Driver Phobia

July 23, 2009

Last weekend, I played nine holes with an old friend who's recently picked up golf. Like all new players, my friend has quickly become obsessed with the game, but she's thoroughly intimidated by the thought of hitting a driver. If she had her way, she'd use her 7-iron for every shot from tee to green, because it's the one club she's become comfortable with during her lessons and range sessions. Her bag is full of shiny new clubs and the 7-iron is the only one with any dirt on it.

I've found this to be a very common phenomenon among new women golfers. Guys who pick up golf seem to have no problem puling out driver the first time they ever take a swing, which might be a little foolhardy, but at least it shows there's no fear involved. Women seem afraid to use anything but the one club they know they can make contact with, and they end up sticking with that club for way too long. Because you'll never learn to play golf well if you don't get used to hitting all the clubs in your bag, especially the driver.

Ten years ago, new women golfers were right to be afraid of the big stick, and were often told to just tee off with a 3- or 5-wood instead. Back then, women's drivers were designed very similarly to men's drivers, which means they were too heavy, too stiff and didn't have nearly enough loft to launch the ball into the air for players with slower swing speeds. But it's a different world now. Today's women's drivers come with super-lightweight, flexible shafts; large, forgiving clubheads; and lots of loft (typically between 13 and 16 degrees, which is where 3-woods used to be in the past). In combination, these features allow even the slowest swingers to get some serious height and distance out of their shots--distance that could never be duplicated by an iron.

So if you're a new golfer, don't be afraid to hit the driver. It should be your favorite club. And if you're a veteran playing with a new golfer, do what I did last weekend and force your friend to remove that headcover. Tell her to hit two drives on each hole; one with her 7-iron (or whatever other club she insists on using) and one with the driver. When she sees how much farther she hits the driver, she'll never go back.

For tips on great new women's drivers, check out our recent Golf Digest Woman equipment preview.

--Stina Sternberg