Callaway's comprehensive iron lineup has an option for every golfer
Epic marks Callaway’s most technologically advanced irons of all-time
Callaway Epic & Epic Pro Irons
The direction provided to Dr. Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s Senior Vice President of Research & Development, was simple: Regardless of time or money, create the best set of irons you can and make sure it’s an iron that you would want to play.
Accomplishing that objective took several years and upwards of 70 engineers contributed to the project, with the end result of the collaborative effort being the new Epic and Epic Pro irons.
Given that these irons had been in production long before Callaway released its highly successful Epic drivers and fairway woods, one might wonder why the irons are sharing the Epic name?
For Callaway, however, it was a simple decision.
“The underlying technologies had been in development in both the irons and the woods for a long time, so we felt like aligning the irons under the Epic brand made sense,” said Luke Williams, Callaway Senior Director of Global Product Strategy for Irons.
Included among those technologies is Callaway’s Exo-Cage construction, which stiffens the body of the clubhead but allows the clubface to be more flexible, a design feature that leads to significant increases in ball speed.
Also helping to create impressive ball speeds from all impact points is Callaway’s 360 Face Cup Technology, which has been a key component in the company’s ability to generate enhanced distance in both irons and fairway woods.
There’s also a lot of new technology that has been incorporated into the design of the Epic irons that’s fueling their performance.
For starters, engineers have been able to create a precise CG location in each individual iron to ensure optimal performance, which has been accomplished in a couple of unique ways.
First, weight has been removed from the hosel area to help align the center of gravity more in the center of the clubface.
Williams explained, as a comparison, that in an Apex iron the weight in the hosel region equates to roughly 61 grams. In the Epic irons, however, that number drops to 38 grams.
Additionally, Callaway is utilizing what it calls a Tungsten-Infused Standing Wave in the design, which allows for differing but exact amounts of tungsten weight to be injected into each clubhead.
The end result is that Callaway can better control the CG location in the Epic irons both in terms of left to right and up or down, both of which offer playability advantages. It also means that each Epic iron head has its own unique overall weight.
“Getting the CG in line with the center of the face helps with ball speed; it helps with feel,” Williams added. “And then getting the CG placed lower in the long irons gives us a higher ball flight, while keeping the CG higher in the short irons allows us to get a more penetrating ball flight and more spin, which is ideal for scoring shots.”
As for the differences between the standard model and the Pro model, it really comes down to aesthetics, as the technologies in each model are the same. And as one might expect from the name, the Pro version offers a thinner topline and sole, as well as less offset, attributes typically preferred by better players.
The standard Epic, however, while it does have more offset and a thicker topline, still features a compact blade length and offers a more streamlined look at address than many other game-improvement irons on the market today.
What’s also interesting is that it was the Pro version that was developed initially, with the standard Epic following after.
“In this case, we started working on the Pro first,” Williams said. “We wanted to bring more distance, forgiveness, and higher launch into a pro iron, and in many ways it’s true that the Epic Pro is more unique when compared to other pro irons than the Epic is when compared to other game-improvement irons.”
While the Epic Pro is an iron that has been created for the better player, Callaway doesn’t envision it as an iron that will get significant play on professional tours, and the reason for that is simple enough.
“I don’t think we’ll see many on Tour because these irons go alot farther than (those players are) used to and what they want,” Williams said. “We’ve had players hit them and I would expect some long irons to go into players’ bags. I also think we’ll get requests from the Champions Tour and LPGA, but these were not designed for the Tour.”
So who does Williams view as the ideal candidate for the Epic Pro irons?
“These irons were designed for amateur golfers, and the Epic Pro was designed for the better amateur player,” he said. “I think we’ll get a lot of players playing the Epic Pro who used to play a forged iron or a muscleback who are getting a little older or who don’t play as much anymore, but they’re also aware that they could use the extra help.”
In terms of the standard Epic irons, Williams said they’ll be a great fit for mid- and high-handicap players who are looking for enhanced playability without completely sacrificing look and/or feel. They will also, he added, provide incredible consistency based on the level of technology that was dedicated to each club through the set.
Of course, it must also be mentioned that the Epic and Epic Pro irons come at a premium price point, a figure that significantly exceeds the other options in the current Callaway iron lineup.
That being the case, we asked Williams about the cost and what players who are in the market for Callaway irons need to know about Epic compared to other available models.
