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2016 Gear Trials: Best Drivers Club Test

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Real testers. Raw data. Complete Transparency.

When we were dreaming up our 2016 Gear Trials: Best Drivers Club Test we had one goal; provide golfers with the best information possible to help them make the most informed buying decisions. As you’ve heard us say before, there is no “best” driver on the market, but there certainly is a best driver for you.

We set out to prove that this year by handpicking real golfers — 15 of our top forum members with handicaps of 13 or better — for a one-of-a-kind driver test on February 6 at Miles of Golf in Ypsilanti, Michigan. At the end of the 10-hour day, each tester learned which new driver was best for their game.

With the publication of this article, our readers now have access to the raw data from the most comprehensive, transparent and credible driver test ever conducted. Before you buy your next driver, you need to read this article.

The Test

[wrx_mini_gt_heads]

Testers arrived at 8 a.m. and were systematically placed into three groups of five players based on their swing speed and tendencies. Each group was paired with one of Miles of Golf’s expert fitters, who specialized in fitting golfers with slow, medium and fast swing speeds. A total of 30 new driver models, as well as each golfer’s “gamer driver” were in play for the test, and every shot was recorded on Trackman using new Callaway Chrome Soft Golf Balls.

It’s important to note that this wasn’t a “swing-until-your-hands-bleed” test. Testers hit three different batches of heads, and were given roughly 90 minutes between batches to recover so they remained fresh throughout the day. When an uncharacteristic mishit occurred, its shot data was removed in real time by fitters to ensure the performance of each driver was accurately represented in the data.

The unprecedented amount of raw data we’ve published is highly specific. When a change to a driver’s shaft, loft, lie angle or adjustable weight was made, it was tagged on Trackman and separate data was created for that specific driver setup. That’s what allowed us to create Trackman Driver Optimizer Graphics and Dispersion Charts for each tester’s top-3 drivers and gamer driver, which can be found in the Player Profiles at the bottom of this story.

After testing the three different batches of heads, the top performers were identified by the fitter through the observation of ball flight, tester feedback and Trackman data, and a top-driver “showdown” ensued. The top-3 performing drivers for each tester received awards:

  • Gold Medal: 1st Place. The winner. The best driver for each tester.
  • Silver Medal: 2nd Place.
  • Bronze Medal: 3rd place.

Top Performers

geartrials16_overallbar_7drivers_v3 333

When we tallied the results, we found that seven drivers dominated the medal count, and those models are highlighted in the chart above. The spirit of our test, however, was not seeing which driver or drivers could accumulate the most medals, but rather to learn which driver was best for each individual tester and why. For that reason, we have also highlighted the three drivers that earned Gold Medals, but did not place in the top-seven. Those drivers are shown below.

Highlighting Gold

golfwrx gear trials

Each of the three drivers above earned one medal in the test, and it was a Gold Medal.

With all the talk about driver heads, let’s not forget about shafts. To make this year’s club test the most thorough we’ve ever conducted, we did something very special. On top of Miles of Golf’s extensive selection of stock and aftermarket shafts, we sourced each tester’s “gamer shaft.” Gamer shafts were given Club Conex’s Universal Fitting Adapters so each player could test their gamer shaft (cut to their finished length and tipping preference) in any of the 30 different driver heads, if necessary.

Drivers Tested, Medals and Analysis

By clicking on the driver cards below, you can read a full analysis of each driver tested. Why did this one perform so well? Why did that one perform so poorly? We supply all those details, as well direct quotes from our testers, for each of the 30 drivers tested.

Click the images below

[wrx_gt_driver_cards]

Complete Player Profiles

Want even more details about Gear Trials? You got it. Our editors wrote individual articles about each tester’s unique 2016 Gear Trials fitting experience. By clicking on the Player Profiles below, you can access their swing videos, detailed launch monitor data from Trackman for each of their top-3 drivers (and their gamer) and learn exactly why each tester ended up with the driver they did.

[wrx_landing_player_cards]

Live Thread

2016_Gear_Trials_Group

On the day of the test (February 6), Gear Trials testers began documenting their experiences in real time in this forum thread. Go behind the scenes, and read the in-depth discussions between our testers and other GolfWRX Members.

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about Gear Trials in the thread. 

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121 Comments

121 Comments

  1. Chunkie Buck

    Dec 23, 2016 at 3:25 am

    Love how the M2 has blown the M1 off the map!!

  2. Joe Vargas

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Here’s the problem with getting fitted: If you went to get fitted from several different sources you would get several different results/recommendations as to which driver head to use, which shaft to use and which ball to use (if that is included). On top of that add in degree of loft(s), spin, type of ball, shaft bend point and torque, shaft stiffness, etc. In my opinion “getting fitted” is all a money-making gig for the golf industry. Every year companies come out with a product that will give you more distance, more accuracy, more spin around the greens, etc., etc. There are so many variables it is impossible to get the perfect fit, which is what people think they are getting along with paying a good sum of money.
    I think what Golf WRX is doing is commendable: attempting to give the consumer a guideline as to what to look for. In this case, selecting a driver.

  3. Pat

    Apr 1, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    What about guys like me who swing really hard? 120+mph. Disappointed that this group was not represented.

  4. MTDreams

    Mar 18, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    ONE tester over a 10 handicap? Guess this review is not for the 85% plus of the masses. Disregarding…

  5. Mike

    Mar 13, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Guys… No Grenade driver again?!?

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  7. KK

    Mar 3, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    For years, I’ve believed that spin control and swing weight are the biggest driver issues for most golfers. Glad the industry is catching up.

  8. Steve

    Mar 3, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    I agree with the comments that mention the need to see test results for lower swing speeds ( eg. below 80 mph). This is probably where most “baby boomers ” are. Right now, no representation for this group of golfers who spend a good amount of dough for equipment.

  9. Aaron

    Mar 3, 2016 at 9:57 am

    It seems we are missing a big tool here. You went to all the trouble to get all of this data, and don’t get me wrong it is nice to see the breakdowns, but can we get all of the data for every shot that was recorded? I would think you should be able to put all the data into a database, and let users sort it to the specs of their game and see how each head performed with those types of swings. For example, I would like to see how the different clubs preformed when guys hit them with a 100MPH to 105MPH swing speed, and a 0 to -2 angle of attack, etc. Seems like you have all the data and could offer up this nice tool for those of us who can not or would not like to get fitted, but know their swing very well. I know the shaft would factor into it, but just seeing the results of best combo would give us a great deal of info. It is not perfect, but would give a great amount of information for which club heads fit certain types of swings.

  10. Scott

    Mar 3, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Another great review by GolfWRX, But no Bridgestone drivers is a little disappointing. I’m guessing Bridgestone is only has cult following and not marketed enough?

