Best Game-Improvement Drivers of 2015

by | February 12, 2016

Best Game-Improvement Drivers of 2015 (Reviews)

The following is a review of several top rated golf game-improvement drivers from reputable brands such as TaylorMade, Callaway, PING, Nike, Cobra and others, released for the 2015 golf season or any year prior.

Best Game-Improvement Drivers

Below the comparison chart (which compares the prices, features, pros and cons), I will list the drivers according to my personal rating from highest to lowest and talk about their features, benefits and overall reception.

Any reviews of game-improvement drivers listed here that exist on Golfstead will be linked to in the appropriate sections.

Note that the drivers that follow are game-improvement drivers, which typically have larger heads and faces (usually 460cc). They normally excel in the distance and forgiveness departments, making them ideal for high handicappers, but lack when it comes to feel and shot workability.

If you prefer a more compact head with more workability and better sound/feel, you should look at some available better-player driver options. Reviews and discussions of these other types of drivers will eventually be posted to Golfstead if they haven’t been already.

Please note that exact prices depend on shaft material, shaft flex, standard loft and other factors and are subject to change. Specifications for the driver, stock shafts and stock grips can be found in the provided individual reviews or on the manufacturer’s official website.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this page to see my #1 game-improvement driver recommendation for 2015!

DRIVERPRICE IN USD (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSESAVERAGE CUSTOMER RATINGMY RATING
1. Callaway XR

Full Review

Callaway XR Driver
Around $200 on eBayStrengths:
• great distance on center strikes
• adjustable hosel is great for dialing in optimal launch
• directional and distance forgiveness are exceptional
• nice look and impact feel
• many appreciate the light weight and general performance of the stock shaft
• affordable

Weaknesses:
• can take some time to get used to the feel depending on your previous driver
• not as adjustable as other drivers in Callaway's stable
• feedback is not very distinct
• some will find the stock shaft to be too long and a bit difficult to control
4.7/54.9/5
2. Titleist 915D2

Titleist 915D2 Driver
Around $280 on eBay (with free shipping options)Strengths:
• distance results are superb especially when optimal launch is dialed in
• nice straight ball flight
• forgiveness (distance and directional) among the best on the market and will keep you in the fairway
• amazing sound and feel
• good workability benefits better players
• does everything very well

Weaknesses:
• pricey
• dirt can get stuck in sole ARC and require cleaning
• the wrong shaft/loft/lie combination will likely cause poor results
4.9/54.9/5
3. PING G30

PING G30 Driver
Around $250 on eBayStrengths:
• amazing forgiveness will keep you in the fairway or first cut of rough (with little loss in ball speed) for all but the worst of mishits
• very satisfying "pop" feel at impact
• easy to swing
• attractive matte aesthetic
• distinct feedback

Weaknesses:
• clubhead is too thick for some people's tastes
• adjustability is limited
4.9/54.9/5
4. Cobra Fly-Z

Cobra Fly-Z Driver
Around $150 on eBayStrengths:
• great value for price
• extremely forgiving (large sweet spot)
• solid repeatable distance and trajectory
• great feel at impact
• adjustable loft combined with SmartPad allows any golfer to dial in a nice ball flight

Weaknesses:
• skilled golfers may find the ball flight may be too high and "spinny"
• not very workable/maneuverable
• some find impact sound and feedback to be a little questionable
4.8/54.8/5
5. TaylorMade Aeroburner

Full Review

TaylorMade Aeroburner Driver
Around $190 + free shipping on AmazonStrengths:
• draw bias is good for counteracting slices
• good strikes fly long and fairly straight
• excellent forgiveness
• cool, sharp look
• hot, satisfying feel at impact

Weaknesses:
• no adjustability
• light weight not preferred by all
• spin rate could be lower
• some find white crown to be unappealing
• may not be ideal for natural drawers or hookers due to draw bias
4.7/54.8/5
6. Nike Vapor Speed

Nike Vapor Speed Driver
Around $160 on eBayStrengths:
• directional and distance forgiveness are both terrific
• length beats out many other game-improvement drivers
• powerful and satisfying feel at impact
• light weight is loved by many
• look is modern and sleek
• penetrating ball flight is somewhat workable and does well in the wind

Weaknesses:
• some experience a lower-than-preferred trajectory
• other drivers are more forgiving
4.9/54.7/5
7. Mizuno JPX-850

Full Review

Mizuno JPX-850 Driver
Around $250 on eBayStrengths:
• tons of adjustability that allows golfers of all different swing speeds to maximize their performance off the tee
• very good forgiveness given the 440cc head
• distinct feedback
• very reliable and precise when struck solidly

Weaknesses:
• some find hit feedback to be a bit too frank
• some would prefer a more explosive feel at impact
• look isn't liked by everyone
• some may be overwhelmed or confused by the adjustable aspects of the driver
4.8/54.6/5

1. Callaway XR Driver (2015)

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the XR driver here!

