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Are titanium drivers really that much better than wood drivers?

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Let’s forget about center of gravity, moment of inertia, weight adjustability and turbulators for a moment. I know it’s difficult, but bear with me.

The golf industry has made significant (and I mean significant) improvements in driver technology in recent decades. I started playing golf with a wood driver and quickly found my way into the metal wood family, which was replaced by titanium shortly afterward. I hardly stopped to think about buying the newest technology, but it always seemed to help.

It made me wonder, how much better are titanium drivers of today than the wood drivers we played 30 and 40 years ago? If it’s starting to sound like I’m introducing results to an experiment, that’s because I am.

For my experiment, I dug out an old “wood” from the garage, along with my current driver and then tested them on a Trackman. To test the two against each other, I hit 10-to-15 shots with each driver, doing my best to create the same swing and launch conditions for both clubs, and let the numbers tell the story. I was a little afraid of hitting hard range balls with the wood driver, so for this test I dug into the shag bag and pulled out some old tournament golf balls.

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There were a couple of major differences in the two clubs that affected performance. The wood driver was 43 inches long and built with a steel shaft. The shaft felt soft and whippy, and in my estimation, it was probably something close to a True Temper Dynamic Gold R300, maybe even softer.

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My modern driver, a TaylorMade R9 SuperTri, which was built with a Fujikura Motore F1 75-gram S-Flex shaft, measured 44.5 inches.

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The two competitors meet at center-ring before the battle begins. 

Below are my results to the experiment.

New School Driver

Illustrated in the images below, you can see both the dispersion and the averages for the group of drives I hit. My thought was to try to swing with the same speed on each shot, with the same golf balls, to identify the difference between the clubs.

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New Driver Data: Avg. Launch Numbers, 10 Drives

newvsold1

Dispersion

oldvsnew6

Old School Driver

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Old Driver Data: Avg. Launch Numbers, 10 Drives

newvsold2

Dispersion

oldvsnew5

Observations

The wood driver had a strong left bias which could have been the result of:

  • The weak steel shaft, making the timing of the strike more difficult.
  • More likely, it was the lack of bulge and roll on the face of the wood driver, making a center strike even more valuable.

You can see from the Trackman numbers of the wood driver that the face was pointed 0.2 degrees to the right of the target on average, with a swing path that was 4 degrees right. This path and face relationship should create a nice little draw, not a snap hook.

The modern driver’s average path and face numbers were only slightly different — path 2.5-degrees right and face 0.7-degrees right — yet the ball flights were markedly different. Modern drivers are built with a lot of bulge and roll to help the player in the case of an off-center hit. The point of impact on the driver face more important than any other factor, and it was even more important in the days of wood drivers!

I wasn’t overly concerned about the static loft of each driver because Trackman gives you dynamic loft, or the loft of the club at impact, which you can see was only slightly different between the two. The average dynamic loft for the wooden driver was 13.9 degrees at impact while the modern driver was 14.1 degrees.  Their respective launch angles varied only slightly as well (0.5 degrees). I wanted these numbers to be as close as possible to show the difference in performance between the two clubs under similar circumstances.

Shot for Shot

I was able to get two swings with the exact same club head speed.

Old Driver

oldvsnew7

New Driver

oldvsnew8

Observations

There’s only a few differences in the individual shots, but they clearly have a tremendous impact on the flight of the golf ball. The angle of attack with the modern driver is about 3 degrees more “up” than the wooden driver and both dynamic loft and launch angle were higher for the wooden driver, even though I was hitting up less. The most likely explanation comes from center of gravity location, gear effect and the point of impact.

With path and face angle numbers being similar, you’d expect the curve of the ball to be similar. The tilt of the axis of the golf ball should be similar with a center strike on both clubs, but Trackman tells us this likely didn’t happen for either shot. Spin Axis is the amount of tilt in the axis of the golf ball at impact: a negative number means the left side of the golf ball tilts lower by degrees causing a right-to-left ball flight, while a positive number means the right side of the golf ball tilts lower by degrees causing left-to-right flight.

You can see the glaring difference in the spin axis number between the two shots; negative 8.0 and positive 1.5. That’s almost a 10-degrees difference. With the wood driver, the strike was more than likely to the toe side of the face and without a lot of bulge and roll, the result was a severe hook. With the modern driver, the strike was more than likely lower on the face and towards the heel, causing the ball to launch a little lower (gear effect), and the technology of the face (more gear effect) caused the ball to actually fade.

