What is the best driver of 2020?
It's one of the biggest questions in golf each year, as every manufacturer makes bold claims about their drivers and the new technologies they've developed to help you hit it further and straighter.
As part of our annual equipment guide, Top Gear, we've tried and tested 20 of the best drivers available this year and our selections below are the best (including low spin and draw models) on the market right now.
For the first time, we've measured the drop-off you get with each driver when you don't strike it as well as you'd like, in order to work out which driver is the most forgiving in terms of distance across varied strikes. How much distance do you lose with a poor strike? How much spin goes up or down when you mishit? We answer all these questions – and more – in our biggest ever golf drivers test.
How we did it:
– We tested drivers in two different specifications, one aimed at TG test pro Neil Wain's higher swing speed, and one aimed at TG Equipment Editor Simon Daddow's more average swing speed.
– We created an indoor lab at The Belfry to ensure a controlled environment, so results weren't skewed by the weather and other variables.
– We used TaylorMadeTP5x golf balls and a Foresight GC Quad launch monitor to gather the most complete and reliable data possible.
TaylorMade SIM Max / Callaway Mavrik / Ping G410 Plus / Mizuno ST200 / Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo / Cobra King Speedzone Xtreme / Wilson D7 / PXG 0811 XF Gen2 / Callaway Epic Flash / Srixon Z785 / Titleist TS2 / Lynx Parallax
The Low Spin Models
Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero / TaylorMade SIM / Cobra King Speedzone / Ping G410 LST / Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero
The Draw Models
Review: TaylorMade SIM Max driver £449
Verdict: TaylorMade SIM Max driver
Toning down the contrast between the Max’s chalk-colour top edge and chromium carbon crown means TaylorMade have unwittingly created not only a super looking driver, but also a more forgiving appearance (than the M6). The stock Fujikura Ventus shaft wasn’t our test pro’s best fit – switching to the SIM’s Project X HZRDUS Smoke Green added five yards of carry, which highlights just how important a good fitting is.
At 278 yards SIM Max was among our test’s longest three drivers of 2020. Like a lot of 2020 drivers SIM Max puts huge emphasis on optimising aerodynamics, so it was no surprise to see it among our three fastest drivers, too (not including Wilson’s super-light D7, which reduces weight to go faster).
We’re big fans of how TaylorMade have built on the tech success of the M family, so you now get the proven Speed Injected TwistFace tech in a model which is even more aerodynamic.
Review: Callaway Mavrik driver £469
Verdict: Callaway Mavrik driver
We weren’t overly excited when Mavrik first appeared on the conforming lists before Christmas. The head design looks plain, the back is shaped like drivers from yesteryear and the name, considering Top Gun II hits cinemas this summer, was a bit cheesy. We couldn’t have got it more wrong. After learning about the reasoning behind the plain design (sole features affect sound), and how the Mavrik’s three-driver family is tailored more than ever to the types of golfer who’ll use them, Mavrik is one of the driver stories of 2020.
Callaway’s R&D chief Alan Hocknell told us about “spin robustness”, which improves accuracy and drop-offs (essentially forgiveness) – and Mavrik absolutely delivered.
A ball speed within 0.1mph of the fastest driver of the year (which you wouldn’t expect from a more forgiving model) and within two yards of our longest carrying driver is impressive. But doing it while offering up the narrowest back and sidespin drop-offs (by 32%) as well as the tightest carry drop-offs (by 55%) of our whole test is a seriously impressive performance.
Review: Mizuno ST200 driver £349
Verdict: Mizuno ST200 driver
Mizuno have taken huge strides in the driver market over the last five years, and we feel 2020 is the year they’ve legitimately earned the right to dine at the top table of total driver performance.
Last year’s ST190 was so close to being among our best drivers of the year, but ultimately just didn’t quite offer the same forgiveness as some as it chased low-spin performance (which adds speed and distance) at the expense of forgiveness. This year’s a different story, though.
The ST200 is right up there alongside the very best. Powerful, great sounding, lovely looking and with enough forgiveness to keep drives on the cut grass. Our test has the ST200 down as our second longest of 2020, and because carry dropped off by just 11 yards (second best) from our longest to shortest drives, it’s earned a place among our favourites of the year.
