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“Clash Of The Adjustable Drivers!” {SERIES} – Day 1

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Today's post is part of an exciting 3-Day Series we're calling the "Clash Of The Adjustable Drivers!".  We put all the major adjustable drivers on the market to the ultimate head-to-head test...to see who would come out on top.  And find out which adjustable driver could can honestly call themselves "The #1 Adjustable Driver For 2010".

Today is Day 1 of the 3-Day Series...today we will be giving you a inside look at how we went about collecting our data to decide who was the winner.  I bet an MIT grad would even be impressed with all the calculations and equations that were involved in deciding this winner. So check back over the next few days and enjoy!

"Clash of the Adjustable Drivers!" {SERIES} Day 1

A few months ago I set out on a mission at MyGolfSpy.  That mission was simple...to make the best golf club review process on the web...period!  I searched high and low for a partner that not only shared my work ethic but one also as passionate about helping the consumer as I was.  It took about a year but I finally hooked up with another incredibly passionate golf business mind that fit the bill and one that was happy to go on this mission to uncovering the actual truth about the equipment in the golf industry.  So we put our minds together and decided we were going to do it.  That was of course after about 50 phone calls and twice as many emails back and forth before we had the process down and were absolutely sure the reviews were ready to begin!

It was a big mission and one much more complicated then meets the eye...well that is if you don't do like most other sites...and simply say that every club they review is awesome and awesomer and the most awesomest.  Too many of those sites on the web.  They got no kahunas to tell the truth is what it boils down to.  Well that's not us...just not in the MGS DNA.

So...we knew we wanted to improve on the individual club reviews you see on the web....but....we also wanted to do some big golf club reviews as well.  Ones that golfers had questions about and ones that were not being answered by other media outlets.  And the first review we wanted to do was "The Best Adjustable Driver Review".   We wanted to tell the golfing world what the absolute best new adjustable driver was and finally find out how much the adjustments for each head actually make on the golf ball.  Adjustability is here to stay so we thought it was a great place to start.

Sounds simple right...far from it...if you were only able to see the infinite amount of spreadsheets and miles of data that is on our computers from this review. If you want to do this right there are all kinds of formulas, equations and variables that need to be considered and included.  And after crunching all this data not once or twice but like 20 times...we came to a conclusion that is becoming more and more apparent when it comes to almost all drivers nowadays.

And that is the fact that:

  • Our review made it even more apparent that golf club technology has almost been 100% maxed out across the board when it comes to heads.  They might come in all different kinds of shapes and colors and materials but in the end only 8 yards separated the longest driver from the shortest in the field.
  • And want to talk accuracy...well...less then 5 yards separated all the drivers when talking about accuracy.
  • With this being said the power of personal opinions and subjectivity with golfers is becoming more and more important in their decisions on which clubs to buy.  If all the clubs are basically the same...then the golfer will need to like the look, feel and sound of the club even more when choosing a club to purchase.
  • And custom fitting...let me say that one more time...CUSTOM FITTING...is the most important factor.  We have preached this all along on MGS but as you can see the stock offerings from these OEM's result in very similar outputs.  But getting custom fit for the right shaft, loft, length and BALL...can be the difference in 15-20 yards sometimes.
  • The custom fitting to tailor a club to your game is where you get the distance.  So our advice is to spend the money it takes to get properly fit before you buy your next driver.  No need to spend money on buckets and buckets of balls trying to make your swing fit a club go make your club fit your swing.
  • MAKE A COMMITMENT...GO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO GET FIT TODAY 😉  I almost guarantee you will see improved results.

Sorting Out the Adjustables

Adjustability isn't so cut and dry when it comes to drivers.  No two OEMs are doing adjustability quite the same way.  TaylorMade integrates moveable weights, Callaway's I-MIX features a system of interchangeable heads and shafts, and Nike offers up to 32 different configurations with in their Victory Red STR8-Fit driver.  Even Mizuno has gotten in on the action with their FastTrack Technology.  Comparing a group of clubs where subjectivity is backed up with actual data is a tremendous undertaking.  In the end we decided to narrow our focus to those clubs where adjustments are made at the hosel.  Unfortunately that means Mizuno got left out, and we wouldn't be tinkering with TaylorMade's moveable weights (although the R9 SuperTri is part our our tests).The entire review process took well over a month and involved more testers than any previous MyGolfSpy.com review.  Everyone who hit the 7 clubs we tested was asked to fill out a survey ranking each driver on

  • Looks
  • Sound
  • Feel
  • Value
  • And "Ease of Adjustability"

Then...when all was said and done, we asked our testers what we think is probably the single most important question, "If you were offered one of the drivers you tested today at no cost, which would you choose?".

