment?
It’s our mission to understand what equipment best serves each unique golfer. The desire to capture more data is why our 2020 Most Wanted Driver Test consisted of 35 real humans and captured more than 15,540 shots. The more we know about the performance of each of the 37 drivers in our test, the better we can help narrow your choices.
It’s tempting to watch the PGA TOUR and assume the same drivers that work for the pros will also serve you. The data say otherwise. Once again, we’re segmenting our data for 2020 to provide more meaningful information to the individual golfer. We’ve broken down our driver test results into three different swing speed categories. For this breakdown, we’re focusing on mid swing speeds (95 to 105 miles per hour).
While overall results for the Most Wanted Driver test yielded small differences, the mid swing speed group showed a significant difference between the longest and shortest drivers. The mid swing speed group is the middle of the bell curve and encompasses the greatest number of golfers so likely you’ll find information here that applies to you.
Most Wanted For Mid Swing Speeds: Cobra SpeedZone Xtreme
Expert Consultant – Lou Stagner
Lou serves as the Director, Analytics at a multi-billion dollar privately held company. He has over 20 years of experience in analytics, data architecture, and machine learning across a variety of industries, including finance, manufacturing, and energy. Lou recently partnered with Scott Fawcett, creator of the DECADE system, where together, they use stats & analytics to help improve the games of professional and amateur golfers.
Driver Buying Considerations
Performance should be your primary concern when buying a new driver but there are some additional considerations you may want to think about before you make your purchase.
By leveraging the adjustability provided by club manufacturers, you can often turn a good driver into a great driver. Most everything on the market has an adjustable hosel which allows the golfer to tweak loft and face angle. Many golfers benefit from the draw and fade options available on drivers like the PING G410 Plus, Titleist TS3 and Mizuno ST200G, to name a few. Others benefit from the launch, spin and MOI changes offered by front-to-back weight systems like those on the Cobra King SpeedZone, Honma TR20 460 and Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero. For those looking for the best of both worlds, movable weight systems like those in the Mizuno ST200G and PXG 0811 X GEN2 series offer front-to-back as well as draw and fade positions.
The shaft absolutely matters. For those who buy off the rack or take a DIY approach to club fitting, having a selection of stock offerings that span a variety of weight classes and include – at a minimum – low-, mid- and high-launch shaft options can make the difference between a driver that doesn’t perform and one that goes into your bag.
Distance vs. Forgiveness vs. Shot Shape Correction
While most every manufacturer has its version of the fast AND forgiving story, most are trying to strike the right balance that fits within their brand’s identity. The reality is that pushing ball speed limits often comes at the expense of MOI while maximizing forgiveness often means giving up a bit of speed and adding a bit of spin. It’s up to you to weigh how much speed you want against how much forgiveness you need.
It should also be noted that to create a draw bias (anti-slice correction), weight must be moved to the heel. That means pulling weight from the back of the club which often results in draw-biased models being less forgiving (lower MOI) than standard models from the same family.
The drivers in this test range in price from $199 to $650, excluding any exotic shaft upgrades. The top performers tend to fall towards the higher end of that price range but you can snag the Wilson D7 for $299.99. While $500 is rapidly becoming the new entry-level, those leveraging a cost-per-yard formula will have a hard time justifying paying that much.
Ping G410 SFT – The Slice Killer
The PING G410 SFT is ranked 6th in forgiveness and produced among the tighest dispersion of the drivers we tested. It’s Strokes Gained performance is perhaps misleading. While it’s not designed for every golfer, the SFT effectively takes the right-side of the course out of play. It had the most left-side favoring dispersion of any driver tested. It also produced the most left-tilted spin axis (draw spin) in the test.
What that means to you is that the G410 SFT does exactly what it’s designed to do – help golfers who slice keep the ball in play.
2020 Most Wanted DRIVER DATA
To filter and compare by club, use the drop-down list and checkboxes to select only the drivers you wish to compare. Mobile users should flip their phones to landscape mode.
