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
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 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.
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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
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.
Pro driver's compact head will appeal to better
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
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.