  11. Luis Morello

    Mar 2, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    Great test, this is by far the best comparison i have seen. Good stuff!

  12. Pingback: GolfWRX Gear Trials Link | M4 Golf

  13. Lowell

    Mar 2, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Main thing I get from this is if you are not getting fitted for your clubs, you are doing a great disservice to your game. Everybody has a different swing i.e. swing speed, contact that affects the driver head, shaft combo. Its not just about swinging stiff or regular anymore. You have to look at swing profile and how the shaft swing profile matches up. At the end of the day the driver is a distance club with the lowest loft which for some makes it the hardest to hit so getting fitted for the right combo can help in narrowing the poor results that some players are getting from their driver. You can talk up how much more forgiving or less spin or more spin a driver can have but if the person swinging the driver has major swing flaws, their is no fix to that other than lessons.

  14. LarryY

    Mar 1, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    How come there’s nothing from Cleveland? I picked up the Cleveland 588 abt 2 yrs ago after reading abt it here, was hoping to see a review of the new drivers. Srixon drivers just aren’t the same.

    • Bill

      Mar 2, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      Larry, Cleveland is owned by Srixon. The only clubs that will be out under the Cleveland name are the wedges. The rest of the club line up will be under the Srixon name.

  15. Sully

    Mar 1, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    There will always be haters when you have these test but this one was BY FAR the best that GolfWRX has had in the 3+ years that I have been reading. Really informative and to the point. You can hate on TMAG all you want but they have the best performing driver year in and year out. Just wait 6 months and buy the M1 when the M3 comes out!

    • Stanley Jones

      Mar 1, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      By far the best test I have read here and anywhere else. This test you can see that they didn’t protect the mighty manufactures. Bravo for the bravery and technical knowhow.

  16. Beej123

    Mar 1, 2016 at 11:52 am

    While I appreciate that it would have been beneficial to many to have the higher handicapped players in this test, I can see why they were missed out. This test is all about getting accurate and consistent data demonstrating the best club heads. However if you start to weight the test with higher handicaps, the dispersion in both length and distance offline will increase due to the inconsistency of the swing, therefore meaning that removing anomalies becomes difficult as in some cases a higher handicapper may only strike one in every four or five drives. Furthermore, there is also a lack of players with higher swing speeds ie over 115, which I feel demonstrates that the test Is trying to find use participants who will give consistent enough data to create a conclusion, and represent as wide a range as possible within those boundaries. Furthermore, not to sound demoralising to anyone with a higher handicap or slower swing speed, but if a handicap is high because of inconsistency over slower swing speed lessons would provide better consistency and distance before a new driver does. As for those who simply struggle to produce speed but are consistent then fair enough, there could have been a sub section of the test to represent you, just as there could have been for people averaging 115-120+ speeds.

    • Large chris

      Mar 2, 2016 at 6:09 am

      Agree +1 says it perfectly

      This test is focused on the handicap levels and swing speeds where getting fit for the best driver is going to make the most difference to your game. Slower swing speeds are going to get far more benefit out of gentle flexibility and basic speed drills (even at super senior levels) than getting the latest hot driver.

      • Stuart

        Mar 2, 2016 at 8:39 am

        I believe the restriction for the trials is in no way a reflection of who can or can’t benefit from the results or even benefit from a fitting in general. The simple fact is that it was a matter of practicality and efficiency. Lots of people (relative to the number of bays and fitters available) and lots of different head and even head/shaft combinations to go through in a short period of time and also in a way that wont wear the tester out. That means one may only get 3-5 balls for each head/shaft combination tested to get a reasonably accurate sense of it’s performance for the individual. The more inconsistent the swing, the more time and effort it would likely take to get usable results for each set-up. To be honest, because of my higher handicap relative to the others, I was a bit surprised to be included.

  17. ignorance

    Mar 1, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Can you do the exact same test, but with the drivers off the shelf (absolutely no fitting)?
    I know a lot of people recommend getting fit, but most people still don’t.

    • digitalbroccoli

      Mar 9, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      Or, you could just go get fit, a process that will likely help your game, and stop you from spending money on stuff that doesn’t work.

      That seems simpler than redoing the whole test.

  18. SV

    Mar 1, 2016 at 8:00 am

    I guess if you are over 60 with a swing speed under 100 mph we don’t count as “real golfers”. I guess we should stick with our hickory shafted, wooden head clubs. This article might help my son, but tells me very little.

    • RAT

      Mar 1, 2016 at 9:49 am

      Totally agree . Where does the avg guy fit that is a senior that wants to play one of the super bomber drivers? I don’t find anything new in the data. I have tried the M1 and was not impressed.

      • Birdy

        Mar 1, 2016 at 11:09 am

        lower swing speed and you want higher launch angle and more spin. any model that markets low spin isn’t for you.

      • TR1PTIK

        Mar 1, 2016 at 11:12 am

        Why would you want to play “super bomber drivers” which often feature low and forward CG placement? It’s well documented at this point that slower swing speeds benefit from more spin. So the drivers they rated lower because they produced too much spin would likely be a better fit for you. It’s not a given, but certainly would get you started in the right direction. All the data is there people.

    • Stanley Jones

      Mar 1, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      There are more than a few testers that range from 89mph to 97mph you can gage yourself to. Age is a mute point.

    • Jim

      Mar 1, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      I was the oldest participant and also had the lowest swing speed. My entire group was comprised of the guys under 100 MPH. As we were sitting and chatting between our turns on the mat, it was brought up that our group was sort of representing a really large subset of players out there. Not long bombers but certainly consistent and easily able to compete from the right set of tee boxes. But we also talked about how individualized this game is. Even though a member here might swing exactly 89.7 (like me) odds are they will net different results because every swing is unique. I hit a draw while many of my “A” group buddies were hitting beautiful controlled fades.

      The take home message is simple. Getting fitted for those who have a consistent swing will benefit your results and insure that you have the right equipment in your bag that fits your swing/game. But for those who hold a really high handicap it might actually be better to first invest in some lessons and then get fitted. An inconsistent swing cannot net consistent results – and inconsistent results cannot generate consistent enough data to truly lead to solid recommendations. (This statement is NOT meant to insult, please believe me. A close friend of mine is a high handicapper for many reasons not the least of which is his inconsistent swing – this sort of a trial would not net a lot of solid info because every swing would be different from the one before)

      As one of the participants I think I speak for the lot of us when I say that we all went into this trying to benefit the membership by providing results that were tangible and relatable.While no two swings are alike any member of this site can now look at the data, gather some info on various models of interest, eliminate other models, and enter their own fitting with an idea of what to expect. No such trial could ever be perfect; what about left handers? Elderly? Females? Scratch and lower? People with arthritis? This list could go on. But the trial was founded on one simple principle; let’s get some members together who have decent/consistent swings, let them hit the “latest and greatest”, and provide feedback while in the background an enormous amount of data is being collected on the true results being gained. And then, sans any biases, let’s tell the world those results. I can assure you if anyone had told me my Gold Medalist would have been the Srixon I would have said, “Wait, they make drivers?” And that is the real purpose of these trials – to let the members out there know that regular members like themselves braved the cold and spent an entire day trying to do something other periodicals have always fallen short of doing – telling “real” golfers what the new clubs with different shaft combinations can really do. No false promises. No bravado and false claims of long shot glory. Just the undeniable facts.

