The late, great Hall of Famer Jimmy Demaret once said, “Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at them.”
As a high handicapper, perhaps this mindset is the very soundtrack to your golf game.
Of course, no matter what your skill level is, golf can be made more fun when you’re out there with your buddies showing off a brand new “big dog” (i.e. driver).
So check out what we see as the “pick(s) of the litter” (see what I did there?) for the high handicapper for the 2020 season.
Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo (Top Pick)
While many might be surprised that we’re not going with one of the most high profile choices here (the Callaway Mavrik or the TaylorMade SIM, for example), there is actually a method to our madness.
Golf industry experts will often agree that many of the hottest, most popular drivers on the market these days were actually built with PGA Tour players in mind… and are then sold to amateurs by simply changing up the shaft. But the guys at Cleveland have gone on record as saying that this driver was built specifically with the “average Joe” (see: high handicap) golfer in mind!
The Launcher HB Turbo driver comes in standard and “Draw” versions and employs a thinner clubface design (approximately 0.2 mm thinner in the center of the face) than any previous driver model that Cleveland has produced. Combine a lighter, thinner face with a lighter hosel and lightweight shaft, and what do you have?
More weight available to be moved to the back on the clubhead, which of course ultimately translates to the kinds of benefits that high handicap golfers need most – greater forgiveness on off-center hits, higher MOI, and more dynamic loft at impact for a higher and more penetrating ball flight.
And then there’s this little selling point – even with all of this game-improvement technology packed into the Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo driver, you will generally find it in stores for at least $150-200 LESS than some of the more popular drivers out there today.
So take this driver for a spin, and have fun knocking it straighter and further than your partners (who likely paid nearly 2x’s as much for their big stick!).
Ping G410 Plus (Runner Up)
It’s become kind of the new “normal” in the golf industry to see all the major club brands meet the beginning of a new year with the launch of a new line, especially when it comes to drivers and fairway woods. But here in 2020, there has been a noticeable exception to that trend coming out of the Ping Golf camp.
Ping opted to not release a new line of drivers into the market this year. And the reason for this is likely a very simple one: The Ping G410 Plus (released in 2019) was – and still is – just THAT good.
Ping has a remarkable reputation of bestowing long, forgiving drivers upon the golfing world, and the Ping G410 Plus is certainly no exception. With an adjustable center of gravity (produced by a moveable 16g weight that slides into draw, neutral or fade positions in the rear perimeter of the club) and the ability to adjust the club’s loft +/- 1.5 degrees with one simple twist of a wrench, this driver is packed with the kind of swing help that a high handicapper is looking for.
Add to this some pretty helpful alignment aids on the crown of the club, AND the fact that this driver comes in a number of specialized varieties – standard, the slice-fighting SFT (straight flight) and the LST (low spin) – and you’ve got yourself a recipe for more fairways hit and more fun to be had.
The 410 Plus does run on the more pricey side of the driver purchasing spectrum. But if that’s not really an issue, it’s hard to see how you can go wrong with this pick.
Callaway Rogue (Best Value)
For yet another example of the “newer means better” premise being proven false in the current golf equipment universe, we encourage you to check out the Callaway Rogue. If you’re looking for a quality, “high end” club at a value price, this one just might be your best bet.
Described by one reviewer as the “monster truck” of its driver class, the Rogue is a club that just screams forgiveness. Through the use of an internal “Jailbreak” technology (two titanium bars which run from the crown to the sole behind the face to stabilize the head) the boys at Callaway created a driver with impressive levels of power and stability so that the all-too-common miss-hits of the average amateur golfer fly like center shots.
Like the Ping G410 above, this driver also comes in three different versions – standard, the spin-controlling Sub Zero model (which has adjustable weights in the sole), and the heel-weighted Draw model. All three models are equipped with an adjustable hosel (+2/-1 degrees), which can help the high handicapper get this bomber dialed into the ideal loft/launch conditions.
Most golfers who have made the Rogue their go-to driver also speak of two other attributes that they particularly enjoy – the “sexy” looking crown of the club (promotes confidence and a square set up at address) and the powerful but muted sound that the club makes at contact.
The bottom line is that there’s a reason why this driver continues to be sought after in golf stores. Don’t hesitate to give it a serious look.
Cobra F-Max Superlite Offset (Budget-Friendly Option)
Perhaps you’re the type of player who is looking to upgrade the driver in your bag, but don’t necessarily want to break the bank to do so. We would encourage you to consider the Cobra F-Max Superlite driver.
This driver has been engineered with a clubhead that is lighter than any previous Cobra driver head weight to date. Lighter weight almost always equates to faster swing speeds without having to swing out of your shoes, which is a real plus for the high handicapper who is still trying to figure out his/her golf swing.
The F-Max Superlite also features an internal weight pad positioned low, back and heel-ward, which promotes higher launch and straighter ball flights. And when this low center of gravity is combined with the offset hosel, the result is a driver that is as “slice busting” as they come.
Of course, the obvious potential complaint here is that this club has no adjustability. But when you consider that (A) Adjustability in golf clubs becomes much more of a noticeable, improving factor as the skill of the golfer increases (in other words, the high handicapper who constantly fights a wicked slice isn’t likely going to magically improved by a few grams of weight being shifted around on his driver head), and (B) This is a “budget” club that will literally cost you 1/3 of the price of the premium drivers on the market…. perhaps it’s a little easier to bend on this matter, and go pick up this modestly priced, high tech driver from one of the most respected manufacturers in the game.
