For many golfers, the name Steelhead is synonymous with fairway woods.
And why wouldn’t it be? After all, the combination of the original Steelhead fairways, Steelhead Plus, and finally Steelhead III was a ridiculously successful franchise for Callaway.
“Steelhead was the best selling fairway wood of all-time for Callaway,” said Dave Neville, Callaway Senior Director of Brand Management for Metal Woods.“We sold 2.3 million of them and at one time we were selling 600,000 per year. If we can sell 120,000 fairways per year we feel like we’re doing pretty good.”
Given the success of the original franchise, the idea of bringing back a new Steelhead fairway wood had long been a consideration for Callaway.
It finally opted to make the move, however, after seeing the success of something of another retro product, the Steelhead XR irons, which featured the same shape as Callaway’s most popular iron of all-time, the X-14, albeit with some significant technology introduced into the classic shape.
“We had been thinking about it for a while, but when the Steelhead iron came out last September and immediately went to No. 1 everyone was asking, ‘Where are the fairway woods?’ It was something that we felt we just had to do,” Neville said. “We think there are a lot of people who still play a Steelhead fairway wood or have one in their garage or who played them in the past who are going to want to try this out.”
Like the Steelhead XR irons, the new Steelhead XR fairway woods will feature the classic look and shape that made them so popular, but they, too, have been updated with modern technology.
Most notably, a new J-36 carbon crown has been utilized in the design, a move that gave engineers significant weight that they could reposition to improve playability, especially as it relates to forgiveness.
“The J-36 is a different carbon than the Triaxial we use in the Epic woods but it weighs about the same,” Neville explained. “This crown weighs about six grams where the crown for our XR 16 fairways is about 26, so that 20 grams of weight is a big deal in terms of getting the MOI that we want.”
The Steelhead XR fairway woods also feature Callaway’s highly successful next generation Face Cup Technology, which helps produce faster ball speeds from across the clubface, as well as a Speed Step on the crown to improve aerodynamics and help create more swing speed.
In addition to the familiar shape of the clubhead, one other thing that fans of the original Steelhead series will appreciate is the Steelhead XR’s sole design, which was modified only slightly from Callaway’s popular Hawkeye Sole.
“It’s by far the most versatile sole that we have for sure,”Neville said. “It just cuts through the turf effortlessly. The Steelhead fairways also have a taller face, more camber, and a rounded leading edge, which is what makes them so versatile. You can hit these clubs out of the rough or even fairway bunkers with no problem.”
Golfers can also expect some performance differences between the the Steelhead XR fairway woods and the other fairways in Callaway’s current lineup.
“The Steelhead has a more forward CG location, so it’s going to have a flatter trajectory,” Neville said. “It’s really a low-spin fairway wood when compared to the Epic fairways. And with the deeper face, it’s going to be a rocket launcher off the tee for some players. We like to say it’s iconic versatility with modern power.”
Also new with the Steelhead XR fairways is a new stock shaft offering from Callaway, as they will feature the Mitsubishi Tensei CK Blue, which is a smooth, mid-launching shaft that Callaway believes is a perfect match for the head design.
“Tensei CK shafts are a combination of kevlar and carbon, and they are really high-end shafts,” Neville added. “There are a lot of top-ranked guys who have the Tensei CK in play. It was really a natural fit for this product, and Mitsubishi has always been a great partner for us.”
Callaway also believes that even with all of the success that it’s enjoying with the Epic fairway woods on Tour that the Steelhead XR fairways will also be a popular choice for some of the best players in the world.
“We had it out at the U.S. Open and one player who’s not even under contract with us played it,” Neville said. “We had Branden Grace test it and he said ‘that’s going in the bag.’ And we expect more guys to put it into play in the coming weeks.”
Steelhead XR fairway woods, which are not adjustable, will be available in the following models: 3+ (13.5 degrees, 163cc clubhead volume), 3-wood (15 degrees, 171cc), 4+ (16 degrees, 157cc), 5-wood (18 degrees, 160cc), Heavenwood (20.5 degrees, 165cc), 7-wood (21 degrees, 152cc), and 9-wood (24 degrees, 145cc).
Of note, the 3+ and 4+ models will only be available as custom options for left-handers, and they will also feature flatter lie angles and a heavier stock shaft, as they were designed for stronger players.
Additionally, women’s versions will be offered in the 3-wood, 5-wood, Heavenwood, 7-wood, and 9-wood. The women’s options also will feature the Tensei CK Blue shaft, albeit in a 50-gram, ladies flex model.