Price and where to buy online new: Around $200 on eBay (see chart for link)Callaway XR Driver

Overview/Features: See the “What are the features?” section of the full XR driver review (link above) for details.

Reception: The XR driver has average customer ratings of 4.4/5 on Amazon (click here to see the customer reviews), 5/5 on Global Golf, 4.7/5 (93% recommended) on Golfsmith, 4.6/5 on the Dick’s Sporting Goods website and 4.8/5 (92% recommended) on Callaway’s official website. Reviewers have praised the driver for its power (many report increasing their distance off the tee by at least 10-20 yards), ease of use, adjustability, forgiveness (great for managing slices and hooks), impact feel and sound. Indeed, the XR driver doesn’t really have any distinct weaknesses, although workability could be better and some people don’t quite get the distance results they hope for.

My rating: 4.9/5

2. Titleist 915D2 Driver

Price and where to buy online new: Around $280 on eBay (see chart for link), $449.99 for a custom-built 915D2 on Golfsmith

Overview/Features: Titleist labels the 915D2 driver “distance without compromise for every drive and every player”; it is designed for maximum distance and forgiveness. Technologies include:Titleist 915D2 Driver

  • an Active Recoil Channel — a wide sole channel near the face that flexes at impact, producing higher ball speeds with lower spin
  • Radial Speed Face — a high-speed face insert with a thickness that decreases radially from the center. This helps increase ball speeds on off-center hits.
  • high moment of inertia (MOI) design in which the weight is moved back and the center of gravity (CG) is moved low and deep (back) to further improve mis-hit ball speeds.

The 915D2 driver has a 460cc pear profile with a rich appearance. The high-quality “acoustic engineering” of the driver contributes to a very solid sound and feel. The driver also features a SureFit Tour hosel that enables sixteen (16) unique loft and lie combinations for ball flight optimization.

Six stock shafts, each with different launch tendencies (low, mid or high), torques and weights, are available with the driver. The standard lofts available are 7.5°, 8.5°, 9.5°, 10.5° and 12°. More information on the features and specifications of the driver/stock shafts/stock grips can be found on the official Titleist website.

Reception: The 915D2 driver has received tremendously high ratings from both critics and customers. It has a perfect average rating of 5/5 on Global Golf, 5/5 on the Golf Town website, 4.8/5 (92% recommended) on Golfsmith and very positive critic ratings. Many people believe that Titleist makes the best drivers for the average player, and the 915D2 certainly doesn’t damage that opinion. Players love the fact that the 915D2 manages to do everything well — it’s very long, straight, very forgiving, workable and has a premium sound and feel.

My rating: 4.9/5

3. PING G30 Driver

Price and where to buy online new: Around $250 on eBay (see chart for link), $349.99 for a custom-built PING G30 on Golfsmith

Overview/Features: The 460cc G30 driver has what PING calls “turbulators” in the crown that help reduce aerodynamic drag, increasing clubhead speed and ball speed for greater distance. ThePING G30 Driver
face is made of a strong, lightweight, thin T9S material that optimizes face deflection for even greater ball speeds and distance. The Trajectory Tuner on the hosel allows golfers to find-tune their launch conditions by selecting from five settings and adding or subtracting 1° of loft.

A full description of the features and technologies of the PING G30 driver, along with its specs, can be found on PING’s official website; the same goes for the available shafts and grips.

Reception: The G30 driver currently has unbelievably high average customer scores — for example, a 4.8/5 (95% recommended) on the Dick’s Sporting Goods website, 4.9/5 on Global Golf and 5/5 (100% recommended) on Golfsmith.
What people like: Incredible directional and ball speed forgiveness; satisfying feel at impact and throughout the swing; good distance; easy to use
What some people don’t like: Look; could be longer and more workable

My rating: 4.9/5

4. Cobra Fly-Z Driver

Price and where to buy online new: Around $150 on eBay (see chart for link)

Overview/Features: Cobra labels the Fly-Z driver “dialed in weighting that dials up distance”; it is designed to be very long and forgiving. The driver makeup consists of three key “weight zones” optimized for distance:

  • Forged E9 Face Zone with a shape that helps preserve ball speed across the face. This zone features Cobra’s “Speed Channel” innovation, which is a trench that surrounds the face. This trench reduces face thickness and contributes to faster ball speeds.Cobra Fly-Z Driver
  • Crown Zone — weight is removed from the crown and repositioned low and deep in the head. This moves the center of gravity (CG) low and back, greatly improving MOI (and hence mishit forgiveness) and delivering low spin, mid-high launch and increased ball speeds for increased distance.
  • Back CG Zone — consists of a “uniquely engineered” sole weight responsible for the low CG position.

