The Best & Longest Driver

2011 Golf Club Review

Posted by Mark

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long driverAs golfers, we are all -- or most of us anyway – searching for that extra length in our shots, but none more so than the driver. If you have followed golf club technology with even the barest of glances over the past few years, you’ve seen some remarkable improvements in the advancement of driver design and performance -- clubs that are very long, but also easier to hit.

Finding the "longest driver" for you is a very personal thing. While there are certainly claims made by every club manufacturer that theirs is the longest, the simple answer is:  it might be different for you than for me. Different for me than my golfing buddy, etc.

Let’s look at a couple of the key components to distance, see how those fit into a driver, and ultimately, what you should look for.

The head of the driver often gets the most attention – and why not? It’s easily the most notable thing about the club, carries the color, design, name and more of the maker, and is the sexiest bit there is. So take a good look at the head of each driver. What is the loft? How deep is the face? What is it made of? What color is it? Many of these aspects are purely cosmetic, and you simply need to be comfortable looking at it and knowing it will do what you want. Other aspects -- like loft -- are very technical, and the correct loft to maximize your swing is probably a lot different from what Tiger, Phil, or Rory use. For most amateurs, a driver with a loft between 8.5 and 10 degrees is going to perform the best.

Now take a look at the shaft. It almost goes without saying, the shaft is the most overlooked, yet perhaps most important part of any golf club. Not choosing the correct shaft (or not even looking at it) is like buying a car without knowing or caring what type of engine it has. The shaft is what makes the club go. It is literally the engine of the golf club. For most people (and I mean nearly everyone) that play golf, a graphite or composite shaft in your driver is the way to go. However, most people don’t understand why that is so. The reasons are fairly simple, once you can connect them to a cause and effect.

Number One is Weight. A graphite shaft is lighter than its steel counterpart. Less weight equals more speed, and speed is ultimately what makes the ball go farther. A short physics lesson here; the equation for distance is: M x S2 = D where M = mass, S = speed and D = distance. Since this is a simple multiplication formula, if either Mass or Speed is increased, so is Distance. For most people, adding weight to the club (the Mass part of the equation) will reduce speed. Conversely, by decreasing the weight, you increase speed. The reason this is important is because we have the benefit of "squaring" (speed x speed) the speed in this equation, and thus see an exponential increase in distance by decreasing weight and increasing speed.

Number Two is Strength. Again, the strength of a graphite shaft is greater (at a lesser weight) than steel. Performance characteristics can be built into a graphite shaft that simply cannot be put into a steel shaft.

Number Three is Flex. While every shaft (regardless of material) has a flex to which it is designed, graphite can be so specific as to vary the flex point along the length of the shaft, increase strength in the tip or butt, and other fine-tuning adjustments.

The combination of these three factors, when fitted to your swing, will help to produce the greatest possible distance for you.

Finally, take a look at the grip. While the decision to use a club or not should never be based on the grip -- they can so easily be changed to suit your taste -- it should have some consideration. Remember, there is a proper grip size for everyone. Just like a medium-size shirt doesn’t fit everyone, neither does a medium-size grip. Pay attention to getting the correct size for you and you’ll swing easier, with less fatigue, and have better results doing it.

After laying out all of these considerations, I’m sure what most people really want is some suggestions on what are the hottest, longest drivers out there. Here are two that are definitely worth a look:

The first entry is the Razr Hawk by Callaway Golf. This club is made from an entirely new material developed in conjunction with some other researchers who know a thing or two about speed -- Italian automaker Lamborghini. This very unique process allows for over a half-a-million micro-fibers per square inch in the composite matrix, creating a material that is lighter and stronger than titanium (commonly used as a lightweight, but strong material).

What separates this technology from similar efforts is the ability to forge the material to a tolerance of one one-thousandth of an inch. This precision milling technique allows Callaway to eliminate all non-essential weight from the club. Callaway claims this material and forging process is the future of golf –-- here today. The nature of the production process allows for both maximum forgiveness on off-center hits and maximum club-head speed -- the holy grail of driver distance.

Callaway claims they are able to eliminate as much as 25% of the club’s weight. By taking weight away from the club head, the company has been able to redistribute weight to other, highly essential components of the club, mainly the shaft. Adding a longer shaft will add distance. The lighter club head, slightly longer shaft, and incredible aerodynamics are reportedly adding an average of 8 yards to each drive during tests with PGA Touring Professionals.

The next entry is the newly minted TaylorMade R11, which offers all-in-one club fitting. "Turbostratic" describes the atomic structure of the high-strength carbon fibers used in the TaylorMade Forged Composite. Sheets of carbon atoms are intertwined and aligned with the length of the fiber to provide a much higher strength than typical titanium fibers.

The official definition is: “A type of crystalline structure where the basal planes have slipped sideways relative to each other, causing the spacing between planes to be greater than ideal”. Does that simply mean there is more air in between each micro fiber?

TaylorMade has brought a handful of new innovations to the driver marketplace in recent years with their very successful "R" line. First, it was the introduction of Moveable Weight Technology (MWT) in the R7, followed by Flight Control Technology (FCT) in the R9.

TaylorMade has made even more advancements with the R11, which features what they call Adjustable Sole Technology (AST). Simply put, AST allows the player to adjust the face angle of the club from open, to neutral, to closed, depending on what best fits their game. In addition to this new technology, the R11 sports a matte white paint scheme on its crown (the combination of white crown and black face is supposed to help with alignment). This new, very cool look has already generated plenty of talk, as has the new AST now that the R11 is fully into the market.

Both of these drivers are complex -- using the latest in both manufacturing and design technology. The best advice would be to just head to your local golf shop or retailer and try them both.

Given all you now know about choosing a driver, one of these might be the best one for you -- but then again, it might not. Happy hunting.

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