"You would be doing yourself a huge disservice by not adding the Callaway Razr Hawk Driver to your demo list when it comes time to buy your next driver!"
Callaway RAZR Hawk Review
We were just starting to put together the list of clubs we wanted to test in 2011 when Callaway kicked off a media frenzy of sorts by releasing their "Performance Over Paint" campaign on the same day TaylorMade released their R11 Driver (interesting coincidence, right?). Following on the heals of that, Callaway's marketing people released an ad showing a Hawk driver standing out above a see of R11 drivers with the caption "The Hawk's diet now includes sheep". While we certainly appreciate the humor, especially from an industry in which it's largely lacking, what really caught our attention was Callaway's claim that their RAZR Hawk Driver is 6 yards longer than TaylorMade's R11.
Now when it comes to the marketing wars between two of the biggest names in the industry, I can assure you I've got no personal dog in the fight. I've at one time or another carried drivers, irons, and wedges from both companies. When my 2010 golf season ended, I had one club from each in my bag. Of course, when one company calls out the other and essentially takes what is effectively that competitor's biggest product launch in years, and responds with a simple claim that paint is not innovation - our driver is better, we immediately wanted to sort the truth from the marketing.
The Head to Head Review...that never was
Quite literally within minutes of reading the original Callaway ads, MyGolfSpy reached out to our contacts at both companies. Given Callaways' claim, and TaylorMade's response, we couldn't imagine a review more compelling to our readers than a head to head test of the two. Callaway responded within minutes to basically let me know the drivers were on the way. TaylorMade said... ... ... Days passed without a response. Finally we heard back from TaylorMade, and a few emails, and more than a week later, we had to accept the reality that the head to head review was never going to happen. We'd have to review the RAZR Hawk by itself, just as we have the other drivers thus far in 2011.
It's Not Adjustable
As of the time of writing, Callaway has decided not to make an I-MIX version of RAZR Hawk available for retail purchase, although we know with absolute certainty that I-MIX versions of the head do exist. I think at this point even the most loyal Callaway fan would have to acknowledge that the I-MIX system simply didn't measure up to the other interchangeable systems, and perhaps had even become a liability in some respects. My guess, based on absolutely nothing, is that Callaway will go back to the drawing board and completely retool their adjustability system in the very near future. One thing I will say about Callaway's approach to I-MIX; the multitude of shafts available, particularly on the used market made the I-MIX system much more consumer friendly than any of the other adjustable product lines. Here's hoping that remains the case if and when there is a 2nd incarnation. Perhaps next time around they'll make after-market adapters available as well.
The Marketing Pitch
We try and shy away as much as possible from rehashing the marketing literature related to every club we test, but in the case of Callaway's RAZR Hawk, there are a couple of details we find noteworthy. The RAZR Hawk, which is a direct replacement for the FT-9 is built largely from what Callaway calls "Forged Composite". Feel free to read the details of Forged Composite for yourself, but the key talking points are that the "game changing new clubhead material" (Callaway's words, not mine), is lighter and stronger than titanium. Callaway also indicates that the new material allows for more precise manufacturing tolerances, the end result of which is a head that is 6 grams lighter, and 43% more aerodynamic than the FT-9. As I'm sure you've probably guessed, all of this leads to higher impact speeds and bigger distance.
Somewhat disappointingly, Callaway, as they have in years passed, has taken a one shaft fits all approach with their stock offering. While we'd love to see a bigger up-charge free selection, we will say that the proprietary Aldila RIP (which we're told is basically a slightly softer version of the after market model), is a step up from previous stock offerings.
Material Composition: Forged Composite
How We Tested
The 6 golfers for whom we collected detailed performance data were asked to hit a series of shots on our 3Track Equipped simulators from aboutGolf. As usual, testing was done at Tark's Indoor Golf, a state of the art indoor golf facility located in Saratoga Springs, NY. Detailed data for each and every shot for which we collected data is now viewable in the interactive portion of this review. This data serves as the foundation for our final performance score. As a supplement to our 6 performance testers, a subset of additional golfers were given the opportunity to test the Callaway RAZR Hawk Driver and provide feedback in our subjective categories (looks, feel, sound, perceived distance, perceived accuracy, perceived forgiveness, and likelihood of purchase). This information, which we also collected from our performance testers, is used as the foundation for our total subjective score. Testing was done with a selection of 9.5 and 10.5 degree standard, neutral models in both stiff and regular flex.
In terms of shaft length, the RAZR Hawk is longer than previous FT models. In fact, Callaway has joined the ever expanding (46" CLUB), where the premium is put on distance to such an extent that it often trumps common sense. While we'll never say that 45" is better than 46" or vice versa, you should definitely take such things into account when judging distance. We can't say that the RAZR Hawk is longer than the R11, but we can say that it certainly holds its own against some very long drivers (the PING K15 comes to mind).
