Our selection of gold and silver medalists in the driver category
STREET PRICE: $500WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS8.5 (LCG), 9, 9.5 (LCG), 10, 11, 13 HTTECH STORYThe square shape helps improve heel-toe stability and crown-to-sole performance. A composite body and titanium cup-face provide design freedom for CG location. The LCG tour version is the latest addition (for lower spin), along with an interchangeable shaft-head system called I-Mix.PLAYER COMMENTS"This is on the smaller side, but it works as well as the bigger ones. More maneuverable... When they say it will help you hit it straighter, they aren't lying."HOTYou don't have to like square to appreciate the effort here, especially with the addition of a tour version and the mix-and-match head-and-shaft system.NOTIf it's square, why not push the U.S. Golf Association moment-of-inertia limit? A $500 tag prices out a lot of people who need this technology.
CLEVELAND HIBORE XLS
STREET PRICE: $300LOFTS8.5*, 9.5*, 10.5*, 11.5*; draw version: 9, 10.5, 12; (*also comes in tour version)WEBSITE: clevelandgolf.comTECH STORYThe third generation of the scooped-crown design has a wider and larger face (17 percent bigger than the HiBore XL) and an MOI above 5,000. Helping to increase that number is a thinner wall (0.6 millimeters) and deeper indentations in the heel-and-toe sections of the scooped crown.PLAYER COMMENTS"It's the farthest, most stable driver yet. The ball doesn't balloon... This is like that country song, 'I got a brand-new girlfriend!' You just choose your loft and go... I hit one clear on the heel, and it still went decent."HOTThe best way to make an unconventional-looking driver is to make it play like an old standby--on steroids. That's what we have here. Plus, we like the three versions.NOTAdding a 13-degree, nondraw version would help better players with slower swing speeds.
COBRA SPEED LD
STREET PRICE: $300WEBSITE: cobragolf.comLOFTSF/Speed: 9.5, 10.5; M/Speed: 10.5, 12; M/Speed OS: 9.5, 10.5 ; Speed Pro: 8.5, 9.5, 10.5TECH STORYUpdated from last spring's version, the new Speed LD maintains its deep-dimpled, sloped-crown design. It comes close to the USGA's limit on size, but don't overlook the heat-producing-but-hidden rhombus bump behind the face, which is designed to improve off-center-hit performance.PLAYER COMMENTS"A very serious club. Looks like it'll really launch the ball... Cobra makes the nontraditional look almost traditional."HOTA tiny adjustment makes this success story sound much better. Cobra's Speed Fit might not be high tech, but it's user-friendly and works fast. Is a fitting system supposed to do more? No.NOTCustom shaft options, aside from the nifty Cobra tech van, are limited. We'd like to see more than two lofts in the F Speed version.
NIKE SQ SUMO² 5900
STREET PRICE: $400WEBSITE: nikegolf.comLOFTS8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 11.5, 13, HLTECH STORYThe extreme square shape is an attempt to reach the USGA's limit on MOI (5,900 gram-centimeters squared). How was this achieved? Engineers took weight saved from an updated (and lighter) multithickness face and moved it to the corners, giving the square-shape clubhead extreme stability on heel-and-toe hits.PLAYER COMMENTS"It's ugly, but I can't believe how well you can bomb it. I was hurting the golf ball... This looks, sounds and hits like a freight train. It's forgiving, and I can hit the ball long and down the middle... Nice job of muting the sound of last year's model. It's clever how the design gives you the sense of a traditional driver."HOTThis year's version is an improvement. A new adjustable-shaft fitting component is a bonus.NOTThe clubhead's shape might not fit those whose moves are more grace than growl.
STREET PRICE: $300WEBSITE: pinggolf.comLOFTS7.5, 9*, 10.5*, 12*, 13.5* (*also available in draw version)TECH STORYBuilt on the platform of Ping's G2/G5 franchise, it features a taller, more stable face (for off-center-hit help) and a larger, weblike rear crown. The sloped crown and sole are designed to enhance energy transfer. Saved weight is moved to the sole to lower the CG.PLAYER COMMENTS "The copper color rocks. Near-perfect forgiveness. I heeled-and-toed them, and they still went straight... Firm, but it doesn't feel like a rock. You will hit it high."HOTThis club is more subtly explosive than a handful of plastique in a can of Play-Doh. Bonus: The draw version is remedial without looking like it. A new computer-based fitting system is in development, too.NOTThe one-time leader in fitting needs to upgrade to an adjustable fitting system.
