While adjustability in drivers is still the sexier technology these days, speed is still the once and future king. If you can make more shots fly off the face faster and if you can make it easier for a player to deliver the club to the ball with greater alacrity, you’ve accomplished Job No. 1 in driver design.
The trouble is making a driver larger and more forgiving often makes it more difficult to deliver to the ball with speed. In short, bigger drivers often result in slower swings.
Resolving those cross purposes is the mission of the second generation XR drivers, the XR16 and XR16 Pro, which the company debuted today.
The XR16 stretches farther front to back than last year’s XR to produce a higher moment of inertia. The increased MOI yields a more stable head on off-center hits so there’s less energy loss on mis-hits. But Callaway’s engineers employed a lower-density titanium alloy (8-1-1) in the body and a shallower, lighter face design to save weight so the center of gravity is lower than last year’s model. Those two elements combine to produce better energy transfer.
The challenge was maintaining the clubhead’s aerodynamic efficiency so players could more easily produce the same or better swing speed despite the larger size. Enter Callaway’s partnership with a company that knows something about better ways to move things through the air, Boeing.
“Usually if you make the head bigger, your aerodynamics get worse,” said Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s senior vice president of research and development. “Working with Boeing kind of unlocked that trade you might normally have to make. Now, it’s a bigger body and still more aerodynamic that the head we already had.”
The key element of that work with Boeing is the revised step feature at the front of the crown. Designed to reduce aerodynamic drag, the step is more forward this year, says Evan Gibbs, Callaway’s senior manager of metalwoods research and development.
“Some of the things we learned were that it was very easy to screw it up and very hard to make it better,” Gibbs said. “There was really a very fine line.”
Gibbs said the combination of better energy transfer from the design with improved aerodynamics results in consistent ballspeed gains. Distance also came from a higher launch with less speed because of the lower center of gravity.
“This driver really represents a paradigm shift,” Gibbs said. “In our Bertha drivers, we have talked about the idea of designing drivers with low spin and forgiveness. XR is the paradigm of fast and forgiveness.”
Both the XR16 and XR16 Pro benefit from a redesigned face that’s up to 20 percent thinner and as much as nine grams lighter than the previous XR.
The aerodynamic challenge with the XR16 Pro isn’t so much its footprint front to back, but its deeper face. Again, the step in the front part of the crown is designed to mitigate some of those negative aerodynamic effects. While there’s a natural draw bias on the standard XR16 heads, the XR16 Pro features a more neutral bias and a slightly more compact 450 cubic centimeter volume.
Like last year’s models, the XR16 and XR16 Pro feature Callaway’s eight-way adjustable hosel that changes loft in four settings (-1, standard, +1 and +2 degrees) and independently changes between two lie angles (neutral and draw).
Available in stores Jan. 29, the XR16 comes in 9-, 10.5- and 13.5-degree lofts ($350). The XR16 Pro is offered in 9- and 10.5-degree lofts ($400). Both drivers offer a range of nearly two dozen no-upcharge shafts in addition to the stock Fujikura Speeder Evolution 565 (standard) and Evolution II TS 665 (Pro).
The XR16 line also includes updated fairway woods in both the standard and Pro models. The main change is an improved off-center hit performance thanks to a larger footprint and face size. Although the new XR16 3-wood checks in at 175 cubic centimeters (only 2cc more than last year’s XR), the XR16 stretches farther front to back to raise the head’s MOI and improve consistency on off-center hits.
“We wanted to create a similar trajectory as last year’s XR but a lot more consistent,” Gibbs said.
Part of the key to optimizing that MOI and head size is the thinnest crown on a fairway wood in Callaway’s history. But the meat of the XR16’s design is Callaway’s trademark face cup design, where the face wraps around both the front of the crown and sole to expand the area of the face that provides the most spring-like effect. The high-strength forged Carpenter 455 steel alloy in the face cup gets as thin as .043 inches at the perimeter to improve flexibility. That’s the thinnest face the company has designed.
“That’s what helps us generate high ball speeds across the entire face, particularly low on the face where so many people often impact their fairway woods,” Gibbs said.
The XR16 fairway woods also feature an updated internal weighting structure. This year, the wave-like feature stretches 40 percent closer to the face for lower spin and more consistent energy transfer.
The XR16 fairway woods are available in 10 lofts, including seven in the standard size and three in the more compact Pro version. The standard model (14, 15.5, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25) includes a 3+ with a 43-inch shaft that can double as a larger, backup driving club for better players, as well as both a 9-wood and an 11-wood. In addition to the 14-degree standard model, the three Pro lofts (14.5, 16 and 18 degrees) all feature an open face and flatter lie angles.
Both XR16 fairway wood ($230) and XR16 Pro fairway wood ($250) are slated to be in stores January 29.