Should better golfers consider a more forgiving driver like Nelly Korda and Scottie Scheffler? (2024)

Question: I saw that Nelly Korda is using the most forgiving driver she can. I’m a good player with above average swing speed. Should I consider switching to a more forgiving driver, too?

Answer: There was a time not too long ago that the best players in the world gravitated toward the least forgiving drivers with the lowest launch angle and the least amount of spin with no built-in draw bias. Then came 2024, and the two best players on the planet right now, Scottie Scheffler and Nelly Korda, showed that it's possible to play world-class golf using a driver that, in Scheffler’s case, is designed for the masses (the TaylorMade Qi10) and, in Korda’s case, is designed for maximum forgiveness (Qi10 Max). Fellow TaylorMade staffer Rory McIlroy, who leads the PGA Tour in Total Driving, also uses the standard Qi10 model as opposed to the more compact, low-spinning Qi10 LS.

Dig a little deeper into the weekly driver usage on the professional tours and you find that drivers designed for maximum forgiveness are gaining popularity. Both Akshay Bhatia and Alex Noren have used the Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Max D (draw). Cameron Champ has played Ping’s G430 Max 10K, which like the Qi10 Max has an ultra-high moment of inertia (stability on off-center hits). Chandler Phillips even is using a Pingf G430 LST that has a stock build, including the standard 55-gram shaft you might find on a floor model at Golf Galaxy.

Is there something for more advanced, faster-swinging golfers to learn here? It’s clear that most professional players are using drivers with greater stability on off-center hits than in the past. The reason isn’t because they decided to stop practicing. What has happened is that driver designs have gotten better. In the past, drivers that were designed to be forgiving often compromised playability because of their size and a center of gravity that was farther away from the face and higher to stabilize the head. A high CG means more spin on all shots—even dead-on-the-screws blasts. That’s a big negative for players with faster swings. At average tour speeds, too much spin can cost a player 10 yards or more.

RELATED: Why a shorter-length driver shaft can improve distance and accuracy.

However, this is changing. Thanks to the widespread use of weight-saving carbon composite in the body of new drivers, the CG isn't drifting back and higher as much as it used to, and that results in this combination of forgiveness with low spin. Scheffler, for example, is playing a more forgiving driver this year than he did two years ago, and his average spin rate has barely changed.

Although these forgiveness-focused drivers are certainly not the standard on tour, what their presence in the bags of some of the game’s best players suggests is that there is no right driver for a certain player skill level. Let’s repeat that: There is no handicap level or swing speed that eliminates considering almost any kind of driver. With dozens of models and multiple choices within the same brand, one of the things we stress during our Hot List player testing every year is this: Throw away your assumptions. Be prepared to be surprised.

RELATED: Which is more important for maximizing driver distance—the club or the ball?

As a matter of fact, when we look at how our high-swing-speed, low-handicap players at the Hot List fare with these game-improvement drivers, we find that some players did really well, and some did not. For example, Josh Macera, a 1-handicap with a swing speed of 119 miles per hour, averaged four more yards with the game-improvement drivers compared to all others. Jack Bingham, another 1-handicap who plays a natural fade and swings 110 miles per hour, saw more ball speed with the high-forgiveness drivers, including 12 more yards on average with the draw-biased Ping G430 SFT. Conversely, Wesley Gilmore, a plus-1 handicap, hit the forgiving drivers almost 10 yards shorter with a spin rate on one model that was more than 30 percent higher than his average across all drivers.

What this tells us is that the driver has become as individualized a club as the putter. Each player’s swing is going to find a driver with a particular shape and center-of-gravity location that makes his or her delivery more efficient, leading to a more explosive ball flight. This is what is called optimizing performance. You cannot find the right driver by guessing or assuming that what has always been your go-to isn’t going to change.

Chris Marchini, director of golf experience for Golf Galaxy and Dick’s Sporting Goods and the lead fitter at the Golf Digest Hot List, put it this way recently during a Golf Digest Happy Hour: “My advice is to go into a fitting totally agnostic. We see it at the Hot List Summit every year. We’re putting a club in someone’s hands that is far better optimized than what this player's handicap, swing speed or skill level might suggest, but it ends up producing the best ball flight for them.”

In other words, be open to the possibilities. It’s certainly worked for the two best players in the world.

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Should better golfers consider a more forgiving driver like Nelly Korda and Scottie Scheffler? (2024)

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