Best Drivers 2019: We’re reviewed the latest drivers on the market to bring you the best of 2019, comparing ball speed, launch angle, backspin, carry distance and how much you’re paying for each driver (per yard)
Technology stories – like prices – have rocketed with the new breed of 2019 drivers. They are a bigger investment than ever, making this the most important driver test we’ve ever done.
Lots have been written and filmed about these new big sticks, but this is the first time – anywhere – they’ve all been tested head-to-head.
We asked leading brands to send us their 2019 drivers in three testers’ specs. We created an indoor fitting studio to ensure a controlled environment and used a Foresight Sports GC Quad launch monitor – along with TaylorMade TP5/TP5x balls – to capture data for each shot.
We rejected major misses, but recorded how shots launched, as well as where shots impacted the clubface, thanks to the GC Quad’s ability to measure impact locations. Then we crunched the numbers and the feedback to come up with these conclusions…
TaylorMade M6 / Callaway Epic Flash / Cobra King F9 Speedback / Ping G410 Plus / Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero / TaylorMade M5 / Srixon Z785 / Titleist TS2/TS3 / Mizuno ST190/ST190G / Wilson Staff D7 / Wilson Cortex / Honma Tour World TW747 460 / PXG 0811 Gen 2 XF
At a glance results
Review: TaylorMade M6 driver
We’ve tested TaylorMade drivers for years, and regularly over the last decade or so they’ve snuck their noses out in front when it comes to performance. That’s why even though TaylorMade pays huge tour stars mega money to play their drivers, other players (like Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka) believe they’re best for their game, and play them without being paid. We love TaylorMade’s Speed Injected Twist Face story, which comes on the back of a successful 2018 for Twist Face (DJ, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Justin Rose all improved their driving accuracy and distance).
Speed Injecting means every driver face is at least as hot as a Tour pro’s, which, thanks to manufacturing tolerances, isn’t always the case. Having visited big club-making factories in China, Vietnam and Taiwan, we appreciate how much of an investment testing every single driver produced this year (to make sure it conforms to face flexibility rules) really is.
With so much weight at the back of the head the M6 wasn’t the perfect fit for our test pro, but it was well-matched to both amateur testers, as it’s great at protecting ball speed on off-centre hits. Simon was the biggest fan posting an average ball speed a single mph behind his fastest (Flash Sub Zero and Ping G410, which could be switched on a different day’s testing), and four yards down on his longest carrying Mizuno ST190G.
Ball Speed: 158.7 MPH / Launch Angle: 10.7° / Backspin: 3200 RPM / Carry Distance: 259 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.73
We’re not here to convince you any particular driver is best – our job is much more about showing you how models compare. We’ve tested the M6 on several occasions and each time our data has supported it being among the top two or three drivers (2-3 yards of carry distance between all three) for across-the-board forgiveness, ball speed and carry distance, without chasing low spin at all costs. This year, because the leading models are so closely matched, we feel more so than ever that the choice of which driver to buy boils down to personal preferences and particularly how the driver looks at address. If, like us, the M6 inspires confidence, you really won’t go wrong.
Review: Callaway Epic Flash driver
As a story, the Flash face is every bit as compelling as TaylorMade’s ‘Speed Injecting’, and of course builds on Callaway’s proven (and brilliant) Jailbreak tech. We reckon the Flash sounds more muted and powerful than the Sub Zero, which to some will be important, as will the curved graphic on the Flash’s crown, which our test pro didn’t even spot until we pointed it out.
The Flash’s cleaner, less fussy crown – with no speed step – is a decent step forward over last year’s Callaway drivers, as is the ability to make loft and face angle adjustments without rotating the shaft’s spine.
Our test pro really liked seeing loft on the face which he felt added confidence; he also noted the Flash graphics highlighted the centre of the face really nicely, giving an excellent point to aim for. Our test pro’s fight to lower spin (without dropping launch) meant the Flash wasn’t his best-fitting Callaway driver, but for hard-hitting Chris it delivered his fastest ball speeds and longest drives, which speaks volumes about how the Flash tends to be much more at home in club golfers’ hands than the Sub Zero version.
Ball Speed: 157.2 MPH / Launch Angle: 12.2° / Backspin: 3049 RPM / Carry Distance: 261 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.91
Callaway themselves are still trying to work out how the AI-designed Flash face actually works. But one thing is for sure – it does work.Comparing the Flash to last year’s Rogue (both in stock shafts) gave our test pro 2mph more ball speed straight away.