One tester, Nick, told us that the RAZR Hawk was the longest driver he's ever hit. We heard similar sentiments numerous times during our testing. With all testers but Ridge posting distance scores in the 90s, and two testers climbing above 97, we knew when the final distance numbers were tallied, the result would be impressive.
MGS Distance Score: 94.51
We've already talked about the increased shaft length, and although we can never be absolutely sure of the cause and effect, my thinking is that it probably does hurt accuracy a bit. Overall, our testers missed by a combined average of a little over 18 yards. On the high end was our lowest handicap golfer, CJ, who missed by an adjusted average of just over 24 yards. On the low end, was our senior tester, Ridge, who limited his misses to just under 9 yards. Mark and Nick both missed by a hair over 21 yards, while your's truly and Dan both missed by between 14 and 15 yards.
In the end, the overall accuracy score shakes out to what will probably prove to be ever so slightly above average.
MGS Accuracy Score: 88.18
Almost universally we're seeing very high consistency scores in the drivers we test this year. So while it's true that COR is maxed out, and volume is maxed out, it's not necessarily true that the manufacturers have nowhere else to go. Distance is always going to be king when it comes to drivers, but the trend we're seeing is that this year's batch of drivers is hotter, and more consistent across the whole face. What that means to you is that your new driver isn't likely to be much longer than your old one on perfectly struck balls, but you're probably going to see better results on those heal and toe clangers.
Surprisingly it was our low handicap golfer (CJ), who put up the lowest consistency score (maybe his swing was off, maybe the RAZR Hawk isn't for him), but Dan managed to post a score of 99.15, and myself and Ridge were both over 95. We rely on the math to help us figure out how forgiving a club truly is, at least as far as a score is concerned, but anecdotally, when I boinked one off the heal and still got 255 out of it, I started thinking Callaway might have something.
MGS Consistency Score: 94.22
I won't say that the majority of our testers were disappointed by the accuracy numbers we posted, but I'd also be lying if they didn't suggest there was room (and plenty of it) for improvement. If you love this club, but the accuracy is a concern, order it an inch shorter, as there is more than enough distance here.
Speaking of distance...the FT-9 was long, the RAZR Hawk is longer, and who doesn't like that. That said, as I indicated above, what really impresses me is the consistency of this club across the face. I'm not going to suggest that mis-hits travel as far as shots of the sweet spot, but the penalty incurred for missing is substantially less than it is with some other clubs we've tested in the last year. Overall, our performance numbers indicate that the Callaway RAZR Hawk is most definitely worth trying.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 91.63
Our subjective surveys, in many respects, are where the rubber meets the road. So many demos, and even fittings are still done without the benefit of a launch monitor, and so golfers still rely heavily on their perceptions, and the perceptions of the guy whose primary goal is often to sell as many golf clubs as he possibly can. Often I'm discouraged by our subjective surveys, as frequently they don't lineup with the results of our performance tests.
Of course, having said that, to a larger than normal extent, with the Callaway RAZR Hawk, our testers more or less, I believe, got it right.
Our testers were largely indifferent to the looks of the RAZR Hawk. Almost no one loved it (a lone 9 was the high ranking), but no one really hated it either (a single 5 on the low end). Things basically shake out as a very blasé and slightly below average.
Not that anybody asked for it, but my 2 cents on the subject - I really like the sole graphics, but it's not like you see them at address anyway. I could take or leave the chevron graphic as an alignment aid (it doesn't exist on the tour model), but what I've never been a fan off is the recessed line that runs across the width of the face just behind the alignment aid. Whatever the reason for it, if the Callaway designers filled it in, and smoothed it out, I think the club would look much sharper, and the 6s and 7s we saw would probably be replaced by 8s and 9s.
MGS Looks Score: 76.59
While the feel scores didn't quite match up with the Titleist 910D2 we reviewed last time out, our testers generally approved (actually really approved) of the feel of the Callaway RAZR Hawk. Once again, we saw a couple of 10s, and a handful of 9s. A single 6 was at the low end of things, and there were plenty of 7s to go around as well.
For the sake of full disclosure, I was personally responsible for one of those 10s. When it comes to my ratings, I can be a bit like a Romanian judge; damn stingy with my 10's. When it comes the RAZR Hawk (and truthfully the FT-9 before it), however, the balance to me feels perfect at address, and the feel of a well-struck ball at impact is beyond amazing. I am indeed stingy, but when it comes to Feel (and Sound too), the Callaway RAZR Hawk is my Nadia.
