"Not only were the Callaway RAZR XF Irons the straightest short irons we've tested to date...it also currently ranks #1 for middle iron distance control. More than anything else the Callaway RAZR XF puts Callaway back on the map as a serious player in the high-end game-improvement scene."
Callaway RAZR XF Irons
(Written By: GolfSpy T) Callaway Golf is very much a company in transition. Chip Brewer has been hired away from Adams Golf to (hopefully) raise the bottom line, and Justin Timberlake has been brought on as "Creative Director" to help Callaway bring its sexy back.
Last years' RAZR Hawk driver was perhaps the very best released for the 2011 equipment season, and this years' RAZR FIT not only looks every bit as good, it also finally puts Callaway back into the adjustable drivers conversation. 2012 also brings a new forged wedge, a promising new ball, and plenty of new irons.
At the top of the iron ladder (at least from a price perspective) is the RAZR XF Iron. Released last fall, the RAZR XF is the most super of Callaway's Game-Improvement offerings, and while the $1300 ($1400 graphite) price tag will no doubt scare a few away, with the RAZR XF Callaway is serving notice that they are serious about getting back to what made them great; making clubs for the average golfer.
Now sure, you can argue that the average golfer probably doesn't want to spend $1300 on a set of irons (we're creeping into Miura territory there), but as long as I've been playing this game, Callaway has always had a higher-priced iron specifically targeted at the high-handicap golfer. And so while I can certainly understand why some might wince at the higher than average price tag, I'll take the release of the RAZR XF as sign that Callaway is finally getting back to the business of being Callaway, and that's something the golf industry desperately needs right now.
The Marketing Angle
The RAZR XF Irons are what Callaway is calling their "Highest specification game improvement iron to date". Not surprisingly given that designation, the RAZFR XF offers the highest MOI of any iron in th e Callaway lineup. Here are some other quick little bits Callaway would like you to know about the RAXZR XF:
- Multi-material construction: Forged 1025 carbon steel body is perimeter weighted for a higher MOI and increased forgiveness while also providing soft, responsive feedback at impact. 455 Carpenter steel face is stronger than traditional stainless steel generating faster ball speeds for added distance.
- Multi-material medallion: Constructed of aluminium and injection-moulded plastic, it fine-tunes sound and enhances feel off the clubface.
- Black PVD Finish: Physical Vapour Deposition Finish comes from a hi-tech process that produces a stealth look for reduced glare and an ultra-premium appearance.
- Lightweight shaft and Winn Grip: Allows for faster club head speeds to increase distance.
How We Tested
To find out more about how we test our irons: CLICK HERE
For more information on our "Radius Based Scoring System": CLICK HERE
Material Composition: 1025 Carbon Steel Body with 455 Carpenter Steel Face.
Our testers hit a mix of stock RAZR XF Graphite & TrueTemper GS95 shafts. Worth noting is that when measured on our DigiFlex, graphite shafts measured true to flex, which is quite a bit more uncommon than it should be.
We tend to shy away from game improvement and super game improvement irons at MyGolfSpy, but given the price point and design features, we were intrigued enough by Callaway's RAZR XF to put it through a full test.
Short Iron Performance
When testing with short irons (8-iron, 9-iron, or PW) our testers missed the target by an overall average of 23.17 feet. When we remove our least accurate tester (who missed by 30 feet on average), overall group accuracy improves to 21.80 feet. While our sampling size for this new review process is admittedly small, sub-22 feet would appear to be very good.
Overall dispersion was extremely balances (a rarity) with only the quadrant representing long and right showing noticeably fewer shots landing in that area.
Looking at our testers ability to hit the target distance (without regard for how close they actually came to a target), we find that our testers missed by an average of 15.50 feet. When the tester least able to control his distance is removed, that number improves by just a bit less than 1.5 feet to 14.04 feet.
This is the 3rd review of a game-improvement or super game-improvement iron conducted under the new system and interestingly enough, distance control has thus far proven easier with so-called "Players" designs.
When we look at our testers ability to simply hit the irons straight, we see that our pool of testers missed the center line by an average of 13.85 feet. When we remove the least accurate testers (22.8 feet offline), the group average improves to 12.06 feet, which would make the Callaway's RAZR XF Short Irons the straightest we've tested to date.
Looking at birdie chances, the numbers support our contention that super game-improvement irons, while often straighter in general than designs suited for lower handicap golfers, aren't necessarily as precise. In simple terms, with SGI irons, the very best shots often aren't as good, but the very worst shots are often much less punishing.
Our 6 testers managed to place only 8 balls inside of 10 feet (with each golfer represented at least once). When bumped out to 15 feet, the number of legitimate one-putt opportunities doubles to 16.
Overall, while none of our testers was particularly precise, as a group they actually did an excellent job of putting the ball reasonably close to the pin from short iron distances.
Short Iron Performance Score 90.10
Middle Iron Performance
When asked to hit to a target at a comfortable middle iron distance, our testes missed by an average of 27.7 feet. With the least accurate tester removed, the average improves slightly to 26.97 feet. What's interesting about these numbers is that they're only marginally worse than the results of our short iron tests. This suggests that as the irons get longer, the difficulty involved in hitting them doesn't increase dramatically.
Comparatively speaking, that 26.97 adjusted accuracy...it currently ranks number 2 overall for middle irons.
In terms of our tester's ability to hit the target distance (again, without regard for hole location), our testers managed an adjusted average of 14.82 feet, which currently ranks #1 for middle iron distance control.
