Should you play an adjustable or non-adjustable driver?

September 25, 2011

Today’s drivers are more specialized than ever.
Retail shops are flush with
superlight sticks for golfers
with moderate swing speeds,
offset clubs for players who need
help squaring the face, low-spin
bombers for guys who generate
serious spin, and many more. But
in this age of specialization, the
No. 1 question you face is: “Should
I play an adjustable driver?”

With a few twists of a wrench,
Average Joes are now able to
adjust face angle, loft and lie
angle without having to schedule
an appointment with their local
clubfitter—or having to buy a new
club altogether. (We recommend
that you work with a trained fitter
whenever possible.) Golfers can
alter the club dynamics to suit
their desired ball flight or to pick
up a few additional yards of carry.

of golfers polled own an adjustable driver.*

shown in red based on 2,337 respondents on

In 2011, Adams (Speedline
9064LS DFS
), Srixon (Z-Star)
and Titleist (910
D2/910 D3
) each
debuted their first adjustable
driver, joining a growing list
of converts, including Cobra,
Nike and TaylorMade. What’s
more, Golf Datatech reports that
the metalwood category is up
for the first time in five years,
spearheaded in part by sales
of the adjustable R11
Through June, two of the top three
best-selling drivers (among new for 2011 clubs) offer adjustability.

Regardless of where you fall in
the debate, understanding the pros
and cons of adjustable and nonadjustable
drivers will help with your next purchase decision.
“There are many advantages to
says Chris McGinley, Titleist’s
Vice President of Golf Club
Marketing. “You can adjust loft,
lie and weight, and try different
shafts at a fitting, which produces
a more precise fit. If so desired,
the settings can be adjusted later
to improve the fit or ball flight.
There really are no disadvantages
[to our adjustable technology].”

The Titleist 910 series features
an adjustable hosel that allows users
to change loft and lie independently
of each other (for up to 16 settings),
while TaylorMade’s R11 allows
the independent alteration of loft,
face angle and flight path to create
a total of 48 different settings.
TaylorMade claims it can affect
left/right trajectory up to 100
yards, which is a huge selling
point for slicers, who make up
85 to 90 percent of all golfers.

Cobra’s adjustable models,
which include the S3
and ZL
drivers, let you tweak the face
angle into the open, closed or
neutral position, depending on
which direction you want the ball
to fly. The face angle is moved to
the closed position to help a player
who normally struggles with a
slice. “It’s one more variable that
allows you to optimize the driver
for your swing,” says Tom Preece,
Vice President of R&D for Cobra.

see “noticeable” performance improvement with the adjustable driver.

According to Tom Stites, Nike’s
Director of Club Creation, “You’re
at a disadvantage if you’re not
playing with [Nike’s] STR8-FIT
adjustable technology. One simple
adjustment (up to 32 settings)
can make an incredible impact.”

Not every manufacturer is sold on
the merits of adjustability, however.
Callaway, Cleveland and Ping are a
few of the companies that haven’t
jumped on the adjustability express.
They cite the cost of adjustable
drivers (typically $100 more
than non-adjustable models), the
additional weighting in less than
ideal locations, and the confusion
factor created by all those different
settings as reasons that a golfer
would stay with traditional nonadjustable

“The adjustable offerings in
the marketplace put too much
weight in the wrong places,”
says Dr. Alan Hocknell, Senior
VP of R&D for Callaway. “Many
of the adjustable mechanisms
in the hosel and elsewhere on
the head weigh in excess of 20
grams, and they compromise
performance more than they
help golfers find performance.”

“The additional weighting
required for adjustable drivers
makes it difficult to maximize
swing speed and distance,” says
Nate Radcliffe, Metalwoods
Development Manager for
Cleveland. (In robotic and player
testing, Cleveland found that a
10-gram reduction in weight led
to an average increase of 1 mph of
swing speed.) Its Launcher
Ultralite XL270
driver, part of the
Ultralite series, is 40 to 60 grams
lighter than most adjustable drivers.

GALLERY: Golf Magazine
asked eight readers to get custom-fit for new drivers—four with
adjustable drivers and four with non-adjustable drivers. See how
everyone got longer and straighter off the tee.

“Speed is the most critical
factor in creating distance
potential, and club weight is
the most influential factor that’s
unrestricted by the Rules of Golf,”
adds Radcliffe. “Tour shafts are
in the 45- to 60-gram range, and
grips are half the weight of what
was available only two years ago.
This allows for weight reductions
of 30 to 50 grams in drivers.”

“We do see the value of
adjustability for fine-tuning
ball flight,” says Marty Jertson,
Senior Design Engineer for Ping.

“Currently, though, you have to
sacrifice a lot by adding weight
to the hosel, and we don’t want to
take a step back in performance
gains. With our technology and
fitting system, we believe we can
maximize driver performance.”
Change can be intimidating, and
this can deter consumers who’ve been
playing a non-adjustable driver all
their lives. The perceived complexity
(How do I adjust the driver? What do
all the settings mean?) of adjustable
drivers prevents many traditional
golfers from taking the plunge into
the world of adjustability.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to
simplify the fitting process,” says
Tom Olsavsky, Senior Director of
Product Creation for TaylorMade.
“We simplified the FCT sleeve to
read higher or lower [versus
closed or open in the R9].
many golfers understand that if you
close the face the ball flight will be
higher, or that you open the face for
a lower flight, we wanted R11
to be simpler to understand.”

Critics of adjustable drivers
point out that consumers make
few, if any, alterations once
they purchase the club. In some
cases, the adjustments are
comparable to pre-configured
settings in traditional drivers.
“The adjustable club is then
burdened with the weight of
the adjustability mechanism
for the rest of its life, which can
negatively affect performance,”
adds Callaway’s Hocknell.

adjusted the driver at least once.

According to TaylorMade’s
Olsavsky, “At least 80 percent
of TaylorMade buyers adjust the
drivers at least once. After the
initial change, 10 to 15 percent
adjust settings regularly.” Cobra
claims that 75 percent of its
consumers who play adjustable
drivers use the adjustable
features. Most find a setting that
works and rarely adjust again.

would not consider buying an adjustable driver.

“The bottom line is
that adjustability offers a
customized option to every
golfer on demand,” says
Nike’s Stites. “That’s the way
of the world. You see it in all
industries: People want to have
it their way right now. Those
who’ve adopted the technology
find it empowering.”

Non-adjustable or adjustable. The choice is yours. Whatever your decision, make sure to get custom fit for a new driver. The improvements to your game might shock you. We fit eight Average Joes—four with adjustable drivers and four with non-adjustable. Each guy now hits it longer, with an improved ball flight and greater confidence than before.