Best Golf Drivers For Mid Handicappers
The mid-handicap stage is also often called the game-improvement stage and it’s the stage at which you really need to start trading up your beginner clubs for intermediate ones. Many people will choose to do this, literally, once club at a time and if that sounds like you, then you should probably make upgrading your driver one of your top priorities because your driver is the club you use to start each hole and, as with any sport, while it may be possible to compensate for a bad start, you want to avoid having to do so, if at all possible.
Once you start researching the best golf drivers for mid handicappers, you’ll quickly discover that there are a lot of them out there. On the one hand, that’s good, because it means you have a great chance of finding the perfect driver for your particular playing style and preferences. On the other hand, it means that you may have to work your way through a lot of options before you find the right one for you. We’ve put together this guide to help you find your perfect driver as quickly and easily as possible.
Understanding the anatomy of a driver
A driver is technically a number one wood, its official name stemming from the days when the woods family of clubs actually were made of exactly that. These days, you’d be hard pressed to find a wooden driver (or any other form of wooden club) in actual playing use (although they can make great decorations), instead you’ll find drivers made of stainless steel, titanium, carbon fiber, graphite and their composites. Stainless steel is generally used for beginner-level clubs while the lighter metals are used for intermediate-, advanced- and pro-level clubs.
You can argue the point as to whether or not the shaft is more important than the clubhead in a driver, but it’s the part at the top of the club, so it’s a good place to start. As a reminder, drivers are the clubs with the longest shafts, so they are the clubs where the flex makes the most difference and this is particularly true a mid-handicap level because this tends to be the playing level where players have the widest range of swing speeds. Basically the faster you swing, the stiffer you want your driver to be (i.e. the least flex). As a rule of thumb, if you’re swinging up to 80mph you want the senior flex (A), regardless of how old you are. Up to 90mph you want the regular flex (R) and up to 100mph you want the stiff flex (S). If you can regularly swing a 100mph or better then you want to extra stiff flex (X).
As a polite reality check, you can allow for some degree of improvement, just balance this with realism and the knowledge that you can upgrade your driver again when your game improves enough to benefit from it. In other words, if you’re regularly swinging at the upper end of each range and you think that, with a bit of practice, you could push yourself up to the next range, then fair enough, but if you’re at the lower end of your speed range then don’t buy a stiffer club in the hope that you’ll “improve into it”, keep practicing, improve your speed and then trade up. Remember, there’s always a ready market for second-hand golf clubs in good condition.
The club head
Once club manufacturers had figured out how to make clubs out of lightweight metal, club heads just started getting bigger and bigger. In fact by 2002, driver heads were more than two and a half times as big as they had been in the early 1990s. Perhaps if the USGA had allowed it, they would have gone on getting bigger and bigger until who knows when, but in actual fact the USGA decided enough was enough in 2003 and capped the maximum size at 460cc, where it has been ever since.
Most of the improver-level drivers you’ll find out there will be the full 460cc, all our recommendations are. You can still find the occasional smaller club head out there, but you’d need to have a very specific reason for wanting to use one.
In technical terms, clubs with bigger heads have higher moments of inertia and larger coefficients of restitution. In non-technical terms, the larger the club head, the easier it is for the club to make good contact with the ball (that’s the moment of inertia) and to transfer the kinetic energy you built up during your swing from your body to the ball (the coefficient of restitution). What that means in practice is that larger club heads will send the ball further and faster.
Loft matters a lot
Officially, loft refers to the angle of the club head as compared to the vertical shaft. Unofficially, loft can be considered as meaning the same as forgiveness. More loft means more forgiveness, but this forgiveness comes at the price of power, which is to say distance.
There are two factors to consider when deciding what degree of loft you need. The first factor is your swing speed. Players with fast swings can hit the ball hard enough that they can use clubs with minimal loft and still have a decent chance of keeping the ball on target. If this is you, then look at a loft of 8.5-10°. As your swing speed goes down your loft will need to go up to compensate. Slow singers could be looking at as much as 14° of loft.
The second factor is the accuracy with which you hit the ball. Basically, the ability to send the ball a longer distance will only be useful if you can control the ball so it goes where you want it to. Otherwise, it can actually hinder you. Think of being off target on the golf course in similar terms to taking a wrong turning in an unknown city. The further you go down the wrong street, the further you have to travel to get back to where you were meant to be. In other words, if you’re still struggling with slices and hooks, go for a higher loft, even if you’re a fast swinger.
An adjustable hosel can be very useful
These days intermediate-level drivers are quite likely to come with an adjustable hosel, which will allow you to vary the level of loft to a certain extent, however it’s important to realize that this is likely to be in the range of 6 degrees or so not every feasible loft angle. As with the flex, you can be slightly ambitious with an adjustable hosel, but keep it real.
