Drivers Buyer's Guide 2006
The modern driver can hold the contents of a 16-ounce can of soda and, with its heightened technology, offers much more pop than that. Check out the newest big sticks and find one that fits your game.
Most drivers have the CG location perfected, and sweet spots, hot spots and high-COR zones also are fairly well mastered. But take a look at the drivers that align the Center of Gravity Projection (indicated by a line drawn through the CG and that intersects the face perpendicularly) with the center of the clubface. Many are claiming this results in the maximum and most efficient energy transfer possible.
You have a high-performance face made from exotic beta-titanium that’s been triple-forged to create multiple thicknesses with a high COR. Then, you attach it to the body using the old welding process, and the welding mass moves that rear CG you tried so hard to create forward. Damn! Drivers with cupfaces, adhesion techniques such as brazing and robotic plasma-welding are high-tech stuff and can effectively fuse that high-performance face to the head while maintaining the desired weighting scheme. Plus, weld deposits are soooo ’90s.
Exotic Stock Shafts
A perusal of the ultra-high-performance driver shafts from the likes of Aldila, Grafalloy, Fujikura, UST, Mitsubishi Rayon and Graphite Design might come with a little sticker shock, yet many of them are offered as standard equipment on today’s driver models, often with zero additional cost. If you’re going to shell out $400 for a new driver, it might as well come with a great engine. If not, you better go get one.
Material Matters: Titanium
What’s golf’s most-loved element? Titanium, of course. Titanium retains the top spot when it comes to driver usage, occupying most driver clubfaces, soleplates and crown sections. Titanium is popular because it’s as strong as steel but 43% lighter, thus allowing manufacturers to push the 460cc maximum without weighing down the clubhead too much. The other extremely important point relating to titanium’s strength is that without it, flexible clubfaces that provide the maximum allowable COR wouldn’t be possible. But because titanium is so strong, it can be forged into an extremely thin but resilient section that manufacturers generally attach to the cast titanium body. The end result is a trampoline-like structure that’s nearly indestructible. —Ryan M. Noll
Understanding Our Charts
Features: The primary design elements that make the driver noteworthy.
Advantages: How the primary design elements are meant to elevate the club’s performance.
Benefits: A general recommendation as to which skill level or player type would best be served by the driver model in question.
What We Like: We have our preferences, too. A quick description of what impressed us in our review.
Lineup: The other models available from the manufacturer, listed from largest to smallest.
Clubhead: The primary material from which the club is either forged or cast, usually a form of titanium
or beta-titanium (a stronger, lighter version of the metal).
Clubface: Indicates the material used for the strike area.
Volume: The size of the clubhead, listed in cubic centimeters. The USGA max volume has been set at 460cc.
Loft(s): Lists the lofts available in the line and whether or not the clubs are available for lefties.
Shaft(s): These are the stock graphite shaft offerings from the manufacturer. Almost all drivers are available with custom shaft options, however. See the manufacturers’ Websites for details.
| Adams Redline RPM 460D|
(800) 709-6142 | $299
Adams continues its foray into the multi-material, movable-weight driver arena with the 460 Dual.
Features: Adams’ X-Face technology that produces a large high-COR zone on the strike area and movable tungsten weights to dictate the type of trajectory you prefer or wish to avoid.
Advantages: You can alter trajectory by changing but two weights (most other models use four movable screws).
Benefits: This is a driver for every golfer, from Tour player to absolute beginner.
What We Like: The feel—strikes feel very solid no matter where they occur on the face.
Lineup: RPM 460 Dual, RPM 430Q, RPM N/D (RPM Low Profile fairway woods also available)
Clubhead: Titanium (cast), Carbon
Clubface: Titanium (forged)
Volume: 460cc Loft(s): 8.5°, 9.5°, 10.5°, 11.5°, 15.5° (9.5°, 10.5° available LH)
Shaft(s): Grafalloy ProLaunch or Aldila NV/NVS graphite (X, S, R, A)
| Bobby Jones Player|
(866) 858-5522 | $300
Renowned clubmaker Jesse Ortiz (from Orlimar TriMetal fame and beyond) teams up with the Bobby Jones Company to create an ultra-classy, yet hard-hitting driver that has many in the know buzzing about its potential.
Features: Multi-material head construction and a traditional shape based loosely on a proven Ortiz winner. Silver and gold weight screws are specifically placed to stabilize the head and maximize gear effect to help you find more fairways.
