How Often Should You Upgrade Your Driver?

In this video, Neil Tappin and Joel Tadman ask how often should you upgrade your driver?

How Often Should You Upgrade Your Driver?
(Image credit: Golf Monthly)

How Often Should You Upgrade Your Driver?

This is a question many golfers consider, especially as equipment manufacturers produce new models that promise even more distance and forgiveness than the previous generation. It leaves many of us asking should I buy a new driver in 2022?

How much of a difference do the technical developments make to the overall performance and if you choose not to invest in a new driver for a few years, what exactly are you giving up on? These are the questions that Neil and Joel look to answer in the video below.

WATCH - How Often Should You Upgrade Your Driver?

Here we tested (opens in new tab) a host of drivers from different eras to gauge the difference in looks, feel/sound, performance, adjustability and also the price so if you have an older driver and you have been thinking about upgrading, this will help you decide on whether a change will deliver better results.

Looks

This is a subjective category of course but one thing to note is sometimes the more eye-catching designs that were popular at the time can look a little dated sooner. Take the TaylorMade (opens in new tab) M1 pictured below. This was released in 2015 and the two-tone crown looked modern and fresh back then. Now, as TaylorMade has refined its clubheads over time, so we think the original M1 is starting to look a little dated. 

M1 v Stealth address

(Image credit: Future)

However, brands like Titleist (opens in new tab) may not have quite the same issue as it tends to keep the aesthetics consistent over time. The Titleist TSi3 driver is one of the best golf drivers on the market this year and it has a trademark look. The earliest driver we hit on this test was the 905 and whilst Titleist has tweaked the design, the differences are modest.

One important thing to note is that early drivers are not likely to be 460cc which means newer drivers do have a more generous hitting area - the Ping G425 Max driver is a good example of one with a large, confidence-inspiring footprint. This means if you are using an older and smaller driver, chances are you will be losing out on performance.

Sound/Feel

This category is where you possibly feel the biggest difference in drivers. Many brands use materials which produce a higher-pitched sound, whereas others try to create a duller, more muted sound. Once again this is all about personal preference.

This year TaylorMade has introduced carbon into the face of its driver. The TaylorMade Stealth driver, along with the HD (opens in new tab) and Plus (opens in new tab) models, still feels quite muted and powerful through impact. Another thing to note is the sound the driver makes when not struck in the middle. Older drivers seem to make a distinctly different sound when struck nearer the heel or toe whereas newer drivers mask that somewhat.

taylormade stealth drivers

(Image credit: Golf Monthly)

Performance

Are there tangible performance gains to be had when comparing new to old drivers Well in testing Joel found that when struck out of the middle, the performance on offer in the older models was comparable to his usual performance with newer models. However on the mis-hits, there were clear drop-offs.

In testing Neil found the same conclusions too. The key here is the consistency of distance (opens in new tab) because with newer models of driver, the mis-hits go further because of the forgiveness (opens in new tab) on offer. The spin rates too are more consistent. Another thing to note is modern drivers have adjustability which can help with dispersion if setup correctly whereas older drivers are more limited.

Price

Every golfer will have their own budget (opens in new tab) but what cannot be ignored is that modern, premium drivers come with premium prices. As a result good bargains can be had on used drivers however you should acknowledge that these drivers will not have the fitting options comparable to newer models, and they will age faster too.

We also recommend thinking about how often you want to upgrade your driver because if it is every few years, then a less expensive pre-owned option could be the way to go. Alternatively if you upgrade only every five or six years, then perhaps spending a little bit more could be more beneficial to you.

Neil Tappin driver testing

(Image credit: Future)

Verdict

The big question we were trying to answer is how often should you upgrade your driver. Now there may not be a definitive answer here but one of the main conclusions we came to was that from generation to generation, we are talking marginal gains. So if your driver is only a couple of years old, a new one may not revolutionize your performance.

However any older than that and there are clear benefits to be had in terms of total performance, forgiveness, adjustability and so on. If you can couple that with a custom fitting then we are confident that upgrading will deliver results.

In his current role, Neil is responsible for testing drivers and golf balls. Having been a part of the Golf Monthly team for over 15 years and playing off a handicap of 3, he has the experience to compare performance between models, brands and generations. For 2022 he thinks the main trend in drivers is: "In a word, consistency. Whilst all the brands are talking about ball speed (and the new drivers are certainly long), my biggest finding has been how much more consistent the ball flights are. Mishits don't seem to be causing the same level of drop-off or increase in the spin numbers. This means that more shots seem to be flying the way you want them to!" As far as golf balls are concerned the biggest development is in the, "three piece, non-Tour, urethane-covered section. For regular golfers, these models offer superb performance at both ends of the bag without denting your wallet quite as much as the premium Tour-played options."


Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he is now the brand's Digital Editor and covers everything from Tour player interviews to gear reviews. In his time at Golf Monthly, he has covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSi2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons (4-9): Mizuno JPX 919 Forged Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 46˚, 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X

With contributions from