Golfers just love testing new drivers to discover how the latest technology will perform in their hands.
And when a golfer says they are going to ‘test a driver’, it usually means they are going to try to ‘smash the ball into tomorrow' to see how far it goes.
Now, the current crop of drivers are all rather brilliant and it usually comes down to a golfer's individual preference and unique swing characteristics when determining the best driver for them.
But as most keen observers will note, there is no-one more qualified to ‘smash the ball into tomorrow' than GolfBox reviewer and resident bomber Alex Etches.
So before we get down to business and see which driver is the most lethal in Alex Etches’ hands, here’s a quick recap of each driver featured in the GolfBox ‘Longest Driver of 2018’ review.
The Mizuno ST 180 driver might be very blue, but it is elegantly simple and seriously long.
It could well be nicknamed the ‘blue beast’ such is its performance, which even surprised Mizuno engineers during its product testing phase.
While devoid of a weight tracking system, Mizuno have put a lot of time and attention into the ST 180’s sole, which is a key to generating the impressive spin rates and distance gains of the driver.
The Mizuno ST 180’s Shockwave sole, named for its series of compressed folds, works with a new variable-thickness titanium face to achieve higher ball speeds courtesy of a more efficient energy transfer at impact.
Another key component is the lightweight Waffle crown, which saves weight from the top of the driver to be redistributed to where it is needed most: low in the sole for an optimised sweet spot and increased COR (coefficient of restitution). Mmmm… tasty waffle goodness.
Need help deciding between the Mizuno GT180 vs the ST180? Click here to see our review
TITLEIST 917 D3
It's fair to say the Titleist 917 D3 driver is packing some heat underneath its brooding black exterior.
And that assessment will be verified the moment you pull it out of the bag and smoke a drive down the fairway, watching the ball grow ever fainter as it disappears into the distance.
So what has the low-spin 440cc Titleist 917 D3 got under the bonnet that makes it so good?
Titleist's Active Recoil Channel (ARC) gets a 2.0 added to it, with a refinement to the channel's thickness. The ARC 2.0, which runs across the sole, flexes more at impact to launch the ball at even greater speeds. The all-important spin rates are also minimised, to make the Titleist 917 D3 long and low-spinning for incredible distance.
Also getting a 2.0 is Titleist's Radial Speed Face, which is thinner around the perimeter and works in tandem with the ARC to boost ball speeds when strikes are off-centre.
Titleist's SureFit weighting system gets a berth aboard the 917 D3, and it's a unique and innovative method of adjusting launch and spin characteristics. Interchangeable weight tubes are slotted into a cavity in the sole to change the driver's balance and CG (centre of gravity), to customise ball flights or assist with opening or closing the clubface at impact.
First impressions are vital when choosing a driver and when you first lay eyes on the 440cc Cobra F8+, you'll want to say hello, buy it a drink and quickly consider a long-term partnership proposal.
The sleek appearance of the Cobra F8+ just screams distance and the CNC milled face is what stands out, because it is the first time Cobra have used the process on the face of a driver.
And the face is where most of the distance gains are made in the Cobra F8+ driver, with the precision of the CNC milling resulting in a face that is three per cent thinner and 10 per cent lighter.
The thinner face is more flexible, translating into greater ball speeds through a more efficient energy transfer to the ball, while the subsequent weight savings are funnelled low down into the sole to optimise the CG for improved launch and spin characteristics.
The Cobra F8+ also features a lightweight carbon fibre crown that contributes to the weight savings and increases mass held low in the sole for an enhanced CG.
Two weight ports, positioned forward and aft, can adjust the CG for spin and trajectory tuning while aerodynamic strips on top of the crown improve the Cobra F8+’s performance through the air.
Check out our Cobra F8 Review - Click Here
CALLAWAY ROGUE SUB ZERO
The Callaway Rogue Sub Zero driver packs some serious muscle off the tee, so much so that it could well be renamed the 'Callaway Loveable Rogue', such is the admiration for the driver's length and accuracy.
Callaway’s famous Jailbreak technology gets a bit of nip and tuck in the Callaway Rogue Sub Zero, which is the 440cc version of the Callaway Rogue driver.
The legendary titanium Jailbreak rods that connect the crown and sole, stiffening the clubhead, have been remodelled as an hourglass shape and are 15 per cent lighter.
But the biggest design shift has been the integration of Jailbreak technology with a fresh, new clubface - the X face VFT (variable face thickness) - to create what Callaway term the ‘Jailbreak Effect’.
The ‘Jailbreak Effect’ effectively allows additional flex in the new clubface for greater ball speeds, distance and forgiveness from every point of the clubface.
The Callaway Rogue Sub Zero is a low-spin driver and features two interchangeable sole weights (14g and 2g) to enable CG alterations for customised ball flights.
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing have also lent their experience to design a new ‘Speed Step’ on the crown of the Rogue Sub Zero, to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the driver.
Watch our Rogue Sub Zero Review - Click here
If you want to add some X-factor to a new driver, sometimes you just have to think outside the box.
And that is exactly what TaylorMade have done with the new TaylorMade M3 driver, which threw everyone a literal curve ball with the introduction of Twist Face technology. And yes, it is precisely what it sounds like: the M3's clubface is twisted.
The reasoning behind TaylorMade's Twist face technology is impressive and the results are hard to ignore: strikes in the awkward low heel and high toe zones are afforded unparalleled forgiveness and distance.
While a twisted driver face sounds radical, it is almost unnoticeable at address. But like a caped superhero, it will spring into action when it's needed most and save the day.
But the TaylorMade M3 is even more of a brute when strikes are out of the middle.
A new Hammerhead slot, an improved version of the TaylorMade Speed Slot, features on the TaylorMade M3's sole. It allowed TaylorMade engineers to make the M3's Twist Face thinner and more flexible, increasing ball speeds across the entire span and significantly enlarging the sweet spot.
The TaylorMade M3 sports a new Y-shaped weight tracking system that allows precision adjustability of the CG, with the two 11g sliding weights able to be positioned in more than 1000 unique CG combinations for every ball flight imaginable.
What's the hype around Twist Face? - Click here to find out