Conclusion and Thoughts

The wood driver, if you can find one, could be used as a great practice tool. The importance of the center strike is really valuable and using a smaller head with a higher degree of feedback (slices and hooks) can help you improve. However, by producing 20 yards more distance with a tighter dispersion, the new driver is difficult to argue against.

It’s eye-opening how driver design technology influences not only distance but the curve of golf shots. Bulge and roll, which aids in gear effect, works to hit the ball undeniably straighter and farther. So how much better is titanium than wood? Short answer – a lot.

The guys at sports science conducted a similar experiment with Rory McIlroy as their test dummy (he’s decent at golf). Watch the video here.

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Rob earned a business degree from the University of Washington. He turned professional in June of 1999 and played most mini tours, as well as the Australian Tour, Canadian Tour, Asian Tour, European Tour and the PGA Tour. He writes for GolfWRX to share what he's learned and continues to learn about a game that's given him so much. www.robrashell.com Google Plus Director of Instruction at TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale www.touracademy.com

45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. Mike

    Mar 10, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    I grew up playing in the late 80’s and used OLD technology. I shot in the mid 70’s in high school in the early 80’s with an old persimmon 3 wood and tiny little Wilson blades, and one JP copper 55* sand wedge, such a raw, simple setup. I am an athlete and picked up golf fast, and again, in state tournaments in my Sophopmore and Junior years, I shot 77 and 76.
    Fast forward to today w/ all the best equipment, I struggle to break 80. I can bomb a modern driver out past 280 yards, but do I know where it’s going? Nope. I scored better slapping a persimmon 3 wood out there at about 240 in high school, BUT IN PLAY, then hit great iron shots and got up and down all day long…
    So I went back to a persimmon driver last summer for a try, I’ll be darned. Macgregor S300 shaft, goes straighter than modern drivers, goes lower, DOES NOT go as far, but I am just better off the tee w/ it. It may stay in my bag this season, I’ll check back.

  2. Adam

    Apr 29, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    I’ve been hitting with a Persimmon Auld classic that looked brand new when I bought it, not a mark on it and still glossy. Tested it against Callaway x2hot and XR16. All extra stiff shafts, 10.5° and I see almost no difference in distance, but the wood goes straighter. Longest drive was with the wood BTW. Wood sounds better and I hardly feel the impact. Plus using the wood I felt was more impressive to onlookers “is that a wooden driver” “wow nice hit” I heard people say. Takes better dexterity, but this club won’t crack or go flat.

  3. Eric Cavanagh

    Aug 17, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Remember the object of driving is to land the ball before the tee,never after it,so a 310 Yd shot blasted down the fairway that hangs up in the air for a great while isn’t wining or proper. It’s much easier to aim the ball with a wood. Metal drivers are lighter and so must drive farther than wood always,but when a ball hangs up in the air for 30 sec. longer than it does with the wood,you need to compensate to keep it landing in front of the pin. I would say,play with wood and I wish companies would make real wood drivers with graphite shafts so you get a fast sweep like you do with your titanium Hogan but the solid accuracy and slightly less loft that you do with those very,very pretty woods. a $1 wood,with a beat-up face will never be entirely consistent,though,that’s why the manufacturers need to begin making them with a graphite shaft. I talked to some folks to bring back some extinct trees and the one I think would be the best to use to make these new-generation woods is Shittem wood mentioned in the Bible in Exodus and maybe in other books of the Bible.

    esc

  4. Brendan

    Aug 2, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Rob
    I have an old persimmon (I’m old enough to know the difference from laminate!) at mum & dad’s that I use when back in town and love it. I love the feel of a well hit drive, I love the fact that there are actual screws to hit it off and if only I was wearing metal spikes while striding across concrete, it’d *sound* like golf when I was a kid….
    I think what you are missing from the trackman data is what trackman always lacks – how does it make you score? Forget trying to get comparable swing speeds and launch angles – go out with two new balls and play head to head to score. Does the 20m difference make an actual distance to scoring? Does the ability to manipulate the ball more easily with a wood have some advantages? In some circumstances, does the lower trajectory actually become a benefit (eg wind)? Do you swing more smoothly with the little head and the shorter shaft? Do you try to take on hero carries, or aim for the middle of the fairway? I find that I often hit more fairways with my wood than I do with my regular driver. And remember, off a good lie, a wooden driver can also be used as a fairway wood.
    I’m a big fan and not convinced that I necessarily *score* all that much differently. I’m not sure I’d play persimmon in a head to head match for money, but if you want to spot me a couple of shots because I’m playing with grandpa’s driver – you’re on!
    Cheers,
    BT

    • DaveMikulec

      Feb 27, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      I recently decided to get back into the game and scouted a local thrift shop that had several (real) woods stuck in a barrel, priced at $8 for all of them. All are persimmon and were crafted at Louisville Golf, and they still look new. I can’t wait to try them out.

