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Advanced Driver Buying for Dummies

Post image for Advanced Driver Buying for Dummies

For those of you ready to move past our basic Driver Buying for Dummies strategies, we're ready to take you to the next level.

This guide is still for the guy who wants no part of working with a fitter - you're an off-the-racker, and that's ok.

This guide is for the DIYer willing to put in a little bit more work. It's for the guy who wants to look a little deeper at the numbers. It's for the guy who can come to terms with the kind of things some golfers don't want to hear.

The 5 suggestions from the first guide still apply, we're simply building on that to help you make a more informed decision when it comes time to buy your next driver.

1. Understand Tempo

tempo

A number of variables impact shaft fitting, but we believe tempo and transition are the most important. The guy that swings 110 may not need an x-stiff shaft, while another who only swings 95 might.

Not only will quicker, more aggressive swingers generally get more consistent (and better results) out of stiffer shafts, results can noticeably improve by stepping up to a heavier (70g+) shaft as well. That's right, for some, heavier is better.

Of course, if you're a silky smooth swinger with an effortless transition, then softer, and lighter shafts often produce better results.

The key takeaway is that you need to look beyond swing speed as the sole criteria for determining shaft flex. It's one of several variables, and arguably it's not even among the most important.

If you're unsure of your tempo and transition (nobody's ever said "damn, that was quick, might wanna slow down"), then tools like Mizuno's Shaft Optimizer or just about any of the high tech swing trainers on the market, can help you figure out if you've got some aggression issues.

2. Grab Some Impact Tape

impact-tape2

You need to know exactly where the face is hitting the ball. Impact tape, powder, or whatever other method you want to use, is an invaluable tool for providing you with some pretty meaningful insights.

Unless you're consistently pounding the center of the face, chances are that tape is going to tell you that you need to trim a bit of length off that driver. You need to come to terms with that.

While more than a few manufacturers routinely produce drivers at 45.5" or more, even with the improved face technology, and higher MOI of  many of today's drivers, 45" is still a better starting point (there's as reason why most 'better player' drivers are shorter), and more than a few reputable fitters will tell you that 44" may be the better number for most.

Length doesn't equal distance, hitting the sweet spot does.

3. Know what Really Happens When You Adjust the Hosel

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-11

The majority of drivers on the market today give you some sort of ability to rotate the hosel and change the loft of the club. What many don't realize is those loft changes don't exist in a vacuum.

Changing loft, with very few exceptions (and even those are hotly debated) alters face angle - and face angle at impact is what determines where your ball starts.

Adding loft closes the face, while decreasing loft opens the face. It's pretty simple stuff, but it's important to understand that trying to optimize launch angle through adjustability can impact other critical aspects of ball flight.

In our years of testing we've seen so-called loft changes both positively and negatively impact accuracy. While most companies talk in terms of loft adjustment, most golfers are better served thinking about hosel-based adjustability in terms of face angle first.

If you can't start the ball on the right line, ideal launch and spin become mostly inconsequential.

4. Know what Really Happens When You Move Weight Around

SLDRWEIGHT-1

There's stuff golf companies tell us happens when we move weight around, and then there's the stuff they don't talk about.

Most of us understand the basics. Move weight to, or put the heavier of two weights nearest the toe, and you can mitigate a hook or promote a fade. Move the heavy stuff towards the heel and now you're mitigating a slice or even promoting a draw.

This stuff actually works, and its what golf companies want you to understand about movable weights.

What they don't talk about is that shifting weight in either direction also raises the center of gravity.

Why does that matter?

When you raise the center of gravity you move mass farther from the driver's neutral axis. That change will decrease dynamic loft (launch angle) while increasing spin, and ultimately result in a less efficient transfer of energy between the club and the ball.

Not exactly a recipe for distance, is it?

Unless you absolutely need shot shape correction, you'll be better served by keeping weight centered. In drivers where that's not possible, you'll see better ball speeds with the heavier weight in the toe.

5. Forget Optimal, Focus on Achievable

driver optimization

We've heard some of the claims. TaylorMade says 17° and 1700 RPM is the ideal recipe for distance. And here's the thing, the company isn't far off.