Review: Ping G410 Plus driver £450
Verdict: Ping G410 Plus driver
The G410 Plus launched last year, and the family is likely to be updated later in 2020. But we still love how the movable weight system has zero impact on MOI and forgiveness, which isn’t the case with most movable mass drivers.
We’re also fans of the matt crown (titanium rather than carbon fibre) and how it gives a simple, clean appearance at address.
There’s no hiding how the G410 gave up 12 yards against the super-powerful Mizuno ST200, but it did feature among the smallest three drop-offs for ball speed, side/back spin and carry, which tells you everything you need to know about how forgiving it is.
Make sure you dial in maximum distance using Ping’s new driver launch and spin fitting chart, which is based on your attack angle and ball speed.
Watch our Best 2020 golf driver test video:
Best of the rest:
Review: Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo driver £309
Cleveland have taken a very different approach to driver design, coming up with one, solid, powerful non-adjustable model that suits a decent amount of the golfing population, which we applaud.
For players who aren’t overly bothered about being fitted, you’re likely to give up five or six yards of distance opting for Launcher, but in doing so you will keep an extra £150 in your wallet. The head sits beautifully at address; there’s quite a few creases and ridges on the crown, but thanks to a matt black paint job it’s inoffensive and has a reassuringly wide footprint.
Review: Cobra King Speedzone Xtreme driver £349
The Xtreme is a better driver than Cobra’s standard Speedzone for more golfers than you may think. The wider head nudges up forgiveness and our pro felt it was more solid and stable than the standard SZ.
Numbers-wise the Xtreme didn’t rip up any trees – it gave up 13 yards against the Mizuno ST200, our longest 2020 driver. But for us, the Xtreme offers sound forgiveness, it looks fantastic and it’s available for a lot less than some of the very top models.
Review: Wilson D7 driver £269
The D7 goes at lightweight like a bull in a china shop, shedding weight from every component – and boy does it make a difference. D7, in our test pro’s spec, was nigh on 1mph faster than any other driver we tested, beating the average by 2.61mph and our slowest driver by a hefty 3.8mph.
It was one of our longest drivers last year, but in 2020 our data has D7 six yards behind the very longest, which probably reflects how new tech improves the latest models.
Just remember not to confuse D7 with most other lightweight drivers. D7 is aimed at boosting speed for all swings, where Wilson’s Launch Pad, Cobra’s F-Max Airspeed and Honma’s T//World XP-1 are all lighter with draw bias, and they’re designed for much more moderate speeds.
Review: PXG 0811 XF Gen 2 driver £550
We can’t highlight our favourite drivers of the year and not include the game’s highest MOI model. Callaway have taken a slightly different stance this year over pure MOI (as Mavrik is lower MOI than the previous Epic Flash, yet improves accuracy), but for now at least extreme MOI performance is highly relevant to most club golfers.
Remember, big, wide heads (that boost MOI) tend to be slower aero-wise, and produce less ball speed, but that’s why PXG also has the lower-spinning 0811 X.
Review: Callaway Epic Flash driver £499
Granted, most golfers will be seduced by the newer model, but in reality the still-on-sale Epic Flash is still a fantastic driver.
Our data has it giving up five yards to the Mavrik, which is pretty much what most golfers would expect of the latest model. Flash comes into its own when you need to dial in a personal ball flight shape, which you can’t do with the Mavrik as it has no movable sole weight.
Review: Srixon Z785 driver £349
The Z785 has ended up in more Tour pro’s hands (like Graeme McDowell’s) than any previous Srixon driver. And for us, Z785 still sits beautifully, has a lovely simple look, sounds really crisp and will set you back less than most of the competition.
All in a really solid driver for very sensible money. Like the Ping (G410) and Titleist (TS) drivers the Z785 is scheduled for an update in 2020.
Titleist TS2 / Lynx Paralllax
How they compare in data
BEST DRAW DRIVER 2020
Review: Callaway Mavrik Max driver £469
Arguably the Max could sit in the traditional MOI category, as with the 14g sole weight in the back port it’s the Mavrik family’s highest MOI model.
