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Callaway XR and XR Pro Drivers: The AmateurGolf.com Review
02 Mar 2015
by Rusty Cage

see also: Equipment Reviews

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Callaway XR Driver Is Built For Speed
Callaway XR Driver Is Built For Speed

Even if you’re Henrik Stenson, one of the longest and straightest drivers on tour, you always strive to get better. Stenson, who’s very particular about his equipment - he remains notoriously loyal to his Callaway Legacy Black irons - began using the company’s XR 9-degree driver this year.

The new driver debuted this past January at the European Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic where Stenson finished tied for 13th place. For the week, the long-hitting Swede averaged 304.5 yards (fourth best in the field) off the tee. For Stenson, swapping out his X2 Hot for the new Callaway driver was a seamless transition.

“This is kind of the same head shape, but it comes off a bit quicker and normally no one seems to be too bothered about a driver that goes a bit further,” Stenson told Golf Channel at a recent appearance on the television show, Morning Drive. “I’m pleased with it, and I’m sure [Callaway] are too.”

I had first seen the XR driver, which Callaway boldly proclaims is “built for outrageous speed” at the PGA Show and I like what I saw. A simple matte crown, traditional head design and an authoritative sound at impact. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it again for a proper test drive where I was able to hit both the Standard and Pro XR models.

So let me just put it out there, because I know you’re dying to know - Callaway’s new driver is fast. Period.

Callaway's XR drivers feature 
the new R-Moto technology
Callaway's XR drivers feature the new R-Moto technology

Callaway’s XR is the lightweight alternative to the company’s flagship driver, the Big Bertha Alpha 815. And by lightweight, I don’t mean to say some sort of step down model. Stenson and other Callaway staffers are playing it for a simple reason - it performs. A number of key technologies have been introduced to make the XR driver lightweight and fast.

  • R-Moto Technology, which is also available on the Big Bertha Alpha 815, is a series of strips that connect the face to the sole. The hollowed out cavity between these strips allowed Callaway to reduce weight by as much as 10 percent. R- Moto, according to Callaway, does a number of things effectively like improving energy transfer to the ball across the face and lowering the center of gravity.
  • Internal Standing Wave - a forward-leaning weight pad behind the face that helps lower CG and reduce spin.
  • Speed Step Crown is a geometric feature towards the front of the crown which, when combined with the aerodynamic head shape, helps reduce drag and significantly improves club head speed.
  • The OptiFit adjustable hosel has eight different loft and lie settings to fine-tune your launch conditions.
  • Maximum Shaft Load: the lightweight (50-gram) Project X LZ shaft at 46 inches long is engineered to deliver greater clubhead speed and produce maximum shaft load on the way down for greater energy transfer into the ball.
Callaway's Speed Step Crown 
improves club head speed
Callaway's Speed Step Crown improves club head speed

By comparison, the XR Pro driver has a few important differences that are designed to appeal to more accomplished players without negating performance benefits golfers are looking for in a club engineered for speed.

  • Smaller, compact head shape (440cc) replaces the larger, more aggressively-designed head on the standard model. XR Pro is more workable and features a cleaner look (no alignment aids on the crown).
  • Instead of a Speed Step Crown, the XR Pro driver has what Callaway calls a Forged Composite Crown. The multi-material construction allowed engineers to lower the center of gravity by 53 percent and reduce spin by 300 rpm when compared to the company’s X2 Hot which some players felt may have spun a little too much.
  • The stock Project X LZ Pro shaft is slightly heavier (63 to 66 grams depending on flex) and is half an inch shorter than its standard counterpart. Even with these changes XR Pro driver still comes in at a D3 swing weight, much like the standard model.
Callaway's aggressive 
styling signals a need for speed
Callaway's aggressive styling signals a need for speed

Performance

It’s no suprise that the standard XR driver launched higher and spun more. Individual results may vary in testing, but the standard model consistently produced about 4000 rpm of total spin and a launch angle of about 16 degrees for me.

In Callaway’s recent advertisements for the XR, the company claims that their driver will generate up to 5 miles per hour of additional ball speed. My launch numbers revealed a consistent 6 mph of additional club head speed when compared to my gamer and my longest drive flew 16 yards longer than any shot struck with either my current club or the Callway XR Pro. The only knock I have on the standard XR driver are varied results from shot-to-shot which may have had to do as much with the regular flex Project X LZ shaft than with anything related to the head.

While it does seem like the standard model, with it’s recipe of high launch and high spin, appears well-suited for mid-to-high handicappers or for players that don’t generate high swing speeds, it’s worth noting that Stenson paired his existing Oban Kiyoshi Tour Blue 60 shaft with the standard XR head and he’s certainly not complaining.

The XR Pro driver's 
compact head will appeal to better players
The XR Pro driver's compact head will appeal to better players

For what it’s worth, the XR Pro (set to 12 degrees neutral and paired with the stiff- flex Project X LZ Pro) was an absolute beast in testing. As mentioned earlier, none of my drives with the pro flew as long as my best shot with the XR Standard. But the pro model produced a consistent 1.45 smash factor along with 2600 rpm of total spin on average. It easily outperformed my gamer by 10 to 15 yards. That may not seem like much on paper, but on the course that leaves me a full club-length shorter on approach shots.

For better-skilled players, the XR Pro offers a more penetrating ball flight. Shots off the club launched at 13 degrees, sustaining a peak hight of 19 yards (compared to 26 yards on the standard). On a course playing firm and fast, drives launched off an XR Pro will pretty much run for days. If that’s what Callaway means by outrageous speed, sign me up.

Look and Feel

Both versions of the Callaway XR driver set up nicely at address. The matte black finish on the crown will naturally cut down glare. Some players might find the subtle alignment aid on the standard model useful. Personally, I didn’t find the Speed Step Crown at all distracting.

Callaway’s racing-inspired design figures prominently on the club’s sole. There’s a lot of of red, white and blue happening; some people have already made comparisons of the graphics and colorway to BMW’s M-Series of automobiles. If you’re a BMW fan, I suppose that’s a bonus then. As for myself, I prefer to believe Callaway designers are big fans of Marvel, more specifically - Captain America. Either way, I think Callaway did a fine job straddling a line between bold and bombastic.

The XR driver, with it’s emphasis on speed, generates a pretty substantial whoosh when swung. Although the club feels lightweight, the XR will definitely let you know when you’ve made crisp, center-faced contact with the ball.

Who’s It For?

The Callaway XR driver ($349.99 MSRP for standard / $399.99 for pro) will fit a wide range of golfers when you factor in both models. Some players will benefit from the higher-launching standard edition, while others will see the most gains from the lower- spinning pro driver.

If you’ve already been playing either the Callaway XHot or X2 Hot driver, the new XR model might offer a few more yards as Stenson himself has discovered. While I do wish I could borrow Henrik’s swing to reduce long par fours into pitch and putts, I’m more than happy settling for his driver. Chances are, so will you.

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