And it includes a top-notch stock shaft at a price that’s much lower than most of its competitors’ flagship offerings. The gorgeous CNC-milled face offers the best feel of the drivers we tested and a ton of forgiveness.
Too Long, Didn't Read: Our Review For People In A Hurry
In an era when the newest high-tech drivers often hit the market at prices upwards of $500, Cobra Golf’s King F8 is an anomaly. It’s priced under $400 but it still sports some of the best technology and craftsmanship of any driver on the market.
It’s constructed of titanium and carbon fiber to optimize weight distribution and offers several different areas of adjustability. These high-tech features combined with its relative affordability make it our Top Pick for 2018.
The crown of the Cobra King F8 driver may be too busy for some, but I found it to be very effective in helping ensure proper alignment. The sound was a great loud thwack on solid hits, and still gave great feedback on off-center hits. The large 460cc head with a super thin, hot face offers great distance on sweet spot strikes but also plenty of forgiveness if you mis-hit it.
The Cobra King F8 Driver is ideal for beginners and professionals alike, that rare club that’s well-constructed and offers enough adjustability to last for years. Even if your swing and game improve, you’ll be able to adjust the weight distribution and loft instead of buying a whole new driver.
The icing on the cake is the gorgeous CNC-milled face with a great-looking golf-ball shaped circle milled into the sweet spot. It really helps focus the eye and gives you a can’t-miss feeling off the tee. It’s no surprise that Rickie Fowler put the King F8 into his bag as soon as Cobra released it.
The TaylorMade M4 is the flagship of their 2018 line, featuring brand new Twist Face technology to help correct off-center hits more effectively than traditional “bulge-and-roll” clubfaces.
It also features a carbon fiber crown that allows for weight re-distribution to the perimeter and sole of the clubface to lower the center of gravity and help get the ball in the air faster.
The Twist Face technology does what it promises, helping minimize the overcorrection of mis-hits we sometimes find with other drivers.
The M4 also delivers in distance, as it’s among the longest drivers we’ve ever hit. It has a price tag to match its performance, though, which might put it out of the budget of many golfers.
As the saying goes, though, you get what you pay for. The performance features of the TaylorMade M4 make it clear why some of the PGA Tour’s best drivers like Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Tiger Woods all use TaylorMade drivers with Twist Face technology. With top notch performance from the most popular driver manufacturer in the world, the TaylorMade M4 is our Upgrade Pick.
The TaylorMade Mens RBZ Black driver is a unique entry in 2018’s driver offerings: it uses up-to-date technology and produces tour-level results, but at half the cost (or less) than most other premium titanium drivers.
It’s lightweight and very well made, offering moderate forgiveness and maximum distance. The RBZ design focuses on speed, but the 460cc size enables TaylorMade to provide a large sweet spot.
However, beginner golfers may find the forgiveness to be lacking. Other drivers we tested had more perimeter weight distribution and thus corrected off-center hits more.
The distance-focused RBZ performs incredibly well when you hit the sweet spot, but if you miss the center of the club face a lot, you may want to look for a more forgiving option.
The RBZ Black is attractively styled, with simple, classic looks that inspire confidence at address and deliver results at impact. The stock shaft is a well-rounded combination of firm feel and fast action through the hitting area. If you’re looking for a few extra yards off the tee but don’t want to break the bank, the TaylorMade Mens RBZ Black driver should fit the bill.
You won’t see the adjustability features, high-tech materials, or the extreme forgiveness of the more expensive drivers but you’ll see good performance at a good price.
The most common miss for a beginner is a slice, a big banana curve that starts offline and goes even more wayward, putting you into the trees and ruining a good round.
While lessons and practice are the best cures for slices, swing changes take a long time to implement. In the meantime, an offset driver like this offering from PGX can help provide relief.
The PGX Offset driver is a 460cc driver head with a significant offset to help beginners close the clubface faster and correct their slices.