EXPERT TIP- Flat Settings
If you hook the ball look for a driver with a flat setting to help turn your hook into a mini draw. EX. Ping has created a tip that allows you to drop it into a flat setting, claiming it adjusts nearly three degrees flatter than standard.
MID SWING SPEEDS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN 2020, SIMPLIFIED.
Congratulations, you’ve read further than most of your peers. So if you’re here, you get bonus in-depth information. Tell your friends. If you swing in the 95 to 105 mph range, take these notes into consideration.
- PING’s G410 performed above average in all metrics. The G410’s high MOI head makes it an extremely forgiving driver. The club head can also be manipulated to suit players that need either a draw or fade bias.
- If you tend to produce a lower spin rate, you probably also struggle to get the ball in the air, Wilson’s Launch Pad has placed the CG further back and down, situating it near the heel of the club head to promote higher launch and more spin. Additionally, the Launch Pad is a draw-bias.
- Exotic’s EXS 220 has proven itself on the Champions Tour and is a well-rounded top performer in this year’s driver test. The multi-adjustable hosel maximizes launch conditions for the mid swing speed group.
- During testing, the Tour Edge HL4 had a penetrating ball flight and low-spin combination that gave it just under a three-yard longer carry compared to the group average.
- We call the PING G410 SFT “the slice killer” and for the mid swing speed group it did exactly that. It’s a heel-weighted head so you won’t be visiting the right side of the course.
Taylormade Sim Max D – Slice Corrector
The Taylormade Sim Max D is a great option for golfers who need just a little bit of help with a slice. The draw-biased option favored the left side of the fairway, but not excessively. It’s a crowd pleaser and performs well for a large number of golfers.
MORE BUYING TIPS
- Always be aware of shaft length. Clubs that are physically longer may produce a bit more distance on your best shots but they’re also generally less accurate and less consistent. There is no industry standard for how to measure so it’s not unusual for a company’s 45.5 inches to measure closer to 46. When demo-ing, be sure to consider the actual length of the clubs you’re testing. One may generate more distance simply because the shaft is longer. In the absence of a ruler, a side-by-side examination can help you understand if a club is really longer (distance) or the shaft is just longer.
- When you use your wrench to add or reduce loft, you’re also changing the face angle. Adding loft closes the face while reducing loft opens it. While we do leverage hosel adjustments to make small changes to launch and spin, very often we use those same adjustments to alter starting direction and improve accuracy. The same approach can work for you.
- Much like age, the loft stamped on your driver is just a number – an often meaningless one at that. Every driver has three lofts: what’s stamped on the club, the actual loft a given manufacturer is trying to hit, and the actual measured loft. When all is said and done, there isn’t as much overlap between the three as we’d hope – and that’s before we talk about center of gravity placement and dynamic loft. It’s not usual for one brand’s 9.5 to have the same loft as another’s 10.5 so if you’re a 9.5 guy in one manufacturer’s lineup, don’t assume you’re a 9.5 in everyone else’s.
- Not all adjustable weighting systems are created equal. If you plan to leverage adjustability to its fullest potential, look for systems that allow you to move significant mass over a wider area of the club head while keeping the weight close to the perimeter of the club.
How We Test
Our mission is to help you find the best driver for your game.
We are 100% independent and unbiased, and we always put the #ConsumerFirst.
About Our Testers
Our pool of testers consists of 35 golfers with handicaps ranging from plus to the mid-teens. As a group, they span a broad range of swing characteristics (head speed, attack angle, etc.).
Over the course of several sessions, each golfer is required to hit 10-12 “good” shots with each club. Club order is randomized on a per tester basis.
Crunching the Numbers
Before determining our rankings, we identify and remove outliers using a proprietary detection methodology.
