Getting Started: The 6 Best Drivers for a Beginner

On our quest to find the best driver for beginners, without being super creepy we checked the bags of several beginning golfers after a long round.  We found two types of drivers in these bags.

First there is the driver that still has its head cover snugly on and appears untouched because the new golfer, unable to accurately harness the firepower of the big stick, safely stuck to a 3-wood or 5-wood off the tee all day.

The second type of driver dangling out of the bag of a beginner is that club missing its lost head cover and with enough dings and scuffs to look like it had been sparring for 18 holes with Conor McGregor. This happens when the high handicapper insists on using the driver despite their clear inability to use it.  Hole after hole the frustration builds until finally the driver is hurled towards the ladies' tee box.

The good news for beginners is that we have all been through this learning curve. When starting out I once scorched a shot that hooked into a tree 20 yards down the fairway and ricocheted back to the tee box where it smashed off my playing partner's shin.  Thankfully the iPhone had not been invented yet or else the video evidence might have landed me in jail for assault with a deadly weapon.

Even better news for beginners is that it gets easier, especially when learning to use your driver.  But without spending a lot of time on the practice tee, the key is to make sure you are putting the best driver for beginners in your bag to start with.

Shouldn't you just select the best driver on the market?

The short answer is no because the big-ticket, high end drivers are usually built for players with more advanced skills. You certainly can use one of the newest models but you will be paying top dollar for bells and whistles that you most likely are not ready to take advantage of.

As a new golfer you want to find the most forgiving driver possible because the driver is the most difficult club to master (apologies to sand wedges everywhere!) and corralling your tee shots can be the difference between finding the fairway instead of plunking into a water hazard.

The fact that you don't need the latest model is actually to your advantage as golf manufacturers like to slash prices on previous models as soon as they release their newest line.

We aren't saying you have to go to your local flea market and hunt down an Old Tom Morris hand-carved wood driver (but if you do, give us a ring!).

I know it's 2018 and all those new clubs advertised on the Golf Channel look tantalizing.  But you can find clubs released as recently as 2016 for a hefty discount and these clubs take advantage of all the new technologies which are designed to help the beginner succeed on the course.

However, if you are just dying to have the latest and greatest technology, you need to read our guide to the best drivers of 2018.

Let's take a closer look at the attributes that you want to find in the best driver for beginners.

Best Driver for Beginners Infographic

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To Err is Human, to Forgive Divine

When we talk about “forgiveness” in golf we are not discussing the fact you accidentally scheduled your annual buddy golf outing the same weekend as your wedding anniversary (trust us, don’t do this as there will be no forgiveness!).

Forgiveness in golf terms is basically the ability of the club to provide both distance and accuracy when the ball is mishit.

As a beginning golfer, you are likely to have more off-of-center tee shots each round than you will have smashes off the sweet spot. For that reason, forgiveness should be your top priority when choosing a driver.

To put it in terms of another sport, such as bowling, think of it as a less-than-perfect release down the lane. Is the result going to be a gutter ball, a complete zero, or will the roll result in enough pins knocked down to give you a shot at a spare?  In golf, you want a driver that has enough forgiveness to keep your ball reasonably close to the fairway when you mishit it.

Designed to Be Forgiving

In designing a driver to be forgiving the modern golf club makers take into account clubhead design, material used and the weighting of the club.

As far as clubhead design, bigger is better as beginners will benefit from using a driver with more surface area for contact on mishits.

The material used to make golf clubs has been revolutionized in the last 20 years with the development of titanium clubs and other lightweight materials that give the golfer the advantage of a faster swing and larger sweet spots.

Yes, the golf industry likes to use a lot of terms like “sweet spot” and it can be tough for beginners to wrap their minds around all of them.

While we don't have a degree from M.I.T., we can tell you that the sweet spot is precisely the optimum point on your clubhead where when you strike the ball it will fly straight and true and achieve maximum distance per your swing.

Understanding the sweet spot leads to another term we should explain, CG or Center of Gravity.

In a driver, the CG is that point of the clubhead where the weight is balanced. Golf club makers are finding ways to adjust this CG, by design and moveable weights, and it can make a difference in how your drives perform. 

For example, a shift of the CG of a driver forward can lead to lower loft and less spin while moving the CG back will result in higher loft and more spin.

Finally, while you have your thinking cap on, we should explain MOI or Moment of Inertia.

In geek speak MOI has to do with the ability of an object to resist being twisted. The more an object resists being twisted, the higher its MOI.

In golf terms, MOI addresses what happens when the golfer mishits the ball. Since the clubhead will be making impact off center it can lead to the twisting or rotating of the club with a result of lower ball speed and poor accuracy.

Drivers designed with a high MOI are more resistant to this twisting thus making your mishits more likely to retain ball speed and fly straighter.

Clubhead size, material used, CG and MOI all add up to factors that can make a club forgiving and the more forgiving a club is the more distance and accuracy you will get out of your drives.

