Are Today's Drivers Too Expensive?
Having reviewed equipment for over 20 years, I have seen the price of clubs increase significantly, whether due to technology, materials or demand. The best drivers are the one everyone talks about, although putters are catching up. Both are clubs that you use the most during a round so the justification we all give ourselves, and relevant others, is that we are getting value for money over the long term.
However, the driver is the glamour club that hits the ball the furthest, so a certain amount of one-upmanship by golfers and manufacturers is inevitable and that includes what you pay for it. The driver also has the longest shaft and the largest head, so it uses the most materials and has the capacity to accommodate the most technology. Whenever a new material comes in then the price will jump as it did when graphite shafts arrived and titanium heads took over from steel. Now we have tungsten, aluminium, movable weights and more lately, carbon faces. All this costs money to research and manufacture, sometimes over decades and this is reflected in the price.
So how much is enough? Usually the market decides. For a long time drivers could not break the $200 barrier at retail and then the $300 barrier became the new ceiling. Then there was a breakout and in a relatively short space of time we are now homing in on $500. And that is for a standard driver. Go to some specialist fitters and you can add a custom shaft that can add 50% or more to that price. Is that too much? Of course, some of the best used drivers can still be modern drivers that offer great performance, but golfers can't be fitted for used golf clubs like they can with new ones.
I often wonder how many people having being fitted for a driver that gives them their best performance ever would then baulk at the price and go back to a lesser performing club to save money? Not many I think. We all want the optimum club that delivers the best performance and having a club you enjoy hitting and look forward to hitting as you pull it out of the bag is the essence of the game. Sure price comes into it as we all want best value for money and a fitting session will show you the marginal gains of upgrading to this head or that shaft. But at the end of the day it’s a free market and the price on the sticker is only what golfers are willing to pay for it.
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Martin Hopley is one of the foremost UK equipment reviewers with over 20 years' experience. As the former founder of Golfalot.com he was an early pioneer of online reviews and has also been a regular contributor to other titles. He is renowned for his technical knowledge and in-depth analysis, which he now brings to Golf Monthly.
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