The head is much wider and rounder than the TaylorMade, which aerodynamically slows it down a little against the standard Mavrik. But if you’re prone to spraying shots around the face, Max is a seriously good option for preserving ball speed and carry.
We love how the Max comes with a full range of shaft options, too, which means you can go from lightweight and fast (the UST Helium) to firm and stout (Aldila Rogue White 130 MSI), which proves perfectly how draw drivers are not just for average swing speeds.
Review: TaylorMade SIM Max D driver £449
If we gave out awards for the best looking driver, SIM would win hands down – and that doesn’t change when it comes to the draw model. The Max D is a cracker. We love how it’s been tailored to suit its intended audience with a bigger face etc.
TaylorMade has made several draw drivers now, but in our opinion SIM Max D is the best. The whole package – carbon crown, Twist Face, Speed Injection (which puts every driver face on the edge of the rules) and now a full-on aero package – along with an excellent stock shaft and grip – make it an absolute top performer for club golfers in 2020.
It’s worth mentioning the new softer rubber Golf Pride Z-Grip; it feels wonderful and offers excellent traction.
Review: Ping G410 SFT driver £450
The SFT is a draw driver pumped full of performance enhancing steroids. It offers even more draw bias than Ping’s brilliant G410 Plus with its weight in the draw position, which makes it a serious slice-tamer for club golfers.
We love the matt crown, and how the crown ridges and aero turbulators focus attention on the ball at address, it’s something you won’t find on other models. The SFT was Simon’s longest driver (by two yards), but it’s also (a lot) louder than the competition. For some golfers loud is good, but for others, with modern carbon crowns getting more muted, it will draw attention.
At the end of the day, though, SFT is a brilliant all-rounder for many, many club golfers.
Best of the rest
Review: Wilson Launch Pad driver £269
The Launch Pad is lightweight (13g lighter than Cobra’s equivalent F-Max Airspeed) and there’s a ton of anti-right technology built in.
There’s quite a shallow face, and bulbous head that’s round in shape which gives a really friendly appearance at address.The lie angle is upright (which helps encourage a draw) and there’s extra face curvature to neatly hide a closed face angle.
Review: Mizuno ST200X driver £349
In the Far East golfers love lighter, longer, draw-biased drivers, yet this is the first time Mizuno have brought such a model to the west. Heel weighting, an upright lie angle and a 39g shaft (seriously light) all help create a draw flight.
We reckon the X will be right up the street of ageing golfers who’ve lost a bit of speed and moderate swing speed golfers who put a premium on speed over all-out forgiveness.
The fastest driver of 2020
All of the marketing for this year's new drivers talks about aerodynamics, which in simple terms means designing a driver head that cuts through the air most efficiently to deliver maximum speed at impact. More clubhead speed means more ball speed, which equals more distance, so it's easy to see why this is such a focus in driver design.
There was a 4mph difference between the fastest and slowest driver in our test. That's a significant difference. Every 1mph of clubhead speed, all things being equal, generates an extra 1.5mph of ball speed, which results in around two yards extra carry distance.
The Wilson D7 is the lightest driver on test, and that helped it create the fastest clubhead speed. At an average of 109.7mph, it was comfortably ahead of the test average of 107.1mph.
Other drivers that performed above average for speed were:
– Titleist TS2 (108.8mph clubhead speed)
– Callaway Mavrik (108.4mph clubhead speed)
– TaylorMade SIM Max (107.9mph clubhead speed)
– Callaway Epic Flash (107.4mph clubhead speed)
– Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero (107.4mph clubhead speed)
– TaylorMade SIM (107.1mph clubhead speed)
The longest driver of 2020
While speed is important, there is a lot more to making the best driver than simply making it the fastest. The Wilson D7 was the fastest driver on test, but ranked eighth for carry distance.
Interestingly, the driver that produced the longest carry distance was the Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero, a driver that was released in early 2019, making it a year older than some of the drivers on test. But Neil says his experience shows that doesn't necessarily mean it's better than the new drivers. "Do not get misled with this being the best driver for me, just because I've carried it 280 yards," he says. "We've tested it before and proven that it's not. The weight is forward, which gives me more ball speed and more distance when I hit it well, but I still believe that when I mishit it, it's a difficult club for me to get performing well."