  5. Don

    Jul 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Son nice to see that you’ve got the golfers attention. some real food for thought. A similar comparison, who’s a better player Tiger or Jack, different times and different technology. Dad

  6. Morgan

    Jul 16, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    I love these fun tests done just for the heck of it and usually on the spur of the moment. I had one such moment when I played in an electricians golf day. One of the guys had a really old set with one of those cast aluminium (so it looked like)small headed 1 wood’s. He obviously wasn’t a golfer and was out for a good day. Anyway after 6 holes we were giving him hell about his gear, but I got this bug in my head to want to hit it, so tee it up I did. The metal shaft was rusty and the head very small and dull and even had paint splatter on it. I’ld already hit mine down the fairway and with assurance I would give him a newish driver after the game I gave his the perfect strike. Off it went perfect trajectory down the fairway, the boys go that’s sweet and hang crap on clubs owner as he is defiantly the cause of all his bad drives, got up there both center of the fairway laser-ed his 245m, laser-ed mine 262m. Totally stunned. I could find his club at a second hand shop and buy it for $10, mine was a SLDR @7* with a GD DI6 X FLEX AND COST A HELL OF A LOT MORE. My walk away comment to the clubs owner was “get lessons, nothing wrong with the club” which bought him more heckling from the group and left a very satisfied smile on my face, but bewilderment at why only that much gain over what must be 30+ yrs of golf club and shaft advancement and millions spent in research. Note; I do realize most of the advancement would be seen in dispersion and contact consistency if I had of hit a heap of balls but still with all the new clubs that have come out and people on this site and Golf companies claiming gains of 5 – 20m with their new wonder driver and $1000.00 shafts ( 30yrs x 10 new drivers x 10 more meters ) the newer club should be at least 100m ahead and 150m ahead at least with a persimmon or laminated head. Any way sorry for the long story but it was one of my all time golf feel good moments, smiling now.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 17, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Morgan,

      Great story!My guess would be we’ve reached a bit of a plateau with technology, tough to squeeze much more out of club heads, shafts, balls, etc. I remember playing a practice round my year on tour with a PGA Tour veteran and major champion, he was playing with irons that were 20 years old. He knew how far they went, down to the yard, and didn’t care about anything else. Technology and optimizing are a different endeavor than playing and scoring, as it should be.

      All the best!

      Rob

    • James

      Jul 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      you dont think 20 yards difference is a big deal???

  7. t

    Jul 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    My point is…in the 80s, a good long golf course was 6800. and a good tee shot was 250 yards. today, s good long golf course is 7300+ with a good tee shot being 290+. excluding inflation, we are making ourselves pay more money to play a very simple game. dumb dumb dumb. i don’t need to pay $500 for a driver to play a 7300 yard course when i could pay less than $200 for a driver and play a 6800 yard course. and the greens fees are jacked up to pay for the extra distance. doesnt make sense to me.

  8. James

    Jul 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I would add, I wouldn’t expect the wood driver to perform as well as the modern one in terms of distance because the modern one has more COR. Did the choice of ball make a difference too? I wouldn’t use a range ball but a Pro V1 is softer than the old 90 compression wound balls hit with wood. That, to me, would be more meaningful of a test using the modern ball, same exact shaft, same exact loft of club.

    • Justin

      Aug 18, 2014 at 12:19 am

      The COR, when mixed with your higher clubhead speed, also factors in. You need a higher (>95mph) swing to really activate the COR.

      I like the attempt, but they probably should be closer to one another, spec-wise, to get any real data out of it. An analogy (to me) would be: testing a well-fit Brand X club to a not-so-well-fit Brand Y club. Of course, Brand X will have better results, but that doesn’t make Brand Y a bad choice, either…

      Sorry, but came to this party late and felt the need to add my $.02. I expect change back lol!

  9. James

    Jul 15, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    I too think this is a bad test because the shafts are not equivalent and that makes a big difference. What would the same shaft that is in your modern driver in terms of smash factor and ball speed? Are the lofts of the two clubs identical? The dynamic loft doesn’t mean much and here is why. I can take a 9 degree driver and tee it up high, play it forward and get a higher launch than I would normally. By the same token you can take a higher lofted driver and play it back to launch it lower. Unless the lofts and shafts are exactly the same the test is sort of useless. The shaft transmits the power from the body to the club and those two shafts are no where near functionally equivalent.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      James,

      Thanks for the thoughts. My idea originally was to get a shot with each driver that had the same club head speed, same dynamic loft, and same launch angle to see how the heads performed. With the individual shots I got pretty close.