You have my word that I will never again use gymnastics metaphors in a golf review.
MGS Feel Score: 90.03
When you consider what the first several incarnations of composite drivers from Callaway and Cobra sounded like, the fact that one would score above 50 is somewhat impressive. While I've already owned up to loving the sound at impact, not all of our testers felt the same way. Mine was the only 10, and because we trim at both ends, it disappeared along with the lone 4 on the low end. The rest of the scores were 8s and 9s, which was enough to propel the scores to levels that not long ago would have been unthinkable for a composite driver (forged or otherwise).
MGS Sound Score: 88.69
I already mentioned one tester who told me that the RAZR Hawk was the longest driver he's ever hit. For most of other testers, if the same wasn't true, they certainly thought the RAZR Hawk was near the top of their list for distance. 4 of our testers rated it a 10 (this time I wasn't one of them), while a handful more rated it as a 9. There was a lone 5 on the low end, but overall the perceived distance rankings were the highest we've seen this year.
Tester Perceived Distance Score: 96.75
This might be as close as our testers have every come to matching up their opinions with the data. As I said in the performance section, the accuracy numbers for the RAZR Hawk while still pretty good, weren't quite as high as I would like to have seen. Our survey indicated a nearly identical sentiment. While there were 4 9s awarded, there were a healthy splattering of 7s, and even a 4 (there's always a 4). Overall, the numbers worked out to almost exactly to what I think they should have.
Tester Perceived Accuracy Score: 86.00
Our formulas say the Callaway RAZR Hawk is an extremely forgiving driver, although not all of our testers shared our findings. A couple of 9s were offset by a couple of 5s, with all of the other ratings falling somewhere in the middle.
Incidentally, perceived forgiveness scores seem to alway shake out on the low end, which tells me that consumers may have unreasonable expectations about forgiveness and consistency. Forgiveness can only take you so far, after that, the only real options are a better swing, or magic. While I believe the Callaway RAZR Hawk is a very forgiving driver, Houdini, it's not.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 83.31
Likelihood of Purchase
Though LOP has proven to be the most difficult of categories for any club hoping to receive a decent score from our testers, in some respects it can be the most telling. My belief is that we may well never see a score above 90 for any club (although we have one in testing now that has an outside chance of getting there), but the fact that the Callaway RAZR Hawk was able to entice our testers to circle 10 once, and 9 several more times, tells me that a lot of guys are walking a way very impressed with this driver.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 86.00
Based on my conversations with our golfers during our test sessions, I thought the subjective portion of the scoring was actually going to flush out a bit higher (especially considering the LOP score). Overall, the numbers weren't as high as I expected due largely to the slightly disappointing perceived accuracy results, and of course, the sub-mediocre results in the looks category.
While not the most impressive subjective results we've seen, the final tally is certainly respectable.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 86.60
No matter where you'd place it in the rankings, it's hard to argue that Callaway isn't one of the top 3 names in golf. Anecdotally I see more Callaway irons come through the door at Tark's than any other brand, which is why it's surprising that many were reticent to test the Callaway RAZR Hawk driver. I had several guys tell me that they just don't like Callaway drivers (I think many have since changed their minds), and even had one guy who normally participates in subjective-only tests, tell me that Callaway drivers are "complete junk" and that he wouldn't even try the RAZR Hawk.
I share this to illustrate the role perception plays not only in the testing process, but in the larger buying process. There are people who for whatever reason flock to certain brands, and flat out refuse to consider others - and that's a shame. For those guys who did hit the Callaway RAZR for us, our subjective scores tell us that most really like the club, and more impressive to the MyGolfSpy staff, the data suggests they actually should.
For golfers concerned with accuracy, particularly those who favor the right side of the golf course more than they'd like, a draw-biased model is also available. Though it's not on our test list, so we can speak to this with any degree of assurance, higher handicap golfers looking for more forgiveness may want to look at the Callaway Diablo Octane, which also features forged composite technology.
While I can't say that the RAZR Hawk is worthy of the type of "Bag It" endorsement we seldom give around here, I would suggest that you'd be doing yourself a huge disservice by not adding it to your demo list when it comes time to buy your next driver. I'm a long way away from replacing my gamer, but the RAZR Hawk is the first driver I've tested this year that's likely to see some actual on course time with me (although my spin numbers suggest I should try the Tour model) - I like it that much.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 91.13
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- 3-4H: TaylorMade SLDR TP S
- 5-GW: PXG 0311 w/ KBS C-Taper S+
- SW: TaylorMade Tour Preferred EF Tour Grind (54° bent to 55°)
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