How to Purchase a Properly Fitted Driver

As of today, the average driving distance on the PGA Tour is 287 yards.  The PGA Tour average for driving accuracy is 60.69%.  Pretty good huh?  Although these statistics are not realistic for most of us, surely we can all improve with the driver.  In this post, I will go through many of the things that one must consider when buying a driver.  Yes, I will help you increase your distance off the tee, but more importantly, your accuracy!

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I’ve been through several drivers in my golf career, and surprisingly, not many of them have produced good results for me.  I think the main reason for my sub-par results was due to my lack of knowledge.  If I knew back then what I know now, I would have saved myself years of frustration.  I used to think it was entirely my swing that produced these poor results, but after my first driver fitting, I quickly changed my mind.  I was fortunate enough connect with a Golf Digest top 100 club-fitter, and go through a fitting with him.  During the fitting, I learned some invaluable information.  I hope to share these lessons with you, and help you find the driver that will lower your scores immediately!  Below are the most important things to consider when buying a driver.

Find a quality shaft

The most important thing when searching for a driver is the shaft.  Just think of the club-head and shaft as a car.  The shaft is the engine, and the head is the frame.  No matter how cool the exterior of the car looks, if you have a low quality engine, the car won’t stand the test of time.

Unfortunately, there are so many intricacies that go along with finding a good driver shaft that I can’t highlight them all in this post.  Despite this, I have dedicated an entire post to explain these things.  If you are serious about finding more fairways and increasing your distance, I highly recommend reading this guide.

Pick a Club-Head

This is the fun part of buying a driver.  Once you have a shaft, you must find a club-head that performs with that shaft.  Going back to my car analogy, if you put a huge engine in a small car, it probably won’t function properly.

If you are able and willing, I suggest you find a professional club-fitter who conducts the fitting outdoors on a range.  If your club-fitter suggests doing it inside on a launch monitor, you are better off saving your money in my opinion.  The numbers could look great, but until you actually see the ball flight, you won’t truly know what is best.

If you aren’t interested in a fitting, I would recommend going with a proven club-head.  By the time you are reading this, I’m sure several new models will have been released, but personally, I would recommend the TaylorMade SLDR.  I’ve used this for over a year now, and absolutely love it!  In my opinion, this is the best thing out there today.  If the SLDR isn’t your style, honestly anything from TaylorMade, Callaway, or Titleist will probably work just fine.  Remember, these are just MY preferences.  Go to your local golf store and hit some different drivers.  Don’t pay attention to the ball flight (the shaft mainly determines this), but just notice how the ball feels off the club-face.  Chances are, you’ll have a good idea of what driver model suits you best.

Choose a Loft

Unfortunately, there is no good way that I know of to choose a loft.  Every driver head is going to have a different spin rate and launch angle, therefore it is hard to come up with a “one size fits all” method to choosing a loft.  I play with a 9.5 degree loft, but with a different shaft and head, I could easily play an 8.5 degree or a 10.5 degree!  The good news is… modern drivers have adjustable lofts.  Most drivers will be adjustable +/- 1 degree from the loft engraved on the club-head.  My suggestion is to buy a 10.5 degree head, and then you have the ability to adjust to either 9.5 or 11.5 degrees.  For those of you who are still unsure, here is a quick reference chart for choosing a loft-

Driver Carry Distance Recommended Loft
<165 yards 12-15 degrees
165-200 yards 11-13 degrees
200-240 yards 10-12 degrees
240-275 yards 9-11 degrees
275+ yards 8-10 degrees

Adjust (If you bought an adjustable head)

Go to the range with your new driver and experiment!  You can’t get this one wrong.  Whatever produces the best ball flight is the way to go!

My Best Tips

Most people can figure out that finding a good club-head and shaft is important.  To vary things up, here are two huge lessons that I learned through the years.

  1. Invest in quality up front– When I was first learning the game, I was young and broke. I was always looking for ways to save money on equipment.  My biggest piece of advice is to purchase your driver shaft brand new.  I still remember the time I bought a used driver from my local golf store.  It was a Ping i15 driver with a Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana Whiteboard shaft installed.  I knew that this was a great combination, and for the price of $190, I felt as if I was stealing.  Little to my knowledge, the shaft had been trimmed 2 inches, completely ruining the playability of the club.  I would say it is okay to buy the clubhead used, but never purchase a used shaft!
  2. Find YOUR driver– There is so much advice out there about how to buy a driver. You might read that a short driver (44” or less) is the best, or just because you swing fast, you need an X-Stiff shaft.  Although there is truth to these statements a percentage of the time, it all boils down to your preference.  If you find a driver that has a penetrating ball-flight, and puts you in the fairway consistently, I don’t care what the flex of the shaft, or age of the club-head.  Use it!  Finding a trustable driver isn’t easy, and if you’re lucky enough to have already found one, there is no point in searching for something better.

I thought I’d end this with a quick talk about price.  Although there are ways to get a quality driver for a low price, you must expect to spend a good chunk of cash.  Just to give a little perspective, my driver cost about $575 (SLDR 460cc with an Oban Devotion #7 X-flex) brand new, and that is fairly cheap.  I absolutely love it, and would recommend an Oban shaft to anybody!  For $175, the shaft I use is just about the best quality for the price you can find in my opinion.

Now that I have shared my most useful insights about buying a driver, it is time for you to take action!  Make this an intentional process, because the driver isn’t going to find you.  If you are really serious about lowering your handicap, a reliable driver in the bag is essential.  I wish you the best of luck!