      I agree lots of factors to take into account.

      Rob

    • MHendon

      Jul 16, 2014 at 1:56 am

      It’s not a bad test. It’s a comparison between old equipment and new. If they’d had 45 inch light weight graphite shafts in the day of persimmon woods I’m sure they would have used them. That’s the whole point of this test, you’re not comparing apples to apples here.

      • James

        Jul 16, 2014 at 8:14 am

        Yeah but then the courses weren’t playing 500 yard plus par 4s in majors either. The courses were laid out to play for the equipment at hand. If you really wanted to know how wood compares to now then you do need to have everything the same except for the clubhead. In that case, metal would still win out because the COR is .83 and wood is like .78

        • MHendon

          Jul 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm

          Yeah I still don’t understand your argument. Yes everyone knows courses have been lengthened because of modern equipment. Again this was simply a comparison between old an new, what was available 30 years ago and now.

  10. Brian S

    Jul 15, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Seemed to have glossed over the difference in shaft length. My guess is that 1.5″ could be a 10-20 yard difference. And, depending on how you measured, given the size of head on the modern driver, you distance from the end of the shaft to the sweet spot on each club will vary.

    As someone mentioned earlier, maybe a better comparison would be a modern 3w, given they would be more similar on overall club length.

    I have actually had different results than yours. I don’t have access to Trackman. But, from watching ball flight, I have far more spin with the modern driver versus my old wooden driver. My rollout on the old wooden drivers gives me roughly the same distance when doing my own comparison.

    Good article though, nice to see what technology has really given us (or maybe not given us) over the past couple of decades.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Brian,

      I think a rough guess with length of club would be 1 inch of shaft length equals roughly two mph, each mph of club speed equals just short of 3 yards. So 1.5″ x 2 equals 3 mph, 3 mph x 3 yards = roughly nine yards difference. This would be my best guess.

      The difficulty with a three wood would be the difference in dynamic loft or, loft of the club at impact, between 3 wood and wooden driver.

      Super fun to use Trackman to turn back the clocks a bit, thanks for the comment!

      Rob

  11. Chris Wycoff

    Jul 15, 2014 at 10:43 am

    We’ve got a couple persimmons with screws sitting around the shop and we’ve done this experiment a few times for fun. Our results have been very close to what Rob found.

    On a perfectly hit shot, the our old wood drivers can get pretty close to the distance of today’s modern drivers – maybe 5-10 yards. It’s in the average distances and dispersion where we’ve seen a big difference – probably 20-30 yards shorter on average because the less than perfect shots with persimmon really hurt the averages.

    Fun article!

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Chris,

      How great is the feel of those old drivers though? So soft!

      Rob

    • John

      Jul 15, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Agree with you Chris. It’s the misses that get you with persimmon. I play my old late 80’s persimmon from time to time, and when I nail one, especially in the summer with dry conditions the distance can be amazingly competitive with titanium. On the other hand, when I catch one squirrelly, well, it certainly does adversely effect one’s distance. You cam move the ball around with persimmon in a way that’s fun, and much harder to do with a big headed driver, and overall with the shorter steel shaft finding fairways is easier than a 46″modern driver. However, if one is fitted and sensible about the desire to hit the ball long AND straight, as opposed to just long, (say a 44″ modern driver) then the advantages are obvious.
      All due respect to Rob, his test would a bit more legit using a well designed Macgregor or Penna or a Joe Powell instead of the K Mart special he was using.

  12. Ed Ranfelt

    Jul 15, 2014 at 10:29 am

    With apologies….
    Another error, persimmon and laminated maple drivers have bulge and roll. It’s not as apparent visually, because of the smaller clubhead size, but it IS present.

    Bulge works with the gear effect on lateral mishits, producing shots that start left or right, and curve to the center.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Ed,

      Thanks for the comment, do you know how to tell the difference between persimmon and laminated maple? Just curious. Also curious if modern club makers have ever thought about reducing bulge and roll on modern drivers to help better players curve the ball more? Some times the curve is good.

      Thanks

      Rob

      • Ed Ranfelt

        Jul 16, 2014 at 10:43 pm

        With apologies if this was answered by someone else (I’ve not read all comments)

        As it happens, I do know how to tell the difference. Or at least what is perceived as the classic tell.

        In the picture of the laminate driver clubface you have accompanying the article, you’ll see alternating “stripes” across the face. That’s the sign of a laminate; they’re made by literally taking strips of maple wood and gluing them together, before they’re cut to shape.