Custom fitting can make a huge difference to your club
At intermediate level, you may decide that custom fitting is more of an expense than you feel you can justify, if so, that’s fine, however, be aware that from this point on, the quality of your equipment is going to play a role in how quickly you can progress, so if you do have the option of custom fitting, then at least give it some consideration.
Having covered the basics of drivers, it’s time to look at our run down of the (insert drum roll).........
best drivers for mid handicappers
Callaway Great Big Bertha Driver
The Great Big Bertha driver is a great big favorite amongst improving golfers and with good reason. It must be one of the easiest clubs to swing out there and overall is very forgiving. The crown is made of forged composite and in addition to the generous perimeter weighting, there are sliding weights to help you to fine-tune the club to your liking. Big Bertha isn’t entirely perfect, the alignment aid could do with some improvement and it has an inherent draw bias, but taken as a whole, this really is a great club.
- Next Gen rmoto technology: to get every last yard out of your driver, you need more speed. That's why we put in our next Gen rmoto technology. It provides the Structure for a thinner Face, leading to high ball speeds on and off center-hits
- Light and stable head design: this is the best combination we've EVER had of an aerodynamic head shape and lightweight club design. It's the key to generating higher clubhead speed through aerodynamics and a wide range of weight classes for all Swings
- Forgiveness and Control from adjustable perimeter weighting: there's a 10g sliding weight on the perimeter of the clubhead. You have virtually unlimited draw and fade bias options, more additional draw bias than EVER before. With forgiveness
- Simple Adjustability: you can quickly slide the weight to any position you want on the Track. And the opti-fit hosel lets you choose from 8 different configurations to tune loft, lie, and Face angle
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Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic
If you’re serious about improving as quickly as you can and want a driver which will see you beyond the mid-handicap stage, then you might want to opt for the Great Big Bertha Epic, which has everything we liked about the original Great Big Bertha plus more reinforcement on the crown, a slidable weight on the outer edge of the sole and a hosel which allows up to 2 degrees of adjustment. This club definitely prefers going straight, which more experienced players may find frustrating and as it’s so light, you really need a smooth swing to get the best from it.
- Innovative new technology changes how the head and face behave at impact to promote more speed across a larger area of the face for increased average distance
- Innovative combination of Titanium exo-cage and triaxial carbon crown (lightest EVER in a Callaway driver) and sole create unprecedented forgiveness in a high-launch, low-spin design
- Redesigned Track and sliding 17g weight allows you to fit the club to your swing, providing 21 yards of shot-shape correction for more control and distance
- Streamlined head incorporates our proprietary speed step, created with Direct Input from aerospace experts, to improve airflow for more swing speed and distance
- Four high-performance Stock shaft options - holds, diamana, Fuji, and rogue in four weights. Each premium, Tour-proven shaft is engineered to promote speed, power, stability, feel and control
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Callaway XR 16
The design on the XR 16 looks a bit like a plane, this is not a coincidence. It was co-designed by Boeing, a company which knows a thing of two about aerodynamics. This club doesn’t so much have a sweet spot as an entire confectioners shop, using it means you’d probably find it more difficult to make a bad shot than a good one. It does, however, have a bit of a draw bias, which could be an issue if you’re trying to eliminate yours.
- Bigger, more forgiving and easier to hit: the head shape is bigger, and we've built in an awesome combination of our highest MOI, low center of Gravity, and highest COR in a fairway wood. Our lightest crown ever allows US to move weight where we want it
- Higher ball speed from a hotter face cup: we've taken our industry-leading forged hyper speed face cup and made it hotter and thinner for even more speed and a large sweet spot. Is that something you might be interested in we thought so
- An aerodynamic head shape for even more speed: we've improved the aerodynamics on this head to create even more head speed for you to go along with all that ball speed. By now you probably get that this fairway wood is made for ultimate ball speed
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Cobra King F7
The Cobra King F7 is possibly the ultimate example of a club you either love or you hate. It’s a “smart” club, meaning it has a tracking device built in and of course it connects with your phone or tablet, so its building up all kinds of interesting stats as you play which you can then analyse to help improve your game. That aside, it’s also a very high-quality club which is very customizable, although it doesn’t have sliding weights (presumably because they’re too old fashioned). It’s pricing is very reasonable given everything it can do, the color scheme is a matter of taste. Frankly it’s not our taste but it’s not that bad.
