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BEST DRIVERS FOR 2020
If you are in the market for a driver, this test is for you. These are the best drivers for 2020.
At MyGolfSpy, our job is to provide independent, unbiased, and objective testing of products to help you make more confident purchasing decisions. We do this by employing consistent testing methodologies and advanced golf analytics inside our 100% independent test facility. You are then able to leverage the industry’s richest set of head-to-head data to help unlock your full potential. Our testing provides unparalleled data, which equals unparalleled insight for the golfer.
For 2020, stop buying golf equipment you like and start buying equipment you want to keep. Don’t spend a dollar unless it improves on what’s already in the bag.
Most Wanted: PING G410 LST
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.
MyGolfSpy is the site millions of golfers turn to when they’re about to buy something golf-related. Our goal is to make it easy for you to find golf equipment that will perform best for your game and give you the most confidence in your decision. Every year we work with experts from across the golf industry to continually improving our testing process.
Here’s an overview of the significant changes we’ve made to help you find the best drivers for 2020.
Less Aggressive Manual Outlier Filtering – We’ve expanded our allowable
Clubhead Driven Outlier Identification – We now use Foresight GCQuad Club Data as the basis for determining which shots we treat as outliers. By looking at metrics like swing speed, attack angle, face to path relationship, and impact location, we can focus on eliminating atypical swings while gathering a more complete picture of club performance.
Updated Strokes Gained Approach– For 2020, we’ve made two enhancements to our Strokes Gained methodology.
- Enhanced Strokes Gained Model – We extrapolate Strokes Gained values for holes of varying lengths, allowing us to consider a broader range of on-course results.
- Graduated Rough Penalty – Strokes Gained values are adjusted such that shots traveling significantly offline are penalized more than those that fly just a few feet into the rough.
New Efficiency Metrics – Efficiency looks at how much better or worse a club performed – on an individual golfer basis – to other clubs in the field. With the exception of Strokes Gained, Efficiency is displayed as a percentage. Example: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero has a Total Distance Efficiency of 3.02%. That means it was 3.02% longer than the average driver in the cohort. We calculate Efficiency for a variety of metrics.
New Smash Efficiency Metric – Smash Efficiency looks at the rate at which Smash Factor decreases as impact moves away from the center of the face. Smash Efficiency plays a significant role in our Forgiveness ratings.
Multi-Metric Most Wanted Determination – We use our statistical reliability methodology as a filter before aggregating Strokes Gained Efficiency and Total Distance Efficiency to determine our Most Wanted Winner.
Bridgestone Tour B X Golf Balls – For 2020, we’ve switched from Bridgestone Tour B RX golf balls to the new Tour B X.
2020 Runner Up – Ping G410 Plus
A top-tier performer for the second year in a row, the Ping G410 Plus is this year’s runner up. It ranked 2nd in Strokes Gained, 7th in total distance, and 16th in forgiveness. It was among the top-performing drivers for 29% of testers (2nd in the test). It also produced the most centered dispersion of any model tested. Notably, testers hit 60% of fairways with the Plus. Ball speed consistency and off-center performance were both excellent.
The G410 Plus was also highly rated for looks, feel and sound by our testers.
Other Notable Performances
TaylorMade SIM MAX D (rated 3rd) wasn’t nearly as left-side biased as other draw drivers. Some have noted that the MAX D doesn’t appear closed at address, which could explain why it performed so well across the testing pool. The data suggest it’s well-suited for golfers who are fighting a little bit of a slice but don’t want to go all-in on a closed face, upright, or super draw-biased alternative.
XXIO 11 is well-suited for golfers looking for a little extra head speed and slice correction. While not as draw-biased as the PING G410 SFT, it showed the most draw bias of any lightweight model
PING G410 Plus, among the drivers that produced above-average distance, provided the most neutral offline values (neither draw nor fade bias).
Honma TR-20 460 launched lower and spun less than the 440 model for a majority of testers.
Driver Buying Considerations
Performance should be your primary concern when looking for the best drivers of 2020, but there are some additional considerations you may want to think about before you buy.
The drivers in this test range from $199 to $650, excluding any exotic shaft upgrades. The 2020 Most Wanted PING G410 LST‘s $399 price tag is a relative bargain vs. new 2020 models. Our top value pick, the strong-performing Tour Edge Exotics EXS 220, currently sells for a for $350. As the golf world comes to terms with the realities of the COVID19 virus, price cuts may come sooner than usual. Given the uncertainty of the situation, some golf companies believe consumers won’t be looking to spend $500 on a new driver any time soon. Some manufacturers may adjust prices accordingly.
