If you’ve been using the same driver for years and years, naturally when you start losing distance off the tee you may begin to start questioning whether the club is past its use-by date.
You used to get the ball out there 280 yards off the tee, but lately you’ve been coming up 10 or even 15 yards short of your average.
Naturally, you briefly begin to wonder whether it’s your swing that’s causing the drop in distance, but most of the time – due to the nature of golfers – you’ll start blaming your tools instead.
The key question you’ll ask yourself is: can a golf driver go dead and lose its pop?
A golf driver can go dead and lose its pop when there is a crack, or defect, in the club face. This can be caused by faulty manufacturing or weakness in the driver head, and affects distance and performance. However, if the integrity of your driver head is intact, and not damaged, there is no reason why it should go dead or lose its pop, regardless of age.
In fact, there was a great post on golf forum The Sand Trap detailing an email from PGA Tour clubfitter and designer Tom Wishon – who has more than 35 years’ experience in the field and is one of the industry leaders in club design, performance and technology – responding to that exact question.
In his email, Wishon explained whether a phenomenon known as ‘metal fatigue’ could weaken a driver head over time, leading to poorer performance and less distance off the tee.
Metal fatigue is a weakened condition in which repeated stress causes the strength of a metal part to drop below the normal designed stress threshold of the part.
Micro-fractures begin to form from a high level of repeated stress which upon further stress become larger and more populated until the yield strength drops well below the level of the stress being induced on the part.
It is highly unlikely a driver could ever be hit so many times that the titanium face could develop metal fatigue.
The face is simply not flexed in and out far enough to create such a condition.
In addition, few drivers are ever hit more than a few thousand times in their lifetime, with a high percentage of those impacts occurring off the center of the face.
It is true that much higher clubhead speeds will push the impact stress higher on the face, but again, the face is simply not flexed in and out dimensionally to a point that fatigue could occur.
So, unless you’re hitting thousands and thousands of golf balls every month over the course of many, many years – and have the swing speed of a professional long driver or Bryson DeChambeau – then it’s highly unlikely your driver will go dead, or lose its pop and distance, due to metal fatigue.
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Do golf drivers lose distance over time?
Unless the club head has been damaged, golf drivers are unlikely to lose distance over time. The club would need to be used thousands and thousands of times before it began to suffer from metal fatigue, which, even for professional players, is rare.
The more likely reason for losing distance with your driver comes down to you as the player – for example, whether your swing speed has decreased over time, or whether you’ve begun struggling to find the centre of the club face repeatedly.
Of course, newer model drivers are designed with the latest, cutting-edge technology to make the ball fly farther and straighter – especially compared to older clubs – but that doesn’t mean the one you own will travel less distance, or perform as it always has, over time.
Other reasons you might be losing distance with your driver
So, if your club is not to blame, what are some of the other reasons you might be losing distance off the tee with your driver?
According to PGA teaching professional Todd Kolb, there are three key things that negatively impact how far you hit the golf ball.
- Negative attack angle
- Moving off the golf ball
- Poor transition in downswing
Let’s explore each of those points in more detail.
Negative attack angle
If you’re someone who hits down on the ball with your driver, you’re going to cost yourself serious distance off the tee.
As Kolb puts it:
In order to maximise your distance with driver, no matter your club head speed, is you want to hit up on the driver. When you come into contact with the golf ball, if your driver is travelling in an upward motion what that does is it increases launch … and most importantly decreases spin.
One of the easiest ways to do this is correcting your ball position (which we explain in greater depth in another article) so that it is just inside your lead foot when hitting driver.
This will help you hit up on the ball through impact.
Moving off the golf ball
Many players, especially beginners or high handicappers, think that in order to hit the driver a long way, they need to load up into their trail side – often leading to a big sway off the golf ball – before lunging back towards their target with their entire body.
Mistakenly, while this may feel powerful, it actually has the opposite affect and will hurt your distance and consistency.
We’ve written a great instructional article on How To Prevent Swaying In Your Golf Swing that I’d recommend you read in order to maximise your distance, especially when hitting driver.
Poor transition in downswing
The last big swing killer that is likely costing you distance with your driver is how the club transitions from the top of your backswing into impact.
Many amateur players will pull down aggressively in order to begin their downswing, which – more often than not – steepens the club shaft and releases all the stored energy that had been created during the takeaway.
Instead, you should let the club shallow out as you begin your downswing – often called ‘laying the shaft down’ – as this will help create the maximum amount of centrifugal force than can then be delivered through the ball.
We’ve written a helpful step-by-step article on What The Golf Swing Should Feel Like from start to finish that touches on how to correctly start your downswing, which I’d definitely suggest you check out.
Watch Todd Kolb explain the three distance killers in more detail in the video below:
What is the lifespan of a golf driver?
If treated correctly – including storing it safely in your golf bag out of the elements, such as rain or searing heat, and protecting it with a headcover – there is no reason why your driver won’t last decades, maybe longer. While its technology may become outdated over time, the performance of your driver should not change the older it gets if you look after it.
Most often, you’ll buy a new driver far sooner than you need to, simply because you want an upgrade – rather than it being due to your existing club no longer performing how it did when you first bought it.
Which brings me to the next all-important question…
How often should you replace your golf driver?
In general, it’s best to replace your driver every 4-5 years to ensure the model you’re using has the latest technological advancements that can help you hit the ball farther, and straighter. If you’re using a driver that’s more than five years old, it’s likely you’re robbing yourself of noticeable gains on the golf course.
So, while you don’t need to replace your driver every 1-2 years, it is recommended that you use a club that is taking advantage of the huge amount of data and design improvements that club manufacturers are making – such as TaylorMade’s Twist Face technology for greater forgiveness, or something as simple as adjustable loft or lie features.
As Joel Tadman from Golf Monthly put it:
From generation to generation, driver to driver you’re only talking about very marginal gains, and if your driver is only one or two years old, I don’t think a new driver is going to revolutionize your performance out on the course.
But if your driver is 4-5 years old, those incremental gains you’ve missed out on will provide tangible benefits that you will notice out on the course – whether it’s a bit of extra distance, a bit more accuracy or, generally, being a bit more playable or forgiving.
If you’re looking to buy a new driver but don’t want to spend a fortune, we’ve compiled a list of the 8 Best Drivers For Beginners And High Handicappers that will improve your game for less than $400 USD.
How long does it take to break in a golf driver?
There is no need to break in a new golf driver. Unlike a wooden baseball or cricket bat, which may require some knocking in first before using it in competition, your driver should be ready to use from the moment you buy it.
Simply unwrap it, step onto the first tee, and let fly!
Golf drivers are extremely durable and should not go dead, or lose their ‘pop’, over time provided there is no damage to the club head (such as cracks, or dents).
However, in order for maximum performance on the golf course, it’s recommended you upgrade your driver to a newer model every 4-5 years in order to reap the benefits of technological advancements that will help give you more distance and accuracy off the tee.
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