For a while, in my opinion, Callaway golf has been a company that has struggled from a bit of an identity crisis. It seemed that they were coming out with numerous offerings every season, trying to have something for everybody, and yet it wasn't clear what clubs were aimed at what golfer. Between the RAZR, Edge, Diablo, Octane, X, etc. it became hard to track what was what or even what was the newest. This year, Callaway as trimmed it back a bit and has just three new sets of irons. For the better player looking for minimal forgiveness but maximum feedback and workability there are the new X Forged irons. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the company has the new X Hot irons which give higher handicappers a bit more distance and a lot more forgiveness. For the rest of us caught in the middle, there are the new X Hot Pro Irons.
In many ways, the new X Hot Pro irons look to fill a very large middle ground in between the standard X Hot irons and the X Forged. In addition to this, players on both ends of the ability spectrum should see some desirable qualities in the X Hot Pro as lower handicap players looking for a little more help will appreciate them as will a mid handicap player that is making strides to improve their game. They are a set that one could pick up as they start to make serious improvements in their game and continue to play long after they have become a better player.
Test Model Details
For the purpose of this review, I received the a standard set (3-PW) of the Callaway X-Hot Pro Irons. They came equipped with the Project X 95 shaft in stiff (6.0) flex. This is a shaft that I had not played previously, but one that intrigued me due to the lighter shaft. The clubs also came with the standard Callaway grip, which I used for a while but have since changed to a set of PURE Pro grips.
Club Loft Length Lie ---- ---- ------ --- 3I 19° 39.00" 60.0° 4I 21° 38.50" 60.5° 5I 24° 38.00" 61.0° 6I 27° 37.50" 61.5° 7I 31° 37.00" 62.0° 8I 35.5° 36.50" 62.5° 9I 40° 36.00" 63.0° PW 45° 35.50" 63.5°
Technology and Design
In the golf world, there are those companies that lean heavily on tradition while there are those that are much more focused on the next best thing. While there is nothing wrong with those companies that stick to traditional designs, they run the risk of falling behind and having to play catch up while those looking for the latest and greatest can come across as being a bit gimmicky.
There is no doubt in my mind that Callaway is a company that is looking for the next best thing and they are looking to give any player using their equipment an advantage over the rest. With the X Hot Pro irons, there are three big technologies that Callaway hopes will separate thier product from the rest: J Face dynamics, V Grooves, and Feel Management Technology.
If you look closely at the cavity of the club, you'll notice that it extends up into the area behind where it says "PRO" on the club, forming a "J" with the face of the club. According to Callaway, this new face technology allows for "pro performance with the distance, feel and workability that better players demand." The feel management technology is hidden in and behind the Callaway and X Hot logos in the cavity of the club. Through the use of special materials, Callaway has been able to fine tune the sound of the club. Considering nearly all of what a player interprets as feel is the sound that the club makes, this leads to a club that has a crisp feel at impact. The V groves are also new to the X Hot line of clubs (they are also on the X Forged and standard X Hot irons) and the company says that they are the most precise grooves they'v used. The claim is that these groves give the player more control letting them easier shape shots and increase accuracy.
The X Hot Pro irons fall right in the middle for me from an esthetics point of view. Readers of my previous reviews will know that I am a sucker for clubs that sport a sleek and simple design. However, those type of designs are usually reserved for either blades or those with the slightest of cavities, and these obviously don't fit that bill. As such, these irons have a little bit more going on with regards to their design, but by no means is that a bad thing. The thing is, when there is so much technology packed into a club there has to be some way to "hide" it and different designs, badges, logos etc. help to do that.
I really think that Callaway has hit the nail on the head with the design of these. While they don't have the sleek and simple design that I love they take on what I would call an aggressive and edgy look. Looking at these clubs in the bag, they feature sharp lines and angles with a beautiful black and red color scheme. In the cavity of the club you'll find the Callaway and X Hot logos (which is the same as the standard version of the club) and along the top is the Pro. The X Hot Pros also have a nice blend of shiny chrome along the edges of the club and a satin finish along the top and on the face of the club. Also, looking at Callaway's three newest sets as a whole, one set flows very nicely into the other as from a visual stand point they have the same lines and angles. This is nice if you are looking to build some sort of combo set as the clubs have a very similar look (although there may be some issues with lofts if you build a blended set).
