Callaway XR Driver Review

With the release of the XR Driver, in 2015, Callaway boldly announced that its new stick was ‘designed for outrageous speed.’ This is no small claim, so keen golfers could barely contain their excitement and were chomping at the bit to try it out. At first glance, it certainly seems to have all the right credentials. With an aerodynamic crown, a sleeker face, and a maximising shaft load, the driver has clearly been constructed with acceleration in mind. The question is, does it manage to live up to its own hype?

This review of the Callaway XR Driver is going to investigate these bold claims and help you find out for certain whether it is the right stick for you.

First Impressions of the XR

The thing that first catches the eye about the Callaway XR is its speed step crown. The manufacturer is not the first to incorporate aerodynamic technologies into its drivers, but it has done so in a rather interesting fashion. With this product, the aerodynamic aspects, in effect, manage to frame the head well around the ball just before the point of impact.

The visual features are similarly striking because the XR driver has an almost ‘race car’ vibe. It is as the Callaway designers have looked at its favourite sports cars and realised that nothing is cooler than the aesthetic promise of speed and agility. It is a genuinely beautiful design too; there is no denying that.

Getting to Grips with the Technology

R-Moto Technology

Essentially, the Callaway XR is a lightweight version of the popular flagship Big Bertha Alpha driver. Yet, don’t let the term ‘lightweight’ fool you because this souped-upalternative to the BBA 815 is no throwaway stick. Like the BBA, the XR is extremely fast and this is primarily due to the inclusion of nifty R-Moto elements. These take the form of small strips that link the sole up to the face of the club.

Beneath these strips, there is a hollowed out space and they make the XR driver around 10% lighter than other commercial options. According to Callaway, the R-Moto features enhance energy transfer to the ball across the whole face and actively reduce the centre of gravity. This results in greater distances, more accurate strikes, and increased forgiveness.

Speed Step Crown

The Speed Step Crown is a geometric feature that sits at the front of the crown and helps to bring down drag and boost club head speed. It is a trademark characteristic for Callaway and it has appeared on a number of their products. The aim is always to reduce air resistant as much as possible, while the club is being swung.

It can make a huge difference to handling and the quality of impacts, so it should come as no surprise to find that the manufacturer is heavily invested in the pursuit of this goal. While the Speed Step Crown is certainly not a redundant feature, its effect is perhaps not quite as dramatic as desired. Ironically, the successor to the XR (the XR 16) has its SSC positioned rather differently, which ends up offering significantly less drag than the parent driver.

This is not to say that the XR isn’t competent because it is. It is a perfectly great choice for players on a budget, who can’t quite afford the lofty heights of the XR 16, but who are still keen to work with one of the best products on the market. Just keep in mind the fact that some players are bound to find the imbalance of the SSC lines a little disconcerting. They can, from certain angles, make the chevron appear off centre towards the heel.

Project X LZ Shaft

The super lightweight shaft of the Callaway XR weights a mere fifty grammes, which is really impressive when you consider the way in which it handles out on the green. It extends for 46 inches and is precision engineered to provide substantial club head speed and the maximum amount shaft load on the way back down. This results in a cleaner, harder energy transfer to the ball and a better shot.

The only downside is that it can be quite jarring to move from a shorter shaft to this longer Callaway design. You might, at first, find the combination of length and lightness a little unwieldy. However, if you do find that you’re constantly having trouble hitting that sweet area, you can always pick up a custom shaft. Callaway even offers some of these accessories at no extra cost, if you already have the XR driver. It is certainly worth taking a look anyway.

Internal Standing Wave

To further reduce the centre of gravity, the Callaway XR driver contains a hidden slug weight inside the head. This is known as an ‘internal standing wave’ and it is found in many of the fairway woods and drivers that the manufacturer puts out. So, it isn’t an entirely new feature, which might disappoint some fans.

The weight serves to reduce spin and make the stick significantly more forgiving, because more heft is packed into the perimeter and, as such, the moment of inertia is greater. The only real difference, on a visual level, between the BBA 1815 and the XR is that the internal standing wave is now hidden more skilfully within a less ‘back heavy’ shape and frame.

OptiFit Adjustable Hosel

The hosel on this driver comes with a nifty adjustable dial. It can be configured at any one of eight different loft and lie settings. This is a great way to, essentially, dial in your ideal launch specs and get as much distance as possible. For players who are deeply interested in the technical aspects of their game, this is an invaluable feature. Do be aware that the XR has no additional adjustability for face bias or sole weights; the only changes made are via the hosel.

Appearance and Visual Features

As already discussed, it really comes down to personal preference whether or not you like the appearance of the Speed Step Crown. There are some who find it visually distracting and there are others who really don’t mind it at all. You should consider this before you buy and, if possible, get the club out in the sun and on the green. It is the only way to make sure that it is going to work for you.

Otherwise, the Callaway XR driver is rather enjoyable to look at. That ‘race car’ aesthetic runs right through the design and ensures that its form remains sleek and sensual, rather than erring on the clunkier side. The matte black finish on the crown is good for lowering glare too. On the underside, you’ll find a bit more colour – reds, whites, and blues – which, again, will appeal to those who appreciate their classic racing colours.

Forgiveness

Before the release of the XR, Callaway focused heavily on its loading and ball speed capabilities. However, this driver is also pretty impressive when it comes to its forgiveness profile. While there is no accounting for a good, strong strike in the right spot, it provides satisfying results for a broad spectrum of impacts. It should be noted that a small degree of ball speed and distance loss was encountered on weaker strikes.

Then again, unless the ball was limited by a block push or pull, the draw or fade flight patterns weren’t intensified very much at all during the weaker impacts. What this means is that the Callaway XR driver is perfect for players who don’t tend to strike the sweet spot consistently. In other words, if you need support and help with correcting lateral misses, this could be the right club for you. Fairways on relatively unclean shots were not uncommon with this product.

The Bottom Line

Major Pros

The XR repeatedly lowers sidespin on even the most unclean and untidy of misses. Plus, it can transform overly large slices and hooks into workable tee shots. This is because the spacious and broad sweet spot offers satisfying results across the face. With an extremely light body and remarkable balance, the driver is able to provide a lot of power during swings, without compromising on control.

Major Cons

On the other hand, the combination of reduced weight and extended shaft can make this a club that feels awkward, to begin with. You are advised to go and get it professionally fit before you start playing seriously. If you have the patience to really settle into its unique handling, it can really offer you a lot of quality, but not everybody is willing to wait for their stick to start producing great results.

The Final Word

With the XR driver, Callaway demonstrates that lightweight doesn’t have to mean less precise or less powerful. For players interested in picking up anagiler non-tour stick, with a decent amount of forgiveness, it should come right at the top of the list. Do spend some time with it before you make a purchase, however; particularly if you are not used to a long, light shaft.