If you look at the charts, and run the trajectory simulations 17° and 1700 RPM really is closing in on recipe for maximizing distance (at least it's in the ballpark).

Of course, to get to those numbers, you're going to sacrifice quite a bit of distance when your strike isn't quite as optimal as the numbers you're trying to achieve, and more to the point, even if you're targeting launch conditions that some would consider more playable, what's optimal isn't always achievable.

To get the best performance out of your driver you need to know what the optimum numbers are for you. Some launch monitors have that information cooked into their software, but for those that don't, most manufacturers and launch monitor providers have charts that will help you optimize for carry or total distance (your choice), but first you need to know some things about how you deliver the club to the ball.

Optimizing the performance of your driver starts with one very important and often overlooked variable, which brings us to...

6. Know Your Angle of Attack

foresight-hmt-club-data

For those who aren't familiar with Angle of Attack, it is, as the name implies, the angle at which you attack the golf ball with the golf club, and it can vary significantly from one golfer to another.

To get the most of your driver, you want to hit up on the ball (a positive angle of attack), but the reality is that most of us, despite teeing the ball up, actually still manage to hit down on the driver.

While it's counter-intuitive, Trackman's charts suggest that the more you hit down on the ball, the more your ideal spin rate increases and your ideal launch angle decreases.

Let's look at two golfers, both with swing speeds of 90 miles an hour. Golfer A has an Angle of Attack of -5° (not uncommon among average golfers) and Golfer B has an Angle of Attack of +5°.

According to Trackman's Total Distance Optimization Charts, Golfer A would get his best results launching at 8.5° with 3122 RPM of spin. Golfer B, however, would be optimized at 13.8° and 1948 RPM of spin.

tman-opt

Same swing speed, two wildly different sets of optimal numbers. If you hit up on the ball, high launch and low spin is absolutely the recipe for distance.

If, however, you hit down on your driver (as the majority of golfers do), you're never going to get close to 17°/1700 and those numbers, while theoretically ideal on paper, simply aren't achievable with your strongly negative angle of attack.

Sorry.

To understand what the actual ideal launch angle and spin rate are for your swing and ball speed, you must first know your Angle of Attack.

And yes, in case you haven't figured it out, the only way to get the most out of whatever swing speed you have is to hit up on the ball. While arguably it's outside the scope of this guide, I'd be remiss not to mention that working with a qualified instructor to increase your angle of attack will produce more distance than any new driver ever will.

7. If it Fits, Buy It

This last one will be a hard and bitter pill to swallow for the eBay shoppers and other bargain hunters among us, but when you find a club that fits, buy it. Buy that exact one. The one in your hand. Don't go down the road, or online looking for a better deal.

The odds of a different club (even one with identical specs) performing exactly like the one you just tested (and love) are far from 100%.

Heads have tolerances. For most manufacturer's it's +/- 1°. That means if you happen to demo a driver with actual loft 1° below the intended loft, but buy one that's 1° above the intended loft, well...basic math says there's a chance what you just bought could have as much as 2° more loft than what you tested.

That's a completely different driver.

There are tolerances for weight and face angle in heads as well.

And that's hardly the end of it. Everything that goes into a driver has tolerances. Shafts have tolerances. Grips have tolerances. Hosel adapters have tolerances too. The only way to guarantee that the driver you buy will perform like the one you tested is to buy the exact driver you tested.

It's so simple, even a dummy can understand it.

About Tony Covey

Tony is the editor of mygolfspy. His coverage of golf equipment extends far beyond the facts as dictated by the companies that created them.

He believes in performance over hype. #PowerToThePlayer

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Comments

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Golfer November 10, 2014 at 2:27 am

I’m really glad you included that #7 item, the very last one on your list.
It really is important to get the exact club that works best for you, not one that says it has the same specs.
I saw a YouTube video where some TMag shafts varied by as much as 15 cpm’s (a full flex and a half) for shafts that listed the exact same flex.
And of course, My Golf Spy has their own article about the variations in loft:
http://www.mygolfspy.com/mygolfspy-labs-the-worst-kept-secret-in-golf/#comment-127087
I realize it is easy to go to eBay or whatever.
If you don’t want to purchase a brand new $400 model, that’s fine, and it makes sense to most of us. Then test hit one that’s on sale for $150 or whatever, and purchase the one that fits your swing. Or test hit a “used club”, as you can find some great bargains (I should know, as I’ve got two terrific drivers that way, both for under $100 each).