Now £500 for two more yards seems like a big ask, but the Rogue (like the original Epic) has Jailbreak; we’re certain you’ll see bigger improvements if you’re upgrading from a three-year-old driver or older.
We’d wager some serious cash Callaway’s super computer is already whirring away on a whole new driver head for next year. Question is, will it come up with anything quite as radical and effective as Flash?
Review: Cobra King F9 Speedback driver
Cobra has made some fantastic products for years, but until now they’d probably admit themselves that they’ve struggled to really break through at the very top table of drivers. By that we mean they have never been talked about in the same breath as the very best from TaylorMade, Callaway and Ping. Whether that’s all down to pure performance, marketing might or tour player endorsement is tricky to gauge, but we think that’s all going to change this year.
If there was any perceived performance gap between the biggest brands and Cobra drivers, it has been slammed shut. Likewise, the brand has never had a better tour presence, with Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thomson all using an F9 (two of them have already won with it).
This is a top drawer driver that’s packed with tech. It’s a very solid performer as both a low-spin or forgiving driver, thanks mainly to its simple but functional movable weight tech. It looks great at address, isn’t decked out in weird colours and it sounds fantastic. Oh, and when it comes to cost it’s the least expensive premium driver, too. Plus it comes ready-made with an Arccos shot tracker in the grip.
Ball Speed: 159.2 MPH / Launch Angle: 11° / Backspin: 2951 RPM / Carry Distance: 264 Yr
Hands down the best value-for-money driver available in 2019. That doesn’t mean it is a budget option either – it isn’t. It’s packed with technology and high-end components, plus proper tour endorsement.
Irrespective of how much you’re happy to spend on a new driver, if you’re looking at the biggest-selling 2019 models from Ping, Callaway or TaylorMade, trust us you should also have the Cobra on your shortlist.
If we gave out awards for the driver giving the biggest step up in performance compared to last year’s models we’d be splitting hairs to separate the F9 and Mizuno’s new ST190G. We’d probably just side with the F9, as performance is more rounded for club golfers and with the 14g weight in the back port it’s the more forgiving option, too.
Review: Ping G410 Plus driver
We have no idea how Ping do it, but their team of engineers seem to wring out more performance from every new model they produce. Bear in mind the G410 doesn’t have a carbon crown, or any carbon sole sections (it’s a 10cc bigger head than the previous G400) like some of the competition, yet our test data shows it makes incremental gains over the previous G400, which by all accounts was a fantastic driver.
Gone is the external dragonfly crown (it’s now internal) and in its place is a really aggressive crown with sharper “Turbulators” and clean creases which frame the ball and driver path beautifully at address. Because everything’s decked out in matt black nothing distracts your eye.
There’s no doubt Ping are late adopting movable weights, but we understand why. We love how the adjustability has zero impact on the forgiveness of G410, a claim most manufacturers would struggle to make about their own movable weight models. The real beauty of the G410 is how it performed in the hands of all three testers (it produced Simon’s joint fastest ball speeds, with Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero), backing up how it’s a driver for a huge number of golfers, from weekend hackers to PGA Tour bombers.
Ball Speed: 159.5 MPH / Launch Angle: 10.6° / Backspin: 3247 RPM / Carry Distance: 261 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.72
It says a lot about Ping’s launch philosophy how the low-spinning LST G410 has been delayed due to them feeling it hadn’t improved enough on the previous G400 LST.
If you’re a golfer who needs a lower spinning driver (Ping say that’s about 8% of us), the LST should make an appearance in May or June. If you’re a current Ping SFT driver owner and find yourself looking at the new G410, remember with the sliding weight in the draw position it offers just as much slice-busting tech as the old G400 SFT, which means the SFT model is a monster slice-beater.
Very simply, G410 is a driver for the golfing masses. We love it.
Low-spin drivers have really caught on over the last few years, but our test results spell out brilliantly how they’re not for everyone.
The Sub Zero (along with the G410) produced Simon’s fastest ball speeds of all the drivers tested. Yet because launch was lower than most, carry was 12 yards down on his longest. For our test pro’s faster swing, though, Sub Zero was a completely different story. It didn’t generate our pro’s fastest ball speeds, but it was one of his longest carrying drivers of the year (just three yards back from the longest), and thanks to the added stability and consistency between drives coming from the 12g backweight it would be our test pro’s 2019 low spin driver choice.
Sub Zero is definitely louder than the standard model, which to some will be important. For us though, like the curved crown graphic that’s sparked passionate debate online, it really isn’t a performance factor to be considered unless it attracts your attention.
