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Do adjustable drivers really work?
September 2012 - Carly Frost

It's a question we get asked all the time by you so we decided to put an adjustable driver through the ultimate test, by cranking it to the maximum adjustability settings and putting it in the hands of five golfers of varying abilities to show you the results!

THE TEST

The test took place at Pachesham Park Golf Centre in Surrey: www.pacheshamgolf.co.uk. The impressive facilities at Pachesham include a state-of-the-art indoor studio with a Flightscope launch monitor that tracks the ball flight with absolute precision, giving you invaluable feedback about your shots, from those all-important distance figures to the dispersion (waywardness) of your shots.

We chose to test the TaylorMade R11 driver and used the expertise of Pachesham's custom fit technician Mark Woodward to set-up each driver correctly with the right shaft flex and loft for each golfer. Our testers hit each driver 10 times on three different settings - maximum draw, maximum fade and neutral. The results were recorded on the Flightscope. We then asked them to hit the drivers out onto the range to see their ball flight and we witnessed the differences.

THE TESTERS & THEIR RESULTS

Carly Frost
Handicap: 1
Typical shot shape: Straight
Background: I've been using the TaylorMade R11 driver since they first brought it out a couple of years ago and I get very consistent results. I have the weight set to encourage a draw as I like to shape shots right-to-left to maximise my distance off the tee. I'm a bit lazy in that I've never really experimented with the weight settings, I've found something that works for me and I've left it be, so it will be interested to see just what difference it makes to change the weights to a neutral or fade setting - will I really see a dramatic difference in my ball flight and shot dispersion?

The results: As Carly already has her TaylorMade driver set to the maximum draw she used this with great consistency and accuracy finding the fairway with every shot. When the driver was adjusted back to neutral weight balance she lost a few yards in distance and tended to hit drives a little to the left and on the fade setting, as you would expect, she lost a good 10-15 yards in length and her dispersion figures weakened so that she was missing more fairways to the right. Although the differences between draw and fade setting weren't dramatic they were significant enough to show that if Carly wasn't using her driver set on the 'draw' setting she would be losing out on valuable yardage off the tee.

Alex Makowski
Handicap:
5
Typical shot shape: Draw
Background: I've been playing golf since I was 10 years old and driving is one of my strengths. I tend to hit a long, powerful ball flight. I currently use a Titleist driver that doesn't have adjustability settings so I am interested to see what difference the TaylorMade can actually offer. As I naturally hit a draw (right-to-left) I'm intrigued to see whether setting the driver onto a fade setting will counteract this.

The results: Alex's results with the R11 were really dramatic. With the driver pre-set to draw he added a staggering 20 yards in carry distance to his tee shots, although with his high swing speed (in excess of 90mph) he struggled with ball flight control and was missing most fairways left. When the R11 was set to neutral that control increased and most impressively Alex was still gaining a good 10-15 yards in carry distance. The distance was lost when the driver was set to fade, although Alex did comment on how easy he found it to find the fairway with this driver set-up as he felt that he could control his tee shots effortlessly and get a predictable straight shot direction.

Kika Cole
Handicap:
13
Typical shot shape: Draw
Background: I'm a very keen golfer and I work hard on my technique. I like to draw my drives for extra distance. My bad shot is a push out to the right. I use a Callaway driver at present with no adjustability settings and to be honest with you the thought of having to alter the driver does put me off a little as I'm worried I would set it up incorrectly. I am interested to see whether setting up the driver in different ways alters my ball flight control.

The results: There was very little difference between the drives Kika hit with all three driver settings (only 10 yards in distance and 15 yards in dispersion between them); indicative of the fact that Kika's clubhead speed isn't high enough to generate dramatic results. With a clubhead speed of 70-75mph Kika is typical of most lady golfers who don't hit the ball out of sight but have a high degree of shot direction control. As such Kika struggled to control the R11 when it was set to draw as she is used to hitting this shot shape naturally with her swing technique and therefore missed most fairways left. Likewise the R11 set to fade caused her to hit that awful push shot out to the right and really didn't suit her eye. The most natural setting was the neutral weighting where Kika could use her own ability to hit drives straight down the middle.

Dan Johnson
Handicap:
20
Typical shot shape: Fade
Background: I've been playing golf on and off for about six years and now that I'm at University it tends to be just in the summer break. I've always had a vicious slice off the tee and it does tend to ruin my scorecard. I've been using the same driver since I was a teenager so I'm pretty sure I'm not getting the most help out of my clubs so I'm really looking forward to seeing whether the TaylorMade R11 holds the solution to my driving woes.

The results: Setting the R11 to maximum draw was an absolute revelation for Dan. He went from missing fairways wildly to the left to actually finding them! He halved his dispersion figures and although his swing technique clearly causes a slice, the driver definitely counter-acted this and helped straighten his shots. As a result he added substantial distance (more than 20 yards). Understandably the R11 set to fade was a disaster, it turned what was already a problem shot into a nightmare and Dan was hitting drives wildly out to the right. With the R11 set to neutral the problem was still evident but it was clear that the driver wasn't giving the helping hand he needed. The draw setting was King!

Dick Joyce
Handicap:
28
Typical shot shape: Slice
Background: I've been playing golf for over 30 years and in that time my handicap has gradually crept up. I struggle to get off the tee with any length of consistency. My bad drives are always weak shots that leak out to the right. My clubs are nearly as old as me! I certainly haven't tried a modern driver before and the prospect of one of these so-called 'adjustable' clubs is mind-boggling, but I'm ready for the challenge!

The results: Dick's inconsistent swing technique made it difficult to get enough decent Flightscope readings to make the test a fair comparison; however he did witness an amazing difference in his ball flight direction when he struck the drivers out onto the range. His best shots were produced by the R11 when it was set to maximum draw, although he did occasionally smother a drive wildly to the left with this setting too. The neutral setting suited his eye and gave him a helping hand to launch his drives more effortlessly into the air and the added forgiveness of a modern clubhead was clearly boosting his carry distance. The fade setting offered a weak, powerless flight that did Dick no favours.

THE VERDICT

There's no disputing it - adjustable drivers definitely do work! However our test results clearly show that adjustable drivers perform very differently from golfer to golfer. The most dramatic results were recorded when the drivers were put in the hands of the players with the highest clubhead speeds. Our lady testers and senior player with their naturally slower clubhead speeds did not see the same staggering difference in the length and direction to their drives as the stronger players with faster swings.

In our opinion there is a clear message that needs to be taken from this test - go and experiment with an adjustable driver for yourself, and ideally do it in a controlled environment like the custom fit centre we used at Pachesham where an expert can be on hand to help you get the most out of these very clever clubs.

Please do not let the thought of having to adjust the driver put you off trying, as even our senior golfer Dick admitted that the technology really did give him a confidence boost. "The whole experiment was a bit of an eye-opener really!" said Dick. "I would never have had the confidence to test an adjustable driver, but now that I have been shown how simple it is to alter with the wrench I would certainly give it a go. At first glance the adjustable driver may seem to be a complicated invention but it's actually very easy to use."





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