Though many golfers probably never even knew about it, the USGA floated a proposal last May that would have made legal an extra dose of springlike effect in drivers. Technically it would have boosted the COR, or coefficient of restitution, in a clubhead from the USGA's existing level of .83 to .86—enough to add about six yards or so to a drive hit right on the noggin. In August, to the surprise of many, the USGA scrapped the proposal and now seems to have settled permanently on its COR limit of .83. Should we be disappointed?Not given the properties of these new, hot but conforming high-tech drivers. Each pushes right up to the edge of the legal limit on springlike effect, while adding other features that help squeeze maximum distance off the tee, even from imperfectly struck shots. Each of these massive clubheads is engineered to enhance forgiveness, and each shaft has been precisely matched with the clubhead to promote a specific flight pattern. All will help you hit the ball at least a little bit farther and straighter than last year's clubs.
Taylormade R500 Series ($399)
This driver has already won two majors (Ernie Els at this year's British Open followed by Rich Beem at the PGA). Not bad for a club introduced to the public in August. The most noteworthy innovation is an inverted metal cone milled directly into the back of the forged titanium clubface; the cone enlarges the springlike-enhanced sweet spot from an area the size of a tee head to one about the size of a quarter. In addition, TaylorMade carefully weighs each club at the last production step and inserts a metallic cartridge into a cavity on the back of the clubhead to achieve optimal balance in each driver. The R510 (with a 330-cubic-centimeter clubhead) creates low spin, a low trajectory and is the easiest to work; the R540 (350 cc) creates higher spin and has a lower center of gravity to help golfers get the ball up in the air; the extra-forgiving R580 (400 cc) also launches the ball high, but with low spin for maximum distance. When we hit one pure with these clubs, we felt like Zeus hurling thunderbolts. Call 800-888-2582 or visit taylormadegolf.com.
Callaway Great Big Bertha II ($500)
To say that the folks at Callaway are excited about the Great Big Bertha II is an understatement. "This is the best driver we've ever made," said senior vice president Geoff Goodman. The all-titanium clubhead of the Big Bertha II is the largest in company history, at 380 cc, and the ultrathin forged clubface takes advantage of R&D data gleaned from the hot but nonconforming ERC and ERC II drivers. Aesthetically, the driver sticks with the traditional Big Bertha look—a bulbous clubhead at the end of a stick, with no hosel—but adds a deep blue crown, shiny underside and bold Callaway logo on the back. We found it unusually easy to hit consistently powerful drives on the same trajectory each time. Call 800-228-2767 or visit callawaygolf.com.
Tour Edge Bazooka 350 J ($299)
The big 350 cc head of the Bazooka 350 J is designed with a low center of gravity to help get the ball up in the air. Fitted with the popular, lightweight Grafalloy shaft (standard shafts from three other manufacturers are also available) and a wonderfully tacky Winn grip, the 350 J is lighter than other similarly sized drivers. This combination made the substantial clubhead especially easy to feel throughout the swing, which we found enhanced our sense of control. Call 800-515-3343 or visit touredge.com.
Wilson Deep Red 425 CC ($329)
Wilson's Deep Red driver line is the story of modern drivers in brief. The original Deep Red featured a then-huge 305 cc head, last year's model was 365 cc and now comes the Deep Red 425 cc driver. Viewed from the top, the new version looks much like its predecessors, only bigger, with its beautiful wine red lacquer. The soleplate, however, features a bulge at the rear that some might find ungainly. The bulge is effective, however, in moving the club's center of gravity low and to the rear, promoting a desirably high launch angle with minimal spin. The thin titanium clubface has a sweet spot shaded toward the toe to help fight fades and slices. Call 800-469-4576 or visit wilson.com/golf.