        Persimmons are made from solid blocks of wood, and lack these “stripes.”

        As for bulge, some have suggested that *some* modern drivers might need MORE bulge. We’ve all seen the classic toe hook or heel fade; all too frequently, these start out online and scream one direction or the other. In the case of a persimmon or laminate driver, they tend to start out more to the left or right, before coming back to the fairway.

        Current roll is fine, though some like Tom Wishon have done away with roll below the center of the face. Above the center of the face, the roll assists with the vertical gear effect, helping to provide lower spin, to go with the slightly higher launch you get from hitting above center of the face.

        Sorry for the length of this. 🙂

  13. pingmatt

    Jul 15, 2014 at 9:43 am

    What type of ball was used in testing? Advances in the modern golf ball were made with modern drivers in mind, not old school woods. How would the results be different if you used a balata with each club?

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Ping,

      I used pro v1’s, would love to get my hands on a couple dozen maxfli ddh or titleist balata golf balls, would be fun. Check out the video at the end of the post, good insight into the golf balls as well.

      Rob

  14. Chris

    Jul 15, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Nice experiment! My question would be: How far do you hit your modern 43″ fairway wood? How would that stack up against the old driver?

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

      Chris,

      Good question, my guess the 3 wood would probably go a bit farther. Better shaft, better head, the feel of those wooden drivers sure is great though.

      Rob

  15. Nice

    Jul 15, 2014 at 3:13 am

    Did you tee the ball up at the same height????? Because that would also affect how it takes off, obviously…… thus, with the old driver, being lower on the tee, means you hit down on it more, and conversely, with the giant-headed driver of the modern day, to tee it that low would not make it as efficient.

    Also, in this instance, the wood driver illustrated here does not have any screws in the face, and far too many deep grooves. I would like to see this experiment done with a persimmon driver with screws in the face with a smooth surface.

    But thank you for the experiment! Very nicely done.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Nice,

      Would love to get my hands on a persimmon driver with screws, if I do, I’ll put together part two of this experiment. Tough to find those things.

      Rob

  16. Pingback: Are titanium drivers really that much better than wood drivers? | Spacetimeandi.com

  17. Grant

    Jul 14, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Quite literally used to have to hit on the screws. The inserts were just a bit larger than the balatas of the day. Lot of penna and MacGregor drivers in the basement. Still have to hit the center for predictable results. Roll and bulge were easily altered back then. Would not go back if I could.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Grant,

      If you’re in the Phoenix area let me know, would be fun to test the old drivers and fairway woods. Also love the feel of hitting them.

      Rob

      • LaMont

        Jul 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm

        Rob,
        I am in the Phoenix area and mill custom putters out of the Hot Stix Scottsdale location. Contact me via email if you would be interested in using some of the best persimmon woods to go head to head against that TM. I have a driver that was the Rolls Royce of persimmons, shafted with what was the top of the line graphite at the time it was crafted. It was made right here in Tempe and was about fifteen years too late to be an amazing piece of golf equipment.
        I think that part of the issue with this test is that you had two clubs that were incredibly far apart in quality, even when they were new. The Ajay driver was junk, at best. TM makes nice drivers that are engineered for distance and they do a good job of it.
        I would love to see this same test played out, using the best from back then, against the best of today. I don’t believe that persimmon will win in distance, but as mentioned, there is nothing better than the feeling of catching one right on the screws and watching that piercing ball flight.
        Contact me, this sounds like fun.
        LaMont

  18. DBD

    Jul 14, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    the picture shows a laminated driver – typically maple, not a persimmon driver

    • Greg

      Jul 14, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      DBD is totally correct but to be fair, there wasn’t any real distance difference between persimmon and laminated maple.

      • Zak Kozuchowski

        Jul 14, 2014 at 9:19 pm

        This is what happens when young people are allowed to write and edit stories about old golf clubs. We’ve made the corrections.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 14, 2014 at 11:06 pm

        Put that to Trackman… persimmon vs. laminated maple.

    • Rob Rashell

      Jul 15, 2014 at 10:00 am

      DBD,

      Thanks for the feedback, had no idea the driver was not persimmon, but maple. How can you tell? Specific things you look for? Thanks for the information!

      Rob

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 15, 2014 at 1:48 pm

        Laminated maple looks like a small version of plywood. Persimmon is solid with tiny, almost imperceptible, little specs.

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Opinion & Analysis

Could Dollar Driver Club change the way we think about owning equipment?