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Aaron M November 8, 2014 at 7:27 pm

The fitter I went to said that if the club didn’t work to let him know and he would work with me to get something that did. Wondering if the couple of you who were concerned about (or had issues with) a club received after fitting told the fitter that it wasn’t right. Did he/she do anything to make it right?

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DaveMac November 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Thanks for a good article.

Do us a favor and clarify tempo / aggression from the stand point of swing analysers?

From my understanding:

tempo values higher than 3, indicate swings with more aggression in the downswing (shorter down swing time) This is counter intuitive because the higher the Tempo factor the more aggressive the swing.

Shorter total swing time, indicates a more aggressive swing (this is the one, most people can relate to, like Wow you should slow that down to a blur!).

I suppose since I am asking, what would be mister perfectly neutral? (Tempo ratio of 3.0 / and a total swing time of 1.2 seconds, 27/9 in tour tempo terms)

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David W November 7, 2014 at 11:09 am

Your last section hits the nail on the head. I have a good friend who is a positive handicap (played the mini tours for a while) and he LOVES my Ping G20 driver but won’t go buy one for himself, he said he wants to buy mine because it fits him so perfectly.

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jharman November 7, 2014 at 10:25 am

Hey this really helped. Thanks. I am a beginning blogger, I have wrote a few pieces such as a dummies guide to ruining the game of golf. Check it out at here at jharman18.blogspot.com. Thanks again.

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ron November 6, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Regis comparing golf clubs to cars is apples and oranges, if you cant hit a driver consistantly theres no new tech in the new drivers today going to create a miracle for you , face the facts , its talent . If you enjoy having a new shiny bottom driver then thats different , knock yourself out, but dont think for 1 second that the new ones will make you hit it better, its all marketing, what changing technology in the them you think is going to help you hit a driver better, they cant make them any more forgiving . You think new adjustability is gonna make a difference, ha ha ha lol, A FOOL AND HIS MONEY WILL SOON BE PARTED. Its having the right swing and talent not an adjustable head, your not consistant enough for any adjustability to help you.

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Bob November 6, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I agree I have not paid full retail for a club in 20 years. Roger Dunn here in Santa Ana has a huge selection of trade ins and demos which save lots of money plus you can hit them all day with out face tape. The SLDR driver I purchased for $219 had a Fuji Motore Speeder 569 shaft in it that’s worth $325 retail which is the only reason I paid $219 for the club. It would cost you $600 or more to buy that club from a club fitter. There are lots of people out there that need to have the new stuff that play it a couple times and trade for the next big thing, I actually saw two trade in sets of the new Big Bertha Irons at the store, these have been out about two weeks maybe.

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Ryan November 6, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Lots of good info in this article. Unfortunatly for me I just can’t get passed the price some of the OEMs charge for golf clubs. I only look to replace something in the bag every 5 years. eBay has allowed me to save a lot of money especially with irons and wedges since I can buy them a lot cheaper there and have them adjusted to my specs for far less then going to a brick and mortar store. That being said, Woods are a lot harder IMHO to buy off EBay even if you have a shaft that seems to work for you because of how much different the mass distribution can be between heads and how that can effect shaft requirements to get the right setup for you swing. The way I did it when I bought my last driver was go to a demo day since the usually have a launch monitor and lots of shafts options to choose from to get the numbers dialed in. After that I head to eBay and buy the head only or other classifieds sites, then buy the shaft if I don’t already have it and can usually build it for at least $50 less then retail. For my last driver build in late 2011 or early 2012 I spent $225 for the head, shaft, adaptor and grip combo. I think they retailed for $299 (RazorFit) so a savings of $75 and that’s with an aftermarket shaft. To some it may not be worth doing the work but $75 is three rounds of golf for me.

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ron November 6, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Not to mention any new driver out there isnt going to be any better than a driver that came out 10 years ago, its the shaft. The drivers 10 years ago at 460 cc are maxed they cant make em any better anymore I dont care what EXTRA adjustability they have, FACT.