Other features and technologies of the 460cc titanium Fly-Z driver are:

  • MyFly8 technology — this allows golfers to choose from eight different loft/trajectory settings (9°-12°) using a torque wrench.
  • SmartPad on the sole that keeps the clubface square at address regardless of what loft setting is active.

Four stock shafts are available with the driver. For more information on the features and specs of the driver/stock shafts/stock grips, see the official Cobra website.

Reception: At the time of writing, the Fly-Z driver has average customer ratings of 4.6/5 on Amazon, 5/5 on Global Golf, 4.8/5 (100% recommended) on the Dick’s Sporting Goods website and 5/5 (100% recommended) on Golfsmith.
What people like: Easy to hit and get the ball up in the air; very beginner/amateur friendly; affordable; consistent ball flight; superb forgiveness; adjustability
What some people don’t like: Impact sound; a spin rate that is too high; limited workability

My rating: 4.8/5

5. TaylorMade Aeroburner Driver

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the Aeroburner driver here!

Price and where to buy online new: Around $190 on Amazon (see chart for link)TaylorMade Aeroburner Driver

Overview/Features:  See the “What are the features?” section of the full Aeroburner driver review (link above) for details.

Reception: At the time of writing, the Aeroburner driver has average buyer ratings of 4.4/5 on Amazon (with over 30 reviews), 4.6/5 (93% recommended with over 60 reviews) on the Dick’s Sporting Goods website, 4.9/5 on Global Golf and 4.7/5 (100% recommended) on Golfsmith.
What people like: Solid distance; light weight; mostly straight with slight draw bias; very generous forgiveness; sharp look; easy to get the ball up in the air
What some people don’t like: No adjustability; little workability; light weight

My rating: 4.8/5

6. Nike Vapor Speed Driver

Price and where to buy online new: Around $160 on eBay (see chart for link)Nike Vapor Speed Driver

Overview/Features: The 460cc traditional-shaped Vapor Speed driver features a high-speed cavity-back design and blends three key technologies:

  • FlexLoft 2 technology (adjustable hosel) which provides 15 different launch options (5 lofts and 3 face angles)
  • FlyBeam structure (helps stabilize the chassis for increased ball speed) with a Covert Cavity Back design which redistributes weight towards the heel and toe for improved stability, MOI and hence forgiveness
  • a re-engineered Compression Channel which runs the entire length of the sole and contributes to faster ball speeds at more spots on the face

The FlyBeam structure, Compression Channel and NexCOR face all work together to stabilize the chassis and maximize ball speed. The center of gravity (CG) is low and this promotes higher launch for longer carry. The stock shaft offered and stock grip offered are the Mitsubishi Fubuki Z 50 and Golf Pride Tour Wrap 2G, respectively.

Reception: The Vapor Speed driver currently has average customer ratings of 4.9/5 on Amazon, 4.7/5 (100% recommended) on the Dick’s Sporting Goods website, 4.9/5 on Global Golf and 5/5 (100% recommended) on Golfsmith.
What people like: Longer than many other game-improvement drivers; explosive feel with muted sound; relatively light weight; nice length
What some people don’t like: Can take some time to adjust to the feel

My rating: 4.7/5

7. Mizuno JPX-850 Driver

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the JPX-850 driver here!

Price and where to buy online new: Around $250 on eBay (see chart for link), $399.99 for a custom-built JPX-850 on GolfsmithMizuno JPX-850 Driver

Overview/Features: See the “What are the features?” section of the full JPX-850 driver review (link above) for details.

Reception: The JPX-850 driver has a 4.7/5 average rating (93% recommended) on the official Mizuno website, a 5/5 average rating at Rock Bottom Golf as well as generally positive verdicts from nearly all of the professional reviewers.