This is a key point. It's easy to be seduced during a fitting by the driver (or setup) that produces the longest carry distance. But while distance is clearly a huge factor, you should also consider things like what happens on your less-than-perfect strikes, how far offline you are hitting it, and whether that driver enables you to hit the different trajectories and shot shapes you like to hit on the course. Remember: you are buying a driver to use on the golf course in every round that you play, not just on the driving range. You want the one that performs best on the golf course and therefore gives you the most confidence. Sometimes that will be the driver that gave you the longest carry distance in a fitting, sometimes it won't.
There was only a three-yard difference between the five longest drivers in our test. If you carried on testing, or repeated the test on another day, a difference that small could quite easily even out or even flip another way.
There was a 16-yard difference between the longest and shortest driver in the test, however, which is a huge difference. Golf statisticians have proved that extra distance off the tee is the biggest factor in lowering your average score. A difference that big will mean hitting a club and a half less for your second shot, which will have a big impact on your scores.
Here are the longest drivers in our 2020 test:
– Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero = 280 yards carry distance
– Mizuno ST200 = 279 yards carry distance
– Callaway Mavrik = 278 yards carry distance
– TaylorMade SIM Max = 278 yards carry distance
– Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero = 277 yards carry distance
The most forgiving driver of 2020
If you could design the perfect driver, it would generate the best numbers possible for your swing speed, regardless of how you struck it. That is physically impossible and it would be completely illegal in the rules of golf. But some drivers are closer to that dream than others.
The Callaway Mavrik saw a drop-off of just five yards from good strikes to bad. Compared to some of the drivers on our test that saw drop-offs of 26 and 27 yards, that is quite incredible. It also only saw a spin difference of 708rpm, which is a much tighter spread than anything else on test. Some drivers saw a difference of over 2,800rpm between good and bad strikes, while the average was around a 1,500rpm difference.
The Ping G410 Plus also performed superbly for these consistency metrics. It had the third smallest drop-off in carry distance, at 12 yards, and the third tightest split in terms of spin, with 1,149rpm difference between good and bad strikes.
"You have to consider it, just for how forgiving it is," says Neil. "It was in the top-three for every category when it comes to forgiveness and consistency."
How forgiving is each driver on mishits?
Custom fitting is more important than ever
One thing we can't stress enough is that custom fitting for your driver has never been more important. With multiple models available from each manufacturer, most of which can be heavily customised to your individual needs, there are effectively thousands of possible setups that could go in your golf bag. Custom fitting is the only way to ensure you are getting the best driver for YOU.
We simply hope our test gives you an idea of what to look out for, and maybe some ideas of which drivers you are most keen to test. If you buy a driver without doing any actual testing yourself, there is a good chance you are leaving yards on the table. From our test, the below drivers are a good place to start when it comes to testing out the options for your new driver.
The best drivers of 2020
Callaway Mavrik Max
– RRP: £469
– Lofts: 9° / 10.5°
– Stock shaft: Project X Evenflow Riptide 50g / Aldila Rogue White 130 MSI 60g / 70g
– Adjustable hosel: Yes (-1/+2°)
The Callaway Mavrik comes in three models.
– There's the standard Mavrik, which is designed to create the fastest clubhead speed thanks to its super-aerodynamic shape. In fact, it reduces drag by 61% over the Epic Flash, which itself was considered a very aerodynamic driver. The standard Mavrik produces a medium amount of spin and has a moderate draw bias. It's for everyone from tour players to mid-handicappers.
– The Callaway Mavrik Max is designed to be the easiest to launch, with the highest MOI and the most draw bias of the three models.
– The Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero is the low-spin model, aimed at golfers with higher swing speeds who suffer from too much spin.
Three-model driver families are nothing new, but Mavrik moves the idea to a whole new optimised level. And, boy, is it clever stuff. We loved the solidness of the new sound, which comes down to how each head is individually optimised from so many angles.
All three heads sit beautifully behind the ball. The shape differences are easy to spot at address, yet the MAX won't draw attention to you being an average golfer. In fact, it is our pick of the bunch and might just be the driver club golfers have needed for years. It is super-forgiving, limits the slice many amateurs suffer with, and does so without the ugly closed face angle so common with draw-focused drivers.
