With the dust having settled on GOLF’s 2022 ClubTest, it’s time to dig into the testing numbers with the driver to see if insights can be gleaned. The equipment team linked up with Golf Laboratories founder Gene Parente and Foresight Sports to conduct robotic driver testing at 95 mph with a 10.5-degree head.
In an effort to gain a greater understanding of how the club performs, we impacted the ball on nine points across the face (high, low and middle) to determine if certain drivers would benefit golfers with, say, a high toe or low heel miss. The same stiff-flex shaft was also affixed to each head to ensure a level playing field.
Touting impressive ball speed out of the center is a nice-to-have, but how many mid-handicappers hit it out of the center on a regular basis? Exactly.
Instead of simply trumpeting which one goes the farthest out of the middle, we’re offering up options for your common miss that are worth testing further with a certified club-fitter.
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Cobra’s LTDx was without question one of the most stable drivers in this year’s lineup. The LTDx had a 3.4-yard carry distance delta between the center strike location and the other eight locations we tested. It essentially means you can miss it anywhere on the face and not have to sweat a massive dropoff in carry distance.
Cobra has been churning out ultra-stable drivers over the past several years. This one is no different.
High toe miss
A common miss for many recreational golfers, the high-toe has a tendency to start wide right of the intended target and draw back to the left. The 60-layer Carbon Twist Face on TaylorMade’s Stealth lived up to the hype during testing, particularly when the robot impacted the ball on the high toe.
By designing the face to increase spin for toe misses, the ball stays in the air longer, resulting in extra carry yards. During testing, Stealth only saw a 2-yard drop-off in carry distance from center to high-toe. That’s an improvement of roughly 3-4 yards when compared to a majority of the other drivers we tested.
Callaway Rogue ST Max
If you’re a mid-to-high handicap golfer, chances are you routinely impact the ball on the lower third of the face. Club designers have been catering at least one model to this particular miss for years. But instead of simply trying to find a way to band-aid it, some have become more aggressive in their approach to all but eliminate carry distance loss.
With the help of Artificial Intelligence, the face on Callaway’s Rogue ST Max is optimized in a way that common mishits are minimized. In this particular case, shots along the lower third of the face (heel, toe and center) produced minimal carry distance drop-off, to the tune of 3 yards. (Center versus an average of the three low strike locations.)
Low heel misses
Wilson Launch Pad
With moderate offset and 13 grams of added weight positioned in the heel section, Wilson’s Launch Pad driver is designed to combat a slice. While this club was made with a particular golfer in mind, it’s also a great option for those who regularly impact the low heel section.
Combing through the data, it becomes obvious that a low heel shot can kill distance. The gear effect of a heel shot leads to more spin, which in turn leads to a severe reduction in carry. A majority of the drivers we tested saw anywhere from 10-20 yards less carry on low heel shots. The Launch Pad was one of the few that managed to keep the carry distance delta under 6 yards.
Ping G425 Max
Impacting the ball high on the face is one way to generate additional carry distance. That being said, a few drivers made the high miss (toe, center, heel) almost indistinguishable from center contact.
With Ping’s G425 Max, the carry delta between the upper quadrant and center was minimal, making it a great option if you tend to tee it high. When comparing center strike to an average of the three upper locations, the carry delta was just 4 yards. To put that number into perspective, a number of drivers produced a carry delta of 7-10 yards on high misses.
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