- Extreme Carbon Fiber Crown-Extreme carbon fiber yields a 20% lighter crown allowing for more weight to be redistributed lower and deeper into the club head for extreme distance and forgiveness
- 3 DRIVERS IN 1-Three different CG settings in the front, back, and heel positions
- MYFLY8 with SMARTPAD-8 easily adjustable loft settings to manage trajectory
- Forged Ti-811 E9 Face-A New, re-engineered Forged 8-11 Titanium E9 face is a variable thickness structure that is lighter, thinner, and hotter, creating faster ball speeds and a larger Sweet
- Cobra Connect-Our Cobra Connect electronic tracking device integrated into the grip
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Cobra King LTD Driver
While the name Cobra King sounds rather too like king cobra for our liking, the club itself has a lot to be said for it. Cobra have borrowed from space technology to produce a super-lightweight carbon fiber club with a centre of gravity which is as far back as it can possibly be, maximizing the sweet spot. There’s a single, removable weight rather than a sliding one, but it does the job. The cracking sound as you make a hit is truly satisfying as is the feedback and you will take your swing safe in the knowledge that this is a very forgiving club. On the minus side, you need at least a medium-speed swing to get the most out of this club, slow-swingers should really look elsewhere. It also has to be said that the “space age” aesthetics are not for us, basically we’d happily use this club but as soon as we were done, we’d put a cover on it as soon as we could.
- SPACEPORT-A 16g weight design (featuring Spiralock technology) creates an extremely low and deep CG with high MOI - the perfect combination for ultimate distance without sacrificing forgiveness
- ZERO CG-Most drivers have a CG (Center of Gravity) that is positioned above the neutral axis line. KING LTD is our first driver to get down to the neutral axis line (Zero CG), meaning more distance through higher launch, less spin and more ball speed
- CARBON FIBER CROWN-The TeXtreme Carbon Fiber crown is 20% lighter than regular carbon fiber, allowing for more weight to be repositioned lower and deeper in the head for extreme distance and greater forgiveness
- FORGED E9 FACE-A new, re-engineered Forged 8-1-1 Titanium E9 Face has a variable thickness structure that is lighter, thinner and hotter, creating more deflection for faster ball speeds and a larger Sweet Zone across the face
- SPEED CHANNEL-Speed Channel is an exclusive COBRA innovation. An engineered trench around the perimeter of the face minimizes thickness and increases ball speeds across the face for incredible distance
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Mizuno Golf JPX 900 Driver
The JPX 900 is aimed at addressing the fact that intermediate-level golfers are at a point where they can really start to benefit from custom-fitted clubs, but might not be willing to spend the money on customizing the clubs their using right now when they want to improve out of them as quickly as possible. You can adjust the loft (to plus or minus 2 degrees), the weight and the toe and heel tracks. So basically, if you want a customized club at a very moderate price, then the JPX 900 could be your perfect choice, but if you don’t then you may find it more hassle than it’s worth. Also, while you’re still improving, you may need to get help from a more experienced player or coach to get the settings as you need them.
- Shockwave sole enables the club head to contract and expand on impact
- Hot metal face for industry leading ball speeds
- Fast track Adjustability
- Quick switch hosel allows loft to be adjusted to a range of 4 degrees
- Fujikura speeder EVO II shaft
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TaylorMade M1 Driver
The TaylorMade M1 Driver has the same sort of concept as the JPX 900. This club has not one, but two sliding weights, one for centre of gravity and moment of impact and the other to compensate for fade or draw. There’s also an adjustable hosel. Similar comments apply as for the JPX 900, this is a club you either love or you hate. To be honest, we suspect a fair number of people will make their choice between these two based on price at the time of purchase and/or looks.
- Front Track - One 15 gram weight to provide multiple draw, neutral, and fade settings
- Back Track - One 10 gram weight adjusts for multiple high, medium and low launch and spin settings
- Comes with the Fujikura Pro 60g shaft and Lamkin Performance 360 grip
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Wilson Staff D200 Driver
Wilson are known for affordable “point-and-shoot” drivers and while the Staff D200 doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the other ones we’ve mentioned so far, it does still have an adjustable loft, plenty of forgiveness, lightweight and a pleasing price tag. Sound on impact could be a lot better and this club is definitely better suited to slower swingers, in fact faster swingers will want to give it a miss unless funds are really tight, in which case it could be a passable option.
- Reactive Face Technology increases the size of the face to provide more forgiveness on heel and toe impacts
- This new technology increases MOI and decreases the thickness around the lower half of the face to increase ball velocities on mishits
- Each 6-way adjustable hosel features three loft and three draw settings to optimize both launch angle and left-to-right ball flight
- A chemically-etched crown reduces weight and increases the thickness toward the face for structural support and durability
- The Right Light Technology allows golfers to swing even faster with the same effort
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This is not the best club on the market from a technical perspective, in fact it’s not even close, but it is quite probably the best value club on the market, provided that you’re a slow- to medium-swinger, again, faster swingers should look elsewhere unless funds are really tight. The D300 is much lighter weight than you’d expect at this price and still has an adjustable hosel and excellent forgiveness.
- Aerodynamic design: micro vortex generators reduce the drag forces through the newly designed head shape leading to increased club head speed and greater distance
- Fast fit technology: green means Go! one of the lightest, smallest, fastest and easiest to Use adjustable hosel Systems featuring six settings, including three draw options
- Right light technology: the lightest adjustable driver on the market Now with an interchangeable weight. Allowing players to swing faster with the effort resulting in more distance