Best Drivers for Beginners and High Handicappers
I’m going to start with an inconvenient truth. No matter how forgiving a golf club is designed to be, it can never completely fix the issues with your golf swing. If you’re not prepared to practice in order to improve then spending money on new clubs is probably a waste of time!
Not what you were expecting right?
That being said if you’re using equipment that is totally wrong for you then even as a beginner or high handicapper moving to something more modern with greater forgiveness should help you get more enjoyment from your golf.
If you’re in a hurry then here are my recommendations for beginners and high handicappers:
If money isn’t an issue:
Ping G425 Max or SFT (if you slice)
TaylorMade SIM2 Max or SIM2 Max D (if you slice)
PXG 0211 (New)
Ping G400 Max (Used)
TaylorMade SIM Max (Used)
Before looking in more depth at these clubs let’s go over what you should be looking for when shopping for a driver.
Driver Buying Guide for Beginners and High Handicappers
If your driver is fairly new and it was fit to your swing then maybe something as simple as replacing the grip could give it a new lease of life. If you play just once a week then you probably need to replace your grips annually, possibly even more often if you play in a particularly humid climate. If your grips are shiny and worn then it going to affect your ability to hold onto the club while you swing. It will almost certainly make you grip the club too tight and affect your speed and accuracy so before making a wholesale change double-check that it’s not your grip causing you many of your problems.
Playing good golf is ultimately about presenting the clubface consistently at impact. To hit a 35-yard wide fairway with a 90mph swing you actually have to present the club within a 4° window e.g. no more than 2° open or closed assuming your path is correct.
Let that sink in for a moment and you’ll realize that golf is actually quite difficult to play well. You need to give yourself a break and not get too downhearted if you’re not beating the ball 280 yards down the fairway within a couple of weeks of taking up the game!
If you have your heart set on a shiny new driver or you know your equipment is in need of improvement then here are some tips on what to look for before parting with your cash.
Beginners will tend to struggle to get the ball airborne so they would probably be better off with a higher lofted driver. To be fair, many golfers are probably playing a driver with too little loft!
The majority of amateur golfers would probably drive the ball better with at least 10.5° of loft on their driver and beginners, particularly those with slower swings might want to look at 12° or possibly even more.
Remember that loft is your friend. The more lofted the club the easier it will be for you to keep the ball in play because side spin should be reduced. You should also find it easier to get the ball airborne with a higher lofted driver. It should also prevent you from unconsciously opening the clubface as you don’t feel able to get the ball airborne with a lower lofted club which may be contributing to your slice.
Given the price of drivers from the likes of Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist and Ping you may be worried about spending big only to need a new driver in a year or two if you improve.
Since most top-line drivers will come with some adjustability you don’t need to fear having a driver that won’t adapt as your game progresses. You could buy a driver that nominally has a 10.5° loft and then set it up to 12° for example. As your clubhead speed improves and your swing path gets better then you can gradually dial down the loft to maximize your launch conditions.
When I started playing golf graphite shafts were still a relatively new phenomenon but these days I don’t think you’ll find a driver that doesn’t have a graphite shaft.
As a beginner, the biggest thing to look for is the flex of the shaft. You need to try to marry this to your swing speed. I handicap and those new to golf generally have slower swings and so are more likely to need a regular flex shaft. If you have a swing speed above 90-95 mph then you might need to look at a stiff flex shaft. If you’re fortunate enough to develop clubhead speed above hundred 100-110 mph Then you are properly going to need to look at extra stiff or tour stiff shafts.
Unfortunately, there is no industry standard for flex ratings. One company’s regular flex might perform similarly to another’s stiff flex. This is an area where getting custom-fit is important as a quality theatre will have a wide variety of shafts available to suit your swing speed and strength.
Seniors, ladies and juniors for example may require lighter shafts in an effort to maximize their performance.
Given that many beginners/high handicappers tend to struggle with a slice there are a lot of drivers targeted at that segment of the market where the weight in the head is designed to produce a draw flight to counteract their tendency to slice.
Again a lot of the more expensive drivers have movable weight technology so you could start out with the settings designed to promote a draw and as your game develops and you learn to hit the ball straighter you can reduce the amount of draw bias by moving the weight. This will save you from having to replace your club as you improve.
It is also worth bearing in mind that if you have a fairly slow swing speed then differences in club and ball technology are going to make less difference in the distance that you can hit the ball.
Another style of driver that manufacturers produce in an effort to reduce a slice is one with an offset head. This tends to be less used in drivers and is more favored in irons, however.