The driver has been praised for its extensive adjustability that allows golfers of all swing speeds to find an optimal trajectory and maximize their distance. People also like the feel, accuracy and solid forgiveness it provides. Many people have reported hitting it farther with the JPX-850 than many modern well-known drivers from other manufacturers such as Callaway and TaylorMade. In terms of negatives, many people don’t like the design and blue/black colour scheme of the crown and sole. Some feel that the mishit feedback is too harsh at times, and others would like more workability.

My rating: 4.6/5


If you’re a beginner or intermediate golfer and are on a tight budget, something like the Callaway XR driver or Cobra Fly-Z driver would be an excellent choice.  If you’re willing to pay extra for something a little more high-end, I would highly recommend looking into drivers like the Titleist 915D2 or PING G30. Like most things, which driver is best for you depends on your specific priorities, preferences and budget.

==> My #1 driver recommendation for 2015 that I believe stands the best chance of working out for the average game-improvement player? It’s THIS one! See the relevant section above for information on why. <==

Best of luck shopping for your game-improvement driver!


Images courtesy of:  Amazon

20 thoughts on “Best Game-Improvement Drivers of 2015

  1. Dylan

    This website is essential for anyone looking to improve their golf game and find good equipment.

    I started golfing not too long ago and I’m starting to see some improvements. My clubs aren’t that good and are pretty cheap so I’m looking for new clubs. These looks amazing and these drivers seem like something I should def have. Everything is pretty fairly priced too.

    I will be spending some time looking through your list here. Thanks for the information and list of drivers.

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Thanks. These game-improvement drivers are great for golfers looking to play the game seriously and even occasionals. The value is just terrific — well worth the investment.

      Reply
  2. Gary

    Good day. Thanks for the comparison. I’m going to be looking at this carefully.

    There’s one thing, I’m not a very good golfer. But I do want to improve. I need a tip if you can offer one. When driving the ball, even when I do hit it well and relatively straight, I don’t get much lift. It tends to stay very low, hit the fairway and roll. Of course the bigger the club the lower the shot, I get that due to the angle of the club face. What can I do to get the ball up in the air a bit more for greater distance?

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Gary,

      There are several things you can do aside from modifying your golf swing or setup (which I wouldn’t recommend, especially given the fact you hit it well otherwise). I should mention that it’s not necessarily true that a bigger clubhead produces lower shots — the effective loft of the club does, however, directly affect the trajectory. You can:

      1. Increase the loft on your driver, either by using one with a higher standard loft or adjusting it on an adjustable driver. Most drivers are either available in multiple standard lofts or have an adjustable hosel/moveable weight(s) for adjusting ball flight.

      2. Use a golf ball that encourages a higher trajectory and/or spin rate like the Bridgestone e5. If you’re a slower swinger, you’ll likely benefit from a lower-compression golf ball.

      3. Use a different shaft flex or shaft model.

      4. Use a driver with high launch characteristics (such as the Cobra Fly-Z or Aeroburner driver listed and linked above). Usually this consists of a low and back center of gravity for higher launch and higher spin.

      If you decide to get a new driver and don’t want to get fit, I would recommend getting a standard loft a few degrees higher than what you’re currently using. From there, you can change your ball or adjust as needed. Let me know if you have any further questions.

      Reply
  3. Brok

    Hey Paul,

    Really liked your list of some drivers that can improve your golf game.

    I have to say that I’ve been trying to play golf for a few years now but can never find enough time to consistently play.

    This year I’ve decided I’m actually going to play each week and work at getting better.

    I’ll be using your website to get reviews as I probably will update a few clubs, starting with my driver.

    I have a few Titleist clubs that I really like, but looks like the drivers a bit out of my price range. Any other drivers you recommend that are in the $199 range?

    Brok

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Thanks Brok. My reviews provide all the info you need in an organized and consistent layout, and you don’t have to wade through any unhelpful fluff you’d normally find in other reviews.

      Are you referring to drivers that are less than $200? The Callaway XR is $200 and the Cobra Fly-Z can be purchased for $150 — I provide an overview of both in the article. For anything less than $100 you start venturing into low-quality and poor-performance territory, and that’s not something you want when you’re looking for a quality game-improvement driver.

      Good luck, and let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply
  4. Tammy

    I definitely need the ping g30 lol. My husband plays great and I suck. When we go everyone has to play through and I shout four a lot 🙁 People are ducking and my hubby just says” its ok, you will improve” so any help would be appreciated. I would like to go to a resort that offers golfing onsite but not until I can do better. Any advice, I don’t hit far, its either far left or right.

