At 46, Phil Mickelson is still driving it 300 yards, and this year, perhaps most impressively, he’s hitting the fairway almost 60 percent of the time. His rank in driving accuracy while not remarkable (115th) is still the best it’s been since 2001.
His work with new teacher Andrew Getson is certainly part of the story, but another element might be his new driver. The Callaway XR16 Sub Zero, which went on the USGA conforming list in January, has been Mickelson’s driver this year, and now the company is releasing this model to the buying public. And by public, we mean players with higher swing speeds demanding extremely low spin in their drivers.
The center of gravity on the 440-cubic centimeter design breaks new ground for Callaway, according to Evan Gibbs, senior manager of woods research and development. Gibbs says it’s the first time the CG on a Callaway driver has dipped below the clubhead’s neutral axis. (The neutral axis is an imaginary line that runs through the clubhead and perpendicular to the exact center of the face.) This property helps reduce spin for shots hit on or very nearly on the center of the face, or in other words, the area of the face where elite players make contact.
The key to this lower CG is a new carbon composite material in the crown that Callaway is calling Carbon Triax. Unlike the bundled fiber material known as “forged composite” that Callaway has used in several drivers in the past, the XR16 Sub Zero uses a fabric or laminate construction for the composite.
“We’ve combined that crown with our current molding technique,” Gibbs said. “This gives us superior material properties and allows us to design a thinner and lighter crown, which is critical for a driver with this low a center of gravity.”
The extreme low spin can be a boon for high swing speed players, and Mickelson was a big part of the motivation behind the product, Gibbs said. But it may not help low-speed players who do not make consistent center contact. Extreme mishits with slower ballspeeds may not yield enough spin and energy transfer for shots to produce optimal carry distance.
"Generally speaking, this club is for people with higher head speeds that generate excessive spin, usually caused by hitting down on the ball," Gibbs said. "Therefore, it probably isn’t the best for lower head speed players."
The saved weight from the crown also enables the XR16 Sub Zero to feature two weights in the sole, weighing 10 and two grams respectively. The weights fit in front and back ports in the sole. With the heavier weight in the front port, the ball will fly lower with less spin relative to the loft setting. With the heavier weight in the rear port, the ball flies higher. In addition, the club features the eight-way adjustable hosel that allows players to add one or two degrees of loft or reduce loft by a degree while independently changing lie angle between upright (for a draw) and neutral.
The XR16 Sub Zero also comes with Callaway’s current custom program that lets golfers opt for one of 20 premium aftermarket shafts at no additional charge.
The XR16 Sub Zero will be in stores April 15 ($450, 9 degrees, right-hand only).