How To Buy A Driver
As I stated elsewhere on the blog it is always best to get custom fit where possible, particularly if you are spending significant amounts of money on new clubs.
Even if you are a beginner or high handicapper custom fitting can be useful as it may highlight that you have the wrong flex shaft or maybe you would be better with lighter or even heavier shafts. Perhaps you need thicker or thinner grips etc. Obviously, in the second-hand market, it is going to be nigh impossible to get custom fit however if you have a good idea of your specs then you can whittle down to a shortlist of possibilities.
While it can be tempting to just order from a discount store online may turn out to be a false economy if the club doesn’t suit your game.
Which Manufacturers Should I Consider?
Ping has always produced some of the most forgiving clubs on the market and their driver ranges in the last few years are no exception. If your budget won’t stretch to the latest model then you could do a lot worse than a G410 or G400 model in the used market.
Mizuno is probably best known for their high-quality forged irons but you shouldn’t write off their driver offerings, particularly as they tend to be slightly cheaper than some of the other manufacturers. I don’t think you can really class any of the major manufacturers’ products now as budget-friendly given that you will struggle to find anything current for less than about $350 (£300).
TaylorMade produces a lot of very good drivers and they are widely used by tour professionals although don’t forget the majority of them are being paid handsomely to use the product.
Callaway is also another favorite of tour players and they also produce some excellent drivers for all standards of golfers.
Titleist has traditionally produced excellent clubs for better golfers although they have made trades more recently in offering clubs that are more forgiving for beginners.
Cobra is another company that produces a lot of very good drivers and they do tend to be a little bit cheaper than the other top manufacturers.
Best Drivers For Beginners/High Handicappers
Ping G425 Max or SFT
Ping has tended to release several flavors of their drivers to suit different types of golfers. The Max version would have the widest appeal, the SFT version is designed to help counteract a slice and the LST version which will generate the least backspin of the three.
The Max version is likely to suit most players although if you do have a slice that you are hoping to iron out then you might consider the SFT version.
The G425 Max driver features the highest MOI of any Ping driver approximately 14% higher than the Ping G410 Max. This is in some part due to the 26 g movable tungsten weight in the rear of the club which helps pull the center of gravity further back from the clubface and also moves it lower.
It is undoubtedly one of the most forgiving drivers currently on the market. Whilst not being absolutely the longest you should find more than your fair share of fairways with this club.
The loft on this driver is adjustable ± 1.5º and you are also able to adjust the lie up to 3° flatter. This should allow you to tweak the driver to suit your swing.
I think the only negative is the price. I’m afraid that the price of clubs, in general, has gone stratospheric in the last few years. If you want to buy a driver from any of the big-name manufacturers then you are going to be looking at around $400- $500. Even used versions of the same club are commanding 80% or even more!
With the adjustability available on this club and Pings build quality you should at least be fairly safe in the knowledge that the club should last you a good while.
TaylorMade SIM2 Max (and SIM2 Max D)
The SIM2 Max and Max D drivers Have 5% bigger faces than the equivalent Sim drivers that they replaced. This gives beginners and high handicappers a little more room for error even over those forgiving clubs. Indeed TaylorMade has managed to improve the MOI by 15% when compared with the SIM range. This should reduce the amount of distance you lose on off-center hits.
If you currently play with a slice then you might want to consider the D version which has more weight concentrated in the heel area in an effort to straighten out that left-to-right flight. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that your banana balls are suddenly going to find the middle of the fairway! The effect is more subtle than that.
Some subtle weight saving with a better distribution of mass around the head has resulted in higher ball speeds off the face with a high launch and low spin which means the same to Max is one of the longer drivers available. When married to its excellent levels of forgiveness it’s no wonder this club features in the bags that many professional players.
As with the Ping G425, all the technology does come at a price. So expect to pay in the region of $400 to $500. If that’s a little bit too rich for you then you could always look at picking up a used Sim driver although you are still probably going to look at something north of $200.
Considering PXG is famous for launching products at very high prices, it comes as something of a shock to find one of their drivers listed as a budget option.
I suppose it’s all relative as £200 would get you pretty much any driver as little as 10 years ago but those days I’m afraid are long gone!
What you do get is a solid package available in 9°, 10.5° and 12° loft which also features an adjustable hosel.
Unusually for a club at this price point, you can also take advantage of a custom fitting assuming you can find one though as they all seem to be booked up for quite some time.
You can choose from five different flexes and left-handers shouldn’t feel left out as the club is also available in a left-handed model which isn’t always the case for cheaper offerings.
The driver is fitted with a 10 g weight as standard although this might be changed during your custom fitting from 2.5 g to 20 g to help tune launch conditions.
