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Fitters Choice: What’s the best driver of 2018?

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Professional club fitters have each seen thousands of different golf swings — from high-handicaps to touring professionals — and they know what driver works best for those different golfers. So why not ask them what the best drivers are of 2018?

For our 2018 Fitters Choice, however, we didn’t want to poll just any club fitters, we wanted the opinions of the club fitters who we respect the most. Here are the GolfWRX-approved club fitters who made up our 2018 Fitters Choice panel:

As part of the 2018 Fitters Choice, we asked them a number of questions, and we hope the answers will help you find the correct driver for your game, or least point you in the right direction. Obviously, we encourage each of you to seek the assistance of a professional fitter, or at least conduct product testing for yourself. Remember, just because a driver works for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you, even if you have the same tendencies or a similar swing pattern.

Also, don’t forget to check out the drivers that GolfWRX Members think are the best of 2018.

Check out the results from our Fitters Choice survey below!

Graphics by bergeycreativegroup.com

Fitter Comments on Question 2:

Ping G400 Max (25 percent)

  • “We thought the design was for the slower swinger and in all reality it has tested to be a great driver all around.”
  • “Very forgiving and surprisingly low on spin.”

Callaway Rogue (12.5 percent)

  • “Forgiving and yet out performed the high-performance, low-spin drivers.”

Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (12.5 percent)

  • “Didn’t think they could make it better than the Epic SZ, but they did in forgiveness and speed.”

Mizuno ST-180 (12.5 percent)

  • “It’s one of the fastest, straightest drivers of the year from a company not known for its woods.”

TaylorMade M3 (12.5 percent)

  • “The Twist Face, in our studies, show significant improvement in shot dispersion. M4 would be an answer too.”

TaylorMade M4 (12.5 percent)

  • “[It surprised us] because of how good it was with off center hits”

Vertical Groove Golf (12.5 percent)

  • “Small distribution, direct to consumer product which competes with the 5 Major OEMs on a consistent basis, and is well received when considering performance from elite players.”

Fitter Comments on Question 3:

Callaway Rogue Draw (62.5 percent)

  • “Because of the position of the weight and how much you can adjust the hosel on the Callaway tip. +2/D for example.”
  • “The CG location has the most extreme draw bias of all available options on the market place, while also offering a great deal of forgiveness and ballspeed.”
  • “Draw bias and forgiving.”
  • “This driver has done well reducing the curve for slice players with the help of the head design and hosel adjustability.”
  • “This is really a hard question. The HL3 is a great option, just depends on loft as well. SFT is good but 10 degrees is lowest loft. TaylorMade M4 D type is great as well.”

TaylorMade M4 D-Type (25 percent)

  • “Draw biased CG with Twist Face, which helps straighten curvature even more.”
  • “Between Twist Face, draw weighting, and ability to turn hosel setting closed, it can do the most.”

Callaway Rogue (12.5 percent)

  • “The adaptor has the best options to tweak with additional slight draw bias head already. A 12 handicap should have the ability to strike the ball consistently enough.”

Fitter Comments on Question 4:

TaylorMade M3 (62.5 percent)

  • “Same reason as with the slice, we can alter CG on the M3 to reduce left movement and twistface reduces curvature.”
  • “The new Twist Face tech does especially well for toe strikes with a closed face, thereby mitigating hooks and causing a much more fade bias flight. The weighting and face angle adjustability also can create a much more extreme fade bias. Ball speeds are exceptional and this product provides great spin control.”
  • “Can make it fade biased.”
  • “The M3 has great adjustability and does well the reduction of the hook miss.”
  • “Because of the loft options and ability to clock it open and move weight, it allows for a nice direction-biased driver.”

Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (12.5 percent)

  • “Fade-biased head and flatter lie than most with the best tweak-able adaptor.”

PXG 0811X (12.5 percent)

  • “Between the weighting and the ability to open already an open face, it’s a great anti-left club. Our fitters say it’s the toughest to turn over period.”

TaylorMade M3 440 (12.5 percent)

  • “Sleeve adjustment and the slides on the bottom.”

Fitter Comments on Question 7:

Callaway Rogue (37.5 percent)

  • “Light head, forgiving and good speed.”
  • “The Rogue driver is very forgiving and generates good ball speed across the face.”
  • “Get fitted for the best shaft combo and specs.”