The Mavrik is a hugely impressive driver. Not only was it one of the longest on test, with a carry distance of 278 yards putting it just two yards behind the longest, it also saw by far the smallest drop-off in spin and carry distance when not struck perfectly.
TaylorMade SIM Max
– RRP £449
– Lofts: 9° / 10.5° / 12°
– Stock shafts: Fujikura Ventus Blue 6 or Red 5
– Adjustable hosel: Yes (+/- 2°);
SIM stands for "Shape In Motion", a technology designed to maximise ball speed during the part of the swing where it really counts (i.e. the bottom of your swing arc). TaylorMade point to the fact that most drivers aren't optimised for this critical part of the swing. They highlight the fact that Dustin Johnson's swing speed is just 90mph at the 9 o'clock position in his downswing, but 120mph at impact (6 o'clock). They've focused an awful lot of aerodynamic research and design on ensuring your clubhead is travelling as fast as possible at the moment of truth.
The TaylorMade SIM range cames in three different models:
– The TaylorMade SIM is the standard version. It features an adjustable weight track to help you dial in the shot shape you prefer (or are trying to prevent).
– The TaylorMade SIM Max is designed to deliver maximum forgiveness. The clubface is 8% larger than the standard TaylorMade SIM and the MOI is higher, making it more stable. In general it will create a little more spin than the standard SIM.
– The TaylorMade SIM Max D, meanwhile, is draw-biased, with extra weight in the heel to help golfers square the face and prevent that big left-to-right (for right-handers) ball flight. The profile is 18% bigger than the standard model, which should inspire confidence with golfers who aren't as confident with their ball-striking on tee shots.
The new chromed carbon-fibre crown gives the SIM family a cracking new look and thanks to its structural integrity this driver sounds and feels brilliant at impact. The chalk paint job is a lovely step forward, while the head sits nicely at address and is very easy to align. "It's the nicest looking driver TaylorMade have made," says Neil. "It also sounds really good."
The TaylorMade SIM Max was the model that really stood out in our test.
It matched the Callaway Mavrik for carry distance at 278 yards and actually generated 0.1mph more ball speed, although a difference that small would be hard to notice in terms of results out on the course and could deviate up or down with more testing.
If you've got a TaylorMade M6 from 2019, the SIM Max may not offer a huge leap in performance. But if your driver is older than that, it is well worth testing the whole TaylorMade SIM family to see which model suits you best and how much of a performance gain you experience over your current driver.
– RRP: £349
– Lofts: 9.5° / 10.5°
– Stock shaft: Choose from 11 premium options
– Adjustable hosel: Yes (+/- 2°);
Like the Callaway Mavrik and TaylorMade SIM, the Mizuno ST200 comes in three models:
– The standard Mizuno ST200 combines low spin with considerable forgiveness. It's aimed at golfers who want high stability alongside maximum distance.
– The Mizuno ST200G is aimed at players with fast swing speeds. A 14g sliding sole weight helps target spin rates of medium to ultra-low.
– The Mizuno ST200X is aimed at golfers with average to slower swing speeds. It is designed to help launch the ball and has a good degree of draw bias. The Mizuno ST200X has a wider head shape than the other two models, which offers extra forgiveness and helps instill confidence.
While the Callaway Mavrik and TaylorMade SIM being among the best drivers of 2020 wouldn't be classed as a shock, the Mizuno ST200 was something of a surprise package.
Mizuno are renowned for the quality of their irons but are rarely one of the first names you think of when it comes to buying a new driver, but the Mizuno ST200 could change that. With an average carry distance of 279 yards, it was the second longest on test, and it was also the second most consistent for distance, with just 11 yards between good strikes and bad.
If you want a driver that delivers great distance, and does so consistently, the Mizuno ST200 should be on your list to test. At £349 RRP for the standard model, it's also at least £100 cheaper than its rivals.
Last year we felt that the Mizuno driver wasn't particularly forgiving but this year they've really stepped that up. It's fast, it's long, it's forgiving, and it costs less than most of the other options – that's a very compelling package.