Miss shots on the heel? These 2024 drivers deserve consideration

cobra darkspeed max driver testing

Cobra's Darkspeed Max driver performed exceptionally well on heel strikes.

Jonathan Wall/GOLF

Heel misses tend to come with sizable carry deltas. The low heel, in particular, imparts significant spin on the golf ball, leading to massive dropoffs in carry in some cases. For several drivers we tested, the carry distance delta between the low heel and geometric center was 35-plus yards. The middle and high heel aren’t nearly as penalizing, but you’ll usually notice when the ball misses on the inner quadrant.

For the latest round of robotic testing with Golf Laboratories’ swing robot, we put all driver models and lofts to the test to find suitable options for heel misses across all three mishit locations (middle, low and heel). As expected, several deserve further testing if you continually impact the heel. Let’s go to the numbers.

(How we calculate: Each driver is tested at 95 mph using a 9-point face mapping. We hit 6 balls from each location on the face — high, low and middle quadrants — and then compared the data to the geometric center.)

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TaylorMade Qi10 Max (12 degrees) | 5.1 yards of carry distance loss on heel misses across all three locations (high, middle and low)

TaylorMade Qi10 Max Custom Driver

$599.99
The higher the inertia the more forgiving the driver. Introducing the Qi10 Max driver, experience TaylorMade speed with the forgiveness of 10K inertia. BUILT FOR FORGIVENESS & STABILITY The Qi10 Max features a shallower head shape that extends from front-to-back and significantly increases inertia by allowing mass to be placed further away from the center of the clubhead. NEW INFINITY CARBON CROWN An Infinity Carbon Crown covers 97% of the total crown area, creating a strategic advantage for mass redistribution and enhanced forgiveness. At address, it delivers a sleek and clean view that pairs with subtle alignment cues, setting the stage for confidence and success.
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Highlight: High and middle heel misses lost a paltry 1.5 yards, compared to 8 yards with last year’s Stealth 2 on the same mishit locations. The carry delta on the distance-crippling low-heel miss was even more impressive: 12.2 yards. With several drivers recording carry distance deltas of 30-plus yards on the low heel, anything under 15 yards is incredibly impressive. Throw in the strong numbers on toe misses and you have a well-balanced driver that can do it all.

Cobra Darkspeed Max (12 degrees) | 6.5 yards

Cobra DarkSpeed Max Custom Driver

$549.99
The Cobra Darkspeed MAX model delivers draw-bias and unrivaled stability in a low-mid spin design for ultimate distance and accuracy. REFINED AERODYNAMIC DESIGN An improved aero shape features a streamlined face to topline radius, a highercrown peak, raised skirt and reduced clubface surface area to maximize speed. SHAPED FOR SPEED AND FORGIVENESS A refined clubhead shape blends speed with forgiveness for an elevated lookat address that inspires maximum confidence on the tee.
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Highlight: Miss on the low heel and two things usually happen — spin and launch go up in a big way. But not with Darkspeed Max. Instead of seeing the carry delta balloon to 25 or 40 yards, Cobra’s Max product managed to hang tough and keep the number under 12 yards. Only three drivers produced a better number on the swing robot. While high-heel lost 9 yards, it was offset by 3.5 yards on a 3/4-inch heel shot.

Cobra Darkspeed Max (10.5 degrees) | 7 yards

Cobra DarkSpeed Max Custom Driver

$549.99
The Cobra Darkspeed MAX model delivers draw-bias and unrivaled stability in a low-mid spin design for ultimate distance and accuracy. REFINED AERODYNAMIC DESIGN An improved aero shape features a streamlined face to topline radius, a highercrown peak, raised skirt and reduced clubface surface area to maximize speed. SHAPED FOR SPEED AND FORGIVENESS A refined clubhead shape blends speed with forgiveness for an elevated lookat address that inspires maximum confidence on the tee.
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Highlight: Speaking of drivers with an impressive low-heel delta, the 12-degree Max head managed to get under 11 yards. High-heel misses produced a similar number to the 10.5-degree (10.2 yards), but the 3/4-inch middle strike (3 yards) once again tightened the carry delta on heel strikes across the board.

Ping G430 Max 10K (12 degrees) | 7.8 yards

PING G430 Max 10K Custom Driver

$599.99
The G430 MAX 10K is PING’s straightest and highest MOI driver to date, eclipsing the 10,000 g-cm2 combined moment of inertia threshold first surpassed by the G400 MAX five years earlier. FIXED BACK WEIGHT The fixed back weight allows for the record-setting MOI as it drives mass down and back to increase forgiveness and optimize the center of gravity position. LARGER HEAD PROFILE PING’s biggest head profile to date maximizes the USGA-allowable heel-toe and front-back dimensions while staying within the 460cc volume limit. This eye-pleasing shape helps square the golfer to the target and inspires the confidence to hit longer, straighter tee shots.
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Highlight: At 95 mph, more loft can be beneficial in the search for optimal launch and spin characteristics. So it should come as no surprise that the 12-degree Max 10K head produced some of the best numbers we saw from drivers at the same loft. Distance decreased by a mere 6.6 yards (across the 8 mishit locations), with only the low toe and heel seeing a carry distance delta beyond 5 yards. Low heel strikes only saw a distance drop-off of 7 yards.

Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Max D (12 degrees) | 8 yards

Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Max D Custom Driver

$599.99
Ai SMOKE MAX D DRIVER The new Paradym Ai Smoke driver represents a quantum leap forward in Callaway’s Ai journey. This new family of drivers feature the most sophisticated driver face in Callaway history, the Ai Smart Face. World’s First Ai Smart Face™ The all-new Ai Smart Face optimizes driver performance using swing dynamics from thousands of real golfers. This promotes optimal launch conditions and tight downrange dispersion. Forgiving Shape The Max D Driver is built with high MOI, and a generously stretched profile at address, suited best for players looking to hit a draw. A rear weight will help stabilize the head and increase launch.
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Highlight: Callaway’s draw-biased offering lived up to the hype with the tightest low-heel deltas of any driver that underwent robotic testing. The 12-degree came in at 7.6 yards, while the 10.5-degree bested it at 6.3 yards. The 3/4-inch heel strike was under 4 yards, too.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2024? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf.

JWall

Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour. He can be reached at jonathan.wall@golf.com.