Set a Lofty Goal

So what happens when you do make contact with the ball? Will it launch high into the air or take a lower flight angle. Today’s club are manufactured with loft ranges anywhere from 8 to 13 degrees.

Ideally for a beginner you are looking for the highest loft possible because a higher loft angle usually translates into longer distance. Higher loft angles will also result in less side spin and more backspin which will mean a better chance your drive stays in the fairway. Side spin moves the ball left or right.

Beginners also have a slower swing than more experienced players which makes it harder to get the ball up into the air. Starting with a higher lofted driver will help make up for this shortcoming.

Many of today's drivers come with adjustable loft so you can fine tune your loft angle to suit your swing. If you happen to be a beginner with a naturally fast swing then you can choose a loft angle below 10 degrees. Otherwise you want a higher loft angle.

Don't Get Shafted

Sometimes there is so much focus on the head of a driver we lose sight of the shaft which plays an instrumental role in how your driver performs.

Shafts come rated either X for extra stiff, S for stiff, R for regular, or A/M for senior flex.

Experienced players with wicked fast swings can take advantage of today’s stiffest shafts but it's more likely that the beginning player is going to have a slower swing and will want to use either a regular shaft, or for those occasional players with an AARP card, they may want to opt for a flex shaft that helps the slowest swing.

The bottom line is that if your shaft does not match your swing speed then your shaft will not flex to its capacity on your swing and the result will be a loss of distance and trajectory.

When selecting the best driver for beginners pay attention to the stock shaft that comes with the driver and any upgrades available at no-charge.

Can I Get Ruling on this?

When you start your search for a driver you might notice that most of the clubs look very similar and the reason for that is that the United States Golf Association (USGA), the governing body of golf in America, has rules about how drivers used in competition can be made.

Clubheads can't be greater than 460cc and shafts can't be longer than 48 inches (or shorter than 18 inches). There are also rules for manufacturers on how the club face looks and the type of grooves on the club face and how much affect on spin they may have. So don't expect to purchase a "trampoline driver" any time soon.

Keep in mind, that you may find clubs that don't conform to USGA rules on the market, but if you ever wanted to enter a friendly completion you would have to leave them at home.

If you do choose a driver that has adjustable features such as loft and moveable weights on the sole, any adjustments must be done prior to the start of a round and no adjustments can be made once the round has started. Of course, your local foursome isn't going to turn you into the USGA if you tinker during a round.

Keeping in mind what to look for in a driver for beginning golfers, here are five of our favorites:

Best Drivers for Beginners

2016 TaylorMade M2

The TaylorMade M2 set out to deliver a driver that delivers both distance and forgiveness and it was enough to convince the likes of Rory McIllroy and Justin Rose to switch to the club.

The M2 is built on a proprietary 7-layer carbon composite crown – in fact the “M” in “M2” stands for multi-material – that makes this an ultra-light, ultra-thin club which is great for beginning golfers.

The “M” in “M2” could also stand for Massive as in a Massive sweet spot. The club was designed to increase ball speed and has that high MOI beginning golfers need.

Pros

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    The M2 will have your foursome buzzing when your game is on as it can launch the ball with best of the drivers on the market but, more importantly, it maintains ball speed even when you mishit it providing that forgiveness you need.
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    Great feel to the club with a light swing and best in class acoustics. The two-tone look and oversized head give the new golfer as they step up to the first tee.
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    The hosel can be adjusted +/- two degrees all the way to 14 degrees of loft which can aid those with slower swing speeds. Plus the stock Fujikura Pro 60 is one of several no-charge aftermarket shafts available.

Cons

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    Unlike its sister club, the TaylorMade M1, the club does not have adjustable weights on the sole of clubhead.
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    The two-tone black and white M2 clubhead has as many detractors as it has admirers.

Callaway XR 16

The designers at Callaway decided that the aerodynamics experts at Boeing knew a thing or two about taking things higher so they worked with them to come up with the XR 16, which sounds a bit like something Chuck Yeager might fly.

The club certainly has the “Right Stuff” as Calloway golf designers put in more MOI and enhanced ball speed with the next generation R*MOTO face.

Beginning golfers will grasp this big club with confidence as its lighter Speed Step Crown and bigger footprint make this Calloway’s most forgiving clubhead shape.

Pros

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    Lower and deeper Center of Gravity, with neutral bias, limits spin and makes for better launch and distance. Golfers experience better ball speeds at every impact location.
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    The next gen R*MOTO face is constructed with lighter and thinner Ti 6-4 material to increase ball speeds. Weight saved from the face has been redistributed through the club for higher MOI which leads to greater accuracy and energy transfer to the ball resulting in straighter and longer shots.
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    Great feel with the Fujikura Speeder Evolution 565 graphite shaft which is a perfect match for the head. This improves overall forgiveness and playability. The OptiFit Hosel has eight different loft and lie configurations.

Cons

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    Spin rate can be too low for some preference, especially when playing in windy situations where penetration of shots may be lost.
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    Adjustability is limited to the hosel for loft angles and draw setting to close the face.