ADJUSTABLE vs. GLUED
Fitters and knowledgeable golfers can often turn a reasonably good performing driver into a great one with adjustability. In addition to loft/face angle and lie adjustments, many adjustable drivers include movable weights that can be used to lower launch, correct a slice, or boost forgiveness. In the hands of a capable fitter, these additional options can make a world of difference.
Many golfers don’t get fit for their drivers, and most still never adjust their driver. If you are not going to use it, you might not want to pay for it. Removing adjustability brings with it lower costs.
If you prefer simple or are looking to save a few bucks, a bonded hosel may be an option. Cleveland, Srixon, XXIO, Cobra (F-Max – not tested), Tour Edge, and Wilson each offer no-fuss, glued options.
EXPERT TIP – Do More Aerodynamic Drivers Increase Head Speed?
You are seeing more golf companies make claims about aerodynamics increasing head speed. Nothing in our data suggests any driver’s aerodynamic properties provide any clubhead speed advantage over the rest of the field.
Driver aerodynamics have improved but no model stands out from the pack. Head speed improvements come more from drivers that are lightweight with longer shafts than refined shaping. The Top 4 clubs for clubhead speed are lightweight models with longer shafts.
Several manufacturers continue to provide low cost, made for shafts as stock options in their drivers. The performance is often adequate (though not likely what you’d get from a properly fit aftermarket shaft), but make no mistake, made for shafts are usually chosen, not for performance, but instead to cut cost and boost margins.
We recommend working with a competent fitter, but understand that many of you will continue to buy off the rack. With most manufacturers offering 2-3 stock shafts to choose from, it’s still important to find the best fit within a stock lineup.
Finally, while we always recommend taking a performance-first approach, when comparing prices, golfers should understand that there’s more value to be found from brands who don’t water down their shaft offerings. We want to make sure you get the best driver for 2020.
Distance vs. Dispersion vs. Shot Shape Correction
Distance is king. We understand the temptation to focus on distance, but most golfers will only see a few yards between similar new drivers. There’s a strong case to made for prioritizing dispersion and consistency over distance.
For most golfers, it may be worth forgoing a couple of yards in favor of smaller numbers (tighter standard deviations) and smaller circles (better dispersion).
If you struggle with a slice, taking the right side out of play may be your most important buying consideration.
EXPERT TIP – How To Improve Accuracy
While golfers typically think of the shaft as a means to optimize launch and spin, the shaft will often have a greater impact on accuracy and dispersion. Factors like weight, stiffness, and torque all play a role in how the clubhead bends and twists as it’s delivered to the ball.
If you find yourself missing fairways with a driver you love, a shaft change can make a world of difference.
During each test, we look for trends that provide insight about market direction, as well as what noteworthy changes manufacturers have made to improve year-over-year performance. We also solicit feedback from our testers. We want to understand what they liked, what they didn’t like, and why. While we do collect and share this subjective feedback, it is not a factor in determining the best drivers for 2020.
- Lower spinning drivers are the new normal. As a result, fitting challenges have shifted from trying to correct for too much spin to often fighting to add it. Golfers, particularly those with slower swing speeds, may need to change to higher lofted heads and higher launching shafts.
- Lightweight options have increased to provide golfers not well-served by lower spinning mainstream offerings. There are more lightweight options available than ever before. Historically, this space has been the domain of niche players and fringe brands, but this year it has gone mainstream. Titleist and Mizuno entered the category, leaving TaylorMade and PING as the only mainstream brands yet to offer something long and light for the aging population of golfers.
- Non-Adjustable or Glued options are on the rise. The majority of lightweight offerings aren’t hosel adjustable, which plays well for a golfer who wants to keep it simple or minimize cost.
- Smaller Head options declined in 2020. 460cc is the standard, and 455cc is the new benchmark for undersized heads. With TaylorMade vacating the space with the SIM lineup, the Titleist TS4 (430cc) and Honma TR-20 440 were the only small heads in this year’s test.
Flat and Upright Settings
Did you know that, just like irons, lie angles vary among drivers? Choosing a more upright driver, or leveraging your driver’s upright setting can help start the ball to the left (for right-handed golfers), and help eliminate the right miss. Likewise, a flat setting can benefit golfers who struggle with a left miss.
Notes from the Testing Pool
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.
BEST DRIVER FOR 2020 (DATA)
The data is best-viewed on a desktop computer. Mobile users, please rotate your phones to landscape mode.