Callaway’s selection of different weight stock shafts is well worth taking the time to explore fully. With 30g of difference between them not only can you choose a weight to suit your swing speed and preferred feel but it’s also possible to dial down, or up, launch and spin thanks to the different profiles too.
Ball Speed: 156.7 MPH / Launch Angle: 12.6° / Backspin: 2571 RPM / Carry Distance: 266 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.88
Flash Sub Zero got out the traps very early on tour. Xander Schaufelle won at the first PGA Tour event of the year – the first week the driver was released to the tour pros – and we can definitely see why.
It’s the club’s ability to combine low spin with a degree of playability that you won’t find in every low-spin driver out there this year that’s the major attraction. It’s the first Sub Zero driver which allows golfers to dial in a consistent shot shape with a sliding sole weight.
No matter what your ability a go-to shot shape can seriously boost confidence from the tee box. A top driver for stronger hitters, faster swingers and possibly those prone to impacting shots low on the face.
Review: TaylorMade M5 driver
TaylorMade’s flagship driver, the one that gives golfers the opportunity to optimise spin, launch and shot shape to their heart’s content.
Our first impression though was how TaylorMade have removed the window-shaped titanium section behind the face which framed the ball so beautifully at address (it’s the same with the M6). We loved previous models as it felt like the section behind the ball highlighted the impact zone really nicely. It does mean though more carbon fibre, and a weight saving over the previous M3, so there’s a worthwhile performance update.
The M5’s sliding weight meant we could dial down spin to add extra yards to our pro’s game, and to be fair the three yards it gave up to his preferred 2019 driver (Flash Sub Zero) could easily be reversed on another test day. The numbers stack up really nicely for the M5, with a general tendency to launch a little higher and spin a bit less than previous models, which obviously adds yards.
Comparing the M5 to M6 our pro reckoned the M6 is very much the fairway finder, and while the data was good, the M5 was more of a challenge to keep on the short grass in low-spin mode.
Ball Speed: 157.3 MPH / Launch Angle: 12.4° / Backspin: 2674 RPM / Carry Distance: 263 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.90
We went to great lengths last year to plot every impact from our driver test (on to a driver face matrix) to see if Twist Face really worked, and we discovered it gave our three testers gains in accuracy and carry. That result was backed up by TaylorMade’s own 2018 tour staff (DJ, Rory, Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Justin Rose), when they all improved their driving accuracy and distance during 2018. Our numbers aren’t quite so conclusive this year in supporting TaylorMade’s “Speed Injected” face story. But it’s important to remember every top brand has launched improved drivers for 2019.
What we do know is the M5 is a top-performing driver, and if you doubt our word, Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka have been spotted with them in their bags already, and they’re not paid to play them. That speaks volumes about how they feel that the M5 outguns the M3.
Review: Srixon Z785 driver
Our test shows anyone buying the new Srixon is making a sound investment as pretty much every number from the Z785 was spot on our test pro’s test average. It’s a driver that sits really nicely at address, with a traditional shape and look, and our pro said it felt hot off the face and he liked the crisp impact sound.
Ball Speed: 157.2 MPH / Launch Angle: 11.5° / Backspin: 3010 RPM / Carry Distance: 259 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.35
Srixon, like Mizuno and Cobra, have struggled to feed at the top table of drivers, but for 2019 they’re closer to the very best in terms of performance. Part of that comes down to the branded shaft, where in the past Srixon preferred to use their own Miyazaki shaft. Historically Srixon don’t spend too much convincing golfers to try their drivers, but Z785 is a cracking option and worth a look.
Review: Titleist TS2 / TS3 drivers
Titleist made loads of noise around how fast their TS drivers were when they launched last autumn. But September seems like a distant memory, and there’s been 10 drivers launched since then which bang the speed drum harder and louder.
Even so, the numbers our pro generated with the TS3, which better suits his eye, were comparable to the best on test. TS3 is more compact which means slightly less forgiveness than the TS2, but we felt it’s really powerful from the middle but can punish off-centre hits.
All in if you’re looking at low-spin drivers in 2019, the TS3 with its movable CG should be on your list to try. Unlike most 2019 models it won’t be replaced at the end of the year
TS2 – Ball Speed: 156.3 MPH / Launch Angle: 11.7° / Backspin: 2992 RPM / Carry Distance: 258 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.93
TS3 – Ball Speed: 159.2 MPH / Launch Angle: 10.8° / Backspin: 3000 RPM / Carry Distance: 263 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.90
Definitely a powerful driver which, like Mizuno’s ST190s, needs to find a home in the right hands if it’s to really help get more from a golfer’s game. If you plump for either Titleist make sure you get a proper fitting, the shaft options are second to none and well worth exploring if you’re intent on maximising your speed, distance and forgiveness potential.
