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Member Pure745’s Shootout: 2014 Driver Testing

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GolfWRX Member Pure745 has become one of the most trusted names in our forum when it comes to club testing. Each year, he purchases the latest driver heads and shafts and compiles a “shootout” of the numbers to gauge what shaft/head combos are performing best for him, and what he’ll play that year.

Enjoy his 2014 shootout of the Callaway Big Bertha Alpha, Fourteen GelongD, Nike Covert 2.0 Tour, Ping i25, TaylorMade SLDR 430 (Tour Head) and TaylorMade SLDR 460 (Tour Head).

Note: This story has been edited from its original form in the forums by GolfWRX’s Staff for front-page publication. 

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I thought I would post another one of these threads to give fellow WRX’ers some insight into some of the club testing experiments I have been doing.  I have been posting pictures, information and feedback across a few different threads and thought it would be easier to have a centralized place to put some of the information. I have done similar threads over the years. Last year’s can be found here: http://www.golfwrx.com/forums/topic/804831-pure745s-2013-shootout-the-oven-setup-added-613.

Previously, I have done these threads to provided unbiased feedback since all of the testing is done on my own dime to give some opinions that were not influenced by GolfWRX trip and giveaways. Last year was a big golf year for me for a few reasons. One reason was that I was lucky enough to be chosen for the GolfWRX Nike Oven trip, and the other would be that I joined a country club and have played the most golf I have played since I played competitively as a junior. That said, my experience at The Oven and playing as much competitive/tournament golf this year as I have in many years, my game has improved and my taste in equipment has changed (slightly).

My index has gotten to a low of +2 this year, and my two low tournament scores are 67 and 69. That said, I still have a full time job, and golf is still 100 percent a hobby and for pure enjoyment. I can still put up a round in the 80’s. I do enjoy playing tournaments and interclub matches, but I have also been working on my game and my swing more than usual.

This year has had a lot of exciting new clubs to test. As you might remember, Titleist’s 913 D3 driver won my shootout last year for the best overall combination of length and accuracy. This was the driver I took The Oven, and it definitely held its own against the Covert Tour, which didn’t last more than one month (12 rounds) in my bag. The Titleist 913 D3 with Fujikura’s Motore Speeder Tour Spec 7.2X shaft was very solid. But I started tinkering this year because I wanted to see if I could find a driver with more distance that I could hit just as straight. Right now, my index is floating between +1 and scratch. I have been playing a decent amount of competitive matches and tournaments, so I feel my index pretty accurate. My home course has a lot of OB and is fairly long, so being accurate off the tee is very important to me; but when I hit one good, I definitely want to be rewarded with the distance.

The Process

I have always been a huge advocate of taking setups outdoors and on the golf course, and have always put huge value into seeing the actual ball flight over hitting balls into a net and getting numbers. This year’s shootout has definitely shown me the importance of this methodology if you have the resources available to you. I have been able to hit all setups extensively on the golf course except for the Ping i25 and Big Bertha Alpha, but through this year’s process of going to three different locations and taking more than 80 swings at each within four days gave me a great idea of how these clubs perform outdoors and indoors.

The locations and notes about each experience

Finding a location to provide reliable and accurate data for this was shootout was the hardest and most time consuming part. I will list the different methods I tried so that you can use the information as a “what to do” or “what not to do” when comparing your own setups.

Location No. 1 — TaylorMade Performance Lab: I picked this one because it is a nice facility, uses a FlightScope and is close to my house. Apparently, right before I went in for my scheduled 2.5 hours there, there was a malfunction with the ball washer that literally gashed every ball. Aside from the gashed balls, the location is in the midst of switching from the TaylorMade practice balls to its new Tour Preferred X practice balls to do their fittings. So needless to say, the balls were a huge issue and hitting gashed balls into a steady 15 mph wind was less than ideal.

Location No. 2 — Indoors at a New Superstore: Since it was so windy the day before and the balls were an issue, I thought I would make an exception and go indoors and use a TaylorMade Lethal for all clubs so that wind and balls were not an issue. The problem was that the launch monitors used cameras and they were not catching accurate spin numbers. The other numbers seem pretty close, but spin was WAY off. Every setup was averaging more than 3000 rpm of spin. Also, I had swing speeds up in the 130+ range, which is in the very upper range of my swing speed. The problem with indoor ranges is that I was in gym clothes swinging as hard as I could because I was just hitting into a net. This felt more like a cardio workout than a shootout. Needless to say, the swings did not feel like my normal on-course swing. When I looked at the numbers and saw they were bad, I did not want to continue.