To rank drivers the best drivers for 2020, we leverage a new metric we call Efficiency. Efficiency compares how each driver compared on a relative basis to the median value for all drivers in the test.
- Strokes Gained values are based on an efficiency approach. Positive or negative values are relative to the average driver in the test.
- Ball Speed, Launch Angle, Spin Rate, Carry (yards), and Total Yards Efficiency are expressed as a percentage of how much faster, higher, longer, etc. a given driver was to the median value in the test.
- Smash Efficiency – is a measure of the percentage of Smash Factor (ball speed divided by head speed) retained on off-center strikes.
- Shot Area (Yards2) is a measure of the dispersion area reflects how tightly grouped, on average, the shot patterns with each driver are.
- Distance vs. Accuracy – Don’t sacrifice accuracy for a few more yards. Manufacturers know you want distance and often cheat distance through longer shafts. A 46″ shaft will almost always get you more yards, but it typically leads to a loss of accuracy and increased dispersion.
- Adjustable Loft – Adjusting loft changes the face angle. Adding loft ↑ closes the face while decreasing loft ↓ opens the face. By understanding the relationship between loft and face angle, and the influence face angle has on where your ball starts, you can leverage loft adjustability to improve accuracy.
- Looks vs. Performance – Don’t overvalue looks. Golfers tell us all the time that they can’t hit a club well if they don’t like how it looks, but we’ve found very little evidence to suggest this is true. Very often, golfers produce outstanding results with clubs they claim to despise. Keep an open mind about a club that you may not find visually appealing.
- Adjustable Weights – Not all adjustable weighting systems are created equal. You can leverage movable weight to its fullest potential by looking for systems that allow you to move significant mass over a wider area of the clubhead while keeping the weight close to the perimeter of the golf club. Lighter weights moved over small distances, or moved between central locations will have a minimal impact on ball flight.
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.
EXPERT TIP – Movable Weights
Moving weight forward can decrease ↓ launch angle and reduce spin by up to 250-500 RPM. Moving weight back will increase ↑ launch and spin, while boosting MOI (forgiveness). Heel positions are less forgiving than back positions, but help golfers fight a slice.
Moving weight forward often introduces a bit of fade bias, while back weight positions tend be more draw-biased (though not as much as heel positions)
Buying a New Driver
Q: How often should I buy a new driver?
A: Typically, it takes 3-5 years for manufacturers to make any significant performance gains. With the USGA tightening restrictions on manufacturers, it’s possible, even likely, that it will take longer moving forward. Our recommendation is to buy a new driver only when it appreciably outperforms what is already in your bag.
Q: With all the talk of new face technology, is there one driver that produces significantly more ball speed?
A: No. There’s definitely not one driver that produces more ball speed for everyone. We do find standouts every year (Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero led the field in ball speed), but average ball speeds among our top performers tend to be very close. As you move down the ball speed rankings, however, you will find drivers that can reasonably be described as slow.
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: Don’t focus exclusively on distance. While we all want a few more yards, don’t overlook dispersion and consistency numbers (most launch monitors display standard deviations in small print under the averages). Smaller standard deviations correlate to greater consistency, which is often overlooked by golfers.
Most Wanted – Determining the Best Drivers for 2020
Q: What is your fitting process?
A: We use a fitting process that we call fit from stock. Drivers are fit to each tester using available stock, no up-charge options from each manufacturer. We test with stamped lofts between 9° and 10.5° 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: What does your Efficiency metric measure?
A: Efficiency looks at differences in how clubs performed – on an individual golfer basis – to other clubs in the field for a given metric. With the exception of Strokes Gained Efficiency, values are expressed as percentages.
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. We filter based on the statistical reliability of the data at an 85% confidence interval with final rankings based on Strokes Gained and Driving Distance Efficiency.
Q: How is the “Longest” driver determined?
A: Our Total Distance Efficiency metric determines the longest driver.
Q: How is the “Most Forgiving” driver determined?
A: We focus on a narrow set of metrics that includes: Shot Area (dispersion), Accuracy, the average standard deviation for ball speed and carry yards, and the falloff rate of smash factor as impact moves away from center (Smash Efficiency).
Q: How much does subjective feedback like looks, sound, and feel factor into your rankings?
A: ZERO. Our rankings are based on launch monitor data and quantifiable performance metrics.
Q: Will you publish a breakdown of the results by swing speed like you have in the past?
A: Yes. those results will be published in the coming weeks.