STREET PRICE: $300WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comLOFTS8.5 (TP version only), 9.5, 10.5, 13 (standard and draw only)TECH STORYThe shaft is lightweight (only 50 grams) and long (46 inches) and is designed to increase your swing speed, resulting in higher ball speed. The stretched-bullet head shape helps push the CG back for a higher MOI.PLAYER COMMENTS"Love the setup. The design on the crown gets you looking right down the fairway... Launches the ball high. If someone has trouble getting it high, this is their club... My mis-hits, and I mean all of them, were in play."HOTA marketplace behemoth, and rightly so. TaylorMade's engineers have made the ultra-thin walls sound and feel as meaty as a side of Angus beef cooked over an open flame. And don't overlook the inverted-cone face design. SelectFit features, ahem, 186 driver combinations.NOTThe jazzy crown might not suit your eye.
ADAMS INSIGHT XTD
STREET PRICE: $300WEBSITE: adamsgolf.comLOFTSa3: 8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 11.5; a3OS: 9.5, 10.5, 12.5, HLTECH STORYThe Insight line features two square-shape models (with a 0.5-millimeter crown insert) designed for average players and slicers who swing over the top. The a3OS version has more weight in the heel and a CG toward the back, promoting a closed face and more loft. The a3 version's CG is closer to the face but in a less draw-bias position.PLAYER COMMENTS"Good ball flight--up in the air but flat... Sits squarer than the other square drivers... Most squares clang, but this one popped with a pleasant feel."HOTTwo versions is a smart way to handle the player spectrum. And the gentle shaping actually makes the square look good. The Aldila DVS shaft as standard is a nice surprise.NOTThere isn't a whole lot going on from a fitting aspect.
CALLAWAY HYPER X
STREET PRICE: $300WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS8.5 , 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5*, 11 (*tour versions only)TECH STORYThe Hyper X features the largest hitting area of any Callaway all-titanium driver. The head incorporates a face-thickness section in the shape of an X, designed to improve springlike effect across a larger area. The tour versions have a square-face angle, and the standard lofts are a degree closed.PLAYER COMMENTS"The ball moves from right to left every time. Has a nice, classic look. Almost the same ball flight off the toe as in the center... I could even hit it off the deck... Straight top edge gives you confidence and the feeling that you have a lot of face to work with."HOTThe color matches its hard-nosed, blue-collar performance. Plenty of pop, and if Callaway says it has spent eight years perfecting off-center-hit ball speed, it's worth investigating.NOTWhere are the high lofts for slower swings? Why no 9-degree loft for left-handers?
STREET PRICE: $400WEBSITE: cobragolf.comLOFTS9, 10, 10.5*, 12 (*M version only)TECH STORYThe use of multiple materials (titanium face, weight-saving carbon composite in the crown and sole, tungsten ring in back) allows for a super-large face and a near-USGA breadth-and-width size limit. The tungsten helps push the MOI near the USGA limit, too.PLAYER COMMENTS"Cobra nicely creates drivers specifically for middle-handicappers. I like the light weight. I felt like I was always in control of the club... I dig the herringbone pattern on the crown, and the dimples de-emphasize the large head. Has a unique sound... I tried to mis-hit it but couldn't tell if I did--it felt and flew the same."HOTThree versions (from X for fast swingers to M for seniors) accommodate all skill levels, and the Cobra version of Mitsubishi's Diamana Red Board shaft is intriguing. The milled dual-rhombus face insert is unseen but felt.NOTThe sound will leave a mark.
STREET PRICE: $400WEBSITE: mizunousa.com/golfLOFTS8.5, 9.5, 10.5TECH STORYA track in the rear sole accommodates two eight-gram weights that can be moved to any of six positions to adjust for 15 ball flights. A milled, plasma-welded face insert has multiple thicknesses to increase the coefficient of restitution (COR) near the USGA limit across a wider area of the face.PLAYER COMMENTS"Another great Mizuno product. I like the way it sets up, and I got good distance... Cool weighting system on the bottom, but classic on top. Best of both worlds... Best ball flight of any driver I've hit. Handsome. Solid and meaty coming off the face."HOT Has the heft of a true player's club. A driver worthy of Mizuno's purest blade irons and the golfer who might be good enough to use them.NOT Two eight-gram weights will not move the CG significant amounts, and slower swingers are out of luck with 10.5 as the maximum loft.
NIKE SQ SUMO 5000
STREET PRICE: $300WEBSITE: nikegolf.comLOFTS8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 11.5, 13* (*also in offset version)TECH STORYA new external and internal body shape increases the MOI by 5 percent over last year's entry. It also features a redesigned multiple-thickness face. The gently sloping crown leads to a rear wing where weight is concentrated to help lower the CG.PLAYER COMMENTS"The two-tone crown in the back is different but didn't bother me. Good feel with solid results... Good accuracy off mis-hits. Even drew nicely off toe hits... I'm not used to the club-in-club look but just love the way it feels off the face."HOTNike changed the paradigm with this stretched-frame design idea two years ago. This is another step in the right direction and satisfies those of us who find square an excessive departure. Nike's soon-to-be launched adjustable fitting system bears watching.NOTGiving up the 16-degree is unfortunate.
STREET PRICE: $300WEBSITE: srixon.comLOFTS8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 11.5TECH STORYA thinned-out crown (.55 millimeters) enabled engineers to place saved weight in a tungsten screw in the rear sole. The starburst internal-face geometry features four bulge-and-roll areas and is designed to improve dispersion.PLAYER COMMENTS"Surprise of the day. I didn't expect that much performance, but it's a performer. Everyone should try it. The ball explodes off the clubface. A little less forgiving on mis-hits... I really like the simple, elegant look of this club. There are no visual distractions in the shape or the design of the crown."HOTThere's a reason this company has had success in Japan. It more or less invented springlike effect. We especially like the way the weighting moves from heel bias in the higher lofts to toe bias in the lowest loft.NOTA no-show in terms of fitting initiatives.
TAYLORMADE R7 CGB MAX
STREET PRICE: $400WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comLOFTS8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 12* (*not in TP version)TECH STORYThe clubhead has four movable weights (the only 460 cubic-centimeter head with that many). The SelectFit fitting system has five r7 head options and 17 shafts. The movable weights are designed for six ball flights (more on the TP version), and the inverted-cone face helps increase the springlike-effect area.PLAYER COMMENTS"I like the all-black look and the matte face. It's hot off the face, and it really corrects a lot of things... Face jumps like something's chasing after it... I love every shot I hit with this. Beautiful to look at. Perfect trajectory."HOTThere's little argument that this is the most customizable driver on the market for any player with a reasonable amount of ability. The r7 family remains a powerhouse.NOTMOI number is relatively low, and if you're looking for significant ball-flight correction, there are better options.
TAYLORMADE R7 SUPERQUAD
STREET PRICE: $400WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comLOFTS8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 12* (*not in TP version)TECH STORY The clubhead has four movable weights (the only 460 cubic-centimeter head with that many). The SelectFit fitting system has five r7 head options and 17 shafts. The movable weights are designed for six ball flights (more on the TP version), and the inverted-cone face helps increase the springlike-effect area.PLAYER COMMENTS "I like the all-black look and the matte face. It's hot off the face, and it really corrects a lot of things... Face jumps like something's chasing after it... I love every shot I hit with this. Beautiful to look at. Perfect trajectory."HOT There's little argument that this is the most customizable driver on the market for any player with a reasonable amount of ability. The r7 family remains a powerhouse.NOT MOI number is relatively low, and if you're looking for significant ball-flight correction, there are better options.
STREET PRICE: $400WEBSITE: titleist.comLOFTS7.5, 8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 11.5TECH STORYThe triangle shape helps to improve stability (highest MOI of any Titleist driver) and move the CG farther from the face. The face has a beta-titanium insert that tapers from bottom to top to enhance speed and launch angle. A thin crown and a lightweight hosel allow mass to be redistributed to the rear of the clubhead.PLAYER COMMENTS"It looks like a hammer coming into a nail. Effortless distance... Not quite as forgiving, but it's explosive... Better than I thought with that shape. Designed to hit the ball high. If you can create speed but need more height, this is for you."HOTAs user-friendly a Titleist driver as there is. Finding your local Titleist FittingWorks location should be a priority.NOTIts MOI is well above average for Titleist, but if you're buying MOI, there's more for the dollar elsewhere.
STREET PRICE: $400LOFTS7.5, 8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 11.5TECH STORYA traditional shape benefits from less weight in the crown (thin titanium casting) and hosel (lightweight 6061 T6 aluminum), allowing for a lower CG. The face area is 8 percent larger than past Titleist models, and the beta-titanium face insert tapers from bottom to top to launch the ball higher and produce less spin.PLAYER COMMENTS"An excellent, classic look at address with solid feel... It's a lean, clean, hittin' machine. Simple design: no points, appendages or tails. The ball jumps off the face. No distractions at address... Middle-handicappers shouldn't be afraid of this. It's very forgiving and sets up nice. Not the hottest driver, but plenty long."HOTAbout as boring as long and down the middle of the fairway. Not flashy, but the technology is as solid as the hits feel.NOT$400 for a plain old all-titanium driver is hard to justify these days.