Ping G400 Max (37.5 percent)

  • “Ping has been making super forgiving drivers lately that have also been really hot!”
  • “I think the G400 MAX might be slightly shorter (very little) than Rogue or M4, but the forgiveness is so great. So for that player I think it has a great package. M4 and Rogue are right there though.”
  • “G400 Max is a great all around driver, delivering good spin, ball speed and the forgiveness is on the top of the list.”

Cobra King F8 (12.5 percent)

  • “The F8 and F8+ consistently put up top 2-3 ballspeeds in all fittings, and has enough mass adjustment to match anybody’s swing”

Ping G400 LST (12.5 percent)

  • “Great offline dispersion on off-center hits with top end ball speed, good spin control and great consistency. Great overall product”

Fitter Comments on Question 8

Callaway Rogue (50 percent)

  • “Extremely forgiving, very long, fits the broadest demographic of players.”
  • “High ball speeds, forgiving, and good adjustability.”
  • “Forgiveness, speed, and adjustability makes it a pretty hard package to beat. But M3 and M4 are so good, really tough one here.”
  • “Forgiving enough and yet has the hottest face for the best ball speed.”

TaylorMade M4 (25 percent)

  • “With a neutral CG, Twist Face that just wants to make the ball go straight, lofts from 8.5-12, +-2 degrees loft adjustments, I can fit anyone into an M4. I would have voted M3 because of adjustable CG but I feel M4’s $430 price point puts it ahead of M3”
  • “All around great performance”

Ping G400 (12.5 percent)

  • “Ping is just consistent and easy to hit and gives great numbers on TrackMan.”

Ping G400 Max (12.5 percent)

  • “Most golfers need a forgiving driver. From testing this has performed really well.”

Fitter Comments on Question 9

TaylorMade M3 (62.5 percent)

  • “Degree of adjustability, lofts available, reduced curvature with Twist Face, and available shafts”
  • “Great adjustability options, tremendous ball speed, great spin control, great workabililty.”
  • “Control.”
  • “Scratch players generally generate good speed and the M3 tends to work well in this category. Ability to fine-tune the club also.”
  • “Great look, feel, and with all the adjustability couples with great forgiveness for that level player.”

Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (25 percent)

  • “Highest performance with the best forgiveness due to Jailbreak tech.”
  • “For the better player we can get the launch and spin tweaked really well and usually those types of players need something that looks clean and get that launch up with low spin.”

Ping G400 LST (12.5 percent)

  • “Lower-spinning head that sounds good and gives you room for error on mis hits.”

Graphics by bergeycreativegroup.com

Related: See what GolfWRX Members are voting as the best driver of 2018

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. millennial82

    Apr 19, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    got fit and its MIZZY ST180 with TENSEI white 70g stiff for me 🙂

    secret’s in the shaft..

    why don’t they do a “what’s the best shaft + driver head of 2018”

  2. tim

    Apr 17, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    I went to a demo day recently and hit the Rogue vs G400. Callaway only offered to put 1 shaft option in for me and the numbers we not that great. The G400 was buttery soft for me, longer and more accurate. Spin rate was too high on 3 of the 4 shafts on the G400 but the Rep went through 4 shafts. Point being Ping tried to fit me, and the numbers improved every time and outperformed the Callaway. The shaft is as important or more important than the head, imo.

  3. Jim Dwyer

    Apr 14, 2018 at 9:53 am

    I suggest you try all the available drivers and decide for yourself.

  4. Bub

    Apr 12, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    I wonder if they asked Tom wishon his thoughts/opinion?

  5. Dan Corun

    Apr 11, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    No love for the Cleveland Launcher HB. Is the problem fitters need all the sliding weights, and adjustments to fit you. They can’t fit you with just a standard driver anymore???

  6. joro

    Apr 10, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Same old, same old, just proves the Millions spend and paid for by the customer pays off. Even the Genius “fitters” get bought up by the hype. All other companies might as well close their doors.

  7. jc

    Apr 9, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    I have had pings for the last couple of drivers…before callaway…I usually find the ping is better…people who tell me that they can’t hit a ping, use mine and go 15 yards past their titleist, taylormade, etc…then tell me they can’t hit a ping..????? one guy even bought ping irons, made a hole in one on the fly, then turned them in for ‘players clubs’…ego, a terrible thing to have on a golf course.

