The driver belongs to the woods category of golf clubs and is classically referred to as the 1-Wood.
It is typically the longest club found in a golf bag and also sports the biggest head of any club. Its goal is to get the ball as far as possible towards the green. As a result it is typically used for the first stroke from the teeing ground on par-4s, par-5s, and sometimes even on very long par-3s. The face angle – loft – usually varies from 8.5° to 13°, those with smaller angles are designed to launch the ball on a lower trajectory whereas the bigger angles promote a higher trajectory.
Best Used with a Tee
Because the driver is almost exclusively used from the teeing ground a golfer will normally have the benefit of using a tee when hitting this club.
Positioning the ball on a tee will allow for the ball to be struck right in the center of the large sweet spot, positioned up higher from the ground than on other types of clubs such as irons and wedges.
Height of the Tee
The height of the tee – or how high the ball is placed in contrast to the club – is a matter of personal preference and depends on the golfer and the conditions at hand.
A ball positioned on a tee high off the ground will tend to travel on a higher ball trajectory than one that is placed on a tee that is placed lower. For example, on a hole where there is a strong and straight downwind a golfer may choose to place the tee slightly higher than usual, hoping that the wind will interact with the ball for a longer period of time and push it further towards the green.
Conversely, a golfer facing a strong headwind may opt to place the tee lower than usual with the objective of keeping the ball low, therefore limiting the negative impact of the wind on the ball.
More on: How tee height impacts golf shots
Head Size Restrictions – 460cc
Since the introduction of lighter materials in the manufacturing process, clubmakers have been able to increase the size of the clubhead while crucially keeping the weight at reasonable levels.
This has happened for every generational shift in material used, from persimmon to metal, to the titanium we now currently see.
In order to put a limit on how big driver heads could reach size restrictions were put in place and now stand at 460cc – cubic centimeter – in volume.
Shaft Flex Variations and Length
Driver shafts can vary in how much they bend, which is referred as flex. Because the driver sports the longest shaft of any club it is especially important that the correct shaft flex is chosen.
There are five main types of shaft flex: extra stiff (or Pro), stiff (S), regular (R), senior and finally Ladies. Basically, the higher the swing speed the more stiff the flex should be. This will ensure the lag of the clubhead will remain inside reasonable levels and permit for the ball to be struck reliably in the sweetspot of the club.
The standard length of a men’s driver shaft is 45.5 inches and the maximum allowed per the rules is 48 inches.
Other Types of Adjustments:
On top of the shaft length, shaft flex and loft variations allowed, it is also possible to find drivers with further fine tuning options.
Closed Face or Neutral Face
A driver with a closed face – also known as a draw driver or a draw bias driver – will be one where the line of the clubface will be at angle in comparison to the line of the shaft. Specifically, the head will appear to be closed, or pointing left of the target at address.
These types of clubs are called game improvement clubs that are especially attractive to golfers with insistent slice problems. By comparison, neutral face drive will see the lines of the clubface parallel to that of the shaft.
Some modern drivers allow for the adjustment of the face, which can be manipulated on the fly using a small specialty screwdriver.
Another recent customization option now offered by club manufacturers is the ability to move weight around the clubhead.
In some instances, those manipulations can even be done by the golfers themselves using special tools to adjust how heavy they want the clubhead to be at different regions of the club. These adjustments usually take the form of screws that can be swapped for either lighter or heavier ones, depending on the objectives.
Moving clubhead mass changes the center of gravity of the club, which in turn can be used to have the club perform a specific objective. For example, placing more weight towards the heel of the club (rather than its toe) turns the club into what is called a draw bias club, which will tend to apply right-to-left spin on the ball that is associated with a draw.