Let’s get down to basics. It’s all about hitting a golf ball and hitting it accurately. You want it to go far and end up on target and you need the right tools to do that.
We will start with the driver. It is one of the hardest clubs for the beginner to use and is the longest club you will have in your golf bag. Some golfers and golf coaches prefer to just ignore the driver when you are starting out and use another easier club while you get practice.
I can see there is a logic in this. I am always keen to give advice which will help you enjoy the game, not end up frustrated and saying you will never step on a golf course again. However, on this one I think I would usually come down on the side of getting a driver fairly early on in the game and getting used to how to use it.
I say this because, it helps with such an important part of the game. Until you have mastered the driver you will not be a real golfer. Until you have mastered the driver you will not be able to hit that ball straight and true right down the fairway. And, after all that is what golf is all about isn’t it?
I do advise that you take the plunge early on in your golfing life and get a good driver. That’s the club you will be using to start the game, and you want to get off to a good start, playing the game as it should be played.
When is a driver not a driver?
So, what is so special about the driver? The driver is also called the number 1 wood and it is the golf club which will make your ball go furthest. The club can’t do it all by itself, of course, to make the ball go far and accurately you need to work on your swing as well. The tools (the clubs) cannot do it on their own, you need skill as well. I would recommend this video as a lovely gentle introduction to hitting a golf ball. I especially like that it starts with just hitting the ball a little way, that seems easy to get right and then you can build up.
That said, choosing the right tools can make your developing game so much more fun and so much easier. With the right tools your game will develop faster and your skill level rise more quickly. I think this is especially true with the driver, as it is so important to the beginning of your game.
As I have already said, the driver is a hard club to master so it’s not surprising that the golf club manufacturers have put a huge amount of work into the design and technology of drivers which beginners can use more easily. Because they can be a difficult club to use when you are starting out, this is one club where choosing very carefully will really pay off for you. With some of the other clubs, it may be okay to borrow your brother’s set, or go up into the loft to find those clubs your uncle left you in his will, often this is a good way to get started; little outlay until you find what suits you. As I said, fine for most clubs but perhaps not for drivers. If you are going to invest in clubs which are best for you then you could do a lot worst than starting with choosing a new driver which suits you.
Perhaps because the driver is hard to use, and mastering it can so improve your game, there is a minefield out there. Some would even go as far as to call it cheating, and it certainly is taking equipment modifications a little bit too far. In a nutshell, the issue is this. The bigger the head of your golf driver the faster and further your ball will go. So perhaps it is no surprise that out on the market you can buy absolutely gigantic driver club heads, which will give you a massive advantage. And a lot of them cost a fortune. But if you do fall into the trap of buying one the chances are you will be wasting your money, because you are not allowed to use them! They are against the regulations of golf. So, read on to avoid falling into this trap,
What is an illegal or ‘non-conforming’ driver?
First thing to watch for are the rules. There are illegal drivers out there and you want to avoid buying one. These drivers are banned from tournaments and handicap events and even if you are not at that stage yet, it is still best to avoid an illegal driver. You don’t want to be thought of as a cheat and it is regarded as bad form, at the very least, to use an illegal driver (they are also called ‘non-conforming drivers, which makes them sound a bit more respectable, but it comes down to the same thing).
People often ask: “So why are these drivers made, if they are not allowed?” It’s because illegal drivers let you hit the ball further and straighter and they have a lot of ‘forgiveness’ (that means that if you mis-hit it won’t matter so much, it smooths over your mistakes). How do illegal drivers do this? There is a world of technology out there aimed at this dark art, but for now it’s enough to know that illegal or non-conforming drivers have more ‘springiness’ in the club face and have much bigger clubfaces (that is the bit which actually makes contact with the ball). This makes it easier to hit the ball a further and the ball will still travel even if you do not hit it well.
