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.

The driver is the only full-swing club in your bag that you use 14 times a round (the ball retriever doesn't count). Thus, your driver sets up your entire round. Drive the ball well and it gives you an emotional boost–your round "feels" better than it is when you drive it great and score poorly. But drive it poorly and you feel like a rat, no matter what the score. So central is it to your game that you can tell when your A game is coming back because you begin to hit your driver solidly again.

One of the absolute keys to consistent driving, which is often overlooked, is a properly fitted club, and with modern fitting methods at your disposal, there's almost no reason to buy a driver off the rack. Instead, make it a priority to take the trouble and time to do some investigation and experimentation before purchasing a new big dog. To begin, take the plunge and convince yourself that a premium-quality model is worth the investment and, if you can, try not to be overly concerned with price. Once that decision is made, pick out a few models that look good to you and also have the design characteristics that you desire (movable weights, preset shot bias, deep or shallow face, etc.). If you're not sure what you want, or even if you are, find a shop near you that offers a wide selection of models and demo a few. Once you narrow down your choices, then get fitted on a launch monitor. _Ê_Ê

Hot Technologies

Almost every driver now is a 460cc, high-COR, high-MOI behemoth designed to help you achieve optimal launch. So, other than the paint job, how can you judge one model from the next? Test-driving never hurts, nor does emphasizing the following cutting-edge technologies.

Low And Deep CG Low And Deep CG
While almost every driver features it, it's still a noteworthy trait and an absolute must for recreational golfers. If you think you're above a low and deep CG, put some lead tape where the face meets the crown on your current driver and hit a dozen balls–er, liners. The low (as in toward the sole) and deep (as in as far away from the face as possible) CG placement gives most recreational players the best chance of achieving the preferred launch conditions of high launch and low spin. It's also why the design is so prevalent in irons as well.

Head Options Head Options
If your new driver doesn't have movable weights, it might be offered in a fade, neutral or draw model (like the new Tour Edge V25, pictured). Or the lower lofts may feature no offset, while the 11-degree model does and has a slightly closed face. Or there could be a Tour version attached to the line (a Callaway stalwart), with a slightly different CG to augment workability. Point is, head options in a single line give you a greater chance of finding the right driver for your swing.

Cor Area High-COR Area
It used to be a big deal when a driver reached the USGA limit of .830 COR. Now, with the universal use of high-grade titanium and the influx of variable face thickness, max COR is as common as a par on Tour. The key is the size of the high-COR area–after all, you still need your distance even if you miss the sweet spot. With TaylorMade's Inverted Cone leading the way, face technology from the elite clubmakers is giving your swing more than it deserves.


CG/CGP Alignment CG/CGP Alignment
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.

Face Welding Face Welding
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 Shafts 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. _Ê
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
www.adamsgolf.com
(800) 709-6142 | $299

Adams RPM 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 _Ê
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
www.bobbyjonesgolf.net
(866) 858-5522 | $300

Bobby Jones Player 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)
Volume: 440cc
Loft(s): 9.5_¡, 10.5_¡ (no LH)_Ê
Shaft(s): Graphite Design JS graphite (S, R)

Bridgestone J33R 460cc
www.bridgestonegolf.com
(800) 358-6319 | $499

Bridgestone J33R 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)
Clubface: Same
Volume: 460cc _Ê
Loft(s): 8.5_¡, 9.5_¡, 10.5_¡ (no LH) _Ê
Shaft(s): Aldila NV65 graphite (X, S, R)

Callaway X460
www.callawaygolf.com
(800) 588-9836 | $375

Callaway X460 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:_Ê 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)
Volume: 460cc
Loft(s): 9_¡, 10_¡, 11_¡, 15_¡ (9_¡, 10_¡ available LH)
Shaft(s): Fujikura 64g graphite (S, R, A)

Cleveland Launcher 460 Comp
www.clevelandgolf.com
(800) 999-6263 | $375

Cleveland Launcher 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 _Ê
Clubface: Beta-titanium (argon-quenched)_Ê
Volume: 460cc
Loft(s): 9.5__, 10.5__, 11.5__ (available LH)
Shaft(s): Launcher Comp by Fujikura graphite (X, S, R, A)