Location No. 3 — Cool Clubs (Irvine): An outdoor Trackman, adequate range balls (brand new) specifically setup for this type of testing. The final location came highly recommended to me by a few people, and a few that knew what I was trying to do and saw my frustration and exhaustion in this process. I finally ended up working with Josiah at Cool Clubs in Irvine, Calif. This location is farther from my house, but my sources were right. This place was beyond top notch. They understood what I was doing and provided very professional help during the process. All balls were hit outdoors and off grass. I was wearing actual golf clothes and the golf shoes I would normally wear. This third session was also my best grouping of swings. My swing speed was in the 115-to-119 mph range the entire time. That’s my on-course swing; I was not trying to kill the ball or overswing to get “long drive” numbers. I was trying to hit the ball straight and solid.

The Setups

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TaylorMade SLDR 460 Tour Head (10.5 degrees)

  • Adjustable hosel set to lower, or -1.5 degrees.
  • Shafts tested: Aldila Rogue 70 (TX-Flex), Fujikura Speeder 661X, Graphite Design Tour AD BB-6X

TaylorMade SLDR 430 Tour Head (10.5 degrees)

  • Adjustable hosel set to lower, or -1.5 degrees.
  • Shafts tested: Aldila Rogue 70 (TX-Flex), Fujikura Speeder 661 (X-Flex), Graphite Design Tour AD BB-6X

Callaway Big Bertha Alpha (9 degrees)

  • Set to 9 degrees with neutral lie angle
  • Shafts tested: Graphite Design Tour AD BB-6X

Ping i25 (8.5 degrees)

  • Set to 8.5 degrees
  • Shafts tested: Graphite Design Tour AD BB-6X

Nike Covert 2.0 Tour (8.5 degrees)

  • Shafts tested: Fujikura Speeder 661 (X-Flex)

Fourteen GelongD CT214 (8 degrees)

  • Shafts Tested: Fujikura Motore Speeder Tour Spec 7.2X

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Above: Tour-only TaylorMade 460 and 430 toe screws that are used to adjust swing weight.

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Above: The head and shaft options at Cool Clubs in Irvine, Calif. 

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Above: The setup inside a Cool Clubs Trackman bay.

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Above: Everyone’s favorite orange box. 

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Above: The brand new Nike Practice balls I hit at Cool Clubs. 

The Data

This is about as transparent and detailed of any shootout I have done. The conditions were nice, but it had just rained the previous night and there was a swirling wind. I would say it only affected the numbers of two clubs: the Big Bertha Alpha and Covert 2.0 Tour, which got the benefit of a little downwind breeze that the other drivers did not have. I didn’t adjust the numbers, but just thought it needed to be mentioned. Also, for the SLDR 430 setup with the Fujikura Speeder 661 shaft, Trackman doubled the spin number due to a shadow, so the spin average was off and I have recalculated it to be 2576 rpm.

As I mentioned before, all of these swings were smooth swings, similar to what I would use on the course with an emphasis on hitting the ball solid and straight versus swinging 100 percent to get max long drive numbers. With each setup, I hit about 5-to-6 balls to get a good solid sampling of three shots to get a realistic averages. Sometimes it only took three swings to get this average, sometimes it took five or six. The data reflects the averages of three “good shots” with each setup.

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The Results

Trackman Carry

  1. TaylorMade SLDR 460 Tour Head (Aldila Rogue): 314.5 yards
  2. Callaway Big Bertha Alpha (GD Tour AD BB-6X): 314 yards
  3. TaylorMade SLDR 460 Tour Head (Fuji Speeder 661): 308.5 yards
  4. TaylorMade SLDR 460 Tour Head (GD Tour AD BB-6X): 304.9 yards
  5. Nike Covert 2.0 Tour (Speeder 661): 304.4 yards
  6. TaylorMade SLDR 430 Tour Head (Aldila Rogue): 301.1 yards
  7. TaylorMade SLDR 430 Tour Head (Speeder 661): 299.5 yards
  8. Ping i25 (GD Tour AD BB-6X): 297.5 yards
  9. Fourteen GelongD (Fuji Motore Speeder Tour Spec 7.2): 297 yards
  10. TaylorMade SLDR 430 Tour Head (GD Tour AD BB-6X): 288.9 yards

Trackman Ball Speed

  1. TaylorMade SLDR 460 Tour Head (Aldila Rogue): 175.6 mph
  2. Callaway Big Bertha Alpha (GD Tour AD BB-6X): 175.1 mph
  3. TaylorMade SLDR 430 Tour Head (Aldila Rogue): 174.9 mph
  4. TaylorMade SLDR 460 Tour Head (Fuji Speeder 661): 174.7 mph
  5. TaylorMade SLDR 430 Tour Head (Speeder 661): 174.5 mph
  6. Ping i25 (GD Tour AD BB-6X): 174.2 mph
  7. Fourteen GelongD (Fuji Motore Speeder Tour Spec 7.2): 173.9 mph
  8. TaylorMade SLDR 430 Tour Head (GD Tour AD BB-6X): 173 mph
  9. Nike Covert 2.0 Tour (Speeder 661): 172.1 mph
  10. TaylorMade SLDR 460 Tour Head (GD Tour AD BB-6X): 170.6 mph

