By Peter Mumford
Go into any pro shop and watch golfers browsing the merchandise. Unless they’re looking to match a lavender shirt to their new plaid shorts, their attention is usually drawn to two types of clubs – drivers and putters. Let’s face it, those are the clubs with all the sex appeal – the distance club and the scoring club.
Drivers get first look because most guys feel inadequate about their own driver. After all, when they see Jason Day or Bubba Watson bombing 325 yard drives with relative ease, they can’t quite relate that to their own wimpy fades that took every ounce of energy to achieve a measly 230 yards. Obviously, it must be the driver! The big dog!
Now everybody knows that you can’t buy a ‘game in a box’ but that doesn’t stop them from imagining what they could do with Dustin Johnson’s driver – hit it way past all their buddies, win golf tournaments, maybe even win the hand of Paulina Gretzky. And just in case they’re not thinking that way, golf telecasts and magazines are full of ads that blatantly and subliminally reinforce the notion that their particular driver is longer and straighter than the rest and if you use it you will achieve golf greatness.
Well, I hate to burst your bubble but a new driver isn’t likely to get you any closer to Ms. Gretzky. However, the latest technology properly applied can have you hitting the ball farther and straighter. The operative words in that last sentence are “properly applied”. That means getting properly fitted for your driver by a PGA of Canada professional.
Every one of the major equipment companies claims that their driver is the best, the longest, the straightest and so on. The truth is: none of them make lousy equipment. They all work. They all look good and feel good. Chances are that any one of them could work for you. Some will set up more comfortably for you while others will ‘fit your eye’ better. The bottom line is you have to find a driver that looks and feels right to you, then get your pro to adjust it to your specs.
That means finding the right lie and loft, the proper shaft and grip. Most golfers think the clubhead is the key to getting the most out of their driver but it’s really the shaft that makes it all work. When you have some time, go to a fitting centre, pick the driver head you’re used to, then hit several shots with a variety of shafts and see the difference. Your pro can guide you as to what shaft is right for you.
In the end, everybody has different criteria for picking a driver – colour, comfort, confidence, budget – or maybe just who’s playing it on Tour. Following is a quick look at the driver offerings from the major equipment companies, the key men and women that use them on Tour and links to websites where you can view all the models and specs.
Jason Day is currently the #1 ranked player in the world. His exciting finish to 2015 was punctuated by two victories already in 2016 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC Dell match play. He’s fearless when it comes to using his TaylorMade M1 460 driver with a Mitsubishi Rayon KuroKage Silver TiNi 70X shaft and 10.5 degrees of loft.
TaylorMade has been the No. 1 driver on the PGA Tour for a number of years and has a large stable of top performing athletes using their equipment including Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson and Canadian David Hearn.
On the Ladies Tour, Jessica Korda leads the pack but is backed up by a huge roster of players including Natalie Gulbis, Paula Creamer and Beatrice Recari
TaylorMade has four drivers on the market:
- (M) TaylorMade M1
- (M) TaylorMade M2
- (M) Aeroburner
- (L) Kalea
Jordan Spieth, the # 2 ranked player in the world, had a record breaking year in 2015 that saw him win two majors, almost win two more, collect five titles in all and win just over $22 million. He almost added a second green jacket at this year’s Masters. Spieth’s weapon of choice off the tee is a Titleist 915D2 driver with 9.5 degrees of loft and an Aldila Rogue Limited Edition Black 60TX shaft.
Team Titleist Brand Ambassadors include Adam Scott, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas, Ian Poulter, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson, Canadian Graham DeLaet and many more.
Titleist has two drivers in 2016:
- Titleist 915 D2
- Titleist 915 D3
Rory McIlroy is the # 3 ranked player in the world but has a burning desire to get back to the top spot where he once resided. That top perch has been pretty much owned by Nike players for the past twenty years as Tiger Woods held the post until recent injuries forced him to the sidelines but his Northern Irish stablemate ably stepped into the breach. McIloy deploys the Nike Vapor Fly Pro driver with 9.5 degrees of loft in a neutral setting set on a Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ 70X shaft.
Michelle Wie, one of the longest hitting players on the LPGA Tour sports a Nike VR Tour driver and maintains an average driving distance of 265 yards.
Other players on the Nike Tour bus include Charl Schwartzel, Paul Casey, Stephen Ames, Suzanne Pettersen and Cheyenne Woods.
