Many drivers live large at the USGA’s 460cc limit, but these days enormity alone isn’t enough of a draw. To stand out, clubs have to offer other amenities, too: some adjustability, for example, or new materials, well-plotted weighting or even an aerodynamic shape. Those extras make negotiating tee shots easier, most significantly by lowering the center of gravity (CG) and raising the moment of inertia (MOI), which results in higher and straighter shots. The newest stars all push that 460cc maximum, but each also brings a little something special to the tee box.
Already showing up on the PGA Tour, this titanium driver is all about aerodynamics. The theory is that its shape—scooped-out heel and toe, domelike crown—handles airflow more efficiently than other large-footprint, high-MOI drivers. The result, Adams says, is less air drag, which allows the clubhead to move up to 4 mph faster into the ball, potentially yielding nine extra yards on the drive. That may be no exaggeration. We found that shots consistently soared high and far and hit the ground running. Even though some pros have decided to put it in play, the Speedline—which is offered in both standard and draw versions—is intended for all skill levels and swing speeds. Impact sounds solidly pleasing, with a slight metallic thump. $399. Call 800-709-6142 or visit adamsgolf.com.
Cobra S9-1 Pro
A weapon for players who generate extremely high ball speed (think 150 mph or more) and want hot shots from anywhere on the face. Two flavors are offered: Both yield penetrating ball flights, but the S9-1 Pro S (pictured) generates a higher launch and a slightly higher spin than the S9-1 Pro D does. The club is attractive at address, with crown dimples that are shallower than typical for Cobra. We were sold on the first swing. Feel was solid, ball flight was high with a slight draw, carry was spectacular, and the landing was lively. A less expensive version for slower swingers is equally impressive. $480. Call 800-223-3537 or visit cobragolf.com.
Callaway’s successor to the popular FT-5 has a more efficient shape—it’s longer and more tapered to the rear—that moves the CG deeper and lower. External weight pockets increase the MOI, and a thick hyperbolic pattern behind the clubface adds noticeably to ball speed on off-center hits. We found the neutral model’s ball flight to be workable and forgiving, with a long carry and a soft, active landing. The FT-9 comes as a stand-alone driver or as part of Callaway’s interchangeable-shaft system; a pricier Tour version has a more open clubface and a lower CG. $399. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.
Cleveland HiBore Monster XLS
They may not have looked it, but previous HiBore drivers were significantly smaller than the 460cc limit. This version—offered in standard, draw and Tour models—still has the scoop-back shape but hits the volume capacity. It also tops out forgiveness: Its five-by-five-inch clubhead (16 percent bigger than the original HiBore’s) approaches a USGA-max 5,900 MOI. Trajectory is high and leads to tons of carry and roll. When you look up and see the ball rocketing away, it’s clear just how much pop the clubface has. $299. Call 800-999-6263 or visit clevelandgolf.com.
Nike SQ Dymo² Str8-Fit
The story goes that when Nike staffer Trevor Immelman won last year’s Masters, he had substituted his neutral driver for one whose face was slightly closed. That and similar requests from Tour pros inspired Nike to design this adjustable driver, which can quickly be set into eight lie- and face-angle positions by using the included wrench. Shots feel and sound rock solid, and ball flight is piercing. The adjustability works as billed: You’ll definitely notice the ball’s path change once you’ve altered the clubhead setting. $540. Call 888-799-6453 or visit nikegolf.com.
Nickent 4DX SuperMag
A magnesium crown is what sets this conservative, geometric-shaped driver apart from the others (with the exception of the Tour Edge Exotics XCG-V, below). Magnesium is essentially half as heavy as titanium but is still very strong, so club makers can use it in the crown and move discretionary weight low and deep on the body. That gives the SuperMag’s deep clubface a large hot zone—we found that even balls hit off the bottom of the face fly straight and long. Another benefit of magnesium: The sound at impact is nice and metallic, letting you know when you crush it. The SuperMag is intended for average players looking for some forgiveness, but several Tour pros have it in their bags, too. $299. Call 888-642-5368 or visit nickentgolf.com.
Tour Edge Exotics XCG-V
Its classic, pear-shaped clubhead sports a magnesium crown, titanium body and heavier, V-shaped steel sole. The use of multiple materials enables 49 percent of the club’s weight to sit below the ball and in the rear corners of the sole, helping to generate power and get the ball airborne. The club’s titanium cup face wraps slightly around the body and is larger and hotter than that of previous models in this line, meaning you’ll get more rebound from off-center hits. A nice by-product of the magnesium crown is a low spin rate, which translates to long, soaring carries. At impact, a titanium-pitch sound makes you feel as if you nutted the ball—even when you don’t quite hit it on the screws. $499. Call 800-515-3343 or visit exoticsgolf.com.
*All prices are MSRP. Street prices may be significantly lower.