The Winner: TaylorMade 460 with Aldila Rogue shaft

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Final thoughts and comments

  • TaylorMade SLDR 460/430: For me, the SLDR 460 head is hands down better than the SLDR 430. Smash factor plays a huge part in these comparisons, and some heads you can just hit better more consistently. The SLDR 460 is definitely the head for me; it’s not even close. I do LOVE the way the SLDR 430 looks, but looks only go so far. The SLDR 460 with Aldila’s Rogue and the SLDR 460 with Fujikura’s Speeder 661 were really, really good and VERY straight.
  • Callaway Big Bertha Alpha: This club is legit. I can tell by the way the balls come off this club that the Alpha was no joke with the Graphite Design Tour AD BB-6X shaft. The club looks good at address and sounds nice. This review is more about performance, but the fit and finish of the Callaway leaves something to be desired in my opinion. This club was also very accurate and long. I would say it was the third most accurate behind the SLDR 460 with Aldila’s Rogue and the SLDR 460 with Fujikura’s Speeder 661. 
  • Ping i25: This was a very nice club with a very loud at impact, and it looks pretty good at address. The racing stripes are kind of silly, but I adjusted to them easily (unlike the red crown on Nike’s Covert drivers). It was a very solid performer overall. Ping fans definitely can dial this thing in to be very long.
  • Nike Covert 2.0 Tour: The numbers and the slight tail wind definitely made this club look a lot better than it was. The Covert 2.0 Tour was one of the worst performing clubs in this shootout. It had one of the lowest ball speed outputs and highest spin rates. I saw this across all three sessions. The third and final session on Trackman was the best I hit it, and it still wasn’t that great. I’m thinking that the Covert 2.0 Performance model will be better for me than the Tour model, but at this point I’m not sure I want to throw another $500 at an experiment. The red crown still looks terrible to me and with the head being so heavy, I think has a huge effect on the shafts causing the toe to droop at impact and make it very fade biased. I did hit a few that were absolutely killed, but overall this driver was not as consistent as the SLDR, i25, or Big Bertha Alpha.
  • Fourteen GelongD: Not many people will ever see this one in person, but it is one of the best looking heads I tried. It has a simple, all-black pear-shaped head with some tech in the face. I think this driver was one that actually did better than the numbers reflected (the opposite of the Covert 2.0 Tour). It offers very low launch and low spin, and is fairly consistent consistent across the face. It wasn’t as accurate as the Big Bertha Alpha and SLDR: maybe one notch below that. If you are looking for a fade-biased and really low/low setup, this one is worth a shot.

Click here to see what GolfWRX Members are saying about Pure745’s 2014 Driver Shootout in our forum.

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Younger

    Jan 2, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    These results are interesting but with all the variables of using different shafts he may still not have found his best result, based on sampling different shaft head combos. These test results prove nothing other than he has a great swing. In order for him to have found his best ball and make any judgements each driver head must be used with each shaft. Then truly things can be compared.

  2. Ballstriker

    Aug 27, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Sheeesh!! What about us guys that swing 105mph at best?

  3. DB

    May 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Great review, I have a covert 2.0 with the 757. Definitely shorter than my amp cell pro of last year, until I tipped and cut it to 44″. I know the spin rate is still a bit to high, but I have been hitting the center of more fairways than I have in a long time. I’ll lose the extra 7-15 I can get from the SLDR to feel like I’m placing drives out there as if I were playing Tiger on the xbox.

  4. Vito Berlingeri

    May 25, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Thank you very much for the nice comments about cool clubs and our fitter Josiah solberg, very much appreciated !

    Please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with

    Sincerely

    Vito Berlingeri
    Marketing director
    Coolclubs

  5. Michael

    May 4, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I wish I had enough time and money to do a test like this. Must be nice.

    Good luck with the 460SLDR this year!

  6. CT

    May 3, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    Nice review and the winner is a product most of us will never have access to. BBA w/ adilia tour green all the way IMO

  7. Manguns

    May 3, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Awesome review Pure! I like the way you did the test.

  8. A

    May 2, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Do you really think the 460 head performs THAT much better than the 430? I have a 430 just because I like the look so much, but I didn’t know I was deciding between performance as well? I thought there is no performance difference between 430 and 460 heads? Minimal if any? Is that wrong?

    • golfpunk

      May 2, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      I agree. I feel the 430 heads difference is minimal. I noticed I could go up in loft and take off even more spin with the 430 vs the 460 tour head. Also the feel/sound of the hit is more solid in my opinion with the 430.