The crown is composed of a titanium skeleton with a central carbon-fiber section.
For the price, it’s difficult to argue with this club. If budget is one of your overriding concerns then you should certainly try and check out the PXG 0211.
Ping G400 Max (used)
The Ping G400 Max was originally released way back in 2018. The series of drivers were designed to have exceptional MOI and they didn’t disappoint. The Max variant was added a few months after the rest of the G400 series And featured the largest head allowed under the Rules of Golf at 460cc.
It actually approaches close to the limit imposed by the USGA for heel-toe MOI of 5900 with a figure of 5700 (g cm²).
At the time of its launch, its MOI figures made it the most forgiving driver on the market.
As with the G425 Max, there is a slight compromise to be made on distance in order to get such high levels of forgiveness. Personally, I would rather be in the fairway more often and 10 yards further back but you may think differently.
If you’re a typical club player with an average swing speed who is looking for a little more forgiveness then the club should deliver in spades. It’s probably not going to be the first choice of a low handicapper but then this guide isn’t about low handicappers.
If you happen to have a slice that needs a little bit more help then you could try the G400 SFT which features draw bias weighting counteract left to right shape.
You’re going to have to try to find one of these in the used market either through a golf-specific retailer or somewhere like eBay. Prices on eBay looked to be around the $300 mark. Whether you will be able to find the right combination of loft and shaft to suit your game straightaway will be the problem. It may take a few attempts if you’re bidding on eBay to get the club you want. It might be easier to save up and just buy one of the G425 series brand-new and get custom-fit at the same time.
TaylorMade SIM Max (used)
Unlike Ping, TaylorMade has much shorter product cycles and the SIM Max model only came out at the start of 2020.
The SIM Max was designed to be the most giving of that model range. The movable weight from the SIM driver was replaced with a fixed 20g weight which boosted the MOI figure by around 80 points. Positioned to the rear this also causes a slightly higher launch than the Sim driver. This should suit higher handicappers and beginners who tend to struggle to get the ball airborne. The face is also 8% larger making it appear as a very forgiving club.
The SIM range replaced the very successful M series which was originally launched in 2015. It was a change of direction for the TaylorMade designers who were trying to improve the aerodynamics of the club in order to maximize speed as you approach impact.
The Max variant is meant to be the most forgiving in the lineup and it doesn’t disappoint.
As with the G400, you will need to find a used example if you’re going to play this driver. Prices on eBay seem to be around the $250-$300 mark. That’s about half the RRP for the club and around $150-$200 cheaper than you’d pay for the SIM 2 Max.
How Far Should I Hit My Driver?
That depends on two main factors, club head speed and quality of strike. In order to hit the ball as far as possible, you need to create an efficient impact position. This married with high club head speed will mean greater distance through the bag.
Look here for a more detailed discussion of how far beginners should hit the golf ball. You’ll also want to pick the right ball to suit your swing.
Best Drivers for Beginners and High Handicappers: Conclusion
I think the price of the PXG 0211 looks even more remarkable when you consider the cost of these two used drivers. I think if I really was struggling to justify $500 for a driver then I would probably try to get a custom fitting of the PXG rather than pay slightly more for a used Ping/TaylorMade.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
How long will a driver last me?
Assuming your driver still suits your swing then it should last you quite a while. Limits have been imposed by the games governing bodies regarding the design of drivers which means there usually isn’t that much difference between the latest clubs and those from four or five years earlier.
A driver can have a maximum head size of 460cc and there is a limit to how bouncy the face can be (CoR 0.83/CT 253 ms). From 2022 professional and elite amateur events are likely to also limit the length of shaft you can fit in your driver. This will obviously only affects a tiny percentage of golfers though.
If you buy a driver with an adjustable loft sleeve and movable weights then there should be some leeway to adjust the club as your game improves.
I have personally only known one player that has managed to damage a driver’s face due to his swing speed so unless you are planning a run for the World Long Driving Championships I doubt you need to worry about damaging the club during the course of normal play.
As a beginner over time, your swing would hopefully get faster so there is a possibility you may need a different shaft at some point. However, a shaft will suit quite a broad range of swing speeds so unless you make significant gains you won’t need to upgrade too quickly.
What is the sweet spot on a golf club?
The sweet spot is the point on the clubface that will give you maximum energy transfer from club head to ball giving you the most distance.
Despite what manufacturers would have you believe the sweet spot is actually the size of the head of a pin!
No matter what club designers try to do they cannot change this fundamental fact. However, by manipulating the design of the clubface they can produce a much larger area where you still can achieve acceptable quality shots. This means in golf at least that the sweet spot is probably considered to be a much larger area than it is in reality.
What is Moment of Inertia (MOI)?
In golf, it is a term used to describe the club’s resistance to twisting. If you strike the ball towards the toe of the club then the club would tend to twist slightly open. Should you strike the ball towards the heel of the club this would cause the club to twist slightly closed.
In either case, this would cause you to lose some distance. By redistributing the weight around the clubhead This twisting can be reduced somewhat, therefore, producing better quality shots even from center strikes.
So from a beginner or high handicapper’s point of view, you are probably best looking for clubs that describe themselves as having a high MOI.
What is the center of gravity of a driver?
It is the balance point around which the weight of the club is distributed.
Driver design is largely down to the manipulation of weight in the clubhead to adjust the center of gravity to make the driver perform in a certain way. For example, when designing a driver for beginners and high handicappers the center of gravity would usually be moved back from the face and low since this gives the player the best opportunity to launch the ball high and straight.
If you buy a driver with movable weights then you are able to adjust the center of gravity slightly to favor a particular shot shape or more likely counteract your particular shape of shot.
Should I Buy an Adjustable Driver?
At the top end of the market, many of the drivers are adjustable so if you want the best of the best it is likely you will be buying an adjustable model. As a beginner or high handicapper though you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune on clubs.
A more modest mid-range or budget driver could well suit you. However, I would still suggest at the very least trying it out on a driving range or preferably the golf course before parting with your cash.
The advantage of getting an adjustable driver is that you can tweak the loft and/or weight distribution as you improve your swing. This might mean saving you money in the long run even though it would mean a larger outlay, to begin with. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from dipping into the used market where drivers from three or four years ago offer very similar performance to today’s latest models for around half the price.
How can I measure my swing speed?
The simplest way would be to get measured on a launch monitor either during a custom fitting or by buying one of the budget launch monitors that are now available such as the Flightscope Mevo, Garmin R10 or any other reputable manufacturer.
You could check out your local driving range to see if they have launch monitors in their bays or alternatively you could work backward from the distance you hit the ball. The only problem with using your driving distance as a guide is you may not be aware of your swing faults that are compromising the distance you could be hitting.
What is Forgiveness in a Golf Club?
Modern golf clubs, particularly those for beginners and high handicappers, are designed with forgiveness in mind. In practice, this means that even when you don’t strike the ball from the sweet spot you can still get an acceptable result. Even the very best players don’t hit the sweet spot every single time so even they have migrated more towards large-headed drivers, cavity back irons and hybrids.
In terms of drivers, the size of the head has increased to the point where there is now a limit of 460cc. The design changed from wood to metal. This allowed for the weight to be distributed around the perimeter of the club effectively increasing the sweet spot. More recently manufacturers have developed clubs using materials such as titanium or carbon composite. This allows for even greater tuning of the weight of the club to maximize the area on the clubface where you can achieve a decent ball flight.
With a limit also imposed on the bounciness of the face, it means that future drivers are more likely to concentrate on improving forgiveness on off-center hits as there is nowhere really to go in terms of distance.
There is of course one downside to all this forgiveness. It means that there is less impetus on a player to develop a better quality swing. The level of feedback you would receive from an old persimmon driver or forged blade irons meant you quickly knew whether you had hit a good shot even without looking at the ball flight. Modern clubs mean a player can still get enjoyment from the game without having to spend quite as much time working on their technique.
Which Loft driver hits the farthest?
There is no one size fits all answer I’m afraid as it will depend on your clubhead speed. Elite players with fast swings will usually be looking at a launch angle of around 13° with spin rates around 2000 RPM.
The slower your swing becomes the higher your launch angle and spin rate will need to go in order to maximize the distance you can achieve.
|Clubhead speed (mph)||Launch||Spin Rate (rpm)||Peak Height (feet)||Angle of descent (degrees)|
What do the letters mean on golf shafts?
Letters are usually used to signify the flex of the shaft. Here are some examples:
|Letter||Flex||Swing Speed in mph|
|A or M||Senior||70-90|
The swing speeds are only a guide as every manufacturer would label their shafts slightly differently. For example, when I was fitted for my Mizuno driver my swing speed was around the 95mph mark but they recommended their stiff shaft.
When previously measured up for an iron fitting by another manufacturer they suggested their regular flex.
Getting the correct shaft to suit your game is one of the main reasons you should be getting a custom fitting.
As a general rule, stiffer shafts tend to be heavier. It’s probably fair to say that the fast swinger could handle playing with more flexible shafts easier than a slow swinger would be able to cope with stiffer shafts.