While it’s not the longest or prettiest driver we tested, it serves its purpose well. The offset helps minimize slices into fades and should help beginners enjoy the game more. No one wants to spend all day hitting punch shots out of the trees!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Reviewed Products
- 2 Too Long, Didn't Read: Our Review For People In A Hurry
- 3 Our Top Pick: Cobra King F8 Driver
- 4 Our Upgrade Pick: TaylorMade M4 Driver
- 5 Our Budget Pick: TaylorMade Mens RBZ Black
- 6 Our Beginner Pick: Pinemeadow PGX Offset Driver
- 7 The Importance of Your Driver
- 8 Conclusion
Our Top Pick: Cobra King F8 Driver
While it’s not the most popular name on the market, Cobra has a long history as a manufacturer of elite clubs with cutting edge technology.
The King F8 driver is no exception: it offers a ton of adjustability options and a red-hot, CNC milled face to maximize distance and forgiveness.
When you first pick up the driver, it’s clear that Cobra wants to stand out from the crowd.
The crown’s head is very busy (some might find it distracting), and the clubface has a great-looking golf-ball sized milling to really focus you in on the sweet spot.
There are numerous lines on the driver, but all of them draw your eye to the center of the clubface. I found the design busy but useful, and ultimately very easy to aim.
The milled titanium face is extremely lively and has a resounding, thunderous snap when you make good contact. The head is constructed of a mixture of carbon fibers and titanium, all finely tuned for maximum aerodynamics and optimal weight distribution. The lines are called “Polymer Aero Trips”, placed in a 360 degree pattern to help the club slide through the air at top speed. The aerodynamics really translate on the downswing, as the driver feels like it really cuts through the air with effortless speed.
The carbon fiber crown is super lightweight, so the heavier titanium can be redistributed to the perimeter and bottom of the clubhead to lower the center of gravity. This results in higher, longer ball flights.
There are two separate weight positions that can be changed out to fine tune the ball flight. One weight promotes a draw, while the other maximizes forgiveness across the clubface. The hosel is also easily adjustable to several different lofts.
This is one of the most innovative drivers we tested, and the performance confirms that the innovations work! I found it easy to swing hard and launch high, straight shots down the fairway. At first the trajectory was a bit low, so I moved some weight back and adjusted the loft slightly and boom — higher launch, longer drives.
The stock Aldila shaft is well-matched to the clubhead, helping launch the ball high in the air with a firm, responsive feel. It’s available in 60 or 65 grams in stiff or regular flex. The heavier shaft will reward aggressive, fast swings with penetrating drives, while the lighter shaft will help slower swingers hit the ball farther.
Our Upgrade Pick: TaylorMade M4 Driver
If you watch golf on TV at all, you’ve probably seen advertisements for TaylorMade’s 2018 innovation: the Twist Face driver. The Twist Face is so named because the clubface is curved in a non-standard manner.
Most drivers have “bulge and roll”, a minor curving of the face that’s intended to impart sidespin to the ball if it’s struck towards the heel or toe. TaylorMade studied off-center impacts and found that standard bulge and roll actually overcorrected if the ball was hit high on the toe or low on the heel.
Thus, they twisted the face so that balls struck high on the toe get slightly less sidespin and balls struck low on the heel fly straighter. It’s a clever innovation to aid in forgiveness without sacrificing distance.
So, the question is: does it work? While the difference is minimal, it’s definitely noticeable. Heel-struck shots that normally slice off to the right only faded and wound up in more playable positions. Even just a few yards of better forgiveness can be the difference between an open shot from the rough and punching out from behind a tree.
The sound of the TaylorMade M4 is improved over last year’s M1 and M2 drivers; it’s a more satisfying snap rather than the muted thud of the previous models. This is likely due to the “Geocoustic” technology at the rear of the driver, designed to give it the sound of a fully titanium head while making use of the advantages of the carbon fiber crown.
