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The 2024 Drivers are Out! - Silly Season is Here Again

It's that time of the year again - the 2024 drivers have hit the market. So, once again, the questions are - What's new and should you buy them?

It's long been a given that for a driver to be long (able to hit the ball as far as possible) that the necessary compromise is that the club will be less tolerant of off-center hits. And for a driver to be easy to hit, the tradeoff is going to be distance. Club manufacturers have been trying to close that gap for years. 

This might be the year they've succeeded.

Two drivers, in particular, the TaylorMade Qi10 Max and the Ping G430 Max 10k are the most forgiving drivers ever produced. Both offer a moment of inertia of 10,000 grams/cm2, a number that puts them head and shoulders above any other driver on the market today in terms of resistance to twisting on off-center hits.

It's interesting to note that the G430 Max 10k is actually the second driver that Ping has released to the public with a MOI of 10k, the first being the G400 Max which makes that driver the new unicorn of the used club market. Where the G430 Max 10k differs is in spin control, but more on that later.

As mentioned at the outset, there's usually a tradeoff for making a driver more resistant to twisting on off-center hits and that's a reduction in ball speed, usually due to an increase in ball spin. The two aforementioned drivers navigate that minefield better than any other drivers currently on the market and better than any other driver ever produced. 

While TaylorMade and Ping have made it their goal to make the most forgiving drivers ever, other manufacturers have gone the normal route of improving their existing line of driver. Really that's not a bad thing when your line already has the best drivers you've ever produced.

Callaway produced the best-selling driver of 2023, the Paradym and brought the full force of their AI prowess to bear to improve what was ostensibly the best driver of last year. To this end they've completely redone the face, nay, faces of their drivers. Each driver in the line has a different clubface from the other. 

Callaway has designed each driver face to maximize ball speed and spin from hits outside the center of the clubface depending on the golfer demographic that it was designed for. TayloMade had already done this (in a more generic manner) with their Twist Face technology, but Callaway has clearly one-upped them here. That said, both the preceding drivers are more forgiving than any driver in the Callaway line.

Cobra has done similarly with their new Darkspeed range of drivers. It's interesting to note that the most work was done on the LS model, in an effort to make that model more forgiving without reliquishing its reputation as the longest driver on the planet. To a large part they've succeeded, but that doesn't mean that a 15-handicap should run out and buy it. No, this is still a club for a player that finds the center of the clubface more often than not. 

The other drivers in the Cobra range lose less ball speed and don't kick up spin the way they used to on off-center strikes, making marginal gains to better fit golfers looking to put one of these in the bag. But are marginal gains going to cut it in 2024. I think it's going to depend on the quality of the fit.

Titleist hasn't come out with their new line of drivers yet. If their product cycle holds true to form, these will be out in the third or fourth quarter of 2024. It will be interesting to see what improvements Titlesit is making to what is an already very impressive line of big sticks.

By all accounts, the most intriguing driver of 2024, so far, is the Ping G430 Max 10k. While the TaylorMade Qi10 Max matches it for forgiveness, the Ping's trump card is the way that it manages spin. Better players usually avoid the Max models of any manufacturer but the Max 10k seems to be the exception. Players with higher swing speeds are not seeing spin kick up using this head making it the unicorn driver of 2024. After all, who couldn't use more forgiveness while not sacrificing distance in the process?

Now that's not to say the TaylorMade Qi10 Max is rubbish. Far from it. A different shaft and a tweak or two of the adjustable hosel could make this your dream driver. I already have a few ideas of how I'd like to set it up. But it's going to take a bit more work to achieve legendary status than the Ping. TaylorMade does offer a greater variety of shafts for all of their drivers which makes hot-rodding the Qi10 Max easier, but it will hit your wallet harder in the process.

All this goodness comes at a rather hefty price. Most of these drivers hover around $600 in price at retail in the United States. More when you factor in the premium most manufacturers place on the clubs imported to our shores. More still if you need or want a custom shaft. So, is it worth the money? Should you upgrade?

It's been established that most new drivers will add 1-yard of distance to your average drive over last year's model. So, if you've got a driver that's 7-years old or one that's even older, then you should definitely consider it. But if you've got a driver that's less than that and you don't mind giving up half a club's worth of distance to the latest big stick, then an upgrade makes less sense. 

But it's your money and you're free to spend it as you see fit. If you've got cash burning a hole in your pocket, the drivers of 2024 are a compelling lot and deserve your attention. 

If you do decide that you want to take the plunge, please, PLEASE, get a proper fitting. This ensures that you'll get the best results for the considerable investment you're making.