Advantages: This is a club that feels right and produces plenty of pop.
Benefits: A club better players will prefer.
What We Like: The new-school design elements and the old-school look and feel.
Lineup: Players Series woods also available.
Clubhead: Beta-titanium (forged), Carbon
Clubface: Beta-titanium (forged)
Loft(s): 9.5°, 10.5° (no LH)
Shaft(s): Graphite Design JS graphite (S, R)
| Bridgestone J33R 460cc|
(800) 358-6319 | $499
A hard-hitting, high-flying machine.
Features: The all-titanium design has a tungsten weight in the trailing edge for both a higher MOI and a lowered and deepened CG. The trademark elastomer compound insert reduces vibration for a greater transfer of energy at impact.
Advantages: The J33R 460cc is an elite driver model—expect the technology to add up to more powerful hits and a good amount of forgiveness.
Benefits: This is a high-performance machine, but would do best in the hands of at least a mid-handicapper, as it’s meant for faster swings.
What We Like: The look and feel and sound are outstanding. Thanks for the stock Aldila NV shaft!
Lineup: J33R 460cc, J33R, J33P (J33 fairway woods also available)
Clubhead: Beta-titanium (forged)
Loft(s): 8.5°, 9.5°, 10.5° (no LH)
Shaft(s): Aldila NV65 graphite (X, S, R)
| Callaway X460|
(800) 588-9836 | $375
Despite its rich heritage in drivers, nothing Callaway has produced goes as far as the X460.
Features: Pure, all-titanium construction with a blend of new and old Callaway design breakthroughs. On the old front, the S2H2 hosel and Tru-Bore shaft are used to lower the CG and provide extra stability. On the new front, a variable-width face pushes the COR right up to the legal limit, and a really cool sole makes it almost impossible for the club to “rock” at address.
Advantages: A game-improvement driver that has the ability to shape shots.
Benefits: A premium driver for the masses.
What We Like: The sleek, yet simple design.
Lineup: Fusion FT-3/Tour, X460/Tour, BB Titanium 454 (X fairway woods also available)
Clubhead: Titanium (cast)
Clubface: Titanium (cast)
Loft(s): 9°, 10°, 11°, 15° (9°, 10° available LH)
Shaft(s): Fujikura 64g graphite (S, R, A)
|Cleveland Launcher 460 Comp|
(800) 999-6263 | $375
The Launcher 460 Comp is one of the best titanium-carbon drivers around.
Features: Made with an ultralight carbon crown that allows for the redistribution of 25 grams of weight to low and deep areas of the head.
Advantages: This redistribution of mass promotes high-trajectory, low-spinning shots. It also allows for additional weighting in perimeter areas that help increase the MOI, making the Launcher Comp more resistant to twisting.
Benefits: All handicaps will benefit.
What We Like: An argon-quenched, beta-titanium, laser-welded face that increases ball speed.
Lineup: Launcher 460 Comp, Launcher Ti460, HiBORE (Launcher Comp woods also available)
Clubhead: Titanium (cast), Carbon
Clubface: Beta-titanium (argon-quenched)
Loft(s): 9.5º, 10.5º, 11.5º (available LH)
Shaft(s): Launcher Comp by Fujikura graphite (X, S, R, A)
|Cobra Speed Series|
(800) 225-8500 | $370
Introducing the X/Speed, F/Speed and M/Speed. The X driver features a squared face, the F is geared for a slight draw-bias, and the M has offset to counteract a slice.
Features: All models feature cup-faced, beta-titanium face inserts, tungsten heel-toe weights and a unique fast-back crown shape for enhanced aerodynamics.
Advantages: Each model is designed to augment a specific swing speed by fine-tuning loft, face progression and the stock Aldila NV shaft.
Benefits: More distance for all skill levels.
What We Like: The hitting area—no driver in golf can match the size of the Speed’s strike area.
Lineup: Speed Series, 454 Comp, 414 Comp, 414 Comp Tour (Speed Series woods also available)
Clubhead: Titanium (cast)
Clubface: Beta-titanium (milled)
Loft(s): X—7.5°, 8.5°, 9.5°, 10.5°; F—8°, 9°, 10.5°, 12°; M—9°, 10.5°, 12° (available LH)
Shaft(s): Cobra NV Speed-Tuned graphite (X, S, R, A, L)