Distance was as good as any of the drivers tested, which is unsurprising given TaylorMade’s sterling reputation as one of the most-used drivers on tour. The stock shaft has a slightly boardy feel, requiring a hard, aggressive swing to achieve good results. If you’re a smooth swinger, you may want to look into a softer aftermarket shaft to replace the stock shaft.
The M4 features an adjustable hosel, which can be used to increase or decrease the loft of the driver. If you’re looking for more adjustability, TaylorMade offers the M3 with a sliding weight to help you modify the launch and spin characteristics.
I’ve found that many golfers would rather save a few dollars and not have to worry about fine-tuning the weight of the driver. This allows you to swing freely without second-guessing the settings you’ve dialed in that day.
The “Speed Pocket” found in the TaylorMade RBZ is represented in the M4 as a “Hammerhead Pocket”, with expanded channels that broaden the sweet spot and offer extra forgiveness in addition to the trampoline-like springiness of the clubface. The ball really seems to jump off the clubface even on off-center hits.
Our Budget Pick: TaylorMade Mens RBZ Black
The TaylorMade Mens RBZ driver is an elite driver at a mid-range price. Their RBZ (short for “Rocketballz”) line is a high-tech, ultra-lightweight line of woods engineered to send the ball as far as possible off the tee.
Most TaylorMade drivers of recent years have predominantly featured a white clubhead, which some golfers love but others are turned off by.
This RBZ Black driver will appeal to traditionalists who prefer the sleek black look of the clubhead.
It’s understated graphics are very clean and well-designed: a simple, small T logo indicates the sweet spot at the middle of the clubface, while thin white lines help accent its classic teardrop shape and instill confidence that the ball will fly high and straight.
It’s offered in three different base lofts: 9, 10.5 and 12 degrees. Beyond that, the hosel features an adjustable sleeve so you can rotate the shaft to further fine-tune the loft. Fast swingers should start with the 9 degree loft, while slower swingers will want to go with the 12 degree. An average swing speed golfer should find 10.5 degrees to be ideal.
The head is 460cc (cubic centimeters) in size, which is the largest allowed under current USGA rules. This large size allows for a huge sweet spot that encompasses almost the entire clubface. Even if you strike the ball far out on the heel or toe of the clubface, the feel is pure and the ball really leaps off the clubface.
The sole of the clubhead features TaylorMade’s patented “speed pocket”, a narrow channel cut out just behind the clubface that allows it to attain the maximum spring effect on impact.
The clubface rebounds off the speed pocket to give the ball a trampoline effect. I noticed excellent ball speeds on well-struck shots with the RBZ driver.
The RBZ driver combines a high launch and low spin characteristics, which helps eke every bit of distance out of your swing. The compromise here is that it’s not quite as forgiving as other drivers, sacrificing some error correction for clubhead speed. If you’re looking to hit the ball as far as possible, this should help you attain that goal.
The stock shaft included with the TaylorMade RBZ Black is very impressive. It’s a 55 gram “White Tie” model from Matrix, which is one of the best and most popular shaft manufacturers in golf.
I found it to have a great feel, not so stiff as to feel like a telephone pole but firm enough so that it didn’t feel whippy at all. It promoted a smooth but aggressive swing and great feedback. I could tell if I’d mis-hit the ball, but the ball flight wasn’t majorly affected by the mis-hit.
The alignment features, though minimal, are extremely effective in helping you aim the club in the right direction. The detail at the back of the clubhead centers your eyes on the sweet spot, which is nicely augmented by the small white T logo. The clubface’s groove pattern is also very effective in centering the eyes right where they need to be.
Adjusting the loft of the driver is a snap. Just use the included tool to unscrew the clubhead from the shaft, select the setting you’d like to switch to (they’re very clearly labeled for higher or lower loft), and screw the shaft back into the clubhead until it clicks.
Our Beginner Pick: Pinemeadow PGX Offset Driver
The Pinemeadow PGX Offset Driver is a unique entry in the 2018 driver offerings.