How they compare:
Titleist say the TS2 delivers a powerful combination of speed and stability, and its wider, stretched head is a better fit for the majority of club golfers. Data places the TS2 as middle of the road for ball speed, spin and carry. Off-centre hit forgiveness wasn’t quite as high as the very best, either.
Review: Wilson Staff D7 driver
If there was ever a case of numbers and data not telling the whole story, the D7 is it. On paper, for a driver costing less than £270, performance is amazing – so good, in fact, it was among all three testers’ fastest and longest.
So you need to look closely at the D7’s specs for the whole story to stack up. D7 specifically targets lightweight performance, so the head and shaft weigh in at 249g where a typical Ping would be 268g.
Such a difference in weight obviously impacts speed. Our pro was the D7’s biggest fan; it helped him dial down spin and he was genuinely surprised at how good it was. He said his repeatable swing could keep control of the D7 on the course.
Ball Speed: 159.2 MPH / Launch Angle: 11.6° / Backspin: 2794 RPM / Carry Distance: 266 Yards Cost Per Yard: £1.01
We’ve said this with all four Wilson D drivers – light is great, as long as you can confidently “time” shots and get the club back on the ball without big inconsistencies between swings.
How do you know if it will suit you? Give the D7 a try for yourself – you’ll know within just a few swings if it’s the future for your own game or not. You may be surprised, too.
Review: Mizuno ST190G / ST190 drivers
Both ST drivers took us by surprise. The ST190G is not only the lowest spinning driver our test pro hit this year, it’s also his longest too (it was Simon’s longest as well). But the story is not complete there.
It’s no secret pushing weight towards the face increases ball speed and lowers spin – we see it all the time when testing drivers, low spin models are frequently faster than ‘forgiving’ models.
The G’s fastest ball speeds came from having the two 7g weights close to the face, which meant a drop in forgiveness and a carry distance drop-off of 32 yards between our pro’s on and off centre hits, which is sizeable, particularly in the hands of a club golfer.
ST190G – Ball Speed: 158.6 MPH / Launch Angle: 11.7° / Backspin: 2503 RPM / Carry Distance: 269 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.67
ST190 – Ball Speed: 158.9 MPH / Launch Angle: 11° / Backspin: 2866 RPM / Carry Distance: 265 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.51
In the right hands the ST190G is a stunning driver, the best we’ve seen from Mizuno in years. It’s fast and long and if you keep the weights close to the face it’s really workable, thanks to the lower MOI. The issue for regular golfers is that you’ll need to be at the top of your game drive, after drive, after drive to get the best out of it, which isn’t always the best feeling standing on the tee.
How they compare:
The ST190 is the more forgiving of these two models. Undoubtedly the better of the two for golfers who hit down on the ball, it span on average 300rpm more for our pro, which he felt made it a little less punishing. A seriously powerful driver in the right hands.
Review: Wilson Staff Cortex driver
All three testers felt the Cortex gave the sensation of being quite heavy and difficult to control. It’s made from quality components and built in line with similar engineering principles (a sliding weight and movable weights, with a strengthened body to reduce vibration and improve sound) as a lot of the current crop of drivers. It also looks and sounds good.
It’s just hard to disguise our test pro posting a ball speed 2mph below his test average and a carry distance just two yards further than his shortest.
Ball Speed: 155.7 MPH / Launch Angle: 11.9° / Backspin: 2956 RPM / Carry Distance: 258 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £1.55
We applaud Wilson for offering amateurs the chance to design something new, but the rules governing driver shapes are so ambiguous (heads have to be plain in shape), rules bodies can stamp on anything which challenges the norm. It’s no surprise the two drivers designed by the show have had very normal head shapes.
£400 is a lot of cash, and this year in particular there are better options out there.
Many will say Justin Rose took a huge risk switching from TaylorMade to Honma, when he was right at the top. But it only took him two starts to win with it.
While we liked the simple, traditional look of the TW747, it didn’t rip up any trees in terms of launch monitor numbers. It put in a solid performance, especially when you consider it was up against some of the most advanced drivers ever.