Once we completed preliminary testing, we selected a group of 6 golfers comprised of low, middle, and high handicaps and asked them to come back in for detailed testing on the 3Trak equipped simulators at Tark's Indoor Golf in Saratoga Springs, NY.  Golfers were asked to hit the drivers in a random order.  The results of the performance tests were added to the subjective scores to determine what we think is the best adjustable driver on the market today.

The Drivers We Tested

Our adjustable driver testing included the following clubs:

For each model tested we requested, and received a 9.5º degree head with the stock shaft in stiff flex.  With the exception of the two Callaway heads which are 1º open by design, we collected performance data with the heads in the neutral, and where applicable, neutral flat position.

SpecCheck

You may recall that shortly after we announced our SpecCheck system, we announced that although we would continue to include it for reference purposes, it would no longer be incorporated into our scoring process.  The reason we gave is that each OEMs has a unique ways of measuring the various specifications of the clubs they produce.  One look at our SpecCharts and you'll see that's most definitely true.  Our results indicate that the OEMs can't seem to agree on even the most basic of specifications; one manufacturer's inch is measurably different than another's.   We provide this chart for continuity's sake, at least as it relates to how MyGolfSpy defines 1 inch (or 46 of them).

Of course length is only half the story.  Of equal (if not greater) importance is the impact that length has on the actual flex of the club.  We measured each driver on a DigiFlex, butt clamped at 5".  You can see the actual measurements in the chart above.  The chart below shows the comparative flex of each driver in our test.

In our chart the dark red line represents regular flex, the green stiff, and the purple X-stiff.  As you can see, not all stiff flex shafts are created equal.  Surprising (to me anyway), the Aldila Voodoo in the Callaway FT-IZ measured as an extremely soft stiff (or if you prefer, a stiff regular).  The ZL, a "Cobra Aldila Voodoo" measured about a half a flex stiffer, which in our opinion is still a bit soft for a stiff shaft.  The Cobra S2 (Cobra Fit-On Max 65), Nike Machspeed (SQ UST Proforce AVIXCore), Nike Victor Red (Aldila Voodoo), and Callaway FT-9 (Fujikura ZCOM) all measured true to flex.  Finally, the TaylorMade R9 SuperTri (Fujikura Motore F1 65) measured out as a strong stiff, or as some might argue, a soft x-flex.

Interestingly, a few of our testers commented that the Nike shafts felt comparatively soft (an assertion not supported by our testing).  While not a single golfer commented on the relative stiffness of the TaylorMade R9, a couple testers did comment that the Cobra S2 felt softer (almost wobbly) in the tip section than the others.

How Much Difference Does Adjusting The Head Actually Make?

When I originally decided to do a review of all the name brand adjustable drivers I really wanted to be able to show golfers which was the absolute best driver when it came to adjustability.  But since no one driver in the competition approaches adjustment in quite the same way...it made it next to impossible for us to test them apples to apples and declare a clear winner.  But there was one thing I still wanted to try and that was to finally show golfers how much of a difference it actually makes to the ball flight when you make the actual adjustments to the heads.

Some of the heads have an almost infinite amount of adjustments so the only way to make it uniform across all the drivers being tested was to test them in 3 positions (1 Degree Open, Neutral, 1 Degree Closed).  Since these seem to be the most common changes a golfer makes to an adjustable head.  And also if you know how much it changes with a 1 degree change you can better understand how much a difference there would be if you made lets say a 2 degree change.

For both Nikes, the Cobra S2, and the TaylorMade SuperTri, shot clustered how we guessed they would.

  • Open the club face a degree and our testers favored the right side of the range.
  • Close the face, and the ball has a tendency to find its way to the left side of the range.
  • We also observed that initial trajectories increased as the club face opened, and decreased as it closed.