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There’s something about golfers that draws the attention of, for lack of a better word, snake-oil salesmen. Whether it’s an as-seen-on-TV ad for a driver that promises pure distance and also fixes your power slice, or the subscription boxes that supposedly send hundreds of dollars worth of apparel for a fraction of the price, there always seems to be something out there that looks too good to be true.

Discerning golfers, who I would argue are more cynical than anything, understand that you get what you pay for. To get the newest driver that also works for your game, it may take a $150 club fitting, then a $400 head, and a shaft that can run anywhere from $100 up to $300-$400. After the fitting and buying process, you’ve made close to a thousand dollar investment in one golf club, and unless you’re playing money games with friends who have some deep pockets, it’s tough to say what the return on that investment actually is. When it’s all said and done, you have less than a year before that driver is considered old news by the standard of most manufacturers’ release schedules.

What makes a driver ‘good’ to most amateur golfers who take their game seriously is a cross section of performance, price, and hubris. As for that last metric, I think most people would be lying if they say it doesn’t feel good having the latest and greatest club in the bag. Being the envy of your group is fun, even if it only lasts until you snap hook your first drive out of bounds.

As prices of general release equipment have increased to nearly double what it was retailing at only 10 years ago, the ability to play the newest equipment is starting to become out of the question for many amateur golfers.

Enter Tyler Mycoskie, an avid, single digit handicap golfer (and the brother of Tom’s shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie). Tyler’s experience with purchasing golf equipment and his understanding of uniquely successful business models collided, which led him to start the Dollar Driver Club. With a name and logo that is a tongue in cheek allusion to the company that has shaken up the men’s skincare industry, the company seeks to offer a new way of thinking about purchasing golf equipment without completely reinventing the wheel of the model that has seen success in industries such as car leasing and purchasing razors.

The company does exactly what its name says. They offer the newest, top of the line driver and shaft combinations for lease at a cost of about a dollar per day.

The economics of the model seem too good to be true. When you purchase a driver, you are charged $30 plus $11 for shipping and it’s $30 per month from then on. You can upgrade your driver at no extra cost each year and your driver is eligible for upgrade or swap after 90 days of being a member. After a year, the total cost comes to $371 with shipping, which sounds a lot nicer than the $500 that it would cost to purchase, as an example, a Titleist TS3 with a Project X Evenflow T1100 today.

The major complaint most people would have is that you still don’t own the driver after that year, but as someone with a closet full of old golf clubs that diminish in value every day, which I have no realistic plans to sell, that doesn’t sound like a problem to me or my wife, who asks me almost weekly when I plan on thinning out my collection.

The model sounds like an obvious win for customers to me, and quite frankly, if you’re skeptical, then it’s probably just simply not for you. I contacted the team at the Dollar Driver Club to get some questions answered. Primarily, I want to know, what’s the catch?

I spoke with a Kevin Kirakossian, a Division I golfer who graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2013 and has spent virtually his entire young career working on the business side of golf, most recently with Nike Golf’s marketing team prior to joining Tyler at Dollar Driver Club. Here’s what he had to say about his company.

At risk to the detriment of our conversation, I have to find out first and foremost, what’s the catch?

K: There’s no catch. We’re all golfers and we want to offer a service that benefits all of our members. We got tired of the upfront cost of drivers. We’re trying to grow the game. Prior to us, there was no way to buy new golf clubs without paying full price. We take a lot of pride that players of all skill level, not just tour pros or people with the extra budget to drop that kind of money every year, can have access to the latest equipment.

With that question out of the way, I delved into the specifics of the brand and model, but I maintained a skeptical edge, keeping an ear out for anything that I could find that would seem too good to be true.

How closely do you keep an eye on manufacturers and their pricing? It would seem that your service is more enticing as prices increase in equipment.

K: The manufacturers are free to create their own pricing. We work closely with manufacturers and have a great relationship with them. As prices increase, it helps us, even if they decrease, I still think it’s a no-brainer to use our service, purely for the fact that new equipment comes out every year. You don’t have a high upfront cost. You’re not stuck with the same driver for a year. It gives you flexibility and freedom to play the newest driver. If a manufacturer wants to get into the same business, we have the advantage of offering all brands. We’re a premium subscription brand, so we’re willing to offer services that other retailers aren’t. We’ll do shaft swaps, we’ll send heads only, we have fast shipping and delivery times. We’re really a one-stop shop for all brands.

What measures do you take to offer the most up to date equipment?

K: We will always have the newest products on the actual launch date. We take pride in offering the equipment right away. A lot of times, our members will receive their clubs on release day. We order direct from the manufacturers and keep inventory. There’s no drop shipping. We prefer shipping ourselves and being able to add a personal package.

