For a brand that has more major wins than any other, Wilson Staff remain criminally under-rated in the golf market and the D9 driver certainly falls into that category. This is a driver that can compete with the more celebrated names yet comes in at around half the price. For golfers not wanting to spend a small fortune on a new driver, the D9 should definitely be on your radar.
But before I get into why this driver is such fantastic value for money, allow me to recommend some of our useful guides to the best golf watches, best golf bags, best golf shoes and the best drivers on T3. And if you're in the UK, don't let the bad weather deter you from playing your favourite sport: the best golf waterproofs will keep you dry, even if it's pouring down on the green.
If you are a fair weather golfer though, fear not because T3 have you covered as well. Check out our guides to the best indoor golf simulators and the best putting mats.
So anyway, back to the Wilson Staff D9 driver. You're probably wondering, if this driver is good then why is it so much cheaper than the latest drivers from the cooler brands. Some may suggest this is because the D9 does not have anywhere near the same kind of tech as the more expensive alternatives, and that might be true (although it doesn't show in performance).
The more likely explanation is that Wilson do not spend anywhere near the same amount on marketing as ‘the big four’ brands (TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist and Ping) and they do not have a stable of the world’s leading golfers on their payroll either, which harms their brand reputation somewhat but also reduces their overheads, allowing them to pass on that saving to the consumer.
Not many of the leading tour players use Wilson but that isn't a reflection of the quality of the product, it's simply that Wilson don't throw the same kind of cash around on endorsement deals as their competitors do.
If you’re buying a set of irons on a budget, Wilson should probably be on or near the top of your list. But what about their drivers, specifically the D9?
Well it doesn’t have a cool marketing story like the “carbonwood revolution” angle TaylorMade used with the Stealth, and it doesn’t have the adjustability of a Callaway or a Mizuno. There are no sliding weights to promote draw or fade and there isn’t even an adjustable neck sleeve allowing you to tinker with loft. In some respects the D9 is almost a throwback of sorts, so surely it can't really compete with the higher priced, heavily marketed, adjustable offerings from Mizuno, TaylorMade, Callaway and the rest?
Spoiler alert; it did compete and I was very pleasantly surprised at how well I was able to hit this driver.
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Wilson Staff D9 driver - price and availability
At its launch in 2021 the D9 was initially priced at a maximum of £329 but it has come down considerably since then and you now can pick one up for as little as £199 in some of the leading online golf retailers such as Scottsdale Golf or Snainton Golf. That’s less than half of what you’ll pay for the latest offerings from Callaway, TaylorMade etc
In the US you can buy direct from Wilson (opens in new tab) at a cost of $299.
Wilson Staff D9 driver - Looks, Sound & Feel
The look is fairly basic, yet still visually appealing. There is nothing flashy or high tech about the design but it’s modern looking and pleasing enough to the eye. It sits nicely at address, although you may notice a slight offset. Given that the majority of golfers are likely to lose shots to the right that is probably no bad thing as it should help straighten you out a little. It might be something to be aware of if you are often prone to a left miss though.
There is a “V” on the crown which aids alignment but otherwise it’s a very clean, sleek looking crown. I'm not a huge fan of the glossy look and prefer my driver head to look less shiny than this, but that's a personal preference and I daresay many golfers will love the the high gloss finish.
There’s not too much going on underneath as there are no weight tracks or anything like that. There is one weight slot in the very back of the club which contains a 10g weight, but you have the option of swapping that out for 3g weight if you want a lower launch. The 10g will be best for the vast majority of golfers though.
It comes with a nice enough head cover. Nothing spectacular about it but it certainly doesn't look cheap.
The feel is very pleasing on well struck shots but on heel or toe strikes you can tell you’ve not flushed it. On some of the more expensive drivers, such as the Stealth for example, you still know when you’ve mis-hit one but it feels just a tiny bit more solid than the D9 and you get that bit more forgiveness. You’d expect that for double the price though and the difference isn't huge.