Of course, by now you've probably glanced at that chart 7 or 8 times and are starting to wonder if we made a typo with the Cobra ZL.  We didn't...not that I can necessary explain it.  While not as far right as as an open configuration, when we put the ZL into the closed position, our testers clustered their shots right of  where they clustered them in the neutral configuration.

I spoke with our testers about the results to see if they had any insight, and while none could concretely explain it, a couple of our testers mentioned that when the ZL is in the open position, it still appears to be neutral (which they like), but when it's in the closed position, it looks really closed; really, really closed (for what it's worth, I agree).  I have no doubt that regardless of how it may appear, both open and closed are only a 1 degree  from neutral.  Our only explanation is that our testers, either intentionally or subconsciously, made an adjustment or two as a reaction to the illusion of a very closed face.  Maybe they manipulated the clubface at address. Maybe they manipulated their swing path.  I've got nothing for you beyond conjecture.  I did take a few swings myself, I did in fact catch myself first opening the face, and then making a real effort to come at the ball from the inside.  Think of it as hook prevention...and it worked.

Anomalous ZL results aside, we're inclined to say that the technology is for real, and works as pretty much as advertised.  As with most things, however; it's important to be realistic in your expectations.  While closing the face may help to reduce the number of slices, it's certainly not going to eliminate them.  We love the technology, but our take on the big picture is this; adjustable face technology makes for an excellent fitting tool, and is no doubt useful on those courses that favor a draw over or fade (or even a fade over a draw), but it's not a cure all for your swing faults.  Thinking otherwise is a $300 (minimum) recipe for disappointment.

Though not included in the chart because it isn't true adjustable face technology, we spent a good bit of time with the Callaway drivers mixing and matching heads and shafts.  As you might expect, swapping shafts did in fact lead to a measurable changes in launch angle, trajectory, and distance.  Callaway gets a bit of a bad rap for having what some have called a comparatively limited set of interchangeability options.

When taken at face value, I'm inclined to agree, and my guess is it's only a matter of time before Callaway gets in on the adjustable face angle technology action.  That said, we were somewhat surprised to learn that in addition to what I mentioned above, swapping I-MIX shafts had a measurable effect on where the ball ended up.

While the impact of changing I-Mix shafts was not as dramatic as with adjustable face technology, it's worth noting that, with some tinkering, there is some real opportunity to move the ball from one side of the fairway to another.

RELATED ARTICLES:

- “Clash Of The Adjustable Drivers!” – MOST ACCURATE DRIVER AWARDS - Day 4

- “Clash Of The Adjustable Drivers!” – LONGEST DRIVER AWARDS - Day 3

- “Clash Of The Adjustable Drivers!” – USER’S CHOICE AWARDS! – Day 2

- “Clash Of The Adjustable Drivers!” {SERIES} – Day 1

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

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

jim September 17, 2011 at 9:45 am

The fact that the Nike VR was 1st in accuracy and 2nd in distance makes me wonder why it scored so low on the testers overall choice….I would think that performance would out weigh all other criteria to a higher degree….It can’t sound, look and feel all that bad ….HMMM

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GolfSpy T September 17, 2011 at 10:09 am

Jim – After this test (mid-summer, last season), I became a huge fan of the Nike VR (not the Machspeed). The thing is…we’ve learned from dozens of tests that the subjective stuff ultimately impacts the buying decision more than actual performance. Looks probably count for more than anything, but sound and feel matter too. With respect to the VR, I would say it was significantly worse for sound and feel than anything other than the Machspeed.

I actually played the VR for a good chunk of the golf season, but as soon as I found something that could offer the same performance with improved sound and feel – out it went.

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tom October 21, 2010 at 3:18 am

i think adjustability is so ultimately important that i have upgraded my driver and my two fairway metals to the r9 family. why? first, i’m a +2 hndcp and i play a lot of golf – very good golf. low round this season 66. i’m very attuned to my swing, curvatures, trajectory, etc., i’m also quite aware of subtleties in my swing and how they effect my ball flight.

now to continue with my position: there’s one constant that holds VERY true (for me, and likely everyone): i am not the same golfer on the range than i am on the course. on the range after a hit or two you subconsciously groove your swing so if a ball goes right the first time it probably won’t the second, third, fourth and so on. generally, if your first ball goes right, you’ll likely see the ball move right on the course the one or two times you use that club on the course. SO, I DO NOT ADJUST THE CLUBS FOR HOW I HIT ON THE RANGE, BUT HOW I “MISS” ON THE COURSE!!!