It’s an offset driver, which means that the hosel curves backwards from the shaft, which results in the clubface arriving to the ball slightly later than the shaft.
A slice is caused by the hands leaving the clubface open to the target line at impact, imparting sidespin and sending the ball curving from left to right (or right to left for left-handed golfers).
A slight offset, such as the one found in the PGX Offset Driver PGX Offset Driver, can give the player a much needed split second of time to close the clubface down and prevent the slice from occurring.
A slice is by far the most common miss for a beginner golfer, so this offset driver is an attractive option for those who are always losing their balls to the right.
While the best option to fix your slice is to find a good golf professional who can help you work on your swing, there’s no reason not to try to gain every possible bit of slice correction using technology.
At address, the offset can actually make it difficult to align the driver properly. There’s a helpful arrow on the crown that aids a bit, but I still felt like I was aiming too far left every time.
It’s important to trust the technology and not try to correct for the left-aiming feeling by swinging to the right. I’d suggest using the line on your golf ball to make sure you’re aiming the driver head properly, so you’re not subconsciously worried about where you’re aimed. Any sort of worry on the tee box is bound to lead to a tight, bad golf swing!
However, you may already be using offset irons (most game improvement irons have a pronounced offset), so you may already be used to aiming an offset club. If this is the case, you’ll likely be right at home with the PGX driver.
The PGX Offset driver comes in a 10.5 degree loft, a nice standard loft that’s useful for most golfers, and includes a headcover. I noticed the paint on the crown did scratch fairly easily, so make sure you use the headcover every time to prevent unwanted wear and tear on the clubhead.
The stock shaft included with the PGX Offset driver is a Regular Flex, so it should be used only by those with moderate swing speeds. If your drives typically fly 200-240 yards, the PGX shaft should fit you nicely.
The PGX Offset driver has a 45” shaft, which is slightly shorter than today’s standard length but still plenty long to produce long and accurate drives. A shorter shaft is generally favored for more accuracy, while a longer shaft will generate more clubhead speed but may send the ball more offline.
The Importance of Your Driver
One of the most common golf idioms I hear repeated ad nauseam is “Drive for show, putt for dough.” While putting is, of course, extremely important, I believe this idiom understates the importance of a good drive.
A long, straight drive can put you in position to make a birdie or an easy par. It turns a par 5 into a birdie hole instead of a long, tough slog. And a poor drive can go out of bounds or into a hazard, costing you penalty strokes and all but assuring double bogey or worse. Even a slightly offline drive into deep rough or behind a tree will add strokes to your score.
The first step to shooting a good score is to hit fairways with regularity. The technology of today allows manufacturers to not only help you maximize distance off the tee, but also to hit straighter shots that will find more fairways and set you up for shorter, easier approaches to the hole.
Many manufacturers are also including adjustability features so your driver can be fine-tuned to your swing, adjusted for different playing conditions, and readjusted if you make swing changes or improve. You’ll see increased performance now, and your driver will be able to grow with you as your game improves.
If you hit a bad slice, adjusting the weighting of the driver to move the center of gravity to the toe can help impart corrective sidespin to the ball. If you’re having trouble getting the ball in the air, you can adjust to a higher loft to achieve a higher trajectory and longer ball flight.
There are a few different styles of adjustability. Ping drivers are only adjustable by rotating the driver head in the shaft to adjust the loft of the driver up to 1 degree stronger or weaker. This adjustability focuses on ensuring that your ball has the best possible trajectory, carry distance and roll-out.
Other manufacturers such as Cobra, Callaway and TaylorMade offer the same style of adjustable hosel but add on moveable weights in the sole of the club.
Rotating the clubhead in the shaft will adjust the loft, but moving the weights on the bottom of the driver will further fine-tune your ball flight. Adding weight to the heel can help ensure a fade, whereas putting extra weight in the toe of the club will correct a slice and aid in drawing the ball.
