When the folks at Callaway Golf unveiled their new game improvement irons on Sept. 2, they did more than resurrect the Steelhead name from the past. They brought back a lot of the looks and styling from one of the most successful lines golf has ever known.
Take a look at the new Steelhead XR irons and you can’t help but think of the Steelheads of the past. The bore-through hosel, the slight offset, the heel notch, the deep cavity – all bear a strong resemblance to the Steelhead X series irons of the past. Even the medallion in the cavity recalls the Steelhead X-14, X-16, etc. models that gained such a following not so long ago.
That, alone, is a pretty fair endorsement of the new Steelhead XR irons, since the former X-Series clubs were among the best performing, easiest-to-hit irons any manufacturer ever marketed. But the new Steelhead XR irons go even farther, incorporating cup-face technology into an already proven design.
If you’re not familiar with cup-face technology, you may not even realize that most irons – exclusive of forgings shaped from a single, solid piece of metal – are actually several separate pieces put together to form a single iron head. The face of each iron can either be set into a frame or, as the name “cup face” implies, the face piece can extend the full width and height of the clubface to include a cuplike rim that is welded to the iron body, eliminating any welds within the face, itself.
Callaway isn’t the only company to employ cup-face technology, but it is among the leaders when it comes to getting the best performance from such design.
What Callaway trademarks as Next-generation 360 Face Cup technology delivers greater distance through increased ball speed and more forgiveness on off-center hits. That’s because the one-piece face has a higher COR (coefficient of restitution) than a face in which the central hitting area has been welded into a more rigid frame.
Simply put, the 360 Face Cup is designed to flex more freely at impact, increasing ball speed and thus distance.
What’s more, the new Steelhead design places a narrow steel-infused soft urethane layer behind the lower portion of the face, just above and roughly parallel to the sole. The urethane bar does two things: absorbs vibration to enhance feel and, because it is infused with steel, lowers the club’s center of gravity to improve its launch characteristics.
As mentioned above, the new Steelhead XR irons feature the same hollow bore-through hosel as the original Steelhead series all the way through X-22, which means weight that would otherwise have been in the hosel of the club can be relocated to provide even greater forgiveness and make the clubs easier to launch high. By strategically repositioning the weight saved from the hosel, Callaway engineers say they were able to manipulate the center of gravity in each club in the set, making the long irons easier to launch high while making it possible to hit lower short iron shots with more spin.
The Steelhead XR irons are available in 3-LW lofts. The standard men’s steel shaft is True Temper’s XP95 ST15, while the standard graphite offering for men and women is the Matrix Ozik Program F15. Numerous custom shaft options are available for both men and women. For those who want to replace their longer irons with hybrids, matching Steelhead XR hybrids are available in 3H, 4H and 5H lofts.
Price of an eight-club set depends on set make-up and shaft, with a set of steel shafted irons priced from $800. A combo-set, with irons and hybrids, all with graphite shafts, will reach four figures.
Most retailers should have the Steelhead XRs in stock now. Check with your local pro shop and give them a test drive.