Cobra Speed Series
www.cobragolf.com
(800) 225-8500 | $370

Cobra Speed Series 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)
Volume: 460cc
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)


Dunlop LoCo Dart
www.dunlopsportsonline.com
(800) 235-5516 | $249

Dunlop LoCo Dart Affordable, adjustable-weight driver with the advantages of a carbon crown technology.
Features: By using brass and aluminum weights, golfers can adjust launch and spin characteristics.The carbon crown displaces weight toward the heel and sole for forgiveness.
Advantages: The Harrison 3.5 D Dart graphite shaft is perfectly tuned to the LoCo Dart clubhead to help produce extra distance.
Benefits: Beginners will find the LoCo Dart easy to use; seasoned golfers will appreciate the solid sound, feel and performance off the tee. _Ê
What We Like: The mirrored face really reduces spin, and the weighting kit is a cinch to use.
Lineup: LoCo Pro, LoCo Dart, LoCo
Clubhead: Beta-titanium (forged), Carbon
Clubface: Beta-titanium (forged)
Volume: 442cc
Loft(s): 9_¡, 10.5_¡ (10.5_¡ available LH)
Shaft(s): Harrison 3.5 D Dart graphite (S, R)

Golfworks Maltby KE4
www.golfworks.com
(800) 848-8358 | $250

Golfworks Maltby KE4 The KE4 is Golfworks/Maltby's new offering in the adjustable-weight driver segment.
Features: A unique Screw Within a Screw weighting system and two-piece clubhead construction eliminates wasted material typically caused by traditional welding methods. A proprietary forged clubface design, milled to exact specifications, provides maximum COR.
Advantages: The Screw Within a Screw system makes it possible to vary the total clubhead weight by as much as 14 grams. In addition, the system allows these adjustments to be made on demand without negatively affecting the CG location of the clubhead.
What We Like: The displacement of weight not just lower but to the perimeter.
Lineup: KE4, CT 250
Clubhead: Beta-titanium (forged)
Clubface: Same
Volume: 450cc
Loft(s): 9_¡, 10.5_¡, 13_¡ (no LH)
Shaft(s): KE4 graphite (S, R)_Ê

HiPPO XXL
www.hippo-golf.com
(800) 204-2807 | $199

Hippo XXL Built to accommodate a wide range of golfers, the HiPPO XXL is as user-friendly as any wood can get.
Features: Two sets of weights can be interchanged to adjust trajectory and sidespin. The deep-face design has a .830 COR for maximum energy transfer, and the proprietary graphite shaft is optimized for explosive distance off the tee.
Advantages: Adjustable-weight technology lets golfers adapt to varying course conditions, as well as compensate for flaws in the swing.
Benefits: High-handicappers will enjoy the extra distance, and mid-handicapped golfers will love the versatility.
What We Like: Is that price tag for real?
Lineup: ITX2, Powerstrike, XXL (XXL fairway woods also available)
Clubhead: Beta-titanium (forged)
Clubface: Same
Volume: 450cc
Loft(s): 9_¡, 10_¡ (no LH)
Shaft(s): HiPPO XXL proprietary graphite (S, R)

Innovex CfD
www.innovexgolf.com
(866) 402-6097 | $199

Innovex CfD One of the best-looking drivers for 2006 isn't short on distance-enhancing features.
Features: It has the size (440cc) and it has the material (beta-titanium), but what the CfD really has in its favor is a high-tech face. The strike area is forged and very thin, helping produce the maximum COR. More importantly, it features a cup design that effectively widens the sweet spot.
Advantages: The cupface design systematically shifts the club's CG to the rear, resulting in higher launch angles and greater carry distances.
Benefits: The CfD boasts a modern, deep-face profile and a rear CG, so it will do best in the hands of mid- to high-handicappers.
What We Like: The clean and pure aesthetics.
Lineup: CfD
Clubhead: Titanium (forged)
Clubface: Beta-titanium (forged)
Volume: 460cc
Loft(s): 10_¡, 12_¡ (no LH)
Shaft(s): Graman CS230 graphite (S, R, A, L)

