Crush It Like a Golf Pro

The new drivers are making it harder and harder to hit lousy tee shots.

The new drivers are making it harder and harder to hit lousy tee shots.

Talk to 10 pros and 10 will tell you if you want to lower your handicap, grab a shag bag of balls and practice pitching and chipping. So how come you never see any hilarious commercials with Tiger or Rory or Bubba knocking it tight from the fringe with the hottest new wedge? Maybe because nothing in golf compares to the feeling of beating your buddy’s best drive by 20 yards.

Hence the mad science of driver design. The current obsession among manufacturers is to make drivers adjustable enough to cure whatever ails you—banana slices, duck hooks, worm burners, major-league pop-ups, humiliating shanks, all of the above—with a few turns of an Allen wrench.

In the interest of helping you get the most bang for the considerable bucks your going to drop on a new driver, we asked our local pro, Evan Silkworth at Marine Park Golf Course in Brooklyn, to evaluate three of the new models and give you a few tips for setting them up.

Callaway XHot  ($299)

The simplest of the three clubs we tested, the XHot is single-adjustable, meaning you can set the face open, square, or closed, but you can’t change the loft of the club, which is available with 9.5, 10.5, or 11.5 degrees of loft. Which loft is right for you? “Studies by golf engineers show that 90 to 95 percent of amateurs play with too little loft,” Silkworth says. “And a simple equation for distance is you want to launch it high with low spin, that’s it.” So chances are, if you’re a mid- to high handicapper, you want at least the 10.5 loft. 

Nike Covert ($399)

The sleekest of the three clubs design-wise according to Silkworth (who nonetheless found the swoosh on the top of the clubhead distracting), the Covert features adjustable face and launch angle. The unusual cavity bottom helps promote a square clubface and reduces spin, which helps with distance. It sure flew high and straight when he hit it right of the mat.

TaylorMade R1 ($399)

The triple-adjustable (loft, face angle, and head weight) R1 can seem dauntingly complicated. That’s why if you invest in this club, you should probably do what I did: Let a pro set it up for you. Most will do it for you free of charge. “And once you get it set up right, you don’t have to fiddle with it anymore,” explains Silkworth, who watched me it a couple of customary hooks, then adjusted the face angle open a bit, then switched the 10-gram and one-gram weights in the head, and voilà, the ball was flying high and straight.

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