The service is uniquely personal. Their drivers come with a ball marker stamped with your initials as well as a stylish valuables pouch. They also provide a hand signed welcome letter and some stickers.

Who makes up the team at Dollar Driver Club?

K: We’re a small team. We started accepting members to our service in 2018 and it has grown exponentially. We have four or five guys here and it’s all hands on deck. We handle customer inquiries and sending drivers out. It’s a small business nature that we want to grow a lot bigger.

When discussing the company, you have to concede that the model doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially traditionalists. There are golfers who have absolutely no problem spending whatever retailers are charging for their newest wares. There are also golfers who have no problem playing equipment with grips that haven’t been changed in years, much less worrying about buying new equipment. I wanted to know exactly who they’re targeting.

Who is your target demographic?

K: We want all golfers. We want any golfer with any income, any skill level, to be able to play the newest equipment. We want to reshape the way people think about obtaining golf equipment. We’re starting with drivers, but we’re looking into expanding into putters, wedges, and other woods. We’ve heard manufacturers keep an eye on us. There are going to be people who just want to pay that upfront cost so they can own it, but those people may be looking at it on the surface and they don’t see the other benefits. We’re also a service that offers shaft swaps and easily send in your driver after 3 months if you don’t like it.

At this point, it didn’t seem like my quest to find any drawbacks to the service was going well. However, any good business identifies threats to their model and I was really only able to think of one. They do require a photo ID to start your account, but there’s no credit check required like you may see from other ‘buy now, pay later’ programs. That sounds ripe for schemers that we see all the time on websites like eBay and Craigslist.

When you’re sending out a $500 piece of equipment and only taking $41 up front, you’re assuming some risk. How much do you rely on the integrity of golfers who use your service to keep everything running smoothly?

K: We do rely on the integrity of the golf community. When we send out a driver, we believe it’s going into the hands of a golfer. By collecting the ID, we have measures on our end that we can use in the event that the driver goes missing or an account goes delinquent, but we’re always going to side with our members.

The conversation I had with Kevin really opened my eyes to the fact that Dollar Driver Club is exactly what the company says it is. They want to grow and become a staple means of obtaining golf equipment in the current and future market. Kevin was very transparent that the idea is simple, they’re just the ones actually executing it. He acknowledged the importance of social media and how they will harness the power of applications like Instagram to reach new audiences.

Kevin was also adamant that even if you prefer owning your own driver and don’t mind the upfront cost, the flexibility to customize your driver cheaply with a plethora of high-quality shafts is what really makes it worth trying out their service. If for whatever reason, you don’t like their service, you can cancel the subscription and return the driver after 90 days, which means that you can play the newest driver for three months at a cost of $90.

In my personal opinion, I think there’s a huge growth opportunity for a service like this. The idea of playing the newest equipment and being able to tinker with it pretty much at-will really speaks to me. If you’re willing to spend $15 a month on Netflix to re-watch The Office for the 12th time in a row or $35 a month for a Barkbox subscription for your dog, it may be worth doing something nice for your golf bag.

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Opinion & Analysis

A conversation with a Drive, Chip and Putt national finalist

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I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend all of the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National since the inception of this amazing initiative. I’ve also been extremely lucky to have attended the Masters each of the past 10 years that I have been a PGA member. Each year, I’m still like a kid on Christmas morning when I walk through the gates at Augusta National, but nothing compares to my first trip in 2010. I was in absolute awe. For anyone that’s been, you can surely agree that Augusta National and the Masters Tournament is pure perfection.

The past few years at DCP finals, I couldn’t help but notice the looks of sheer excitement on the faces of the young competitors as well as their parents. That led me to reaching out to one of this year’s competitors, Briel Royce. A Central Florida native, Briel finished second overall in the 7-8-year-old girls division. She is a young lady that I know, albeit, not all too well, that competes in some of my youth golf organization’s Tour series in Florida. I spoke to Briel’s mom at Augusta and then reached out to the family after their return to the Orlando area to get a better idea of their DCP and Augusta National experience…

So how cool was it driving Down Magnolia Lane?

Briel: “Driving down Magnolia Lane was awesome.  Usually, you do not get to experience the scenic ride unless you are a tour player or a member. Everyone got extremely quiet upon entry. There were tons of security along our slow ride. Seeing the beautiful trees and the Masters Flag at Founder’s Circle in the distance was surreal. Having earned the right and opportunity to drive down this prestigious lane was breathtaking. I would love to do it again someday.”