Surprisingly, if you look around you can find some golf club manufacturers (although not the well-known names) proudly proclaiming that their gold drivers are ‘non-conforming’. But there are also those who do not do this and hope to slip in under the radar. Fortunately, the golfing establishment is on top of this and it is very easy to find out if the golf driver you are looking at buying conforms to the rules. Read on to find out how you make sure that your equipment is within the rules.
The rules of the game
So, who makes the rules? There are two bodies you need to know about, one based in the United States and one based in Scotland, in the United Kingdom. Both produce lists of drivers which you can use and stay within the rules. Both lists contain the same information, but they each present the information in a different way. Take a look at them both and see which suits you. It is just down to which you prefer and how you like to get your information, what they actually say will be the same.
The first organisation is The United States Golf Association. Its list can be found here. You can download the whole list for your own reference, but do remember that it changes very frequently, as much as once a week. So, it’s probably best to make your choice and then, just before buying, check back to the latest version of the list before you make your final buying decision.
The other organisation is The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (usually shortened to the R & A). They present the information as a searchable database. The best way to use it is to choose your preferred driver, or a selection of drives and then type the name and model into their searchable database. You can find their searchable database here: So now we have seen what not to do, let’s go on to the more positive fun bit. What to look for before you buy.
What sort of driver do you need when you begin to play golf?
Best head size for your driver
The most important thing to look out for is a big head (No, not in that way! That will come later when you get really good and that will come sooner than you think!).
For now, we mean a big head on your club. Why do you need this?
It’s all about power and distance and a big head on you driver will give you that power and distance. When you are starting out this really matters! It’s psychological as much as anything else. You want to look forward to going out on the links and enjoying your game from the very first shot.
We know that sinking feeling you can get as you squint into the distance and that negative thought runs through your head: “How the hell am I going to get this tiny ball all the way over there!” In fact, we know a lot of people who have been put off from even starting to play the wonderful game of golf because the sheer distances you are supposed to hit the ball seem so scary.
You want to get over these beginner’s fears and a good driver is an indispensable help to do this. You are going to get off to a brilliant start with your new hobby by using a driver with a big head. That’s how to do it! Just to go back to those rules again for a moment, the maximum size allowed for a driver head is 460cc, so you will be looking at something near this.
We have talked elsewhere about the all-important sweet spot. Just to remind you, this is the centre of gravity of the ball and the club meet and it is very, very small (not bigger than the head of a pin. It also moves, just to make things even more difficult!) But if you have a big head on your club and you miss the sweet spot, as you often will, a big club head will still maximise the energy in your shot. That will get you off to a flying start.
Come back all is forgiven
The next thing is forgiveness. What is this, you are probably asking? Well you are not going to hit every shot perfectly when you start off are you? No, let me assure you are not. But you don’t want to be left there looking a fool with your ball, god knows where, do you? That’s where forgiveness comes in. Golf manufacturers, especially when designing clubs for beginners, use materials and design to increase ‘forgiveness’ or in other words all the tricks of the materials to lessen the impact of bad shots and poor contact with the ball.
In short, a forgiving driver will help you send that ball further and straighter down the fairway. The average length of shot with a driver is 230 yards for men and 200 yards for women. You probably won’t manage this at first but keep it in mind. You’ll get there quicker than you think with the right clubs and a bit of practice.
So, let’s get onto the subject of price. It is true that you get what you pay for and what you are paying for is design and materials. For a beginner, you are paying for a whole load of brilliant science and technology, as well as cutting-edge materials which can help you hit that ball further, faster and straighter. Innovations and developments are being made all the time, and the leading golf club manufacturers are bringing out improved products with refinements and tweaks almost every year.
This means it can be very confusing when you are first setting out. So, I am going to just cover the essentials at this stage. As you get more practised, and as you join in the golf chat about what are the best clubs, you will no doubt find that there is so much more information, so much more to consider. All this is true, and a lot of it is very important, but I am going to leave it out for the moment because it is simply not very important to getting you off to a great start for your new game.