so, i bought three r9 drivers (8.5, 9.5 and 10.5) and three different shafts. i settled on one combination for my gamer (9.5, aldila rip) and off the tee i have it set to N (neutral). i love the sound, look, and feel of my r9 so thought to try the fairway metals. off the deck, with my fairway metals (13° and 17°) in the same setting (N) as my driver, i found that my misses were right. 15yd cuts… mind you, off the tee the balls don’t move right. so, a quick adjustment of the face angle to the L position and i’m hitting missiles where my miss is a baby draw. i’m going for my par5s with routine and terrific confidence and if not home in two, i’m in great position up close.

in closing, i don’t think i’ll be changing away from adjustable clubs ever.

on a personal note… i followed phil, dustin and justin at the tour championship at east lake during practice round. as you all know, dustin has his driver set to R (2° open) as his miss is an over draw. however, phil has lead tape on the heel of his ft tour driver, because he wants to avoid a slice. lead tape? i mean i know weighting may work, but if he played a face angle changing club he’d probably be happier. what does this mean? i bet the next addition for callaway this coming season is a move to face angle changing.

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Bill July 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I used the R9 driver and 3W for 6 months… I hit them fine but found the adjustment to just be a gimmick… I tend to adjust to well… the adjustment of the head… just ended up playing it on the “N” After a while the adjustable collar started to “creak” when I hit the ball.

I tried an Adams 9032LS and made an immediate switch… it is unlikely I would ever get another adjustable club.

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Neal July 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm

With all the discussion about adjustable drivers, it seems to me that once you have been fitted and the club performs the way you want it to, you then forget about the adjustablility feature. Then, the only time it comes into play is when you want to get a new driver. The old driver can then be adjusted for the new owner.

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FSU#21 July 2, 2010 at 4:40 am

i’ll save you any further testing. TAYLORMADE R9 460 TP W/ALDILA R.I.P. 70S SHAFT. i’ve played in 4 section events this season and i’ve missed a total of 3 fairways. i will give you my quick to the point professional opinion. COBRA adjustable drivers belong in the garbage can. if by chance you have 2 garbage cans go ahead and throw that NIKE junk in there also. as for CALLAWAY, i have after 6 years finally parted ways with them and it is really dissapointing to see them stick with this I-MIX dissaster and now they will be the last to the table with FCT technology. dont get me started on that company cause i can pick apart their whole 2010 line-up of crap.

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Paul July 1, 2010 at 6:20 pm

MGS – What a great review – its come to late for me as I have just lashed out $AU465 on a new driver, but the best thing was you started off stating that “MAKE A COMMITMENT…GO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO GET FIT TODAY I almost guarantee you will see improved results”

I was fitted by the PING rep in WA, and although they do not have a adjustable retail model, they have every head fitted with a screw thread to allow you to fit every shaft (Nearly every shaft – some of the designer options were missing)

I went from a 2″ longer Diamana Stiff, 12deg Rapture, to a 2″ longer UST X-Stiff, 8deg i15; it worked on the range and I could not belive that I was the man for this weapon!
Last night on the course, I drove “straight” into bunkers that were not on my radar before. (My golf pro teaches “aim at the bunker that you can’t reach”)

I need another on-course lesson now to change my target. I am straighter and 40-50 yards longer and I believe its the shaft – thats the engine that drives it (Although 4 deg must make a difference).

Roll on Saturday

Keep on the good work

Paul

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BTO July 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Applaud the amount of effort to gather all this data. I assume the testers are robot swingers with on plane, perfect releases and consistent swing speeds. Assume you will include real swing machine test data on these drivers.

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Lee H. July 1, 2010 at 10:35 am

On your spec chart, why does the grip column have a name of a grip for some manufacturers and numbers for others? I’m not sure what that relates to. Otherwise very informative info. Thanks

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GolfSpy T July 1, 2010 at 11:03 am

How embarrassing. I never updated the draft with the completed chart. The full and complete version is up.

