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.
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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.
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.
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.
Ping G SF Tec
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.
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.
Best Drivers for Beginners
Most Forgiving on the list
Adjustable Hosel for Loft Adjustments
Adjustable Hosel For Loft Adjustments
Best Driver on the list for a consistent slicer
Adjustable Hosel For Loft Adjustments
Adjustable Weight System
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.