  8. Dave Sanguinetti

    Apr 5, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    Shows that fitters are marketing suckers just like the general public- many mfrs.(Cobra&Ping for example) have been manipulating bulge and roll numbers over the face of their drivers for several years! Most all tests that I have seen show that twisty disty straightens drives very little- best straightener is center contact and correct path.

  9. joro

    Apr 2, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    The best Driver is the one that works for you, not the one that spends the most on Marketing which seems to be the normal favorite in here and by the comments. Marketing is there to be convincing and it works, jam em enough and they believe it. The whole thing is BS, I have old off brands that hit it as good as todays “Super Duper Drivers” and that one is a KZG Genesis. So buy the marketing BS, or find what works.

    • Steve S

      Apr 2, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Agreed. For most golfers max MOI and light heads will work the best. Then you just need to tune the loft and the shaft to minimize spin. The dirty little secret about fitting is that many people get fit to compensate for swing flaws that,if fixed would allow them to hit about any driver well.

      • joro

        Apr 13, 2018 at 4:39 pm

        True, a 60 Dollar lesson would do what a 500 Dollar Driver can’t do. I have been a teacher and a club maker/fitter and seen it all and most people will but club and forget the lesson, as one guy told me, “too much work”.

  10. HDTVMAN

    Apr 2, 2018 at 11:46 am

    I fit clubs and cannot agree on Callaway Rogue as the best driver for the average golfer. The average player misses the sweet spot constantly, and the Rogue has little forgiveness. The Ping G400 MAX or Taylor-Made M are much much tighter in dispersion. I personally like the 2017 M better than the 2018, but recommend the Ping to my customers who hit straight or slight draw. The M3 is for the hook or slice. In addition, I order many drivers 1/2″ to 1″ shorter than the standard 45.5″ stock driver. This allows for better center strikes with little distance loss.

    • JP

      Apr 9, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      I went to my first fitting, after 30 years of playing. Trackman facility…I wanted to love the Rogue SZ and the M4. My results with the CHEAPER G400 LST were so much better. I hit everything on the rack with multiple shafts and tweaks to the adjustment. For ME, the LST with the Ping tour 65x upgrade shaft was $$$. Dispersion was 30′ better than the Rogue, all with a slight draw and only 4-6 yards shorter than the Rogue. So glad I didn’t just order one, and that I actually went for fitment.

    • Pat

      Apr 13, 2018 at 10:58 am

      Do you think the Rogue is better than the Epic for distance and forgiveness and worth the upgrade?

  11. PXG

    Apr 1, 2018 at 4:25 am

    I’d ask the a different question…you only have only one driver to sell… which one would you carry and why.?

  12. Patricknorm

    Mar 31, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    I’d take the opinion of a club fitter who does hundreds of fitting per season over an opinion of an individual golfer. In this article there were 8 Golf Fiiting companies, who say do a minimum of 100 fittings per season, so we are looking at a sample size of 800 individual fittings. Plus, each fitter wants the best for their clients.
    I don’t see any logical reason for cynicism. Unless you’re just plain contrarian.

    • gunmetal

      Apr 5, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      Well. They still want to sell golf clubs. The claims that the twist face makes “significant” improvements on dispersion is a joke and not backed up by any real world tests. Neither is the claim that the Rogue SZ is more forgiving and gives more ball speed than Epic SZ. Most credible reviewers online show this in their video testing. These “fitters” are just trying to get guys in their shops. Completely understandable, but c’mon – non governed meaningful tech doesn’t advance in 24 month cycles, let alone the 6-12 month cycles we’re looking at here. Get fit for the proper loft, FA, length, and weight (total and SW) with a brand you like and be on your happy way.

    • sarasube

      Apr 5, 2018 at 11:02 pm

      agree with you 100%

  13. ogo

    Mar 31, 2018 at 12:33 am

    If you pay more than $250 for a driver you’ve been suckered … :-p

  14. Mat

    Mar 30, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    Your sample size is 8 – you could have written this as a per-fitter article. Surveys imply a reasonable sample size…

    • snickers

      Mar 31, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      really Mat? So Carls fitters do only one fitting per year? Seriously. sampling 8 fitters that do hundreds of fitting per month. Sample size of over 1,000 per year.

      How does that compare to the golf digest hot list. Few guys on the range for the weekend??? laughable.

      I like the fitters voting the best. Better than the members choice.

    • kevin

      Apr 10, 2018 at 9:05 am

      take 8 times the number of fittings each location has completed over the past year which helped them form their opinions.