      Not one trial member entered this with an ego, of that I can attest. But we all entered with a mission. Let’s find out what these clubs can really do on behalf of the thousands of other members out there who aren’t here but want and deserve to know.

  19. Redhead

    Mar 1, 2016 at 6:04 am

    I watched some of the tester’s swings. Sorry, but judging by looking at the swings, I don’t believe that some of them are a single handicap with 90+ swing speed.

    • Other Paul

      Mar 1, 2016 at 8:32 am

      Some people practice a bad swing and get real good at it. And some people have great swings and hardly play and so never become great.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Mar 1, 2016 at 10:43 am

      They are “magic” around the greens. I hate those guys.

    • Fahgdat

      Mar 1, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      Well Redhead, being a single digit for that swing speed doesn’t mean they play from the tips all the time nor have to

      • Other Paul

        Mar 2, 2016 at 12:28 am

        I feel awkward because i lack the skill to play 7000 yard courses, but when i move up i am told to move back because i can hit it 300-340… And its going anywhere from dead straight to 40 yards right. Dead straight i can handle. Its 40 yards right that sucks. I really have to get in a groove before i start hitting 70% straight. I have put together some decent rounds teeing off with 7 irons but that sucks the fun out of it.

        • Pat

          Apr 1, 2016 at 7:11 pm

          Sure you can Other Paul. Post up a video then of you hitting your drives that far. You sir, are a liar.

    • hayzooos

      Mar 2, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Hey, I was probably one of them! I know I have swing issues, but like others have said, we learn to work with what we have. If you saw Jim Furyk swing a club and didn’t know who he was, you’d probably think he’s a hack, but his impact position is rock solid. I know my swing isn’t perfect, but it gets the job done well enough. Plus, they only recorded one swing and I think mine was done at the very beginning of the day. Having not played a round of golf since November, there was some rust but settled in after a few more swings and things got better.

  20. dando

    Mar 1, 2016 at 5:35 am

    the start of the article states that you wanted to test the drivers using “real golfers” but only those with handicaps of 13 or less. its nice to know that this website thinks that golfers with higher handicaps aren’t “real golfers”
    how about a test for those of us with higher handicaps?

    • Fahgdat

      Mar 1, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      lmao

    • Fahgdat

      Mar 1, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      I guess unless you have a decent handicap you’re not deemed a decent ball striker

      • dando

        Mar 2, 2016 at 12:57 pm

        I play off 15 and hit the ball a decent distance but its my short game that lets me down but I guess I’m still not a “real golfer”

      • playtheblues

        Mar 7, 2016 at 7:47 pm

        Define decent!

    • hayzooos

      Mar 2, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      I don’t know this for fact, but I think the reason the chose guys with sub 10 caps is simply due to consistency of swing. It’s tough to fit someone who has 5 different swing patterns and paths when they take a total of 7 swings, know what I mean? Anyone that knows common etiquette and can keep decent pace is welcome to play in my group anytime, whether they’re scratch or a 30 cap.

    • Scott Shields

      Jun 7, 2016 at 10:06 am

      If your cap is too high your swing isn’t repeatable enough to be useful. That is just a fact.

      Testing is meant to tease out variables and do controlled testing, well that assumes over variables, such as a golf swing, are ‘reasonably’ consistent.

  21. RHJazz

    Feb 29, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    No test is perfect but this is the best, most comprehensive, and transparent mass Driver Review I’ve seen to date. Kudos to the staff and testers. Perhaps if this method is repeated again and refined it will satisfy more people. Still, there is a ton of data in the reviews and profiles that should be useful to anyone of any skill or swing speed. Bravo!

  22. Hippocamp

    Feb 29, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks WRX, this is a HUGE improvement over last year’s tests! Nice work. Two interesting results:

    1) The top three drivers dominated: #1 Cobra King LTD/LTD pro (it’s the same head), #2 Taylormade M1 460, and #3 Ping G LS Tec. Everything else lagged WAY behind.

    2) Titleist and Nike got crushed.

  23. Travis

    Feb 29, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Ridiculous to give separate awards to the King LTD and LTD Pro. Same club head, different loft adjustments.

    • Poppa

      Feb 29, 2016 at 10:31 pm

      Absolutely true.. LTD IS CLEAR WINNER

    • Chad

      Mar 1, 2016 at 8:18 am

      Cobra themselves deems them as different drivers. How could they just arbitrarily decide to combine two clubs into one just for the sake of totals. Use your logic and realize that you ARE correct, but in the context of the test it isn’t something they should do. People with common sense will recognize Cobras performance without demanding they combine totals…

    • Stanley Jones

      Mar 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      not ridiculous at all. They are two different drivers. Look at the cobra website. They have them separated as well.

      • Nocklaus

        Apr 15, 2016 at 11:17 pm

        Same club heads. Ltd has draw settings, Ltd pro has fade settings…

  24. RL(Nihonsei)

    Feb 29, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Weather on 2/6 in Ypsilanti was 41°/ 24°
    This is not an adequate gauge for balls hit in season. I would not argue with M1 as being my top pick, however, giving no props for sound and feel in that weather does not accurately represent the clubs I hit in Orlando on the same day. I do realize that Miles of Golf is probably an indoor fitting center though to that point I would find just as much to beg to differ with. I expect your-to date- uncomparable goals of testing and providing every day golfers with real world data will benefit further when you expand to The Sunshine State and substitute algorithm ball flight for actual flight and roll. Love and Thank You All for All what You do for us!!!

    • Birdy

      Mar 1, 2016 at 11:13 am

      algorithm ball flight on trackman would be better suited for these tests over outdoors where temp, wind, weather, fairway firmness, etc affect data. if first hour there is a steady wind and then afternoon testing the wind dies down, you don’t think this would be worse way to test?

      pga players do a ton of testing on trackman, not sure why amateurs don’t take the data serious

      • Stuart

        Mar 1, 2016 at 12:04 pm

        The tests were done in a way that the changing conditions (temp + wind) during the course of the day would not have any real impact on the results. The heads were broken down into 3 groups and each group was tested within roughly a 30 minute period of similar conditions. The heads that were selected to move on from the different groups were then retested against each other in a final separate session – again with similar conditions. Fortunately, while the temp did vary during the day, the wind was fairly light and didn’t really have a big impact on the results. I’d guess < 5mph, mostly from right to left with just a little hurt thrown in.

    • larrybud

      Mar 7, 2016 at 9:41 am

      You have to realize we weren’t outdoors with 3+ layers of clothing on. The area where we hit was heated, around 60F. I didn’t wear anything but a shirt and pants when hitting. Balls were “real” balls, which were not left out in the cold.

      Granted, the air is more dense, but what would you like have happen? Can’t control the weather, esp in Michigan in Feb.

  25. Jon

    Feb 29, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Congratulations Golfwrx. Best driver test I have ever read.

  26. Dave

    Feb 29, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    I Love GLFWRX, however its the shaft, Take tech monitor on range or screen with a fitting for the real deal. Cant blame the Manufacturers or the reviewers, you have to make a living. Still fun!, none of this stuff is life or death, just fun in the sun. Welcoming a new season soon! Dave

  27. Joshuaplaysgolf

    Feb 29, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    It’s interesting to me that most people saw lower ball speeds with the M1 430 compared to the 460…this is why you get fit, obviously we are all different, but I actually picked up 5mph from the 460 to the 430 and was straighter with the smaller head as well. Get fit. Get fit. Get fit.

    • 101

      Feb 29, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      5mph???? Wow. Then u must be hitting it at the very least 10 to 13 yards more on every hit on average.
      Otherwise u got lucky and found one of those anomalous hot faces.

      • Joshuaplaysgolf

        Mar 1, 2016 at 9:23 am

        Actually, yes, it does go that much further for me compared to the 460. I find the center of the club more consistently with the 430cc, resulting in higher ball speeds, straighter ball flight, and further drives. Could just be because I prefer more compact club heads and it fits me better. Now calm yourself down while you unintelligently comment on every single post on this article, trying to drum up internet arguments.

  28. Mark

    Feb 29, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Great test kudos Golf WRX. By far the best and fairest test to date with no bias towards any brand and a good mix of ages, players and abilities.
    Confirmed what I suspected that M1 is the number 1 driver on the market…. Having worked as a fitter for a number of years now in the UK, TaylorMade consistently produce the best metal woods from what I see on a day to day basis and Ping drivers best on off-center hits. Going to have to dip in to those pockets if you want the best folks!
    I don’t know why people are complaining about the test being biased towards distance…. for starters there were experienced fitters there and it comments fitters took the physical ball flight and direction in to account by eye first and foremost. But most importantly surely its all about distance!!!??? Any fitter worth his fee can tune in a driver with the multiple adjustments, shaft offerings, lengths and tipping options to get you hitting any club as strait as the next one. So once you find a club producing the best ball speed/launch characteristics simply work on dialing it in.

    • 101

      Feb 29, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      “So once you find a club producing the best ball speed/launch characteristics simply work on dialing it in.”

      You just negated everything you said in the beginning of your ramble by saying that. Because you make it sound like you can do that with ANY driver. But you know you can’t.

      • Mark

        Feb 29, 2016 at 7:12 pm

        Sorry but I have no idea what you are getting at. I’m simply saying once you find a driver producing the best distance, be it by fastest ball speed or better launch conditions, you can tune that driver in to the best CG set up/length/shaft to get the player hitting it as strait as possible. With M1 I find this very easy. It consistently comes out best in performance so often its just a case of finding the set up where they are going to hit the most fairways. That’s all sorry if first comment was confusing

  29. Homer

    Feb 29, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Nice article Golfwrx! Like the profiles. Now if you can just get rid of BrianL99…

  30. Tee Lassar

    Feb 29, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Seems a little like splitting hairs to separate data on G LS tech from the G, given that a little loft adjustment can change the spin on either head. Seems to me they should have been lumped together which would have produced an equivalent #1 place Tie score with the m1. Btw– I have both, and the G tops the m1 in every respect: looks, forgiveness, accuracy, distance!!

    • 101

      Feb 29, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      That is the dumbest thing I’ve read of a comment written by somebody who just doesn’t understand anything at all

    • Birdy

      Mar 1, 2016 at 11:15 am

      the G and the G LS are two seperate heads. this is different than the cobra ltd and ltd pro which are only different in the loft adjustability. WRX got it right.

  31. Regis

    Feb 29, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    What I really like about the test protocol is that each tester got to test the heads with his “gamer” shaft. Major factor. Too often these tests are performed with one club and its stock shaft against the field with their stock shafts. I purchased an M1 at the end of last season because as I was browsing in my usual store I saw one with a Matrix White Tie in my preferred weight and flex. The White Tie isn’t even an option on the TMAG site so I called them and the support guy said yeah its available as an option at no upcharge. The M2 (which would be one of my favorite candidates for driver of the year-even though I’ve never hit it) has 30 standard shaft options. Allowing testers to compare competitive offerings while using a shaft that they know is comfortable for them in terms of length, flex, weight etc. is a big and welcomed change in your testing. Kudos.

  32. hkkyy

    Feb 29, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Oldest tester is 54 with a swing speed of 89.5. Would like to see some results from the “senior” swingers who are in the market for new equip. I play a Titleist 913D with swingspeed of 88-90 set at B2 and R Aldila Phenom. shaft. Not sure of spin rate but total carry is 220 and little roll. What combination of clubs and shafts would benefit us old&slo guys? ps: I sometimes use colored balls

    • Jim H

      Feb 29, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      I couldn’t agree more. At 66, with a swing speed of 83-84 and average distance last season of 218 with a Ping G25, none of this data is applicable to my game.

  33. Denny

    Feb 29, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    This test proves nothing…look at those swing speeds…so how about most of us golfers 20+caps with slower swing speeds…this test proves nothing. This is nothing but a personal preference test..need to go back to old testing a few years back.

    • Dj

      Feb 29, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      I was thinking the opposite. Not enough high swing speeds in the test!

    • Brandon

      Feb 29, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      I guess it proves you have a slow swing speed.

    • TR1PTIK

      Feb 29, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      Aside from being able to see ball speeds, I don’t know why swing speed is such a big deal. We have data from a range of testers with a variety of swings that produce a number of different impact positions, spin rates, etc. Looking at data from a lower or higher swing speed isn’t going to tell you how YOU will swing the club so it seems to be a moot point. All that matters is that more testers were able to achieve satisfactory numbers, looks, and feel with x,y, or z driver.

    • 101

      Feb 29, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      You’re absolutely right, Denny, this test should have included people with 25 handicaps

      • Pat

        Apr 1, 2016 at 7:23 pm

        101, hell no. 25+ handicaps usually have terrible swings and can’t hit the middle of face. They tend to spray the ball everywhere as well. They would never get an accurate assessment with horrid golfers.

  34. golfraven

    Feb 29, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Oh boy, it’s this time of a year. At least I see the avarage Joe in the testers group so guess everyone can find their own group of folks they best associate with (be age, hcp or facial hair-growth).

  35. Brad

    Feb 29, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Was Trackman data revealed to the testers during each driver swing or only after testing was fully complete??? Showing data will impact their next swing.

    I wish you could rank every driver tested on a scale from 1-10 on distance, 1-10 on forgiveness/dispersion and 1-10 on look/feedback/tech. Then show the results for EVERY driver….and don’t show the testers their numbers until complete.

    • RichN

      Feb 29, 2016 at 6:19 pm

      Yes, we saw numbers as we were hitting. I don’t think it really influenced the swings that people put on any particular shots. We were all trying to hit each shot as best we could.

      • Brad

        Feb 29, 2016 at 11:53 pm

        Seeing lower carry distances or higher spin rates will subconsciously cause you to alter your swing. Seeing an unexpected poor initial number could also make a very quick bias towards a club, which could taint the rest of the clubs testing results.

  36. dwc

    Feb 29, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Bravo GolfWRX

  37. Hippocamp

    Feb 29, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    The two Cobra King LTDs are the same driver, just with different loft settings (and fade versus draw bias settings). For other brands, the regular and pro versions differ in important factors like head shape, size, weight distribution, stock shaft, and so on. But not so for the King LTDs.

    So, it seems to make sense to treat the Cobra King LTD and LTD pro as ONE DRIVER, in which case it wins by a nose over the TM M1: 4 gold, 3 silver, one bronze.

    • TR1PTIK

      Feb 29, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      Good observation. I checked the website just to verify for my own peace of mind, and they are identical clubs. Really the only difference is the adapter sleeve. Interesting that they market them so differently.

      • RichN

        Feb 29, 2016 at 3:23 pm

        The difference between the Pro and regular King LTD is the static loft of the head is less in the Pro, and the lie angle is flatter in the Pro, which is how they achieve the fade bias. The adapters are actually exactly the same, except for the numbers on them. If you put a regular adapter in a Pro head, you’d need to subtract 2 degrees from whatever number it is set to, and the draw settings on the regular adapter would be a standard setting in the Pro head. The neutral setting on the regular adapter would be the fade setting in a Pro head.

        • Hippocamp

          Feb 29, 2016 at 3:29 pm

          Yep. But otherwise they are identical, right? If the regular and pro versions are both set to, say, 10 degrees neutral, the clubs are the same.

          It seems that all Cobra has done is spread their range of adjustments over two models. Depending on your swing, you’ll fit to regular or the pro. That might be a drawback if you want ultimate adjustability, but it really is just one club type that is gaining a total of 8 medals…

          • Stuart

            Feb 29, 2016 at 3:47 pm

            Your right it would be close, but not exactly the same. The face angle would be different and potentially provide a bias because of that.

  38. Leon

    Feb 29, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    By far the best driver test. well done.

    But it seems like to only advocate “distance” over other important factors, such as consistency and workability during the driver ranking. I don’t think that anyone who has a handicap under 10 will just care the distance but without paying great attention to the dispersion and workability.

    • larrybud

      Feb 29, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Not true. As the testing was done, we threw out those which may have had longer distances but were all over the place. I know I toss a couple different clubs because of that.

      • TR1PTIK

        Feb 29, 2016 at 3:10 pm

        From what I’ve read so far, it seems like testers took into consideration what they liked best in club. Some gave up distance for feel or accuracy, others wanted distance and took the rest for what it was.

        • 101

          Feb 29, 2016 at 6:41 pm

          Duh. You’re describing the game of golf and golfers in a nutshell. What’s your point triptik?

        • larrybud

          Mar 7, 2016 at 9:38 am

          Yes, we discussed the choice of “best” club which fitted our game the best, just like you would do when you went and got fitted.

  39. Big Hitter

    Feb 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    What? fastest swing is 112mph. What a bunch of women.

    • Brandon

      Feb 29, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      Seriously. How can you not swing a club faster than 115mph? Apart from injuries, I just don’t get it.

    • mhendon

      Feb 29, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      So you’re calling the avg PGA Tour pro a girl since the avg clubhead speed on tour is 112.

      • Jack

        Feb 29, 2016 at 11:38 pm

        U know, on the internet everyone swings over 120 mph. 115 is the minimum to even post on the internet.

  40. Matt g

    Feb 29, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Well this is by far the best test to date. No back alley sponsor protected awards here. Good luck getting ad dollars now. Who needs that ridiculous hotlist when you can see the Trackman information in this. I will take back all my smack talking now.

  41. Other Paul

    Feb 29, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Lets make it about gender to. Where are the women?
    Lets also make it about high swing speed players. Where are the 120MPH – 145MPH guys? Is this biased against them to? How about biased against veterans? Or vegetarians? Or gays, any of your testers gay? What about Muslims, is Islam represented here? Sigh. I actually hate political corectness. I am just teasing.
    I voted Legit for the first time ever for a gear trials article. Well done.

    • 101

      Feb 29, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      You clueless fool. Better hold onto Stacey Dash’s hand as she hands out leaflets to drum up support for diversity

      • Other Paul

        Mar 1, 2016 at 8:41 am

        I guess you didnt read the teasing part at the end… Stacey who?

  42. Brad

    Feb 29, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    “bulk of the M2’s struggles were rooted in the success of TaylorMade’s M1” This makes no sense and is completely biased. The performance of the same vendors other product line should have no impact on your testing results…but it clearly did. This is kinda like you are saying we all know the M1 is better than the M2 so lets not worry about testing it. The M1 is also 25% more expensive which is also a factor when deciding on new equipment. Hard to believe since most of the top TMAG guys are putting the M2 in their bags.

    • Jack

      Feb 29, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      Yeah I saw some other reviews saying m2 is better than the m1. Not sure why this is the opposite. I also don’t think adjust-ability is that big a deal. Does moving the weights around really affect the ball flight that much?

  43. Race

    Feb 29, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    So, no matter how “easy” a driver is to hit to help any hacker find fairways, the leading category that everybody talks about is: DISTANCE. How far is it going? That’s all anybody ever cares about, because, in the end, deep down, the player thinks the swing can be fixed to hit more fairways. And where are the colored folks in this panel of testers?

    • TR1PTIK

      Feb 29, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Really? You’re going to make this a race thing?

    • Captain Obvious

      Feb 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      “colored”? Really?

    • larrybud

      Feb 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      I’m one of the shortest hitters in the group, but one of the lower handicaps, apparently, so there’s more to scoring than distance. So the question is do you want to hit it far regardless of where it goes, or far and accurate enough to lower your scores?

    • larrybud

      Feb 29, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      Also, we were judged on the quality of our swing, not the color of our skin, and were never asked what race we were. You know, colorblind.

    • RichN

      Feb 29, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      The application process involved sending an email to apply, in which we answered a few questions about our swing speed, handicap, current driver, etc. They didn’t ask us about our race.

    • Me

      Feb 29, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Don’t feed ’em…

    • Double Mocha Man

      Feb 29, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      I think his “colored folks” comment refers to players using the Cobra orange, blue and green drivers.

      • Jay

        Feb 29, 2016 at 6:45 pm

        Optimistic, but seems pretty unlikely. Especially with the name ‘Race’. Bums me out these people still exist, but that’s why the leading GOP candidate is who it is.

    • PAUL CLARKE

      Feb 29, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      Your final sentence. You sad sad sad individual.

      • 101

        Feb 29, 2016 at 6:42 pm

        Not really, Paul. He has a major point there.

        • Hmm-IamoutofR15

          Mar 2, 2016 at 9:40 am

          This is one place that I really don’t want to see hate. Except for TM, of course. Please be civil and colorblind, at least in Golf. 🙂

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Gear Trials

2016 Gear Trials Player Profile: Luis Carrion

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In conjunction with a top club fitter, each of the 15 testers in our 2016 Gear Trials: Best Driver Test determined what new drivers were best for their game. The top-performing driver for each tester earned a Gold Medal (1st place), the second best-performing driver earned a Silver Medal (2nd Place) and the third best-performing driver earned a Bronze Medal (3rd Place). See the results for all testers here. 

profile_card_luis_carrion

All Gear Trials Player Profiles include screenshots from Trackman, showing both Optimization and Shot Dispersion charts for the drivers that earned medals for each player, as well as a tester’s “gamer driver.” Carry and Total numbers highlighted in blue show that a driver’s launch conditions are in the optimal range. To learn more about the basics of ball flight laws and the Trackman numbers used in this story, visit www.trackmanuniversity.com

Here’s What Happened

Before Gear Trials testing got underway, Luis told Miles of Golf fitter Shawn Zawodni that nothing would beat his gamer, a Callaway Razr Fit Xtreme, and he was right. His driver isn’t what you’d consider “off the shelf.” He had a generous amount of lead tape applied to the sole, a 13-gram weight in the toe, and a 3-gram weight in the heel.

While Luis did find a few drivers that offered more distance than his gamer, there was no combination of distance and dispersion that could beat it. With 104 mph of swing speed and a downward angle of attack (-1.2 degrees), Luis’ misses tended to be low hooks because of a shut face at impact.

“He loads hard at the top and releases at impact,” Zawodni said.

For that reason, he didn’t bother putting drivers in Luis’ hands that were designed with a left bias.

TaylorMade M1 460 Data (Gold Medal)

LuisCarrionM140Opt

LuisCarrionM1460disp

In the first round, Luis started with the Ping G (10.5 degrees) with Ping’s Tour 80X shaft. The heavy, stout profile worked to slow down his release, according to Zawodni.

“This thing is crazy,” Luis said about its Dragonfly-inspired appearance.

He was hitting the G very straight, but his spin rates hovered around 2800 rpm, which was higher than optimal for him. The Ping G LS Tec fixed those spin issues (averaging 2332 rpm), and remained extremely forgiving while limiting his hook.

“KNUCKLEBALLLLL,” Luis screamed. “It feels dead and I know it’s spinning less.”

Ping G LS Tec Data (Silver Medal)

LuisCarrionPingGLS

LuisCarrionPingGLSDisp

Then he tried Titleist’s 915D4 (10.5 degrees), which has an inherent fade bias — a possible answer for his left miss

“It looks like mine [Callaway Razr Fit],” Luis said, with a glimmer in his eye.

Despite the appeal of the club head at address for Luis, the driver was simply not forgiving enough. Titleist’s 915D3 was “a lot easier to hit,” Luis said, but spun too much. After hitting Srixon’s Z745, he said “this one feels good,” but it was not stable enough to provide any consistency on off-center hits.

“I still like my gamer the best, but the Ping G [LS Tec] was easier to hit,” Luis said. “I can just swing it, don’t have to think about it.”

In Round 2, Luis said he liked Callaway’s Big Bertha Alpha 816 DBD and Callaway’s XR 16 Pro, both at 10.5 degrees with a Graphite Design AD-DI 7X shaft. He said he liked the shape and muted sound of the Big Bertha Alpha 816 DBD, but the XR 16 Pro felt lighter to him and he was carrying his drives farther with the same consistency.

“It’s going to be very dependent on personal preference,” Zawodni said after looking at the Trackman numbers.

The difficult decision was made: Callaway XR 16 Pro. Luis said his miss turned into a controlled draw with the driver, and called it “more balanced and forgiving.” He also picked up 3.6 yards compared to his gamer.

Callaway XR 16 Pro Data (Bronze Medal)

LuisCarrionXR16Opt

LuisCarrionXR16Disp

In Round 3, Luis said he felt the Wilson FG Tour F5 was too light and spinny — the numbers confirmed significantly higher spin rates. He said he liked the feel of Cobra’s F6, which he said felt “solid and muted,” but didn’t like its lighter weight, either.

Luis also said he liked the look and solid feel of Cobra’s King LTD, but its spin rates were actually so low for him that the ball was diving out of the air, limiting carry distance. Zawodni said he could crank the loft up to get the ball to stay in the air, but that would shut the face and surely make his hook worse.

That left TaylorMade’s M1 460 (12 degrees), which Luis tested with Mitsubishi Rayon’s Kuro Kage TiNi 70X. The Back Track was kept in its neutral setting, while its Front Track was moved one position toward the toe to create slightly more fade bias.

“That will be close to impossible to beat,” Luis said after about five shots.

Zawodni agreed. Luis was launching the M1 460 at 10.3 degrees and spinning it at about 2250 rpm on average. That translated to 2.1 yards more distance than his gamer. The Round 3 champion was obvious: TaylorMade’s M1 460.

Callaway Razr Fit Xtreme Data (Gamer)

LuisCarrionRazrFitOpt

LuisCarrionRazrFitDispIn the finals, Luis was left with a decision after hitting each of the drivers again. He was able to achieve slightly more ball speed and a few more yards with the new drivers, but none were consistently better.

“Yours definitely works,” Zawodni said when comparing the final numbers.

Some drivers are meant for certain golfers. That was certainly the case with Luis’ Callaway Razr Fit Xtreme, which he’s had in the bag for more than four years. A note to Luis: Make sure to buy a head cover with extra padding to keep that driver safe.

Overall Dispersion

LuisCarrionOverall

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Gear Trials

2016 Gear Trials Player Profile: Chad Sullivan

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In conjunction with a top club fitter, each of the 15 testers in our 2016 Gear Trials: Best Driver Test determined what new drivers were best for their game. The top-performing driver for each tester earned a Gold Medal (1st place), the second best-performing driver earned a Silver Medal (2nd Place) and the third best-performing driver earned a Bronze Medal (3rd Place). See the results for all testers here. 

profile_card_chad_sullivan

All Gear Trials Player Profiles include screenshots from Trackman, showing both Optimization and Shot Dispersion charts for the drivers that earned medals for each player, as well as a tester’s “gamer driver.” Carry and Total numbers highlighted in blue show that a driver’s launch conditions are in the optimal range. To learn more about the basics of ball flight laws and the Trackman numbers used in this story, visit www.trackmanuniversity.com

Here’s What Happened

Chad, an assistant pro at a golf course in Myrtle Beach, came to the test with one of the drivers on trial — a TaylorMade M1 460 (10.5 degrees) with a Fujikura Pro 73X. He voiced concerns that nothing would beat his gamer, since he had been fit recently for the driver. Those concerns, however, were unwarranted.

With 111 mph of club head speed on average, Chad had little issue with ball speed and his swing path was mostly zeroed out. His path went left of the target on his misses, however, and when that happened he hit the ball off the toe more often than not.

Chad’s bad miss was a low toe-hook, but of even more concern were his launch conditions. He was averaging a launch angle of only 7.9 degrees with his gamer and too much spin (2409 rpm), which was caused by a downward attack angle and a non-optimal shaft, according to Miles of Golf fitter Shawn Zawodni.

“Bro, your attack angle is higher than my launch angle,” Chad said to fellow tester Ryan Nelson after one of his drives.

With Chad’s launch angle around 8 degrees and Ryan’s attack angle around 7 degrees, he wasn’t far off. Zawodni told Chad that with a properly adjusted head and the correct shaft, he would see significant improvements. So began the test, and the search for a low-spinning, high-launching driver for Chad.

TaylorMade M1 460 Data (Gold Medal)

ChadSullivanTM46012OptChadSullivanM146012Disp

In Round 1, Chad’s ball speed jumped using Ping’s G LS Tec (10.5 degrees) with Ping’s Tour 80X shaft.

“Really liked the Ping G LS,” Chad said. “[It was] easy to hit, seems like an easy [driver] to hit the sweet spot.”

Chad also hit Ping’s G driver, but the ball was going left, due to the slightly more rearward center of gravity (CG) and more closed face angle, according to Zawodni. Chad relayed that the the “toe was closing too quickly,” and the leftward spin-axis confirmed his feelings.

He was also hitting the ball left with Ping G LS Tec, but spin was down (averaging 2093 rpm), ball speed was up 8.5 mph, and total distance was up an astounding 22.5 yards on average compared to his gamer.

Next up was Titleist’s 915D3 (Titleist’s 915D2 has an inherent draw bias, so that was passed over) with Graphite Design’s Tour AD-DI 8X shaft. Zawodni liked the heavier shaft to combat Chad’s leftward miss. Although Zawodni switched Chad to a 7X shaft later in the test, Graphite Design’s Tour AD-DI proved to be a great fit for Chad’s swing.

With the Titleist 915D3, Chad found success, and couldn’t believe how high he was launching the 9.5-degree head. Launch was up, and his dispersion was tighter as well. Ball speed was down, however, and he was losing distance. Titleist’s 915D4 proved to be a poor fit despite its fade bias, since the golf ball was spinning too much and heading right on every shot.

“I feel like I’m not hitting the center of the face,” Chad said about the 915D4.

Cobra King LTD Data (Silver Medal)

ChadSullivanKingLTDOptChadSullivanKingLTDDisp

Chad moved onto a toe-weighted PXG 0811 driver (9 degrees) with an Aldila Rogue Silver 70X shaft.

“It looks like a Ping,” he said. “A real simple and nice shape.”

The results were baby fades, but ball speed, launch angle and carry were down. Zawodni put him in a 10.5-degree head with the same shaft to chase more carry, but it didn’t prevail. Last up in Round 1 was Srixon’s Z745, which he said felt “dead and not stable.” The Round 1 winner was Ping’s G LS Tec with the Tour 80X shaft, which he hit farther than Titleist’s 915D3.

In Round 2, Chad found two drivers he liked and performed well, making for a difficult decision. It came down to Callaway’s XR 16 Pro and Nike’s Flex 440. He liked the looks of the XR 16 Pro (10.5 degrees) with an Aldila Rogue Silver 70X shaft, but it was launching slightly lower and spinning more than Zawodni wanted. Chad then hit the Nike Flex 440 with a Fujikura Speeder 757X shaft, which he said “feels like an iron shaft” due to its stiffness. He liked that stability, as well as the feel of the driver.

“Sound and feel [of the Flex 440] were solid and the numbers were beauties,” Chad said.

To dial in the numbers, Zawodni moved the Flex 440’s adjustable weight to its forward position, which resulted in higher ball speeds, a higher launch angle and a mid-spinning trajectory; enough to get the nod from Chad into the finals over the XR 16 Pro.

Ping G LS Data (Bronze Medal)

ChadSullivanPingGLSOptChadSullivanPingGDisp

In Round 3, Chad found two worthy drivers. Shawn helped him dial in his M1 460 head to fit his swing; he adjusted the Front Track weight all the way toward the toe to straighten out his most common mishit, and added a Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 7X, which proved to be a better fit than his gamer shaft, a Fujikura Pro 73X. The new setup was “stupid good,” Chad said, and he was seeing 13 yards yards more distance because of a higher launch, lower spin, tighter dispersion and lower efficiency.

The King Cobra LTD (11.5 degrees) with a Tour Spec Pro 73X was performing as good as the M1 460, however.

“I was surprised at how crazy low spin the Cobra LTD was. Zero CG is real!” Chad said.

Chad saw an increase of ball speed and a drop in spin, but launch was still a little lower than optimal (averaging 9.5 degrees), according to Zawodni. Both drivers moved onto the finals.

TaylorMade M1 460 Data (Gamer)

ChadSullivanM1GamerOpt

ChadSullivanTM460GamerDisp

Ping’s G LS Tec, while averaging the longest total distances of the finalists, was heading too far left for Chad in the finals. So he quickly eliminated it as an option.