-T

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Favre the Looper July 1, 2010 at 8:08 am

Great story with impeccable detail (as usual). Cant wait for Volume 2. On a personal note, dont have an adjustable and no desire to get one. McDowell won the Open with an FT3, I have an FT5 in my bag. I’m a club junky and if its out there (well, out there in accessible lefty) I’ve hit hit. Find “it” and stick to it.

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Ian July 1, 2010 at 7:35 am

Great review/test MGS! The fact that I can learn quite a bit is icing on the cake.
Based on your findings with the ZL, I’m going back to the golf store simulator to try a stiff shaft. I couldn’t keep from fading the darn thing with a closed face, reg flex shaft.

Looking forward to episode 2 and 3. Keep it coming!!!

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Blaine B. July 1, 2010 at 5:48 am

Great article MGS.

I agree with your comment on adjustability being an excellent fitting tool, but unfortunately the OEM’s don’t market the technology like that. Consumers get it in their head that they will be changing the settings all the time, but in reality most dial them in and then leave it alone. I’ve gone back to a glued driver and really don’t miss the ability to adjust the face. And I would have paid less for my current driver than one of these technological marvels.

One thing in your results that confused me was your statement: “We also observed that initial trajectories increased as the club face opened, and decreased as it closed.” Closing the face would actually increase the effective loft of a driver, not decrease it. I researched this earlier this season when I found that I was ballooning my Nike Str8-Fit driver after setting the head in the 2 degree closed position.

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GolfSpy T July 1, 2010 at 6:54 am

Crossposted in the forums:

As it applies to effective loft, and allowing for the assumption that the face returns to square at impact, than yes, in principle you are correct. Of course our tests indicate that isn’t what happens a healthy bit of the time. What does happen more often than not is this – golfers return a closed club face to the closed position (or closer to closed than they do an open face), which results in what you might classify as a low(er) hook, or what the simulators classify as a pull hook.

The same is true of an open face. Most of our testers returned the open face driver to the open face position (and some couple it with an over-the-top move). The result is a ball that starts high and to the right (push slice).

Generally speaking, the real-world differences from changing the face angle were more dramatic with our higher handicap testers. Our better golfers, regardless of initial face angle, did a better job of returning the club to square, which resulted in very similar results for each of the 3 configurations we tested. Our higher handicap golfers tend to over-compensate.

It’s a point I’m glad your brought up, as it helps to explain the results of our ZL tests (when closed, for reasons I can’t really explain, our golfer tended to bring that club closer to square). It’s also a perfect example (both with your own experience, and with professional instructors), of why an open faced driver can (almost counter-intuitively) benefit some golfers who miss right.

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Foz July 1, 2010 at 5:24 am

Terrific write up!

I have an adjustable Driver, Cobra L5V……..in my garage.

Haven’t used it since i got the Powerbilt Air Force One, nitrogen charged driver.

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mygolfspy July 1, 2010 at 5:58 am

That review (Air Force One) is coming up very soon Foz 😉

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Golf Instruction Guy.com June 30, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Wow! What an in depth post! I don’t get too much into equipment on my site but I sure know where to send my visitors if they do want golf club reviews.

Great site!

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mygolfspy July 1, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Send’em our way…we would love to have them GIG. Help spread the word 😉

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2ndSwingGolf June 30, 2010 at 11:05 am

Great write-up so far–very impressive. I’m looking forward to see what else you guys put out in the next two. It’s been interesting to see the stock length of drivers inflate over the past couple years.

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mygolfspy July 1, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Stock length of drivers has been inflating for a long time. It took a break for a few years but now the trend is back.

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adam berger June 30, 2010 at 10:52 am

Great idea and great use of time to put them to the test when it comes to adjusting, wish i had the opportunity to be a tester for this one and can concurr with the above statement on the ZL as when i was at the cobra challenge last friday the similar events occured.

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mygolfspy July 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm

With the way the reviews are going we might just need some extra guys to help with the reviews 😉

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Cheymike June 30, 2010 at 9:15 am

GST… I’m IMPRESSED!! Great write up/review so far. I can’t wait for day two! I like your review much better than what was happening at my “old site”. Very informative, and love the fact that you include all the specs/testing modes. I bet those spreadsheets were a nightmare!

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mygolfspy July 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Glad you enjoyed the series so far Cheymike. Hope you like tomorrow as well.

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