From an address position nearly all of that aggressive and edgy design disappears and you are left with just a clean look that frames the ball very nicely. I've never been a big fan of oversized club heads instead preferring clubs that are slightly smaller with thinner top lines. These do quite well in that regard. While not nearly as small as some clubs aimed at the better player, these do not resemble shovel either. The soles are not over-the-top wide the top lines aren't thick. My single complaint with the way these clubs look is with the offset of the clubs. Large amounts of offset is another thing I've never been a big fan of and I really seem to notice the offset in these, especially in the short irons. With that one exception, these definitely have a look at address worthy of a "Pro" name.
From a performance stand point, there is nothing middle of the road about the X Hot Pros. With the combination of design and technology of these clubs, they allow me to hit every shot that I am capable of hitting.
Starting with the trajectory of the clubs, I find that I hit these with plenty of height to land softly on approach shots but not so much that they balloon on me hitting into a wind. Even though the lofts are increased, especially in the longer irons, they are no harder to hit than an traditionally lofted iron of the same number. Put another way, I've always been pretty comfortable hitting 6 iron on down, but have had some issues with 4 and 5 irons (we won't talk about 3 irons, that's why I have a hybrid). It's not that I can't or don't hit those clubs well, it's just not as consistent and my confidence in them is less. With the X Hot Pros, the break is still there… 6 iron I still feel good with, 5 iron a little less, in spite of the X Hot Pro 6 iron having loft (27°) as the 5 iron in my set of MP-64s. A big part of this has to do with the design and technolgy of the club; event though the clubs have stronger lofts they still produce the shot that you would expect. The other part of that, of course, has to do with the length of each club, even though the lofts are a bit stronger, the lengths are pretty standard, so while the 6 iron may have a loft that is closer to a traditional 5 iron, it isn't as long.
The one area where I did find a bit of an issue is with the distances of each club. My last few sets have included two in the Mizuno MP line, the TaylorMade MCs, and a set of Titleist 695 CBs. All of those featured clubs with more traditional lofts and loft gaps leading me to have about 10 yards of difference between each club. That hasn't been the case really with the X Hot Pros. With these I find about an extra 8 yards on my 7 iron (usually around 150 with my current set but closer to 160 with these) which is great, but by the time I get down to the pitching wedge, the distance is the same as my current set. This has led to a few issues on the course where I pull a 6 or 7 iron on an approach and come up long and then after figuring that these clubs are a bit longer come up short with a pitching wedge.
That being said, it's not a huge issue. Every set's distances are a little bit different, and it just so happens that up to this point I've played clubs with fairly similar ones… this set is just different, and after a bit of time with them, it's something that I got use to. I would suggest that if you wind up with these in the bag you may want to spend a considerable amount of time at a well marked range to see how these clubs compare and to get dialed in.
While that is somewhat of a downside, there is a lot to like as well. One of the biggest things to like with these is the forgiveness that they bring to the table. In the review of my current set of clubs (the Mizuno MP-64s) I wrote about their lack of forgiveness and how shots that missed the center of the club face by more than the tiniest amounts were punished with a considerable loss of distance. That is not the case with these. Obviously poor shots are still going to be punished but the punishment with these is more of a slap on the wrist. You'll loose a couple of yards but not 10 or 20.
From a feel standpoint, these clubs are good. Good shots feel great and poor shots still feel ok. There is not a ton of vibration, but along with that there isn't as much feed back either. Also, as my last seven sets of irons have been forged and these are not, I've also noticed that they seem to be clicky-er than what I'm used too. It's not bad, just different. Much of what a player interprets as feel is sound, and these sound different.
In my opinion, the X Hot Pro irons are the set of clubs that you are never going to regret getting. Maybe you're not quite as good as you think you are, but if that's the case, these clubs still have plenty of forgiveness to be playable. Maybe you've gotten much more serious about the game than you anticipated and find yourself improving much faster than you thought, but in that case you're ok too. There is nothing about these clubs that I found that would some how limit you and prevent you from continued progression.
As stated earlier, Callaway has trimmed down their line of irons considerably and the X Hot Pros fill a rather large gap between the standard X Hots and the X Forged. Any time a club is aimed at this wide range of abilities there are going to be some perceived negatives. Better players may not like the idea of the strengthened lofts or possibly the offset while higher handicappers maybe looking for something with wider soles or thicker top lines. These clubs may not be perfect, but they are a really good choice or nearly everybody. If a beginner were to ask me what clubs to get, these would be one of my recommendations, even above the standard X Hot irons as I don't feel that these are much harder to hit and yet give more room to grow into to. On the flip side, I'd also suggest these to a good player, especially if they seek something with more forgiveness. The only real problem is if you are a club junkie and like to switch equipment a lot, because if that is the case, you may have a really hard time convincing yourself that these don't fit your needs.