Taylormade M6 (Best Women’s Driver)
Let’s hear it for the ladies! If you’re a high handicap female golfer, it is likely that getting more distance off the tee would be a huge boost for your overall enjoyment of your golf game. And while there are a number of drivers out there that are ready to come to the rescue here, we think that one club, in particular, rises just a bit above the rest.
With the M6 driver model, the engineers at TaylorMade employ two groundbreaking technologies…
(1) Speed Injection, a process in which every M6 driver head has been individually injected with a tuning resin in order to reach the threshold of the maximum legal limit of ball speed. Greater ball speed equals more distance.
(2) The TaylorMade Twist Face, a unique approach to club design in which the face of the club possesses a distinct curvature engineered to reduce side spin and deliver straighter shots. Twist Face provides more loft in the high toe and less loft in the low-heel, which translates to more consistent spin in the two areas of the clubface where amateur golfers most commonly miss their shots. So ultimately we’re talking about more control of where your tee shots are going, less time in the trees, etc.
This driver comes in both standard as well as “D-Type” (slight offset to help reduce slicing) models, and the hosel can be adjusted (+/- 1.5 degrees).
Because this driver is one of the best on the market, it tends toward the more expensive side. But we think you will likely find that the performance justifies the price tag.
What High Handicappers Should Look For In a Driver
As we’ve indicated above, it can be shockingly easy for the average amateur to get misled by watching golf on TV, and/or the slick golf club commercials which all seem to make the promise that tour player-like performance is just around the corner…. once you buy their driver.
We would you encourage you instead to do your homework and pay the most attention to the following factors as you prepare to purchase your new driver –
Perhaps this goes without saying…. But as a high handicapper, this attribute should be priority number one as you’re looking for the right driver for your game.
Forgiveness in a driver means that you will still see the ball moving down the fairway – and heading in the direction you intended – even when you didn’t make contact with the sweet spot of the driver’s face.
All of the major golf club manufacturers know that this of utmost importance to the amateur golfer. It’s the “white whale” of the industry…. a never-ending pursuit. So these days it’s pretty hard to find a driver that WON’T be marketed as “forgiving”.
But it’s the subtle differences in forgiveness between the various drivers available out there that can be important for the high handicapper. So I recommend a couple of things –
(1) Get familiar with your most common misses. Employ the use of impact tape and figure out where you tend to strike the clubface with your tee shots (On the toe? The heel? Etc.). Knowing this can be helpful for you as you shop for a new club.
(2) Try before you buy. Most golf stores today offer the opportunity for you to test out the new clubs that they carry on a launch monitor or simulator, with no expectation of purchase. So take advantage of this and take your top few choices for a test drive. This will almost certainly be an enlightening exercise and should point you towards the driver that offers the most forgiveness to your particular golf swing.
There are usually two schools of thought here – There’s the viewpoint which I alluded to above, which essentially says that the higher the handicap, the less adjustability will really help you (so just work at improving your game, and don’t get caught up in the needless obsessing over technology). And then there’s the camp which argues that adjustability in a driver can be a huge help to those who struggle to score well.
At the end of the day, perhaps it’s best to just say that if you are willing to spend the extra dough in the hope that you just might potentially benefit from an adjustable club…. then, by all means, go for it! After all, half of the battle when it comes to the golf swing is feeling confident in what you are swinging.
If, however, saving money (which could potentially go towards upgrading another area of your golf set) really does matter the most to you in the end, don’t necessarily assume that that means you have to resign yourself to never seeing improvement off the tee. Find yourself a quality, affordable and forgiving non-adjustable driver and go to work!
Common Driver Questions From High Handicappers
What is the most forgiving driver?
All of the drivers we have spotlighted here in this article should offer the high handicapper a great deal of forgiveness. But if I had to select just one as the “most forgiving”, I would probably land on the Ping G410. This is based on my own personal experiences with Ping drivers, as well as with the feedback I have heard from others (both in person and in online forums). Ping sets the industry standard for producing long, forgiving clubs for the pro and amateur alike.
How can I tell if my driver shaft is too stiff for my swing?
In addition to just using the “personal feel” test (i.e. do you feel like you’re able to create the proper amount of “whip” when you take a full golf swing)… you will predominately be able to tell that you are in need of a more flexible/less stiff shaft if all (or most) of your misses tend to be low and to the right of your intended target line (for a right-hander). Conversely, if it is more common for you to miss high or to the left of the target, a shaft that is too light and too flexible is more likely to blame.
What degree of driver should I pick?
As a general rule, most amateurs (especially high handicappers) tend to not play enough loft on their drivers. Most teaching pros agree that the ideal launch angle with a driver is between 10 and 15 degrees. And the slower your swing speed is, the more it should trend toward the higher of those two numbers.
So, if you are a high handicap golfer with an average driver swing speed (typically between 80-90 mph), my suggestion would be to try out a driver loft of 12 degrees, and then swing at 10.5 degrees and see which seems to be producing a better average carry. I certainly wouldn’t recommend going lower than 10.5, unless you have an average swing speed of greater than 105 mph.