“It’s a very expensive iron to make, and it was a very expensive iron to develop,” said Williams of the new Epic irons. “These are high-tech irons that have a lot of unique features, but they’re not going to replace our Apex irons, which will be staying in the line and have been very good for us. The Epic is just a different type of iron.”
In terms of a stock shaft, the new Callaway Epic and Epic Pro irons come with the Project X LZ 95 and 105, respectively, but Callaway also has several other premium shafts available at no upcharge. Both models will also feature Golf Pride New Decade grips.
Steelhead XR IRons
Callaway Steelhead Irons
Customers Review Callaway Steelhead Irons
The year was 2000 and when Callaway released the X-14 irons it was confident that it had a good product on its hands. Never could Callaway have imagined, however, that some 16 years later X-14 would remain as the company’s No. 1 selling iron of all-time.
“When we hear from consumers about great products we’ve made in the past, (the X-14 iron) tends to bubble up,” said Luke Williams, Callaway Senior Director of Global Product Strategy for Fitting and Irons. “That was our best-selling iron and really was the iron that propelled us to the leadership position in the iron category.”
Given the success and popularity of the X-14, Callaway engineers decided to utilize its classic shape and incorporate new innovation to create an even better version of that iconic iron.
“We wanted to look back at that iron and try to take some of the things that made it so great, that made it so well-liked, but then infuse it with modern technology to really increase the performance,” Williams said.
And when it comes to iron technology, it’s Callaway’s game-changing 360 Face Cup that fuels the impressive performance of the Steelhead XR.
“Our 360 Face Cup, we introduced in irons for the first time two years ago, and really ever since we’ve introduced that technology to the category, it’s taken us to the number one position in market share,” Williams said. “It’s really, we believe, the best speed/distance enhancing technology in the iron category, and with the new one we’ve just been able to improve it that much more.”
The Face Cup utilized in the Steelhead XR’s design creates faster ball speeds on shots struck from impact points across the clubface, which leads to incredible distance and forgiveness. Adding to the overall forgiveness is that a bore-thru hosel design allowed for weight to be redistributed to strategic places in the clubhead to further improve performance on mis-hits.
Engineers have also incorporated a steel-infused urethane bar across the lower portion of the clubface, which serves two functions. First, it lowers the center of gravity for higher launch, and second, it absorbs vibration at impact to improve the Steelhead XR’s feel.
And finally, from a technological standpoint, a progressive CG placement has been utilized through the set to maximize playability, as long and mid irons are designed for high launch, while short irons will produce more spin and a slightly flatter trajectory for improved control.
The Steelhead XR irons come stock with lightweight steel and graphite shaft options, highlighted by offerings from True Temper and Matrix, respectively, but other custom options are available at no upcharge for players who need a different fit. Ladies Steelhead XR irons are available as well.
TGW Player's Test Review
TGW Staff Writer
Chris Wallace has more than 15 years of experience as a sports writer and editor. He started his career in the newspaper industry, winning three Virginia Press Association awards at the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he covered college sports and golf on a local, state, and national level. Wallace also spent nearly 10 years working for Rivals.com, and he later managed and created content for the GolfChannel.com Instruction Blog. His work has also appeared on GolfAdvisor.com and in Carolinas Golf Magazine. Wallace was a three-year captain of the golf team at his alma mater, Lynchburg College, and spent two years serving as the assistant men’s golf coach at the University of Virginia.
When I first heard that Callaway was going to use the original shape of the Steelhead X-14 iron as part of the design for its new Steelhead XR irons, I was immediately intrigued for a couple of reasons.
First, while I never played X-14 irons, I know quite a bit about them. When they arrived on the golf scene in 2000, I was working as the assistant golf coach at the University of Virginia. To pick up a few extra dollars, I also worked a couple of days each week at a local golf shop in Charlottesville, and I distinctly remember the demand for those irons and how many sets we sent out the door week after week.
Additionally, my wife still plays a set of X-14 irons, and adding credibility to just how popular these irons have been through the years is that she has no intention of making a change.
All said, given some of my personal history with the X-14, as well as having seen what Callaway has done with irons from a technology standpoint in recent years, the Steelhead XR was high on my list to test, which I was able to do recently at my home course, Terradyne Country Club in Wichita, Kansas.