    • Mat

      Apr 15, 2018 at 6:05 am

      I particularly enjoy how they’ve amended the results of Question 1.

      I didn’t say “Carl’s Fitters” did one fitting. You’re gaslighting this to hold up your specious argument. Having data from Carl’s, such as using more of a representative fitting level would be much more useful. If the sample size is over 1000/year, it would be VERY helpful to say what percentage is each, not just “what’s your #1” eight times.

      My goodness, a place that does 1000 fittings could just tell us what they do, and it would be 125x better than this survey. Taking their “top” in each category skews the results unnecessarily. In a simpler analogy, this is the Electoral College approach.

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pga tour

K.J. Choi WITB 2018

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Equipment is accurate as of the 2018 Valero Texas Open (4/18/2018).

Driver: Ping G400 Max (9 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-6x

Driver: Ping G400 Max (9 degrees)
Shaft: Ozik Matrix MFS M5 60X

3 Wood: Ping G400 (14.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-7x

5 Wood: Ping G400 (17.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-8x

Hybrid: Ping G400 (22 degrees)
Shaft: Atlus Tour H8

Irons: Ping G400 (4-PW)
Shaft: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 Tour 120X

Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (50-12SS, 54-12SS, 58-10)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Ping Sigma G Wolverine T
Grip: Ping Pistol

Putter: Ping PLF ZB3
Grip: Super Stroke KJ

Putter: Ping Sigma Vault Anser 2
Grip: Ping Pistol

WITB Notes: We spotted Choi testing a number of clubs at the Valero Texas Open. We will update this post when we have his 14-club setup confirmed. 

Related:

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about Choi’s clubs. 

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Accessory Reviews

I tried the great Golfboarding experiment… here’s how it went

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Corica Park Golf Course is not exactly the first place you’d expect to find one of the most experimental sports movements sweeping the nation. Sitting on a pristine swath of land along the southern rim of Alameda Island, deep in the heart of the San Francisco Bay, the course’s municipal roots and no-frills clubhouse give it an unpretentious air that seems to fit better with Sam Snead’s style of play than, say, Rickie Fowler’s.

Yet here I am, one perfectly sunny morning on a recent Saturday in December planning to try something that is about as unconventional as it gets for a 90-year-old golf course.

It’s called Golfboarding, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an amalgam of golf and skateboarding, or maybe surfing. The brainchild of surfing legend Laird Hamilton — who can be assumed to have mastered, and has clearly grown bored of, all normal sports — Golfboarding is catching on at courses throughout the country, from local municipal courses like Corica Park to luxury country clubs like Cog Hill and TPC Las Colinas. Since winning Innovation Of the Year at the PGA Merchandising Show in 2014, Golfboards can now be found at 250 courses and have powered nearly a million rounds of golf already. Corica Park currently owns eight of them.

The man in pro shop gets a twinkle in his eyes when our foursome tells him we’d like to take them out. “Have you ridden them before?” he asks. When we admit that we are uninitiated, he grins and tells us we’re in for a treat.

But first, we need to sign a waiver and watch a seven-minute instructional video. A slow, lawyerly voice reads off pedantic warnings like “Stepping on the golfboard should be done slowly and carefully” and “Always hold onto the handlebars when the board is in motion.” When it cautions us to “operate the board a safe distance from all…other golfboarders,” we exchange glances, knowing that one of us will more than likely break this rule later on.

Then we venture outside, where one of the clubhouse attendants shows us the ropes. The controls are pretty simple. One switch sends it forward or in reverse, another toggles between low and high gear. To make it go, there’s a throttle on the thumb of the handle. The attendant explains that the only thing we have to worry about is our clubs banging against our knuckles.

“Don’t be afraid to really lean into the turns,” he offers. “You pretty much can’t roll it over.”

“That sounds like a challenge,” I joke. No one laughs.

On a test spin through the parking lot, the Golfboard feels strong and sturdy, even when I shift around on it. It starts and stops smoothly with only the slightest of jerks. In low gear its top speed is about 5 mph, so even at full throttle it never feels out of control.

The only challenge, as far as I can tell, is getting it to turn. For some reason, I’d expected the handlebar to offer at least some degree of steering, but it is purely for balance. The thing has the Ackerman angle of a Mack Truck, and you really do have to lean into the turns to get it to respond. For someone who is not particularly adept at either surfing or skateboarding, this comes a little unnaturally. I have to do a number of three-point turns in order to get back to where I started and make my way over to the first tee box.

We tee off and climb on. The fairway is flat and wide, and we shift into high gear as we speed off toward our balls. The engine had produced just the faintest of whirrs as it accelerated, but it is practically soundless as the board rolls along at full speed. The motor nevertheless feels surprisingly powerful under my feet (the drivetrain is literally located directly underneath the deck) as the board maintains a smooth, steady pace of 10 mph — about the same as a golf cart. I try making a couple of S curves like I’d seen in the video and realize that high-speed turning will take a little practice for me to get right, but that it doesn’t seem overly difficult.

Indeed, within a few holes I might as well be Laird himself, “surfing the earth” from shot to shot. I am able to hold the handlebar and lean way out, getting the board to turn, if not quite sharply, then at least closer to that of a large moving van than a full-sized semi. I take the hills aggressively (although the automatic speed control on the drivetrain enables it to keep a steady pace both up and down any hills, so this isn’t exactly dangerous), and I speed throughout the course like Mario Andretti on the freeway (the company claims increased pace-of-play as one of the Golfboard’s primary benefits, but on a Saturday in the Bay Area, it is impossible avoid a five-hour round anyway.)

Gliding along, my feet a few inches above the grass, the wind in my face as the fairways unfurl below my feet, it is easy to see Golfboards as the next evolution in mankind’s mastery of wheels; the same instincts to overcome inertia that brought us bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, skateboards, and more recent inventions such as Segways, Hoverboards and Onewheels are clearly manifest in Golfboards as well. They might not offer quite the same thrill as storming down a snowy mountainside or catching a giant wave, but they are definitely more fun than your standard golf cart.

Yet, there are obvious downsides as well. The attendant’s warning notwithstanding, my knuckles are in fact battered and sore by the time we make the turn, and even though I rearrange all my clubs into the front slots of my bag, they still rap my knuckles every time I hit a bump. Speaking of which, the board’s shock absorber system leaves something to be desired, as the ride is so bumpy that near the end I start to feel as if I’ve had my insides rattled. Then there is the unforgivable fact of its missing a cup holder for my beer.

But these are mere design flaws that might easily be fixed in the next generation of Golfboards. (A knuckle shield is a must!) My larger problem with Golfboards is what they do to the game itself. When walking or riding a traditional cart, the moments in between shots are a time to plan your next shot, or to chat about your last shot, or to simply find your zen out there among the trees and the birds and the spaciousness of the course. Instead, my focus is on staying upright.

Down the stretch, I start to fade. The muscles in my core have endured a pretty serious workout, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to muster the strength for my golf swing. It is no coincidence that my game starts to unravel, and I am on the way to one of my worst rounds in recent memory.

Walking off the 18th green, our foursome agrees that the Golfboards were fun — definitely worth trying — but that we probably wouldn’t ride them again. Call me a purist, but as someone lacking Laird Hamilton’s physical gifts, I’m happy to stick to just one sport at a time.

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Equipment

Titleist AVX golf balls passed the test, are now available across the United States

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Titleist’s AVX golf balls first came to retail as an experiment in three markets — Arizona, California and Florida — from October 2017 to January 2018. AVX (which stands for “Alternative to the V and X”) are three-piece golf balls made with urethane covers, and they’re made with a softer feel for more distance than the Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls.

After proving their worth to consumers, Titleist’s AVX golf balls are now available across the U.S. as of April 23, and they will sell for 47.99 per dozen (the same as Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls) in both white and optic yellow.

According to Michael Mahoney, the Vice President of Golf Ball Marketing for Titleist, the AVX is a member of the Pro V1 family. Here’s a basic understanding of the lineup:

  • AVX: Softest, lowest trajectory, lowest spinning, less greenside spin and longest
  • Pro V1x: Firmer than the Pro V1, highest spinning and highest trajectory
  • Pro V1: Sits between the V1x and the AVX in terms of feel, spin and trajectory, and will appeal to most golfers

Different from the Pro V1 or Pro V1x, the AVX golf balls have a new GRN41 thermoset cast urethane cover to help the golf balls achieve the softer feel. Also, they have high speed, low compression cores, a new high-flex casing layer, and a new dimple design/pattern.

For in-depth tech info on the new AVX golf balls, how they performed in the test markets, and who should play the AVX golf balls, listen to our podcast below with Michael Mahoney, or click here to listen on iTunes.

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the AVX golf balls

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