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Guy Smarts: The best golf clubs to buy right now

Earlier this year, the United States Golf Association released its annual report on average driving distance among tour pros.

The report found that, after ticking up just 0.2 yards in 2015 and 2016, average driving distance surged more than 3 yards in 2017.

The not-so-subtle takeaway: Modern golf equipment is helping players pound the ball farther than ever before. If you’re playing 5-year-old clubs-or much older sticks-you’re at a significant disadvantage.

And not just on the tee box. Major advancements help today’s irons and hybrids fly straighter, longer, and higher-even on mishits. Wedges have never been so advanced. And the surge in putter technology is a game-changer-especially for low- and mid-handicap players who don’t have the stroke discipline to roll putts consistently.

So what should you carry in your bag? We tested dozens of new clubs and used the new FlightScope Mevo to track ball flight, ball spin, and distance. Unlike the big golf publications, we’re willing to pick winners.

Here are our top picks for players with lower handicaps (0 to 15) and mid-to-high handicaps (16+).

DRIVERS

Best for Players with Lower Handicaps

Titleist 917 D2 Driver, $ 550, Titleist.com

While Titleist’s new D3 driver is designed for skilled players who really want to shape the ball, even scratch golfers are usually willing to sacrifice a little workability off the tee if they can add distance to their drives. Their pick should be the Titleist D2. It crushes the ball and is arrow-straight-the perfect combination of looks, feel, distance, and precision. Jordan Spieth plays it, and you should too.

Best for Players with Mid-to-High Handicaps

TaylorMade M4 Driver, $ 430, TaylorMadeGolf.com

All the good things you’ve heard about TaylorMade’s new “Twist Face” driver technology are legit. The “face curvature” built into the driver’s sweet spot really does help correct slices and hooks, and off-center hits fly farther and straighter. This is the most forgiving driver TaylorMade has ever produced, and it blasts the ball. (If you tend to slice the ball, consider the draw-biased M4.

WOODS

Best for Players with Lower Handicaps

TaylorMade M3 Fairway Woods, $ 300, TaylormadeGolf.com

The sliding weight-track allows adjustment to help correct issues with too-aggressive fades or draws. Along with a powerful, penetrating ball flight and low ball spin, these woods are easy to shape.

Best for Players with Mid-to-High Handicaps

Callaway Rogue, $ 300, CallawayGolf.com

Featuring Calloway’s revolutionary “jailbreak” technology-previously only available in the company’s drivers-these woods include two stabilizing bars behind the club face that help correct off-center hits. It’s easy to get the ball in the air-a challenge for many high handicap players hitting woods-and the way it sets up behind the ball really inspires confidence.

HYBRIDS

Best for Players with Lower Handicaps

Titleist 818H1, $ 315, Titleist.com

The smaller-than-average head really carves through turf. But it’s this hybrid’s combination of distance and shot-shaping ability that elevates it above the competition. It just looks and feels like a club you can score with, and it delivers in both regards.

Best for Players with Mid-to-High Handicaps

Ping G400, $ 229, Ping.com

If you’ve shied away from hybrids because you find them hard to get off the turf and into the air, this is your club. No matter how you swing it, the G400 seems to make solid contact and provide instant lift. It’s the kind of hybrid you’ll want to reach for over your mid-range irons-just because it’s so easy to strike well.

IRONS

Best for Players with Lower Handicaps

Titleist 718 AP3, $ 185/cub, Titleist.com

These irons have it all: looks, playability, feel, and absolutely killer distance. Even on minor mishits, these irons fly high and true and provide enough spin to bite and hold greens. You’ll reach a lot of them in regulation with these irons in your bag.

Best for Players with Mid-to-High Handicaps

PXG 0311 XF GEN2, $ 350/club, PXG.com

PXG irons have some of the largest sweet spots in golf thanks to the super-strong, super-forgiving thermoplastic elastomer COR2 technology injected into every club head. That means mishits-even bad ones-feel good and go far. With their updated GEN2 XF irons, players get all the benefits of a cavity-back “game-improvement iron,” but with the cold-blooded good looks of a tour blade.

WEDGES

Best for Players with Lower Handicaps

Cleveland RTX-3, $ 130, ClevelandGolf.com

Cleveland has long been THE name in high-performance wedges, and the RTX-3 does nothing to tarnish the company’s reputation. The feel with these wedges is simply unmatched, with that green-biting spin good players demand. This club is the difference between a drainable 6-footer and a putt twice that length.

Best for Players with Mid-to-High Handicaps

Ping Glide 2.0 Stealth, $ 140, Ping.com

This club’s brooding matte-black looks aren’t just for show: they reduce glare and provide an added layer of durability. But the real magic in these wedges is the extra precision-milled half-groove at the base of the club face. Even if you catch your chips a little thin, that groove can help save you from running over the green.

PUTTERS

Best for Players with Lower Handicaps

Odyssey EXO Seven, $ 300, OdysseyGolf.com

Once derided by amateurs and nearly always eschewed by pros, mallet putters are now prized for their stroke-stabilizing balance. Even great putters would benefit from using a mallet, and Odyssey’s EXO line of putters is at the top of the class. Odyssey’s famous “white hot” insert provides the butter-soft feel you love, and the perfect weighting and balance of the Seven will keep you on target.

Best for Players with Mid-to-High Handicaps

TaylorMade Spider Interactive, $ 399, TaylorMade.com

The most popular putter on tour-one used by Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and Jon Rahm-now comes with interactive putt-tracking technology powered by BLAST. Using a phone app, the putter can gather metrics like your back- and forward-stroke times, your backstroke length, and your impact speed. It also provides easy-to-understand tutorials that explain the importance of these metrics, and how tweaking them can dramatically improve your putting stroke. It sounds a little gimmicky, but it works. The best part: you can use it at home or in your office to improve. No putting green needed.

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