Here are some of my takeaways based on my experience in testing the Steelhead XR irons, which might help you make a decision if these new clubs are on your radar.
The X-14 was Callaway’s No. 1 selling iron of all-time and those Callaway players who have longed for its return through the years won’t be disappointed with how some 16 years later the Steelhead XR looks, as the two shapes are extremely similar.
For those who know nothing about the X-14 but are in the market for new irons, Callaway would classify the Steelhead XR as a game-improvement iron, which is visible in its design.
Through the set, the toplines are on the thicker side, the soles are on the wider side, and there’s some fairly significant offset, all of which help improve playability. There’s also quite a bit of mass behind the ball, but it’s not at all apparent at address. The blade lengths, however, are modest and a rounded toe helps give these irons a more compact appearance.
All said, in its category, Steelhead XR would hardly qualify as cumbersome. It has clean lines -- I especially like the white scoring lines on the bottom of the clubface -- and overall I don’t think these are irons that would be discounted by lower handicap players based on looks alone.
As mentioned, my wife plays a set of X-14s. When I’ve occasionally picked up one of her irons on the range and hit a shot, the feel in all honesty left something to be desired, which she and others could look past based on performance Feel, however, is not an issue with the Steelhead XR.
At impact, while these irons delivered a discernable click that you wouldn’t find in a forged club, the feel and sound was both solid and crisp, and on center strikes the sound was almost muted.
Most impressively, unlike the X-14, there was no vibration in my hands, a credit to the engineers, who used steel-infused urethane in the clubface to improve feel in the Steelhead XR. Additionally, I found that these irons weren’t at all harsh on mis-hits, but a slight change in the acoustics did provide valuable feedback that I had missed the center of the face.
While these irons look good and feel solid, the “WOW” factor comes in the way they perform. In a word, the performance is exceptional.
For starters, these irons are incredibly long and the ball just jumps off the clubface. Since introducing its 360 Face Cup technology into irons a few years ago, Callaway has been able to deliver impressive distance with its game-improvement offerings, but Steelhead XR takes the combination of speed and distance to new heights.
I found that I was hitting the short irons about a club longer than my current set and that the mid and long irons were conservatively 15 yards longer. Some might cite stronger lofts as the reason for such distance gains, and while that might be part of the equation it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.
Why? Because these irons also effortlessly launch the ball in the air. Decreasing loft alone won’t help the average golfer, who in turn would hit the ball farther but be unable to hold iron shots on the green. Steelhead XR, however, delivers more distance and a higher ball flight, which is going to make it easier for the recreational player to hit more greens in regulation, a key component in shooting lower scores.
While the natural ball flight with these irons is high, the progressive CG placement utilized through the set works amazingly well. I found that high launch angles with the long and mid irons came with relative ease but that the short irons naturally flew on a flatter trajectory, a great feature in terms of maximizing control with the scoring clubs.
I will also say that even in the long and mid irons it was easy to flight the ball down when I wanted to. On the flip side, however, I found it more difficult to curve the ball either right or left, as these irons just wanted to fly straight.
Another standout feature in terms of playability was how the Steelhead XR irons performed on mis-hits. It was good that I received feedback in terms of a slight change in acoustics on shots not struck in the center of the face because the ball flight and distance remained consistent pretty much wherever I struck the ball on the clubface.
And finally, I have to highlight the fact that the Steelhead XR long irons could prove to be valuable weapons on the golf course, especially off the tee or on approach shots into short par 5s or long par 4s. Of all the irons in the set, the 4-iron particularly stood out thanks to an impressive combination of power, accuracy, and forgiveness that it provided.
I’ve had the opportunity to hit a lot of new irons this year and in terms of a game-improvement iron Steelhead XR ranks among the very best.
The combination of distance, launch, and forgiveness that these irons deliver will be a game-changer for a lot of players, and I expect that Callaway will enjoy significant commercial success with this iron.
I also firmly believe that it’s not just an iron for the higher-handicap player. It would be a great fit for a mid-handicapper, and I also believe that the playability advantages might prove too appealing for some low-handicappers to pass on, especially given the XR’s improved feel.
Bringing back a classic shape from the past might have been something of a risk for Callaway, but its engineers have delivered a winner, which should allow the company to reap the rewards that often come with risk-taking.
