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Friday, November 04, 2005

Is a New Driver Helpful?

One of my buddies recently asked me to recommend a new driver. He has been hitting (mostly well) a Big Bertha circa 1998. I'm not a big equipment geek, but I've hit a few of the newer drivers and have other friends who really like the new ones, so I gave him a couple of suggestions. I offered up the new Ping G5, the new Callaway Big Bertha Fusion, the Taylor Made R7, and the new Titleist 905. Real creative, I know. These are all top-of-the-line clubs. However, after giving him these suggestions, I began to wonder how much benefit he'll gain from a new driver.

I've noticed that most people I play with (2 to 15 handicappers) have gained added distance and some forgiveness from new drivers. Yet, only a couple of them have brought down their scores since purchasing new driver technology. And the ones who have improved have also either stepped up their practicing or have taken lessons. This begs the question: Are the new drivers really helpful?

My unscientific answer is a qualified "no". The reason is that since distance is the main differentiator from the old technology, everyone seems to be swinging for the fences, which usually causes a breakdown in their balanced swings -- myself included. The premium placed on distance has actually worked against them, and their scores aren't really coming down. Why did I qualify my "no"? Well, the better golfers (sub 8 handicaps) are usually not mental golf midgets like me, and therefore control their swings more, thus profiting from the better technology. And, the true hacks who couldn't hit a small-headed driver with a gun to their heads are actually more comfortable over the ball and make better contact than they would with the old drivers.

So, should you rush out to buy the newest Titleist if you are currently hitting a three year-old 975? It's your money, but I usually don't notice players getting better as a result of the biggest, baddest drivers to hit the market. Save the time you'd spend testing the new drivers, and hit the practice range and the putting green. That's where you'll see your scores take a dip.