The best drivers for 2017May 4, 2017 Golf Equipment
Equipment editor James Savage is joined by editor Dan Murphy to test all the new drivers on the market. So which do they like best and why?
Our best drivers 2017 test has been taking place over a number of months.
The Ping G driver has been in the bag of our editor Dan Murphy (3 handicap) for over a year, while I (17 handicap) have been using the Titleist 917 driver since August last year.
We first got our hands on the Cobra F7 drivers at their launch event in October last year and had a go with the Mizuno JPX900 a couple of weeks later.
In December 2016 we went to Las Vegas for the Callaway GBB Epic launch and joined TaylorMade in Florida for a first hit of the new M1 and M2 drivers.
Since each launch we have conducted a number of individual reviews and comparison tests and I have been using each driver out on the course as often as possible.
Best drivers 2017 – The methodology
When it came to putting a conclusion together, Dan and I spent a day at the Shack at Moor Allerton in Leeds hitting each driver without using Trackman.
We felt we had gathered enough launch monitor data on these products so wanted to think about more about how much confidence they gave us at address, what they sounded and felt like and how much fun we had hitting them.
It was quite liberating to hit all of these drivers without worrying about the spin rates and launch angles.
Each driver we hit had been custom-fitted for Dan or me or we had them set-up with shafts that we had been fitted into on previous occasions.
We didn’t hit any of these drivers with shafts or set-ups that were unsuitable for either player.
Here are the results, presented in alphabetical order…
Best drivers 2017 – Callaway GBB Epic/Epic Sub Zero
It was clear from our earlier launch monitor testing that these drivers just about edged ahead of the competition from a ball speed point of view.
The fastest speed managed so far by our Anonymous Big Hitter has been 173mph with the GBB Epic. On average across the board has been about 166-167mph.
I love the looks of both of these drivers at address and they feel incredibly solid and quick off the face through impact.
I have been surprised by how playable and forgiving the Sub Zero model is and out of the two, it’s the one I have got on best with.
Dan is a huge fan of the looks of these drivers. He feels they set the bench mark for what a driver should look like at address and took no time at all to get on with them.
We both love the solid sound these drivers make. It’s not high-pitched or overly sweet but it’s the sort of sound that makes you feel like you’ve smashed your drive a long way.
Best drivers 2017 – Cobra F7/F7+
I was a big fan of the Cobra F6 drivers and for me the F7 represented a significant improvement.
The look at address fills you with loads of confidence while the sound and feel is massively improved from the previous product.
These drivers really stand up when it comes to the numbers and you have a few added bonuses.
You can pick from three different colours – black, blue, white/silver – and there’s the built-in Arccos tracking device in the grip which can record your driving stats.
Dan had more success with the regular F7 model than he did with the F7+ because despite being a very good player, he still likes to look down on a driver that fills him with confidence.
With a good custom-fitting, we feel the Cobra F7 is as good as anything else on the market.
Best drivers 2017 – Mizuno JPX900
Probably the surprise package this year. It’s great to see Mizuno come to market with a driver that has such wide-ranging appeal.
For me, it looks absolutely stunning at address and has a nice large footprint to fill you with confidence.
The blue isn’t quite as glaring as on the JPX850 model, it’s more of a subtle matt finish.
There’s loads of adjustability which we proved in a previous video, does make a lot of difference to spin and ball flight.
Dan wasn’t so keen on the blue crown and it’s not something he’d go for personally. But he was a massive fan of the sound and really enjoyed hitting this driver.
He said it made him feel like he could hit a nice high draw.
Best drivers 2017 – Ping G
When you set this driver down, it just looks massive and really easy to hit.
Dan noticed when he started hitting the Callaways just how much smaller they felt to his Ping G driver that he’s been using for over a year.
When I got this in my hands I knew exactly what he meant.
If you want confidence, reliability and forgiveness above all else then this driver should be right at the top of your list.
It doesn’t get any awards from me for looks or sound but I know it won’t let me down on the course.
The reason Dan is wedded to his Ping G driver is because he knows over a period of time he will hit more fairways with it which is the most important thing to him.
Best drivers 2017 – TaylorMade M1/M2
Now if we are giving out awards for looks, sounds and feel the TaylorMade M drivers get my vote.
The M2 is up there with the Ping G and the Cobra F7 for the confidence it gives you at address.
That gives it the edge over the M1 for me although the adjustability of the M1 will make it more suitable to some players.
I’ve used the M2 out on the course and I know how well it performs on off-centre strikes.
One of my big problems with the driver is that I strike it all over the face so I want a driver that is going to minimise the damage.
The M2 is very impressive in this regard and it has the added bonus of looking and sounding so brilliant.
Dan also favoured the M2 and said he gets added confidence from the fact he knows how popular it is among the world’s best players.
He said hitting these two drivers felt like he’d really got to the good stuff.
Best drivers 2017 – Titleist 917
I switched from the 915 D2 driver to the 917 D2 model straight away as my trackman numbers were much better.
This was largely down to the improved adjustability with the SureFit CG system and I was able to get dialled in better.
And that is the strength of this product – you can get properly dialled in by going through a good custom fitting.
I did prefer the look at address of the 915 as the 917 is a bit squarer and has a grey finish on the crown.
But I can’t argue with the performance and it has a fantastic sound and feel when you get it right out of the middle.
Dan took advantage of Titleist’s 30 in 30 driver fitting model to get fitted into his 917. He was a huge fan of the process.
He was an even bigger fan of the performance of this driver – particularly on his mis-hits. His ball speed numbers were not dropping much at all when he got one low on the face or a little near the heel.
Like me, he prefers the more classical look of last year’s 915.
Best drivers 2017 – NCG verdict
Let’s be clear from the outset. There’s very little to choose from between all these drivers. You’re looking at a difference of 5mph ball speed when hit well out of the middle.
With a good custom-fitting, we’re certain you can have success with any of the drivers featured here.
So when it comes to making your choice, decide what is most important to you.
If you are trying to squeeze a few extra yards out of your swing, go for one of the Callaway Epic drivers.
If you’re a bit of a tech geek, the Cobra F7 is a great option.
For a really sweet sound and stunning looks, check out the Mizuno JPX900.
If forgiveness and consistency is the most important thing, go for the Ping G.
For performance on off-centre hits, a pleasing sound and a little bit of added style, we highly recommend the TaylorMade M2.
If you’re after the complete custom-fitting experience then the Titleist 917 is a fantastic choice.
Please let us know if you agree or disagree!