To arrive at our final results, we calculate the averages of key metrics (ball speed, distance, dispersion, etc.), while also considering the standard deviation and the statistical reliability of those values.
THE BEST DRIVERS FOR MID SWING SPEEDS 2020 – FAQ
Buying a New Driver
Q: How often should I buy a new driver?
A: While on rare occasions there are quantifiable year-over-year breakthroughs, typically it takes three to five years for manufacturers to make any significant performance gains. With the USGA further tightening restrictions on manufacturers, it’s possible, even likely, that it will take longer still moving forward. Our recommendation is to buy a new driver only when it appreciably outperforms what is already in your bag. Of course, if you want a new driver because you want a new driver, that’s fine, too.
Q: With all the talk of new face technology, is there one driver that produces significantly more ball speed?
A: Across our test pool as a whole, we found no significant ball speed advantage that can be attributed to face technology. It’s true that some drivers worked significantly better for individual golfers than others but thus far, we’ve found no evidence to suggest any one brand has a significant ball speed advantage over its competitors.
Q: Does the shaft matter?
A: Absolutely. While changes to spin and launch and spin differences are rarely massive, shaft changes frequently lead to improved accuracy, tighter dispersion and greater overall consistency.
Q: What should I look for when testing drivers?
A: While golfers have been conditioned to consider distance to the exclusion of nearly everything else, we recommended looking at the little numbers and looking for small circles. When comparing metrics like distance and ball speed, be sure to look at your standard deviations (the small numbers usually found under the big ones on the data screen). Smaller numbers mean better consistency which will usually mean more than an extra yard or two on the golf course. Similarly, look for tighter dispersion ellipses (small circles). We can’t overstate the importance of consistency with the driver.
Q: Is there any downside to adjustability?
A: Yes, but… With many designs, adjustable hosels weigh significantly more than their glued alternatives so manufacturers have to find workarounds to offset the additional weight in an area where additional weight is undesirable. Furthermore, movable weight systems require complex physical structures that eat up otherwise discretionary mass and often have sound and feel consequences. That said, in most cases the fitting versatility more than offsets those negatives. This is especially true for golfers who choose not to work directly with a fitter.
How Adjusting Loft Impacts Launch and Spin
Did you know that adjusting the loft of your driver by 1° changes launch angle by approximately .8° and alters spin by +/-300RPM?
Q: How are the drivers in test fitted to each golfer?
A: We use a fitting process that we call “fit from stock.” Drivers are fitted to each tester using the stock no up-charge options from each manufacturer. We test with stamped lofts between nine and 10.5 degrees and fully utilize the fitting capability within each manufacturer’s lineup. This includes leveraging loft, lie, and face angle adjustability (hosel), movable weights and available shafts.
Q: How is the “Most Wanted Driver” determined?
A: To determine the Most Wanted Driver, we look at a variety of performance metrics based on data collected with Foresight GCQuad Launch Monitors. For each tester, we calculate strokes gained across all testers. The Most Wanted driver is the is the one that produced the highest strokes gained relative to the average across the entire test cohort.
Q: How do you break down the test by swing speed?
A: In order to determine the best-performing drivers at a given swing speed, we broke the data down into even groups based on testers’ average swing speed. For the mid swing speeds, 12 testers in our Most Wanted Driver Test produced driver swing speeds between 95 and 105 mph.
Q: How is the “Longest Driver” determined?
A: To determine the Longest Driver, we consider the average total yards across the test pool along with the statistical reliability of that data. We also look at a narrower subset of the data that includes only the longest few shots hit by each tester with each club.
Q: How is the “Most Forgiving Driver” determined?
A: To determine the Most Forgiving Driver, we focus on a narrower set of metrics that includes shot area (dispersion), accuracy and the average standard deviation for ball speed and carry yards.
Q: How much does subjective feedback like looks, sound and feel factor into your rankings?
A: ZERO. Our rankings are based purely on launch monitor data and quantifiable performance metrics.