Callaway Great Big Bertha

Probably the first time you ever heard of a driver with a name it was the "Big Bertha" and Callaway's latest unveiling of Bertha, the Great Big Bertha, is worthy of the family moniker.

The head of the Great Big Bertha can fit 19 custom shafts, some as light as 40 grams, to maximize clubhead speed. A sliding 10.5 gram weight in a channel in back helps adjust for misses right or left.

Of course back in the day the first “Big Bertha” made a stir with what some considered a crazy-sized clubhead: 253cc. That ground-breaking head would look small compared to today’s maximum allowed by rules 460cc head sported by the Great Big Bertha.

Pros

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    Adjustable perimeter weighting system is impressive and easy to use. Quickly adjust weight to help shape shots and get more distance or to drill your distance down. The club tends to have a draw bias but the adjustable weights can set things to your personal preference.
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    Next generation R*MOTO Technology delivers a forgiving face that will give you maximum distance, even on mishits.
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    Super lightweight for a 460cc driver, the club has an edgy feel to its looks and the sound at contact will turn heads around the golf course.

Cons

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    Regular stock Fujikura Speeder Evolution II TS 665 shaft can feel a little stiff for some beginners though this can be alleviated by taking advantage of one of the 19 different shafts offered by Callaway at no charge.
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    The grip can be a little uncomfortable and changing the perimeter weight can impact the way the club feels and may take some adjustment by the player.

Ping G SF Tec

Ping G Series SF Tech Fairway

This club gets right to correcting the fade most beginning golfers have with the weight closer to the heel to help steer the ball back into the fairway.

PING engineers went back to nature to come up with the club design as they analyzed the intricate wing pattern of dragonfly's for the unique look of the ultra-lightweight crown section. The result is extreme CG and maximized MOI creating a forgiving driver that still provides distance.

Although it costs more, the new G400 Max driver is another great club for beginners from Ping.  Check out our full review of the Ping G400 Max Driver.

If you fight a slice, and many of you do, head over next to our complete guide to the best drivers for a slice.

Pros

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    Built in draw bias helps with those new golfers that tend to miss right. This club provides nine more yards of fade correction than the standard Ping G series driver.
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    This club has 37 percent less drag than the previous G30 model which results in faster ball speeds and up to four more yards of carry.
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    Sound and feel gets better ratings than previous Ping G series drivers with an explosive impact and well-balanced feel throughout the swing. The clubhead remains stable, even when the ball is almost completely missed.
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    High-tech look, thanks to more turbulators on the crown, is nice to show off on the driving range and the matte black finish is functional as well as it won't reflect the sun on your eyes on the course.

Cons

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    Club does not come with a lot of adjustability other than the hosel.
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    The appearance of the oversized head, especially with the added turbulators, is a distraction to some golfers.

Cobra King F6

If you don't want to be snakebit in the tall weeds off the tee then you might consider the Cobra King F6 which might be the most forgiving adjustable driver on the market.

The dual position front-to-back CG weight system allows beginners to maximize distance by dialing in their ideal launch and spin conditions. A larger sweet zone was created by utilizing a newly re-engineered 8-1-1 titanium E9 Face featuring a variable thickness structure.

Pros

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    Easily adjustable club with loft settings and CG tunings for max distance on any course and for any swing. Positioning the 10-gram weight forward will result in low, penetrating ball flights or push the weight towards the back for higher ball flights
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    Cobra's innovative Speed Channel, engineered around the perimeter of the face, cuts down on thickness and maximizes ball speed for better distance
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    Consistently delivers impressive distance numbers and the spin control helps limit the trouble found on misses. Beginners may find that even strikes on the toe or heel do not go too far astray
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    A cool looking club that has a number of paint schemes to match your identity.

Cons

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    Club may feel too light for some players with a more powerful swing
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    Some struggle to keep head aligned with ball on the tee, a problem that can happen with the shape of oversized heads

Best Drivers for Beginners
Comparison Chart

Distance

 Forgiveness

Adjustable

Price

Overall

Longest

Most Forgiving on the list

Adjustable Hosel for Loft Adjustments

Very Affordable

Very Long

Very Good

Adjustable Hosel For Loft Adjustments

Very Affordable

Very Long

Good

Fully Adjustable

Reasonable

Long

Best Driver on the list for a consistent slicer

Adjustable Hosel For Loft Adjustments

Very Affordable

Long

Adequate

Adjustable Weight System

Very Affordable

And the Best Driver for Beginners is ...

Beginning golfers can't go wrong with any of these five drivers, but the M2 Driver is just slightly better than the rest.


Sure the M2 doesn’t have the weight adjustability of clubs like the Cobra King F6, which for the record is a close second, but it checks all the right boxes including adjustable loft and a wonderful stock shaft.


When TaylorMade updated the M2 in 2017 there weren't many changes from the 2016 model and that tells us that the previous club was darn near perfect. The fact that beginning golfers can now get the 2016 M2 for more than 25 percent off list price makes it a good buy.

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