I'm not a huge fan of the sound of the D9. I don’t particularly dislike it and I’m nit-picking here somewhat, as it isn’t too loud or offensive, but there is just a tiny bit too much ‘ting’ for my personal taste. It isn’t at the louder end of the scale and it isn’t as high pitched as a Ping for instance, I just prefer the kind of dead ‘thud’ you get with a TaylorMade driver. My favourite sounding driver in recent years is still the TaylorMade Sim2 Max D.
Wilson Staff D9 - The Technology
While the D9 doesn’t have the cool backstory of a TaylorMade Stealth (“a club 20 years in the making” etc) and it lacks the adjustable weights and lofts of many other leading drivers, don’t be fooled into thinking it isn’t packed with tech. An awful lot of time and money went into the research and development of the D9 and it is packed with technology, it’s just that most of it is hidden away inside the driver head rather than on display underneath it.
Wilson have divided the face up into fractal zones, with every millimetre having been fine tuned to maximise ball speed. This results in a large sweet spot that extends towards the heel and toe which helps to keep ball speed up as much as possible even on mishits.
The lightweight, three layer, composite kevlar and carbon fibre crown allows for more weight to be distributed lower down which helps with launch and spin. Overall the D9 has a very light swing weight which promotes faster swing speeds for golfers who need that bit extra without consciously having to try and swing harder.
Whereas many other brands will bring out a new driver and offer three different heads (sometimes even four) as well as a variety of shaft options, the D9 is just one standard head and then you select the loft (a choice of 9, 10.5 or 13 degrees) and the flex of the shaft. This is handy if you want to buy online and you know your normal specifications with driver as it removes the need to get fitted.
For a lower priced driver you might expect there to be some sacrifices in the quality of shaft, but that isn’t the case. The D9 features a Tensei CK Blue shaft installed as standard stock with stiff, regular and senior flex options as well as the new Lamkin Genesis Crossline grip. Basically it’s the same kind of set up you’d get in a £450 driver. The only thing lacking is the adjustability, which will be a deal breaker for some but won’t matter to others.
Wilson Staff D9 driver - Performance
Full disclosure; I have always loved Wilson Staff as a golf brand. The first set of clubs I bought were Wilson Staff and I’ve mostly played them ever since. The irons anyway, as Wilson have always been right up there with the best when it comes to their irons. Drivers and putters? Meh, not so much.
So when the opportunity came to try out the D9 driver I admit that my expectations were not especially high, especially as I'd not long written a review of the TaylorMade Stealth HD, which took the number one spot in our guide to the best drivers of 2022.
The performance of the D9 was impressive and took me a little by surprise. I suppose my expectations had been low for a combination of factors. As mentioned above, Wilson aren’t known for their great drivers, so there is that. Plus the D9 is not adjustable and doesn’t have any fancy tech story to capture the imagination, so there's that too. And finally, a lower price point can often make you think a product “can’t be that good”. My advice is to ignore all of that and keep an open mind. I actually had my lowest round of the year so far with the D9 in the bag.
When I was fitted for a new driver a couple of years ago, my swing speed was just about on the cusp of needing a stiff shaft. I could have gone with stiff or regular but being the eternal optimist I am, my view was that when I increase my clubhead speed the stiff shaft will still fit my game whereas a regular would not. Sadly in those two years I have not increased my speed.
So for the purpose of this review I decided to go with a regular flex shaft to see how that compared with the stiff shafts in the other drivers I have.
I went to my local course, Beacon Park, and immediately headed to the third tee, which is my nemesis hole. I used to have a big problem with untimely slices off the tee but I’ve mostly eradicated that now, partly due to working on my swing, partly because I’ve given myself a helping hand by switching to draw biased drivers.
