The perfect driver does not exist

The perfect driver does not exist

Written by Arnaud Maurin, independent clubmaker & clubfitter , owner of 33GOLFLAB

October 2017

OK, let me rephrase the title (it took me a while to find one) : the perfect driver MAY exist. But it would require a clubmaker to test about 1,5 million possible combinations for one particular golfer.

We will do the math later.

But, first and foremost … what IS a perfect driver ? After all, is there a perfect wine ? A perfect golf swing ? A perfect company to work for ?

This may sound trivial but it is precisely where it gets so tricky and difficult during a fitting. But, for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that the perfect driver would be the one that goes the furthest, and straightest. My humble guess is, if asked, this would be the answer from 95% of golfers in the world. I think only a fraction of golfers would spontaneously say « the one that I can shape the ball easily with : draw / fade, low / high » or « the one that gives me the more roll », or « the one that has the best sound at impact ».

Now, back to the math.

After 7 years of clubfitting and clubmaking for golfers of all skills and profiles, I can say without a doubt that the driver is, by far, the most difficult club to fit in a bag.

Why ? Because it is the only club for which the combinations are so important.

So, let’s take these combinations one by one.

LENGTH

Very much debated, and lots of research on this one … The maximum legal length for a driver is 48 », as used by the long drive competitors. Average found in a shop : 45 ». Average on the PGA Tour since 2010 : around 44,5 ». Shawn Clement : 44,25 ». Ricky Fowler (2017) : 43,75 ». Average on the PGA TOUR in the 70s : around 43 » …

This is a 5 » gap. 30 points of swingweight. If we think in terms of half inches, we have 11 possible combinations.

Needless to say, length has an obvious impact on : distance, accuracy, and feel.

LOFT

This is a huge one on distance and launch : what loft should you be playing ? The answer is both simple and intricate (simple if we think in terms of carry in the air, more intricate if we add the « roll » in the equation).

Lofts on most driver heads can vary from 8° (I am not taking into account the long drivers, with lofts starting at 5° and even below) to 15°. This is already a lot of combinations.

But it is … again … not so simple !

First, because there is a « roll » on driver heads : your 10,5° driver head may well have a loft of 7° at the bottom, 10,5° in the center, and 14° at the top. So, depending on where you strike the ball … not the same result. To my knowledge, there is only one driver head that has a constant roll, meaning a loft that remains about the same from top to bottom.

Secondly, because the reality of manufacturing driver heads shows that not all models of the same brand actually have the same loft that you see on them. Meaning : a « 10,5° model X » can vary pretty much between 8° to 12° (again, when measured in the center of the face).

For the sake of this argument, let’ say we have about 10 possible combinations as far as loft is concerned.

FACE ANGLE

This parameter will have an important influence on trajectory : from 2° closed to 2° open, which one suits your game better ?

Here we have, also, about 10 more combinations.

LIE ANGLE

This parameter is not as important as it is for irons, and most driver heads vary from 58° to 60°. But, for some golfers (very tall, or very short) it may become more important for accuracy, and trajectory.

Let’s assume 5 combinations, from 2° flat to 2° upright.

SHAFT WEIGHT

The trend, since I started building clubs, has been lighter and lighter … in 2017 we can witness driver shafts below 40 grams ! I have seen with my own eyes a 28 grams prototype from a Japanese company that has never been released, but pretty much MIGHT in a few years, considering how fast the trend is going. But again, light is not for everyone. It can be good for some golfers to gain distance, but detrimental to many others.

If we do the maths with only 10 grams increments, strating at 40 and ending at 80, we have at least 5 more combinations.

SHAFT FLEX

Probably the most debated one … and rightly so, when we understand that shaft manufacturers have different flex designations … after all, what is a Regular ? A Stiff ? An extra Stiff ? There is NO scientific norm in this industry, and probably will never be.

Starting at L2 (ladies square) all the way up to XXStiff … that’s at least 10 combinations.

SHAFT BEND PROFILE

Not a comprehensive list ! Butt stiff, soft mid, soft tip, stiff tip, butt soft … we all have heard these combinations. How many ? I have to confess that I don’t know.

Let’s take 10, otherwise, we could have a headache very soon.

SWINGWEIGHT

From C3 to D5 : 13 combinations of feel …

Well, if I were to stop here, we would already have more than 1,5 million possible combinations.

But we could add in the equation :

  • the head weight (from 190 grams to 210 grams)
  • the center of gravity (expressed in millimiters), which impacts the MOI, the launch, the spin
  • the COR (coef. Of restitution) : most heads are now at the limit of 0,830 but some heads have more COR than others, again, because of manufacturing processes and tolerances
  • the grip weight : from 25 to 80 grams
  • counterweights : from 20 to 80 grams
  • the bulge of the face : some variations (in degrees) from head to head
  • the bend point of a shaft : mid, high or low
  • the torque of the shaft : from 2° to 6°
  • etc …

I truly hope this article will « open the eyes » of so many golfers who, year in and year out, think that BRAND X has come up with the NEW best driver.

I see so many reviews on the web about « new driver A » or « driver A Vs. Driver B » that are interesting, but these reviews almost always fail to mention the actual loft, the length, the weight,the swingweight and so on … how is it possible, then, to make any fair comparison ?

As a clubmaker, I would say this to a golfer who wants to have a good driver, or wants to improve his current driver :

  • have your driver checked by a skilled person (length, loft, face angle,weight, …)
  • do not trust what you read on the face and on the shaft : have your loft measured for instance, and your shaft CPM’ed (shaft frequency). Just ask for basic numbers !

But most importantly … tell the person (fitter/salesman) precisely what would be YOUR perfect driver :

  • a driver that gives more distance overall (carry + roll)
  • a driver that gives more roll
  • a driver that gives more carry
  • a driver that gives a better dispersion
  • a driver that feels more comfortable
  • a driver that reduces a pull / slice … tendency
  • etc …

Be humble, only chose one or two options !

For more info :

arnaud@33golflab.com

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