Putting extra weight in the front of your driver (close to the clubface) will reduce spin and lower the launch angle, but will also cut down on forgiveness. Sliding the weight to the back of the clubhead will add spin, and thus enhance forgiveness. However, the extra spin may cause the ball to balloon and cost you distance.
I’d suggest taking your new driver to the driving range and hitting plenty of balls with various different settings to figure out what’s right for you. Even better, take your driver to a professional with a launch monitor and they’ll be able to guide you through the different options to make sure your driver is tweaked to your ideal settings.
Adjustable drivers aren’t the be-all and end-all of current offerings. Many drivers that don’t have adjustability features still take advantage of modern technology. Driver heads are larger than ever, allowing manufacturers to fine tune the weighting to maximize forgiveness and optimize the center of gravity to attain high ball speeds and more distance.
Manufacturers are also experimenting with different construction materials to benefit your golf game. Long gone are the days of persimmon wood drivers, and even stainless steel drivers have given way to lighter, stronger metals and composites. TaylorMade and Cobra’s current lineups feature a combination of titanium and modern carbon fiber composites that allow them to even more precisely place weight to transfer the most amount of energy to the golf ball and correct off-center hits.
Titanium is generally the basis of all modern driver heads. Titanium is a metal that’s lighter, stronger and more elastic than steel or aluminum, so it allows driver manufacturers to make supersized heads that are still lighter than the compact steel heads found in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Faces made of titanium have a spring effect that helps rocket the ball forward.
Titanium heads can be made very large but still extremely thin to be light and aerodynamic. This helps increase swing speeds across the board for all golfers, from beginners to touring pros. New advancements in carbon fiber technology have enabled manufacturers to incorporate it into titanium heads and achieve even lighter clubheads and more versatility with center of gravity.
Since titanium is significantly more expensive to use than steel, the cost of drivers has increased in the past twenty years; some drivers cost as much as a whole set of irons! However, given the importance of a long, well-placed tee shot (and not to mention the majesty of a long, high tee shot), most golfers are more than happy to shell out the extra bucks required to obtain a top-performing titanium driver.
Driver faces have reached the maximum thinness allowed by the rules of golf, which means that the titanium material used has allowed the clubfaces to reach the highest level of spring effect.
One often-overlooked aspect of driver features is the alignment aid provided on the crown of the driver. Some drivers have a simple dot or line indicating the sweet spot, while others have larger, more noticeable alignment aids. Ultimately, it comes down to what driver head looks best to you and inspires confidence as you’re standing over the ball.
If you feel good standing over the ball, your chances of sending a drive down the middle of the fairway are greatly increased.
The loft of the driver will also make a huge difference in its performance. If you find a driver hard to hit even when the ball is teed up high, you should look for a driver with at least 11 degrees of loft. Longer hitters and those with high swing speeds will probably find that a lower loft, usually around 9 degrees, will provide them with the best launch characteristics.
Last, you’ll want to consider the shaft of your driver. Many drivers nowadays come with very good stock shafts, but there are numerous aftermarket upgrades available as well. Generally, a stiffer shaft will offer more forgiveness but less distance. However, a shaft that’s too stiff will almost guarantee a bad slice. Fast swingers should be looking for a stiff or extra stiff shaft, whereas slower, smoother swingers should probably look into a Regular, Senior or Ladies flex.
With such a wide variety of designs, technologies, and price points, I didn’t expect to find it easy to choose the Top Pick of drivers for 2018. However, Cobra’s King F8 proved itself to be a top-performing driver with a fantastic Aldila stock shaft, and at a price that’s lower than most of its peers.
While some golfers may hesitate at spending so much money on a single club, the driver is usually the most-used club in the bag (behind the putter, of course). Getting your tee shot in play is absolutely essential to shooting good scores, so investing in a top-of-the-line driver is one of the smartest equipment moves you can make.