So slicing is no longer a problem for me, except on the third hole at Beacon Park that is. If I only hit one slice in a round you can guarantee it will be on the third tee where anything right kills you and results in a lost ball. That hole is in my head, so when I’m reviewing drivers that’s where I like to start. If I can find that fairway then that’s a mark in the plus column straight away.
I mentioned in my review of the Mizuno ST-G 220 that my first shots with that driver did not go well. My first experience with the Wilson Staff D9 could not have been more different.
The first drive I hit came right out of the sweet spot and flew straight and true, finding the centre of the fairway. Now when I say straight, I literally mean there was no deviation at all. That thing was like an arrow. Now full of confidence in my swing and keen to get a good comparison, I took out the Stealth HD and produced another great swing. Obviously ‘great’ is subjective as I’m referring to my own very average standards, but the key point here is I made virtually the same swing with both drivers so it was going to be an interesting comparison.
This ball had a slight right to left shape (the draw bias doing its job?) but landed in the same area of the fairway and settled down right next to the first shot. When I walked down the fairway to retrieve them I couldn’t believe how close together they were. Normally I can’t even get that kind of tight dispersion on 12 foot putts, let alone 240 yards with a driver!
FYI I also hit a third shot (with the D9) which sliced deep into the trees, but we’ll overlook that.
I’ve used the D9 in a couple of rounds since then and I’ve given it a good run out on the driving range too, using the Rapsodo MLM (mobile launch monitor) to collect data. I don’t hit driver as well on the range as I do on the course because it’s difficult to focus on each shot like it matters when the truth is it doesn’t. I try to be disciplined on the range and have a pre-shot routine and play each shot as though I’m on the course, but that goes out of the window after five minutes and I end up just ‘machine gunning’ shot after shot until the bucket is empty.
For what it’s worth, the performance of the D9 on the range was decent but it did average five yards less carry than the Stealth. It launched a little higher but it wasn’t a like for like comparison because the shafts are different. Besides, distance is over rated for mid handicap golfers anyway. An extra five or six yards is no good if you’re not on the fairway, but for a golfer who struggles for height the D9 can certainly help with that.
The range is useful for getting used to the feel of a new club but I prefer to judge a driver on how it performs for me on the golf course. I have to say that in that regard the D9 was great.
The thing that really stood out for me was how straight the flight was. When I’m swinging well my stock drive is straight with perhaps a tiny touch of fade. I don’t set up to shape the ball either way, I just aim at the middle of the fairway and hope it goes straight as that’s the high percentage play for me as it gives me some leeway either side. The D9 was unerringly straight unless I made a bad swing.
When I did make a bad swing I noticed that it wasn’t quite as forgiving as the more expensive drivers. It wasn’t a huge difference but I definitely lost a little distance. I have a specific bad shot that happens quite regularly where I come over the top a little and strike the ball on the heel of the driver. This results in a lower flight that starts left and then cuts back across violently to miss the fairway on the right. I’ve been hitting that bad shot for years, so I know how far it usually travels.
On the three or four occasions I’ve hit that shot with the D9 I was generally around five or six yards shorter than I normally would be. Admittedly that’s quite a small sample size, but I’m not fully convinced about the forgiving nature of this driver even though multiple reviews I’ve read list it as a big strength. From my experience of this driver I’d say it has very good forgiveness rather than great.
When I struck it well there was not any significant difference between the D9 and the more expensive drivers I’ve used, which is a big feather in the cap of Wilson considering the vast gulf in price.
Wilson Staff D9 driver - Verdict
As a cheaper alternative to the more premium drivers, the Wilson Staff D9 stacks up brilliantly, although perhaps not for the more accomplished player who likes the flexibility of being able to change lofts and swap out for different shafts depending on course requirements.
For the average mid-high handicap golfer who just wants to grip it and try to rip it without getting bogged down by adjustable weights and countless loft and lie options, the D9 is an ideal solution, particularly as it comes in at a vastly lower price point than the competition. In my view, this is currently the best value for money driver in golf.