      • Pure745

        May 2, 2014 at 11:30 pm

        For me, the 460 is more forgiving which leads to higher smash factor numbers for me and thus lower spin and better speed. BUT, if you can find the middle with both, the 430 will launch lower and spin a little less, and I also agree with the more muted sound. BUT, if you can’t, the lower smash factor will lead to higher spin and worse launch conditions due to a poorer strike. Both are really good.

        • Jeff

          Jun 1, 2014 at 7:15 pm

          What length are you playing you driver at? Stock or less? Thanks

  9. Bryan

    May 2, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Excellent review and article! I agree with the post above saying he wished it compared models of actual retail heads as most of us don’t have access to these. I game the 460 SLDR with a Matrix 7M X and it is a CANNON. I’ve never been a Taylormade guy; I believe they are a gimmicky, marketing machine. However, they got it right with the SLDR and the loft up campaign.

    Anyways; great review, great article… It’s why I love this site

  10. Sam

    May 2, 2014 at 3:24 am

    I’ve always wanted to do this and I thank you for posting! One thought though, without the same shafts in each club the statistics are not of much value. The winner had a 1000 dollar shaft!! I have to wonder if this didn’t influence your swing or thought process during your swing?? After all, if I had a 1000 dollar shaft I would be hoping, praying and begging for it to be the winner.

    Nevertheless I game the SLDR and it is significantly longer than my other drivers.

    Thanks again!

    • Pure745

      May 2, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      Sam – I would encourage you to go read the thread on WRX, there is a lot of good dialogue back and forth. But to answer your question, the Speeder 661 and 757 would make great alternatives. The 661 I tested had a really tight dispersion and that or the 757 would be what I would probably put in place of the Rogue. You do have a good point about the Rogue 🙂 I knew it was one of the straightest, but I didn’t know it would have the spin and speed numbers it had.

  11. Daddydave

    May 1, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Looking at all the set ups wouldn’t it be worth trying the Callaway with a rogue shaft?
    I say this because you tried both SLDR’s with the BB-6x and the Callaway outperformed both of those by 10 yards!

    • Pure745

      May 2, 2014 at 11:35 pm

      Not sure if you saw the part where I mentioned that the BBA and Covert 2.0 had the help of a slight tail wind.. the normalized numbers show the BBA about 6 yards less in carry. I left the actual numbers on there just for consistency.. the BBA was really good, but I also felt the BB6x was a great fit in that head, I can’t be 100% certain the results in the SLDR would necessarily translate to the BBA since they are not the same heads. I would like to try it, but just can’t justify doing it for the sake of doing it (time/money). Both heads are so good, I think either one can be dialed in really well.

      • Daddydave

        May 3, 2014 at 8:22 am

        Fair comment, it’s a very expensive experiment!
        From your review id say that the most obvious conclusion is that the weight being forward in the head (aka SLDR, BBA)works. I suspect by this time next year every manufacturer will have jumped on the bandwagon.
        I also think Aldila have nailed it with their latest shafts, the tour blue and green are great shafts and it comes as no surprise the Rogue performed so well.

  12. Matt

    May 1, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    This is an entertaining review of shaft/head combinations. I am disappointed though that the Aldila Rogue was the winning shaft, as well as tour-only SLDR heads… which we do not even had access to it. The Rogue is tour-only right now, and will probably not be released to the public. I Would rather see competitive setups of available for sale equipment. Otherwise this is a review of equipment for tour professionals to read.

  13. golfpunk

    May 1, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Awesome review! Would have loved to see you try the Taylormade SLDR 430 12 degree turned down to lower. That’s what I’m gaming right now.

  14. Alex

    May 1, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Shouldn’t all the drivers been tested with the same shaft?

  15. Curtis

    May 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Wow! What an amazing setup and results! How much did you spend!!?? Mucho respect.

    • Trev

      May 2, 2014 at 10:23 am

      You should be asking how much did taylormade spend.

  16. ok

    May 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Great review. even if my SS isn’t close to yours, I think this provides a fantastic baseline for optimum contact in optimum conditions.

    I’m playing the 910 D3, and I’m curious how the 913 you gamed last year stacks up.

  17. Todd Turner

    May 1, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Well done T…. Respect

  18. Andy

    May 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    if he wanted the Nike driver to spin less, he should have tried the performance model. that’s common sense

    • LMB

      May 1, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      What? the performace head spins more than the tour……come on man

    • Brad

      May 1, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      What? And the fact that the Nike had 2 degree less loft than the SLDR didn’t give it enough chance to spin less??? Just validates TaylorMade’s loft up claim as well.

  19. west

    May 1, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I’m assuming the Aldila Rogue was an X-flex?

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