Ever since their introduction of the Big Bertha irons in 1994, Callaway has expanded their line with models aimed at the more accomplished player. This trend seemed to culminate in last year's X-Tour forged irons and this year's X-Forged models.
The X-Series began in 1997 with the Big Bertha X-12 regular and pro versions and was the company's first attempt at reaching out to the player who needed less forgiveness than the Big Bertha irons. The next generation X-14 irons became the best selling irons in Callaway's history.
With the new X-20 line, the "Pro" version becomes the "Tour" version. And with that change comes an entirely different club. Here's the story…
For the past decade, Callaway has kept to a biennial schedule of updates to its X-Series irons. Always offered in a regular and "Pro" version, the clubs have been consistently popular across a wide range of players.
Up until now, the differences between the two versions in the X-Series were fairly minimal: the "Pro" version came with less offset, slightly thinner sole and top line, and different shaft options. While different enough to matter to discerning golfers, the two clubs were essentially variations on the same theme.
The X-20 Irons
The newest incarnation of the X-20 iron continues the same look as the X-18 irons it replaces. The differences are pretty minimal.
Callaway says their "progressive wall reduction system" has allowed them to lower the center of gravity some 6 percent and that the "extreme notch weighting" has apparently become even more extreme in an effort to move weight to the perimeter of the club head and thus increase MOI (moment of inertia).
In addition to lowering the center of gravity on the X-20 irons, or perhaps because it, they've tweaked the standard lofts and lies ever so slightly:
Iron X-18/X-20 Loft X-18/X-20 Lie ---- -------------- ------------- 2i 18 / 18 59.2 / 60.0 3i 21 / 21 59.9 / 60.5 4i 23.5 / 24 60.6 / 61.0 5i 26 / 27 61.3 / 61.5 6i 29 / 30 62.0 / 62.0 7i 33 / 33 62.5 / 62.5 8i 37 / 37 63.5 / 63.0 9i 41 / 41 64.5 / 64.0 PW 46 / 45 65.0 / 65.0
Still the X-20 retains the original S2H2 (short straight hollow hosel) design and general blade shape that has longed marked the X-Series irons.
X-20 Tour Irons
After 10 years of nearly analogous design, the player's version of the X-20 has taken a radical departure. While still cast, it is no longer a "shovel." It's a blade complete with a traditional hosel.
As the picture shows, the X-20 Tour (on the right) is nearly identical to the X-Forged blade in shape. The X-20 Tour has a top line slightly thicker, a hosel slightly shorter, and what appears to be a touch more offset.
It also doesn't have the bore-through shaft design of the original X-Tour iron. What this means to me, although I can't confirm it yet, is that the X-20 Tour irons probably use a unitized (straight tipped) shaft while the X-Tour and X-Forged irons use a taper tipped shaft. That difference means a great deal in feel. Better players have long preferred the taper tipped shafts found in most forged irons.
So while in appearance the X-20 Tour and X-Forged irons are very similar, I think they are going to play and feel quite differently. And yet when I did a side-by-side visual comparison of them in a store, it was just amazing to me how close they were to one another.
I also think this is going to make the earlier X-16 Pro and X-18 Pro irons something of "classic" clubs in that they definitely appealed in forgiveness and design to a certain class of golfer. It seems Callaway is changing their target market for this line with the X-20 Tours.
Looking at the specifications, the X-20 Tour again is almost identical to the X-Forged irons, except that the loft is one degree stronger in the 6-iron through the pitching wedge.
Both the X-20 and X-20 Tour come in a variety of graphite and steel shafts, available in custom orders. I like that you can custom order an X-20 iron set with even as few clubs as 6-iron to pitching wedge. That makes a lot of sense to me in this age of the hybrid. Unfortunately, the smallest X-20 Tour iron set is 4-PW.
Edwin Watts is selling both versions of the irons here and here in multiple configurations. In general, a full set of X-20 irons are about $100 less than the X-20 Tour which, in turn, are about $100 less than the X-Forged.
If you are an X-18 Tour fan, and still would like to get a set, Edwin Watts has some specials going on both the regular and Pro versions. The sale prices are only available if you call them. Must be a pretty good deal.
In the End…
I've played X-16 Pro irons on and off for the past three years or so. They've always been my "go to" irons… easy to hit, forgiving, and reliable.
It remains to be seen whether the X-20 Tour design is going to be forgiving enough for me. Right now, I think if I were going to a blade design, I'd want a forged one.
So is anybody besides me going to miss the "Pro" version?