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ron November 6, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Why would anyone buy a new driver for 400 bucks when their worth no more than 150. Plus that 400 dollar driver will be half price on the used rack, why cuzz it has scratch on it , WHO GIVES A SHEET, All the idiots that pay 400 fr a new driver is the reason why these companies sell em at that price. Go to yr local pro , have him give you a demo drivers , not in a silly simulater that LIES to you and hit those demos on the range or take em out on the course, judge em that way, then buy a used one and have yr pro install the shaft that you liked the best. I simply dont understand why these golf stores put tape on there clubs to try out, if they dont have a demo which they should then walk the hell out. These greedy golf companies cant even give the stores a demo to try out instead they put tape on the face, you have to be a moron to put up with that crap.

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Regis November 6, 2014 at 5:25 pm

I buy a driver every 2-3 years. Why? My swing usually changes and I want to test changing technology. Why do people buy or lease cars every 3 years? I usually buy at close to retail from my local shop and I generally buy the one that has the best feel and feedback on an outdoor launch monitor. My guy gives me a fair trade in so its a lot like leasing a car. I guess. I do my own club work and have 4 or 5 premium shafts that I experiment with so I seldom game the stock shaft anyway. To me its part of the enjoyment of the game and I do not consider myself an “idiot” nor do I feel as if I have to explain myself to people like you.

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klog777 November 6, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Buy the demo if that’s what your hitting.

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Lou November 7, 2014 at 7:53 am

I tried to when I went to the demo day but they wouldn’t sell it to me. I had to buy from the pro shop.

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Regis November 6, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Article is great I firmly believe that a golfer never really knows if a driver is going to fit until he or she plays half a season with it. Since I’m a big user of face tape,I would add that if you prefer your ball teed at a particular height when playing and you practice or demo at a facility that has mats and rubber tees, purchase a rubber tee and cut it to approximate your preference. Makes a big difference for me and keeps me from adjusting my swing or attack angle to please the God of face tape.

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Bob November 6, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I will admit to being an ebayer myself. I buy high end shaft pullouts on the bay and try them in my clubs in some cases its been a big mistake but I can usually post them on ebay and sell them for the same price but have gotten quite a few really high end shafts very cheap that way. When it comes to testing off the rack clubs they usually tape them up so you won’t damage the club, that itself will reduce spin same thing happens with impact tape so your numbers will still be different with the same club no tape. Demo clubs are a great option for those of us that can’t buy full price off the rack and you can hit those with no tape and buy the one your hitting. I just picked up an SLDR driver at Roger Dunn for $219.

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Tom54 November 6, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Yeah, but what are you supposed to do when you get fitted on the club fitter’s demo clubs?

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josh chervokas November 6, 2014 at 11:02 am

Well done Tony! I could not have said it better myself.

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Chal November 6, 2014 at 9:53 am

I was fitted by 2 different club reps who were very qualified. The problem I had, I couldn’t buy the club that I was hitting. I had to order the club with the same specs and in both instances the ordered club was not as good.

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Lou November 6, 2014 at 9:23 am

That last statement is true. My brother demoed a R11 one day and was consistently hitting it 280 or more. So we went on ebay and bought him one with the same specs and he could not reproduce what he was doing. It was actually the complete opposite!

I am the first to admit that I an an ebay guy. But I don’t do it to spite anyone. I really have no choice. There is nobody qualified within a 2 hour drive that would have all the equipment necessary to properly fit me. Secondly, even if they did, I cannot justify paying $400-$500 dollars on a driver. I can’t do it. If I did, I would not be able to buy a membership to play. So, I have to go to ebay and buy someone’s “mistake”. Sucks but it’s reality with me.

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Dave S November 6, 2014 at 11:24 am

I’m in the same boat and frankly, I’m not ashamed of it. Golf is like every other sport, if you spend the big bucks to get the exact specs that apply to your game, you’re going to play marginally better. But not everyone can (or wants to) afford that. If I go to Dick’s and buy a tennis racquet off-the-rack – even if it’s a high-end one – I’m not going to play as well as I would if I had it professionally strung, gripped and weighted like a pro would… but who cares?

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