Gear Test: Best Drivers Under £280
Modern-day drivers come crammed full of cutting-edge technology but all these wonderful features now come with a premium price tag, often in excess of £400. This is a considerable investment that isn’t necessarily affordable to the every day golfer.
In the extra cash spent on a driver worth it? In many cases yes, as well as premium shaft offerings, the most expensive drivers usually have the most diverse adjustability as well as the most forgiving clubheads.
While there are some bargains to be had in the second-hand sector, perhaps you’ve overlooked new drivers that come in at a similar price. In this test, we picked for drivers that retail under £280. They are the Wilson Staff D300 (£279), Cleveland Launcher HB (£279), Benross HTX Compressor Type R (£199.99) and the Lynx Black Cat (£239).
We hit them on our GC2 launch monitor using premium golf balls in a controlled environment in the stock stiff shafts and in a loft as close to 9.5˚ as was possible. Here are our findings…
All the drivers offer a generous profile at address that inspires confidence but the two that stood out here were the Lynx and the Cleveland. The Lynx has a simple, matte-blue finish that is easy to align thanks to the contrast with the black face while the Cleveland has a small step divided with a white line that highlights orientation.
The raised sections on the Wilson lack uniformity, in truth they appear to positioned randomly, while the Benross doesn’t quite have the premium look at address we were hoping for and the alignment marking was a bit on the big side.
All of the drivers feel surprisingly solid for their prices. The Wilson created a louder, tinny sound that won’t please everyone’s taste. The Cleveland struck a nice balance between sounding powerful and lively without turning heads for the wrong reasons.
With the adjustable sole weight in the low spin setting, the Lynx created a powerful thud which we liked the most, although this changed significantly when we altered the setting – something to be aware of if you think you’ll benefit more from the high spin and launch setting. The Wilson is a lightweight club and so if you struggle with maximising club head speed, it could work well for you but for us it felt like it was difficult to control due to a lack of awareness of the club head.
The Wilson seemed to provide the smallest drop off in feelings of stability away from the sweetspot while the Benross also produced surprisingly consistent carry distances. Carry distance off-centre was perhaps where the Lynx struggled although on reflection it was probably the driver we hit most accurately. The Cleveland was generally a fairly user-friendly offering and it produced consistently high carries.
While there wasn’t much in it, the clear winner when it came to out and out distance was the Cleveland Launcher HB. It must be said that a long stock shaft of 45.5 inches will have contributed to this, but an average carry of 270 yards is still impressive and it didn’t seem to cause a drop off in clubface control.
The Benross was only a few yards behind, helped by some low spin numbers even with the sliding weight just in the neutral setting. It’s worth pointing out there was only seven yards difference between the longest and shortest drivers.
You’ll notice the Lynx flew higher than the others and with more spin, even in the low spin setting, which might be why it didn’t quite travel as far as the others, while one very strong effort with the Wilson boosted the averages significantly. For a faster swinger like myself, the lighter shaft and clubhead in the Wilson didn’t really work but that’s not to say it won’t work for other swing types.
All these drivers excel in different areas. The Wilson is a forgiving club ideal for slower swing speeds looking to increase distance through added speed, while the Benross and the Lynx provide adjustability at an affordable price. While the Cleveland isn’t adjustably, for us it offered the best all-round performance and if we had to pick one from the four, it would be this one. Bear in mind, though, it does come in at the top end of the budget we’ve set while the Benross offers very good value for money given the performance and adjustability at just £199.99.