What was the coolest part of your time at Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National?

Briel: “Everything was cool about the DCP. Not too often do you see people taking walks in the morning with green jackets on. We were not treated like kids. We were treated like tour players, like we were members at Augusta. The icing on the cake was when they took us to the practice green and we were putting alongside Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel. Everyone was confused when we first got there because we weren’t certain we should be putting on the same green around the pros. Again, we were treated like we were tour players. Where else would I be able to do this? Nowhere other than DCP at Augusta. One of my favorite reflections is having Bubba Watson watch us chip and congratulating each of us for our efforts. He did not need to do that. He took time out of practicing for a very important week in his career to support the DCP players. I think his actions show what the game of golf is about: the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, and support.”

How did you prepare for the finals?

Briel: “I prepared just like I did for every other tournament, practicing distance control, etc. But to be honest, you really can’t practice for this experience. The greens are like no other. The balls roll like they are on conveyor belts. I didn’t practice being in front of so many cameras, Bubba Watson, Condeleeza Rice as well as many other folks wearing green jackets. You need to practice playing under extreme pressure and scrutiny. When it is game time, you need to just do your thing and concentrate; have tunnel vision just like the ride down Magnolia Lane.”

What tour pros did you get to meet and talk to?

Briel: “WOW! I spoke to so many tour pros while I was there. I spoke to Keegan Bradley, Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, Zach Johnson, Mark O’Meara, Gary Player and Patrick Reed. I also met up with the U.S. Woman’s Amateur Champion, Jennifer Kupcho, and 14-year-old baller Alexa Pano. I’m still in awe!”

 

How fast were those greens?

Briel: “Those greens were lightning quick. The balls rolled like they were on a conveyor belt; you didn’t know when to expect them to stop. Had I practiced these speeds a little more, I would have putted the 30-foot like a 15-foot and the 15-foot like a 6-foot putt.”

I also wanted to ask Briel’s parents a few questions in order to get a better idea from the standpoint of the mom and dad, on what an increasable experience this must have been.

So how cool was it driving up Magnolia Lane for you guys?

Mom and Dad: “Going down Magnolia Lane was a dream come true and we wouldn’t have EVER been able to do it without Briel’s accomplishment. Driving down was so peaceful; the way the trees are shaped like a tunnel and at the end of that tunnel, you see the Masters Flag and Founder’s Circle. Just thinking about all the legends, presidents, influential people driving down that road and we were doing the same thing was extraordinary. We appreciated how slow the driver took to get us down the lane for us to take it all in. A lot of tears. It was heavenly.”

What was the coolest part during your time at Drive, Chip and Putt and Augusta National?

Mom and Dad“The coolest part was seeing 9-year-old Briel compete at Augusta National! Seeing the whole set up and everything that goes into making this event what it is, we have no words. They made these kids feel like they were royalty. We are so truly blessed, thankful, and grateful for everything that was provided to Briel to make this a truly awesome experience. We don’t want to share too much as it needs to be a surprise to anyone else that’s reading this that may make it there.”

How impactful do you feel this initiative is to golf in general?

Mom and Dad: “You can’t possibly make any bigger impact on golf than to let golf’s future attend the best golf course and the coolest event, Drive, Chip and Putt at none other Augusta National during Masters week. The day after the event, we had a handful of people walk up to Briel to tell her that she was an inspiration to their older daughters who now want to play golf. They even requested a picture with Briel; how cool! This initiative is definately, without question, growing the game.”

It goes without saying that you were incredibly proud of your daughter but what may have surprised you most on how she handled this awesome experience?

Mom and Dad: “We are so incredibly proud of Briel! She handled this challenging and overwhelming experience very well for only being 9 years old. She was cool, calm and collected the whole time. The atmosphere at Drive, Chip and Putt can chew you up if you let it, but she didn’t let all of the distractions get to her, she embraced them.  Out of all the competitions she participated in to earn her invitation to Augusta, we truly feel she treated this whole experience like she was not at a competition but a birthday party where she was having a blast. She made many new golf friends and we met amazing golf families we anticipate spending more time with in the future. You don’t get to go to many parties where Bubba Watson is hanging out with you like he’s your best friend.”

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep 76): Rees Jones on how Tiger won at Augusta and will win at Bethpage!

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The Open Doctor Rees Jones talks with host Michael Williams about the key holes that shaped Tiger’s win in Augusta and his chances for victory at Bethpage Black in the PGA Championship. Also features John Farrell of Sea Pines Resort (host of this week’s RBC Heritage Classic) and Ed Brown of Clear Sports.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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19th Hole

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