Choosing the best golf driver for a beginner
Materials for the golf driver head
I would advise to go for the top end of the market here and, if you can run to it, get a titanium driver. The reason for this is weight. We know by now that you will probably be going for a driver with a big head so the danger is that that head is going to be heavy.
And very heavy is unwieldy and will make it harder for you to make that good true shot. Titanium is expensive but it is light, so if you can, go for titanium. If you do not want to invest that much at this stage of your golfing life then some stainless steel clubs do an excellent job. A compromise might be a driver head which is made out of an alloy of titanium and stainless steel. This way you get some of the advantages of titanium but save quite a bit on cost.
The best materials for the shaft of your golf driver
There are two main choices here, steel or graphite. It is usually best for a beginner to go for graphite because it has more flex (the amounts differ from club to club and which is best for you will vary according to your strength and your height and weight as well as your skill level). Many professionals prefer steel shafts on their clubs, they give more precision but they are heavier and less forgiving, so it is probably best to work up to them rather than starting off with them.
What loft is best in a golf driver for beginners?
The last thing to consider is the loft of your driver. The loft is the angle of the head of the club and the general rule is that, for a beginner you should go for a fairly high number, 10.5 is the most popular as this will give you distance as you start. It depends on the speed of your swing and if your swing is slower than that you may even go for a 12.0 loft. Remember don’t try to run before you can walk, getting the ball high so it will travel is what counts.
A bit of a warning here, you may find that as your swing improves and gets faster, and as you control the club better and become more accurate your requirements change, so be prepared to change your driver as you get more experienced in the game. Having said this, I would still go for spending some money as the lightness of a titanium club head can really make a difference. You can always sell on the second-hand market when that great day comes and you know you need kit more suited to a really good golfer.
Remember you can adjust the loft of your clubface, but there are some disadvantages to doing that so it should be done sparingly and only when you have a really good reason to.
Five Best drivers for beginners
This brand new driver from Callaway combines power with forgiveness and keeps that spin low. It has a new RMOTO technology which means it can keep weight low. This makes this club very good for beginners
- Shaft material graphite
- Flex stiff
- Loft nine degrees
Pros: very forgiving, lightweight shaft, adjustable
Cons: the shaft maybe a little too flexible for some golfers
Designed to give forgiveness and distance. With this club, you will get a high launch and more control, which makes it a very good choice for a beginner. If you want to see the ball flying up in a perfect arc this is the club for you.
- Shaft material titanium
- Regular, stiff or extra stiff flex
- Loft 9 degrees
Pros: light and manoeuvrable
Cons: visually not very attractive
This club will help you make the ball go fast and can help you eliminate your slice. It is light, stiff and adjustable so will be with you as your game improves. Its grip is excellent and comfortable and it is easy to use. The sound you will hear on hitting the ball will make you smile.
- Shaft Material: Graphite
- Flex: Stiff
Pros: Increased ball speed
Cons: Loft of 9 degrees is not adjustable
Another new and improved club from Callaway an it’s perfect for new players, Callaway has designed this club to give you more ball speed if you hit off center. It also has the technology which makes adjusting the loft very easy, it comes with an adjustment tool. This means this club can stay with you as you improve your game.
Pros: speed and forgiveness
Cons: the shaft may be a bit too stiff for some players.
A brand new offering from TaylorMade. With technology moving so fast, updated your clubs is a must.
- 12 degree of loft
Pros: Brand new technology designed to improve distance and speed.
Cons: Unknown performance as it’s brand new
Best drivers for beginners – Conclusion
The improvements made over the past few years in golf driver technology have been fantastic, and all of these clubs reflect that. Each has a slightly different strength but for a good all-round performance which can help the beginner golfer really enjoy his or her game we would recommend the Callaway Golf 2021 Epic Speed Driver Not only will it be a great help as you learn, it will take you through a good few years as your skills develop and your game improves.