Louisville SMART ti
www.louisvillegolf.com
(800) 456-1631 | $399

Louisville Smart Ti The most unique persimmon wood ever made, the SMART ti is a head-turner and crowd-pleaser.
Features: The highest COR recorded of any persimmon wood, thanks to a forward-thinking titanium faceplate. Did someone say max perimeter weighting? Despite the high-end insert, the SMART ti retains the forgiving gear effects of persimmon.
Advantages: This driver is the go-to club for equipment purists who crave more yardage.
Benefits: Regardless of skill level, this club performs surprisingly well and it's a riot to hit.
What We Like: Give it up for Louisville for sticking with tradition while pushing the limits of persimmon technology. Great job.
Lineup: SMART ti, Original SMART, SMART F2, SMART Spin, Thumper
Clubhead: Persimmon
Clubface: Titanium (forged)
Volume: 250cc
Loft(s): 11_¡, 14_¡ (no LH)
Shaft(s): Louisville proprietary graphite (X, S, R, A, L); Custom Fujikura Speeder (+ $150)

MacGregor MACTEC NVG2
www.macgregorgolf.com
(800) 841-4358 | $300 ($450 Tour)

Macgregor Mactec NVG2 MacGregor once again pushes the envelope of design and performance.
Features: Check out the Cup Face 360_¡ technology, which is the process of plasma-welding the face a full 360 degrees around the leading edge of the club, thus eliminating face welds for a hotter and more consistent sweet spot. Additional technologies include Quadra Tungsten sole weights and a Tri-Plane sole for enhanced stability.
Advantages: The thin crown (40% thinner than most) and tungsten weight screws situate the CG for stability and optimum launch.
Benefits: True distance and truer accuracy.
What We Like: Innovative face construction.
Lineup: MACTEC NVG2, MACTEC NVG2 Tour (NVG woods also available)
Clubhead: Beta-titanium (forged)
Clubface: Same
Volume: 445cc
Loft(s): 8.5_¡, 9.5_¡, 10.5_¡ (9.5_¡, 10.5_¡ available LH)
Shaft(s): Quadra Action graphite by Fujikura (X, S, R)


Mizuno MX-500
www.mizunousa.com
(800) 966-1211 | $299

Mizuno MX 500 Stretching 460cc in total size, the MX-500 stacks up with the best drivers in the titanium/composite category.
Features: A large carbon crown and a unique carbon toe insert take perimeter weighting to the extreme while promoting a high launch with optimal spin rates not only from the sweet spot, but also from high, low and toward the left and right of the face center.
Advantages: No matter where it's hit on the face (designed with Mizuno's renowned CORTEC technology), expect great results.
Benefits: Billed as a game-improvement driver, the MX-500 is a solid performer for all players.
What We Like: The price–weren't elite carbon/ti models $400 a year ago?
Lineup: F-50 fairway woods also available
Clubhead: Titanium (cast), Carbon
Clubface: Titanium (forged)
Volume: 460cc
Loft(s): 8.5_¡, 9.5_¡, 10.5_¡, 11.5_¡ (9.5_¡, 10.5_¡ available LH)
Shaft(s): Mizuno Exsar 50 graphite (S, R)

Nike Golf SasQuatch 460
www.nikegolf.com
$360 ($420 Tour)

