Updating Clubs Sometimes Requires a Test Drive

Saturday is golf club demo day at Golf & Ski Warehouse, and I can’t wait. Being able to hit and test all of the latest golf clubs is like sampling all of your favorite cars or trucks when looking for a new ride.

My goal this year is to find the perfect driver so I can pick up a few extra yards. I could use about 30 yards more, but I’ll settle for 10.

There are several hot and highly sought drivers on the market this year. Some models promise more ball speed with off-center hits, and I miss the center of the face frequently, so that piques my interest.

Other drivers are using aerodynamics to get the club to move faster, while other drivers use internal weight and wall thickness to deliver on their promises. I will need to test them all and hit balls on one of the high-tech launch monitors to measure the results and prove my search is over.

The first variable I will test will be driver length. Most stock men’s drivers are 46 inches long, which is about 3 inches longer than the standard driver of 30 years ago.

The proper-length driver will allow you to hit the center of the face more consistently and provide you the most ball speed.

For every half-inch you miss the center of the face, you will lose ball speed and distance. That’s a stat to remember.

Next, I’ll try to discover the best shaft for me. The shaft is like the engine under the hood. It can make a big difference and help deliver you maximum power. There are so many different options in shafts that getting tested and measuring performance can make a big difference. A few general guidelines when testing shafts: Heavier shafts are good for golfers with fast tempos or quick transitions, and lighter shafts are good for players with medium or smooth tempos and transitions.

Softer-tip shafts typically benefit medium- or slower-speed golfers and will increase launch angle for greater distance. Soft-tip shafts will often provide an extra kick, resulting in a few more miles per hour of ball speed, too.

Stiffer-tip shafts help higher-speed players gain control of their golf ball by reducing launch angle and spin while providing an overall straighter shot. Test different shafts with different weight, flexes and performance characteristics and see the difference yourself.

Testing drivers is like testing cars. Try the model driver you like to look at, that delivers performance characteristics you’re looking for, and fine-tune the engine under the hood with a shaft designed to meet your unique swing characteristics.

Test-drive some new clubs and, upon the next round of golf, you could arrive to the first tee with a new ride.

Peter Harris is the director of Golf at the Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon. His column appears weekly in the Recreation page during the golf season.