If you’re a weekend duffer like me, there’s a point in every round where you just stop caring as much. Most of the time, that moment arrives thanks to a few beers and a series of lackluster holes. The hope of a magical round has faded, and with it, the desire to focus has faded as well. This is when dumb shots like ‘driver off the deck’ make a heroic appearance, and another Pro V1 ends up in a bird’s nest. Left, right, left, right; full tilt army golf is coming.
There’s also an alternate universe reserved for low-handicappers where they find that groove and stop thinking altogether. They’re in the zone. Though I’ve never sniffed that feeling (I was tracking to break 80 one magical time, and then it started raining), the zone is obvious to spot as it’s happening: these guys start hitting ridiculous Bubba Watson-cutters from all over the course and landing them to ten feet. Driver off the deck makes an appearance here, as well, but not because they’re in the middle stages of grief like me. No, it’s because they’re lying 275 out on the course’s signature elephant dick par five and are legitimately thinking eagle while I’m kicking around a Tin Cup-style seven-iron-only display in the interest of losing no more balls.
No matter why you’re hitting the big sticks, they’re still risky shots: long clubs with oversized heads and low loft are just hard to hit consistently with control for all players, no matter the skill level. Hybrid clubs revolutionized the game for many players like me who often hit from the first (or second) cut, but even with the power of four Bud Heavies behind me, I’m only hitting that hybrid 225 with pure contact. Fairway woods are an option, but oftentimes I’d rather use the extra bag slot for a third wedge since chipping is the only part of a duffer’s game that will be reliably put to the test every round. Drive for show and chip for dough is the mantra of the high-handicapper, after all.
TaylorMade may have come up with a solution for all of these contingencies in the form of a Mini Driver. In an homage to their popular 300 series drivers from 2001, TaylorMade has released a driver that comes in well under the USGA maximum 460cc but still packs more punch than a hybrid of fairway wood. Coming in a shorter length (43.75 in) than a traditional driver, too, the new sticks look to fill the gap between accuracy and distance that many players like myself probably need but have never really seriously considered.
Whether you’re on full tilt or fully in the zone, these new drivers are made for those traditionally ridiculous shots where you need more distance off the deck than a hybrid allows but would like to keep it in bounds. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson have even been trying them out in competition as potential plugs for awkward distances in their bag, to solid reviews. The Mini Drivers hearken back to the days of golf pros making their own Frankenstein-style clubs in the back rooms of country clubs. If you’ve played enough golf, you know what I’m about to say: who cares what it looks like; if it works, then it works.
And that’s how you make the leap from good to great. Learn your distances and angles, and invest in the right fitted equipment that complements your game. There’s a big, wild world of technicalities and calibrations to be experienced in golf; the type of stuff that can make you a better player without changing a single part of your swing. This isn’t an ad for TaylorMade, but I like what they’re doing here. Hitting big bombs off the tee is fun, but making more pars and losing fewer balls is good for both the psyche and the liver.