It was a two-horse race: TaylorMade’s M1 460 (10.5 degrees) with a Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 7X and Cobra’s King LTD (11.5 degrees) with a Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 73X. There were small differences in launch characteristics and ball speed favoring the M1 460, but the final decision came down to preference, and a limitation from the King LTD head.

“If the King LTD had a high-launch head option, that would be the winner,” Chad said. “[The decision] was pretty tight between the M1 and Cobra LTD, but I liked the M1 a hair more based on the weight… felt I had more control with the M1, too.”

With just a few adjustments to his M1 460 gamer head and a new shaft, Chad picked up 13 yards. Lesson learned: If you buy an adjustable driver, make sure you’re optimizing the weight settings for your swing.

Overall Dispersion

ChadSullivanOverall

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Gear Trials

2016 Gear Trials Player Profile: Ryan Nelson

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In conjunction with a top club fitter, each of the 15 testers in our 2016 Gear Trials: Best Driver Test determined what new drivers were best for their game. The top-performing driver for each tester earned a Gold Medal (1st place), the second best-performing driver earned a Silver Medal (2nd Place) and the third best-performing driver earned a Bronze Medal (3rd Place). See the results for all testers here. 

profile_card_ryan_nelson

All Gear Trials Player Profiles include screenshots from Trackman, showing both Optimization and Shot Dispersion charts for the drivers that earned medals for each player, as well as a tester’s “gamer driver.” Carry and Total numbers highlighted in blue show that a driver’s launch conditions are in the optimal range. To learn more about the basics of ball flight laws and the Trackman numbers used in this story, visit www.trackmanuniversity.com

Here’s What Happened

“You’re the guy I hate trying to sell a driver to,” Miles of Golf fitter Shawn Zawodni told Ryan after seeing him take a few swings with his gamer. Due to an angle of attack that averages 6 degrees up, Ryan is one of those players who can make any driver look good.

Ryan launches his drives high and with very little spin (his average launch angle was 15.2 degrees, and his average spin rate was 2146 rpm), and if anything, his miss tends to hook left. So the challenge for Zawodni was not masking a problem, but rather optimizing Ryan’s numbers as much as possible while leaning toward fade-biased drivers. He was hoping for sub-2000 rpm spin rates, a launch around 15 degrees and a 1.50 smash factor with Ryan’s 107 mph swing.

Cobra King LTD Pro Data (Gold Medal)

RYanNEWkingLTDOptRyanNEWeditCobraLTDdisp

At first, Ryan’s gamer driver — a Titleist 915D3 (7.75 degrees of actual loft) and a Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 73X — appeared to be unbeatable.

“Honestly, we’re just going to have some fun,” Zawodni said. “We’re not going to beat your gamer.”

His hypothesis proved incorrect, however. In the first round, Zawodni kept the shaft in his Titleist driver, but changed the hosel setting from B1 to C1 and saw a tighter dispersion. It was obvious why, as he was hitting the ball more accurately with the flatter lie angle, which removed his tendency to miss to the left.

“Keep that setting,” Zawodni said.

TaylorMade M1 460 Data (Silver Medal)

RyanNEWM1460OptRyanNEWeditM1disp

Ryan started the test with Ping’s G LS Tec driver (9 degrees), equipped with an Oban Kiyoshi Purple shaft. Spin was dropping, but so was his launch angle, falling as low as 10 degrees. Ryan called his misses with the driver “squirrelly.” And while he enjoyed the look of PXG’s 0811 driver (9 degrees), which he hit with his gamer shaft, his spin rate climbed and he was losing efficiency.

After hitting Srixon’s Z745 (8.5 degrees) with Mitsubishi Rayon’s Kuro Kage 60X shaft, he said he liked the look and feel of the driver, but the numbers showed a wayward dispersion.

“It feels like mush,” Ryan said. “Like I’m not hitting anything. I thought I missed the golf ball.”

Those were positive remarks for him, since he named Srixon’s Z745 as the best-feeling driver in Round 1. But the best driver, and still undisputed champion, was his gamer.

Nike Flex 440 Data (Bronze)

RyanNEWFLex440OptRyanNEWeditFlexdisp

In Round 2, Ryan’s two favorite drivers were Nike’s Flex 440 (8.5 degrees) with a Fujikura Speeder 757X shaft, and Tour Edge Exotics’ EX9 Tour (9 degrees) with a Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 7X shaft.

He found the Flex 440 to produce “consistently good numbers,” calling it “very forgiving when hit low on the face.” Although he was spinning the ball more than his gamer with the Flex 440, he said it had a “wooden bat feel,” and “framed the ball perfectly.”

“I was shocked by the Nike,” Ryan said. “It was extremely long and forgiving, I wasn’t expecting that.”

It was a toss up between the EX9 Tour and the Flex 440, and Ryan decided that the Flex 440 would earn a spot in the finals because of its better looks, feel and forgiveness. In Round 3, however, Ryan found an even better fit. He hit TaylorMade’s M1 460 (8.5 degrees) with two different shafts, Fujikura’s Speeder 757X and Graphite Design’s Tour AD-DI 7X. Both produced more ball speed, carry and total distance than his gamer.

“It’s really good,” Ryan said of the M1 460. “I can really go after it.”

Ryan also found success with Cobra’s King LTD Pro (7 degrees) with a Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 7X shaft. Shawn felt they could reduce loft to the lowest setting since Ryan “creates all the launch he needs” with his attack angle. With the Cobra King LTD Pro and the TaylorMade M1 460, Ryan’s launch conditions and distance were nearly identical, so Zawodni left the Round 3 decision up to Ryan’s preference.

“If we were in a paid fitting, I’d turn the [Trackman] TV off and say ‘which one do you like better?'” Zawodni said.

Unable to make a decision, Ryan decided that both drivers should advance to the final round.

Titleist 915D3 Data (Gamer)

RyanNEWTitleisGamertOptRyanTitleistGamerNEWeditDisp

In the finals, Ryan tested the Flex 440, M1 460 and King LTD Pro head to head against his gamer. Although the Flex 440 was a top performer in Round 2, it couldn’t compete against his gamer in the finals. He started pushing the ball right with the driver, and spin was spiking up around 2800 rpm.

Both the M1 460 and King LTD Pro were outperforming his gamer with higher ball speeds, tighter dispersions, more carry and more total distance. So he was again left with a decision between the two. Ryan ultimately decided that the King LTD Pro felt softer at impact, thus giving it the edge.

In the end, his “unbeatable” gamer was an average of 6.3 yards behind the King LTD Pro, and if it wasn’t for one slight pop up Ryan hit with it, the King LTD Pro would have produced even more impressive average numbers.

Overall Dispersion

RyanNEWeditOverall

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