Nike drivers for 2016:
- (M) Nike Vapor Fly driver
- (M) Nike Vapor Flex driver
- (M) Nike Limited Edition Vapor Speed TW driver
- (L) Nike VR Tour
Bubba Watson is the most recognized brand ambassador for PING. Currently ranked # 4 in the world, Bubba has two Masters green jackets to his credit and a recent win at Riviera this year. He can manipulate his Ping G driver (9 degrees with 8 degrees actual loft, -0.6 setting; Grafalloy Bi-Matrix Pink X-Flex shaft, tipped 0.5 inches; 44.5 inches long; swing weight: D4) to make the ball curve more than perhaps any other golfer on the planet. He’s quirky, creative and very exciting to watch!
Canadian Brooke Henderson has risen from 208th in the world to 5th over the past year, thanks to a win at the end of last season and a string of eight Top 10 finishes this year. Henderson is just 18 but can bang it out there with the longest ladies on Tour. She boasts an impressive 268 yards average driving distance, which is good for 16th on the LPGA.
Other players on PING’s Tour staff include Angel Cabrera, Louis Oosthuizen, Hunter Mahan, Lee Westwood; Canadian Mackenzie Hughes; and the most-interesting-man-in-the-world, Miguel Angel Jimenez. The Ladies Tour staff is made of a diverse group of international stars, including Canada’s Henderson, Asahara Munoz of Spain, Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden and Giulia Sergas of Italy.
PING drivers for 2016:
- (M) PING G
- (M) PING G30
- (L) PING Rhapsody
The Big 3 are waiting to add a fourth member and that should be Rickie Fowler. He’s been the face of Cobra for several years – he’s young, he’s hip, he’s currently # 5 in the world and he’s very colourful. He just needs to win a major to take up residence on the lofty perch occupied by Day, Spieth and McIlroy and make it the Big 4. Fowler isn’t a big guy but still gets the ball out there with the longest hitters thanks to his Cobra King LTD driver with 9 degrees of loft and a Matrix Speed Rulz C70X shaft.
Lexi Thompson is the top LPGA player on Cobra’s Tour staff, currently sitting 5th on the money list and ranked 3rd in the world. Thompson is so strong that she uses a men’s driver (Cobra King LTD).
In addition to Fowler and Thompson, Team Cobra also includes Jonas Blixt, Bryson DeChambeau, Sophia Popov, Greg Norman and Holly Sonders.
Cobra drivers for 2016:
- (M) Cobra King F6
- (M) Cobra King LTD
- (M) Cobra MAX
- (M) Cobra Fly-Z
- (M) Cobra Bio Cell
- (L) Cobra King F6
- (L) Cobra Max
When Jordan Spieth had his mini meltdown at this year’s Masters, England’s Danny Willett was in position to take advantage and claim his first green jacket. Willett used a 9 degree Callaway XR 16 driver with a Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana W-Series 60X shaft.
Callaway has four drivers in its arsenal:
- (M) XR 16
- (M) XR16 PRO
- (M) Great Big Bertha
- (M) Big Bertha Alpha 816
- (L) Callaway XR 16
- (L) Callaway Great Big Bertha
In addition to Danny Willett, Team Callaway includes: Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Henrik Stenson, Branden Grace, Jim Furyk and Canadian Adam Hadwin. The Ladies team boasts World #1 Lydia Ko, major winner Morgan Pressel, long hitting Sandra Gal and Spanish sensation Belen Mozo;.
Team Srixon boasts a huge group of international stars such as Hideki Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell, Anirban Lahiri, Russel Knox, Shane Lowry and on the women`s side Inbee Park and Minjee Lee.
- (M) Srixon Z 355 driver
- (M) Srixon Z 545 driver
- (M) Srixon Z 745 driver
- (L) Srixon Z 355 driver
Team Mizuno: Luke Donald, Stacy Lewis, Nick Faldo.
- (M) Mizuno JPX 850 driver
- (M) Mizuno JPX-EZ driver
- (L) Mizuno JPX-EZ driver
Padraig Harrington has been leading the charge at Wilson for several years. He`s joined on Tour by Ricky Barnes among other.
- Wilson Staff FG Tour F5 driver
- Wilson Staff D200 driver
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine and a lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Like the hockey team, his golf game is in a re-building phase. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag