Everybody gets excited about the potential game-changing effects of a new driver, but before you get out the credit card, remember that the process of getting fit for—and eventually buying the right driver—benefits more from the modern technology of launch monitors than any other club in the bag. Unfortunately, according to Nick Sherburne founder and master fitter at national fitting chain Club Champion, the drivers many average golfers currently have in their bags can have some big flaws. “Most golfers have either too heavy or too stiff of a shaft,” he said. “In golf, we want to create power, and if the shaft is too heavy it can slow us down, or if the flex is too stiff, it can keep us from loading and creating power. Also, when the body feels like it has to overpower the club, it creates mishits.”
The ideal solution obviously is a fitting with a qualified expert, who not only can show you how a new driver might improve your distance and accuracy, but also how your current driver might be as good as you can get. When should you be looking at a new driver, especially if you were fit by an expert for your current one?
“I believe you get fit when you feel like you are not getting the most out of your equipment,” Sherburne said. “If that’s a year, then yes, get fit, but more likely it’s going to be every three or five years. Sometimes, even though you don’t feel you are getting everything from your clubs, you truly are and at least the fitting will confirm that. That gives you the confidence, that you are playing the very best.”
Still, Sherburne said that Club Champion conducted a test of all the new products in 2018, and the company found that among 20 golfers of varying handicaps, there was at least one product in every category for every golfer that provided an improvement over a golfer’s existing equipment. As indicated above, a big key in finding that improvement is the launch monitor. Its numbers might be confusing, but that’s where you need to put your trust in the fitter’s experience, Sherburne said.
“We call the most important launch monitor numbers ‘vitals,’” he said. “They are clubhead speed, ball speed, smash factor, launch, and spin rate. There are more numbers but those are the ones that always come first. I don’t think ignoring any number is right. I would say ignore the idea that ‘what’s right for somebody is right for me.’ That almost never works out. So, work with a fitter that educates you on what optimal looks like for your game and focus on those numbers.”
And, whatever you do in your search for a new driver, don’t get swayed by one good hit, he said. “Golf clubs are tools to help us shoot lower scores, and these tools have more purposes than distance, they also have to have the proper forgiveness and shot shape for your game and the courses you play," he said. "Unless all you care about is the long drive circuit, distance is important, but it’s not the only factor.”