Nike Sasquatch As Nike Golf says, "Down with gravity!" which is exactly where the CG resides in the radical-looking SasQuatch: very deep and very low.
Features: The SasQuatch 460 features a radical shape that stretches the driver as far as allowed from front to back by way of a design feature called the PowerBow, resulting in a very deep and low CG. Combine that with Nike Golf's high-strength NexTi face and an enhanced MOI, and you have something very special.
Advantages: Expect longer drives. Seriously.
Benefits: Paired with the Tour (Tiger's) version, the SasQuatch aptly fits all.
What We Like: The NexTi face.
Lineup: SasQuatch 460/Tour 460, Ignite 460, Ignite 410 (SasQuatch woods also available)
Clubhead: Titanium (cast)
Clubface: NexTi (forged)
Volume: 460cc
Loft(s): 460–8.5_¡, 9.5_¡, 10.5_¡, 13_¡, 16_¡ (8.5_¡, 9.5_¡, 13_¡ LH); Tour 460–8.5_¡, 9.5_¡, 10.5_¡ (10.5_¡ LH)
Shaft(s): SasQuatch Diamana graphite (X, S, R, A)

Perfect Club Perfect Driver
www.theperfectclub.com
(866) 843-0260 | $200

Perfectclub The Perfect Clubs represent an unconventional approach to standard equipment. The Perfect Driver is 2.5 inches shorter than a standard-length driver to help golfers hit more fairways, as well as to make the club more versatile.
Features: The high-tensile, beta-titanium crown, titanium soleplate and variable face technology produce plenty of distance and forgiveness with a high trajectory.
Advantages: The stock shaft, which is the only option available, has a low 3.2-degree torque rating to minimize excessive twisting on off-center hits. A new Ladies version as well as Perfect Spoon and fairway woods also available.
Benefits: Anyone who desires almost-automatic accuracy needs a Perfect Club.
Lineup: Perfect Driver, Perfect Ladies
Clubhead: Titanium (cast)
Clubface: Beta-Titanium (cast)
Volume: 370cc
Loft(s): 11.5_¡ (available LH)
Shaft(s): Perfect Driver graphite (S, R)

PING G5
www.pinggolf.com
(800) 4-PING-FIT | $299

Ping G5 The new G5 driver–easily one of our favorites.
Features: Eight grams of weight are repositioned low and away from the face to help promote a high-launch, low-spin ballflight.
Advantages: The thick/thin web pattern in the crown and internal weight pads solve the low-CG location problem. Add to that a thin, milled face that's robotically plasma-welded to the body, and even more weight is saved and moved to the basement. It's very impressive stuff that works.
Benefits: The G5 covers the entire spectrum of skill levels. Higher-handicap golfers take note that most lofts are available in an offset version.
What We Like: The all-around great performance.
Lineup: G5 (G5 fairway woods also available)
Clubhead: Titanium (cast)
Clubface: Titanium (milled)
Volume: 460cc
Loft(s): 7.5_¡, 9_¡, 9_¡ o/s, 10.5_¡, 10.5_¡ o/s, 12_¡, 12_¡ o/s, 13.5_¡ (9_¡, 10.5_¡, 12_¡, 13.5_¡ LH)
Shaft(s): PING TFC, Aldila NV or Grafalloy ProLaunch graphite (X, S, R)

Precept EZ
www.preceptgolf.com
(800) 358-6319 | $249

Precept EZ Remember when Precept was a player's brand, encapsulated by the likes of Nick Price? Enter 2006: Low-compression balls and a new line of easy-to-hit EZ products.
Features: Everything about the EZ driver is geared toward helping you find more fairways and add yards. The large 450cc head is engineered with the low and deep CG position needed to help launch the ball high into the air and with very little sidespin.
Advantages: It's a difficult club to slice, thanks to its offset hosel. The ultra-light stock Aldila shaft should give your swing speed rating a boost.
Benefits: This is a good-looking and well-made driver that's designed primarily for accuracy.
What We Like: It's a game-improvement driver that looks like it belongs on Tour.
Lineup: EZ (EZ woods and hybrids also available)
Clubhead: Titanium (cast)
Clubface: Titanium (forged)
Volume: 450cc
Loft(s): 10_¡, 11.5_¡ (no LH)
Shaft(s): EZ by Aldila graphite (S, R)

Srixon W-506
www.srixon.com
(888) 4-SRIXON | $399

Srixon W-506 With the W-506, Srixon once again debuts technological breakthroughs that translate into heightened performance.
Features: Srixon varies thickness in not only the face, but the backwall and sole as well

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