Ball Speed: 155 MPH / Launch Angle: 10.8° / Backspin: 2912 RPM / Carry Distance: 256 Yards / Cost Per Yard: £2.18
Honma are much better known for making lovely, forged irons. But this is the driver that might start to change that. Rose has already won with this very model, which says a lot about how he feels about it, and there’s absolutely nothing to dislike about it.
The stock Honma shaft wasn’t the best fit for our test pro – we’d like to see some more options available – even though it’s the one Rose is using. But as the first driver from Honma’s rebirth, it is a solid foundation to build on.
Review: PXG 0811 Gen 2 XF driver
The new PXG Gen 2 woods have had a significant price drop compared to the previous model, making them more inline with mainstream models. With an MOI over 10,000g-cm2 the XF is the most forgiving driver on the market, and the toe to heel measurement for forgiveness is so tight to the rule limits, PXG engineers were nervous about submitting the XF to the USGA for approval.
You find a simpler look head to look at, the XF really is the height of minimalism, which is really refreshing compared to some of the competition. Our test pro was a big fan of the heads stability, look and sound, and becasue it posted consistently high ball speed and carry distance numbers for him, he reckoned he could easily live with the XF on the golf course.
Unlike any of the other drivers in this test you won’t find an XF sat on the rack of your local pro-shop, as PXG insist on fitting you themselves, or ask you to buy from one of their approved fitters. In our book it’s a great service, and because they offer a huge selection of ‘real deal’ shafts you’ll not only get the set up that’s best for your game but a club thats also likely to inspire you every time it’s pulled from the bag.
Ball Speed: 157.6 MPH Launch Angle: 14.7° Backspin: 2950 RPM Carry Distance: 264 Yards Cost Per Yard: £2.08
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, don’t ever try to equate PXG prices to gains in performance, the equation just won’t make sense. PXG are about so much more than prices.
They’ve created an exclusive club of followers for their irons and we reckon thanks to the XFs excellent across the board performance, simple desirability and thanks to a price thats much more attainable for serious golfers they’ll soon have decent numbers of devotees buying into their woods too. Very simply, top drawer, we want in.
What we learned: Seven key takeaways from our 2019 drivers test
Don’t just chase low spin
Ping told us less than 8% of the drivers they sell are low spinning LST models. That means they certainly aren’t for everyone. Simon’s numbers on the Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero say so much. A decent increase in ball speed, yet carry distance dropped off significantly. It’s down to internal weighting generating a lower launch which means shots never achieve proper peak height or carry distance.
Be warned if you don’t own an above average swing speed (or possibly if you impact shots low in the face) stay well away from low-spin models.
It’s tight at the top
Never before have we said Cobra, Mizuno or Srixon could make a dent in driver market shares, but in 2019 they’ve got a real opportunity. Our data suggests there’s more than a handful of top drivers which, if you take the time to be fitted for, can be set up to perform very much alike. And if one or more of those options comes in for £100 less than the competition, why wouldn’t you opt for the Cobra, Mizuno or Srixon?
Every new driver needs a great marketing story
TaylorMade are masters at marketing and Callaway have upped their game, too. It doesn’t matter if you like the stories or not, it’s how brands hook us in to try and buy them.
But Ping told us they’re deliberately not shouting too much about “performance gains” of the new G410. Those turned off by hype will not doubt appreciate the new approach, at the end of the day though if we’re not excited by marketing would any of us actually go and try anything new?
Prices are eye watering
The average cost of all the drivers in our test is £436, which we understand is well out of reach for tons of golfers. But having been to most of the top golf club plants in the Far East and seen how production lines work, we completely understand how the tech used in the latest driver models impacts RRPs. Consumers, though, have the power to vote with their wallets. If this year’s premium drivers don’t convince golfers to part with their cash, next year could see a smattering of less expensive non-adjustable drivers appear on the scene.
Movable weight doesn’t have to mean a drop in MOI
Most club brands would admit off the record that tracks take up weight, often in areas of the head engineers don’t ideally want to put it. And that reduces MOI and forgiveness. It’s taken Ping years to join the adjustable weight party, but they’ve waited until their sure by including movable weight that doesn’t impact MOI. It’s comforting to hear and means
anyone upgrading to G410 sacrifices nothing.
Go with your gut
Never before has personal preference been so important when choosing your next driver. A good number of the latest drivers are very evenly matched, as long as you take the time to get fitted. That means now is the time to think about how a driver makes you feel standing on the tee. Do you like the look and sound? Does it inspire confidence? Do you feel you’d need to be on top of your game to get decent results? This is the year when how a driver makes you feel is every bit as important as the numbers thrown up.