Big Bertha OS Irons
Callaway Big Bertha OS Clubs
While Callaway would classify Steelhead XR as a game-improvement iron, it would classify the Big Bertha OS irons as super game-improvement.
What does that mean? It means the Big Bertha OS irons are the most forgiving, easiest to hit, and easiest to launch irons in the current Callaway lineup, which makes them a great fit for higher-handicap players or possibly seniors or ladies who don’t generate tremendous clubhead speed.
While forgiveness is the ultimate calling card when it comes to Big Bertha OS, these are irons that also deliver tremendous distance, which is generated by a combination of Face Cup technology for faster ball speeds and a new construction approach that utilizes a lightweight Exo-Cage frame that allows weight to be redistributed to strategic locations in the clubhead, enabling the Face Cup to perform as necessary.
In terms of the higher launch angles and the ease with which Big Bertha OS irons get up in the air, that’s made possible by the use of Tungsten in the sole of the club, which lowers the center of gravity for higher launch and increased carry distance. That feature also provides increased stability at impact for enhanced forgiveness, as well as more ball speed from shots struck low on the face.
And as is the case with Steelhead XR, the Big Bertha OS irons also feature a progressive CG placement, which is designed for higher launch and more distance with the longer irons and greater control with the shorter irons.
The Big Bertha OS irons, which come in a ladies model, have lightweight stock shaft offerings in graphite and steel from UST and True Temper, respectively, as well as other custom options that are available at no upcharge.
XR OS Golf Irons
Callaway XR OS Golf Irons: Technology abounds in Callaway’s new XR OS irons, and the result is a club that excels from a performance standpoint. Yes, the XR OS would definitely qualify as a game-improvement iron, but it also has a refined look that will appeal to more than just higher-handicap players. In terms of its many features, among the most notable is that the center of gravity on the OS has been moved lower and deeper to dramatically enhance launch angles. The incorporation of Face Cup technology, meanwhile, creates incredible distance to go along with the higher launch conditions created by the CG placement. Additionally, the Face Cup in the XR OS has undergone a specialized heat treatment that generates even faster ball speeds while also promoting better feel. The soles are also a little bit wider, making XR OS easier to hit from any number of lie conditions, and a unique progressive length and loft system has been designed to improve performance with each club through the set. In terms of how XR OS compares to Callaway’s other 2016 iron offerings, Manager of Tour Fitting John Degen said, “It has the most offset, it’s the longest blade, and it’s for players looking to get the ball in the air with maximum distance.” Callaway offers lightweight options in both graphite and steel as a stock shaft, but other options are available as well.
"Maximum forgiveness as far as our product line. It has the most offset, it's the longest blade, and it's for players looking to get the ball in the air with maximum distance." John Degen - Callaway Manager of Tour Fitting
"Nothing wrong with going farther and being more forgiving in my view." - Baber, TGW Customer 5 hdcp.
Apex Golf Irons
Callaway Apex Golf Irons: With Apex CF 16 and Apex Pro 16, Callaway is giving golfers two distinct but wonderful options. Both irons are forged to provide exceptional feel but beyond that their construction is quite different to suit the needs and wants of different types of players. CF 16 has some components of a distance iron mixed in with the classic looks of a players iron. The lofts are a little bit stronger and Callaway incorporated Face Cup technology to increase ball speeds and provide max forgiveness in the long and mid irons. Additionally, the CF features a progressive offset so that each iron’s performance is maximized. For example, more offset in the long irons makes it easier for players to get the ball in the air and/or hit a draw if they’d like, while less offset in the short irons creates more control. The Pro 16, meanwhile, with its compact, tour-inspired shape, thin topline, and limited offset has more of a blade look at address. “It’s just a pure, clean-looking golf club,” said John Degen, Callaway’s Manager of Tour Fitting. “The majority of our tour pros prefer this one.” The long irons in the Pro 16 (3-5) do have slightly more offset, as well as a tungsten insert that lowers the center of gravity to generate higher launch angles. The mid and short irons, however, feature a higher CG to promote a flatter, more controlled trajectory. There’s no question that the CF 16 will provide more forgiveness to players on mis-hits, and the Pro 16 is definitely best suited for a lower-handicap golfer. But, compared to other irons in the same category, the Pro 16 measures up quite well in terms of forgiveness.
"I really liked the look - more kind of classic, maybe older school blade look, which I like." - Dave, TGW Customer 1 hdcp.