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Great choice, Tammy — the G30 has outstanding forgiveness. You can’t expect any club to turn around your game completely, but the G30 should should take at least some of the sting out of your bad misses. Since PING doesn’t offer a pre-built ladies version, I would recommend you get a fitting so you can get the proper loft, shaft flex and shaft length for your swing and body type.

      Be aware of an excellent off-the-rack PING option for ladies: the very forgiving Rhapsody driver. I suggest you check that out as well before you make any decision. As for your shot problems, I’m afraid I can’t offer you any helpful advice until I know more about your situation; for now I would point you to my swing tips for beginners article, which you might find helpful.

      Reply
  5. Tony Lee Hamilton

    Excellent comparison review of the leading drivers for game improvement among high handicap golfers – Callaway, Titleist, Ping, Cobra, Taylormade & Nike are most definitely well known brands.

    It is very helpful as well that you not only list the strengths but also the weaknesses for each driver as well as their ability to be custom made for different players.

    Thank You for sharing & caring as golf season is right around the corner for myself and Friends here in Michigan,

    Tony

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Thanks Tony. Be sure to send your friends over if they’re looking for a quality driver for the new season — I’m sure this will help them. Also let me know if there’s anything else you want to see with these writeups.

      Reply
  6. Olivier

    Wow. This looks amazing, you’ve provided a ton of information here. Must have taken you many hours of work. I’ve noticed something — PING and Titleist clubs (like the G30 and 915D2) are pretty much never listed on Amazon officially by the manufacturer. Do you know why this is? It’s not a big deal I guess because they’re almost always on eBay, but I’m curious to know anyway.

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Thanks for the comment. It definitely took a lot of time and effort to organize all the information. As for your question, I’m not entirely sure, but it’s likely because PING and Titleist want to encourage people to get fit for their clubs (not of interest to many) rather than buy off the rack.

      Reply
  7. Della

    Paul,

    Thank you for the comparison chart including rating information. Not being a golfer, if is difficult for me to find out about clubs needed for my children who are avid golfers. I will probably return once when I can find out which clubs are needed as this would be a wonderful gift idea. Your site is most helpful and informative. Thanks again.

    Della

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      You’re welcome Della. If your children prefer drivers with a focus on mis-hit forgiveness, this is the page for you. Once you find out that information, you can come right back here and make a decision based on your budget and perhaps their brand preference. Let me know if I can help with anything.

      Reply
  8. jazzy323

    Wow, what an in-depth review of all the best game improvement drivers and it’s clear that you are really passionate about golf. These drivers definitely all seem great choices so it’s clear that you have personally picked them out. Is there one you would recommend the most out of all of them?

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Yes, they’re listed according to my personal rating so if you’re looking for a game-improvement driver from 2015 or earlier I would most recommend trying out the XR, 915D2 or G30. If you have a brand preference that’s perfectly fine, and you can go with the one you like the most all things considered. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply
  9. Andy B

    Just read your golf club comparision article. it was a lot of information but you had some great reviews and comparisons. Am a fairly inexperienced golfer and this has helped immensely.

    Since these are form 2015 I’m assuming they are still the same great quality but are there better ones now that 2016 has rolled around?

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Glad you found this helpful Andy. Yes, it can certainly be argued that the many of the newest 2016 models are “better” — better forgiveness, better ball speed, better feel, etc. — but at the same time the models from 2015 and older are much cheaper, often to the point that their value per dollar is better. There is definitely something to be said about picking up older models. It really depends on whether or not you’re willing to pay a premium for the newest stuff. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply
  10. Joanne

    This is great!

    You certainly have a great line-up here. I’m kind of partial to Callaway and Ping clubs, but have been wanting to try a TaylorMade driver for a while now somay give the Aeroburner a try. I love the look of the club, but it has to feel good too so I’m anxious to try.

    Have you used the Callaway XR Driver? I have a Big Big Bertha right now and wondered how they compare. The head on the BB Bertha is huge and maybe too big for me. I know the XR is a much sleeker club head for sure.

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Yes Joanne, I have tested the XR driver — both the older and newer model. You say “Big Big Bertha”; are you talking about the Great Big Bertha or original Big Bertha driver? Assuming you’re referring to the Big Bertha, the drivers (XR and BB) are actually quite similar. They have similar head shapes (both 460cc) and are both “built for speed” across the face. One key difference is an adjustable slideable weight on the sole of the Big Bertha. The XR has newer (and arguably better) technologies. If I had to choose between the two, I would go with the XR personally (it is #1 on my list after all), but as always, it’s best to try all different models if you can and also factor in what you’re willing to spend. Hope this helps.

      Reply

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