When it began a half-dozen years ago or so, the Demo Day portion of the annual PGA Merchandise Show almost immediately established itself as the most exciting day of the week. For perspective, this is the golf industry equivalent of fat-free, sugar-free, calorie-free chocolate bars to a room full of Biggest Loser finalists.
There were dozens of stations offering up staff bags full of the latest and greatest clubs to hold and hit at the 360-degree circular driving range at the Orange County National Golf Center, and while irons, wedges and putters garner some interest, almost everyone is there to smash the latest drivers. What's intriguing to us this year is how the technology platforms seem split in two camps, a trend not surprisingly started a few years back by TaylorMade, the leader in the driver market for most of the last decade.
The two camps can be summed up this way: First, there are heavier drivers designed to offer adjustability and trajectory optimization. If you can make it more likely a player will deliver the clubhead squarely and efficiently, you increase the likeihood that most of his hits will have maximum energy transfer, and thus better distance.
Then, there are lighter and longer drivers and those designed with aerodynamic initiatives to help a golfer increase his swingspeed. More speed means more potential for increased ballspeed. More ballspeed equals more distance.
In each case, heavier and lighter are relative terms, but the difference between the lightest and the heaviest drivers on our list is 60 grams, or more than the weight of a golf ball.
Which is right? Could be both. Of the three drivers that earned our highest scores in Performance, two were among the heaviest (Titleist 910D2/D3 and TaylorMade R11) and one was the lightest (the Cleveland Launcher Ultralite). With that kind of a range, it seems the role of the clubfitter becomes more and more important. Which is why it's time you went and found yours. --Mike Stachura