Looking at our charts we find that our testers favored the left side of the landing area a bit more than the right, although it's certainly less lopsided than we've seen in some other testes.
Once again, while general accuracy was good, precision accuracy wasn't what we'd expect to see from less forgiving designs. Our testers only managed to place 5 shots (from 3 different golfers) inside of 15 feet. Expanded out to 20 feet the count improves twofold to 10. Finally, if we expand our circle of trust out to 25 feet, the total number of reasonable one-putt opportunities climbs to 27.
Middle Iron Performance Score: 90.10
Long Iron Performance
While as you'll see, comparative accuracy hardly suffered with the RAZR XF long irons, our testers did display a strong affinity for the left side of the target line. I'm eyeballing it a bit here, but I'm going to say that for every shot that found the right side, two more found the left. Generally speaking, we don't have any huge slicers in our testing pool, so the offset of the hybrids (which the majority of our testers hit to achieve long iron distances) could have played a role.
Even with a less than balanced shot pattern, the results were solid. Testers missed the flag by an average of 40.96 feet, which isn't bad considering the majority of testers hit to a target of 200+ yards. When our least accurate tester (the same guy who was the least accurate with the short irons) is removed from the equation, overall accuracy improves by more than 3 feet to 37.27 feet, which ranks #2 overall for Long Iron Tests.
Distance control was actually pretty good (18.36 feet on average), however, of the shots we drop prior to calculations there were several that fell well short of the target distance. What our average numbers don't explain is that, while the RAZR XF hybrid is generally forgiving, if you catch it on one of the top-most grooves, the ball has a tendency to balloon and fall out of the sky like it was hit with bird shot.
That said, the rest of the face is reasonably consistent, and if you mis-hit it out towards the toe a bit, or in towards the heal, not only does the RAZF XF Hybrid minimize distance loss, it also does an excellent job of keeping the ball in play, which in my mind should be the ultimate goal of super game-improvement designs.
Looking at potential birdie opportunities, our testers placed 9 balls (4 golfers) inside of 20 feet. Bumped out by 5 to 25 feet, and that number increases to 17. Finally, at 30 feet (the longest distance that most golfers feel they have decent change of sinking one), the number of quality shots increases to 25.
While not a single tester managed to cozy one up to the pin, even at distances of 200 yards plus, most of our testers hit more than their fair share of quality shots.
Long Iron Performance Score: 88.89
As you might expect from a super game-improvement club, our testers found the Callaway RAZR XF very easy to hit, even if, as you'll see below, the design of the club doesn't appeal equally to everyone.
The one concern we have about XFs from a performance standpoint is that roughly half of our testers experienced gapping issues. As an example, a tester who hits a PW 125 yards might normally expect to hit an 8-iron to 150. What some testers found is that for whatever reason they needed a longer than expected club for the middle irons (7-iron for example). We also had one tester who easily hit the 125 distance with the pitching wedge, but could barely get to 135 with the 9-iron. We also experienced a similar phenomenon on the long end as testers who weren't able to hit the 5-iron 180 yards, discovered that could hit the 4-hybrid over 200.
Our performance scoring is not set up to account for this particular situation, however, it is a point of concern for us.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 89.75
The Interactive Data
The charts below show the individual and group averages (black dotted line) for each shot our golfers took during our test of the Callaway RAZR XF Irons. You can click on each of 3 tabs (Callaway RAZR XF - Short Irons, Callaway RAZR XF - Mid Irons, Callaway RAZR XF - Long Irons) you can see where each shot came to rest on our virtual driving range, and the raw data (averages) for each of our testers. Hovering over any point will give you all the details of that particular shot. You can use the filters on the right-hand side to show and hide individual golfer based on handicap and proximity to the pin. At your whimsy you can drag the Distance from Hole slider around to show you how many shots fell within the area you specify.
I'm not a Super game-improvement, or even game-improvement guy. The essential design elements of these types of clubs (broad soles, thick toplines, offset, etc.) don't suite my eye. I'm a compact cavity-back and blade guy (even if my game says I should be a GI guy). The thing is, game improvement designs look the way they do for reasons of practicality, if not necessity. So while it's been years since I've seen a game improvement design that really appeals to me, it is equally true that some definitely look more refined than others.
Whether or not I think the RAZR XF is beautiful is largely inconsequential. What I will say is that if I were going to design a Super Game Improvement iron tomorrow, I'd borrow quite a bit from the Callaway's RAZR XF Irons...especially if I was going to slap a $1300 price tag on them. As far as designing for a demographic is concerned, Callaway basically nailed it.
While the tendency is for game improvement clubs to be loud, colorful, even ostentatious, with a black PVD finish, and comparatively subdued cavity design, the RAZR XF is a bit more refined than the average club in its class.
While I'm personally not a fan of the stock Winn grip, coupled with the shaft artwork (graphite model), it's a very classy presentation, clearly designed to go after a more sophisticated (read: wealthier) demographic.
Yes, toplines are broad, the sole is big and flat, and there's enough offset to turn a shank into a hook, but that's all par for the course for SGI designs.
Even if not every one of our testers agrees (one slapped the XF with a 5), the RAZR XF is about as slick as a super game improvement design gets.
MGS Looks Score: 88.69
Sound & Feel
What's perhaps most intriguing about the RAZR XF is the fact that it's a 2-piece forged iron. You basically don't find forged game-improvement irons, let alone super game-improvement irons. While I wouldn't necessarily label them as buttery soft, they do offer outstanding feel, and for better or worse, I find they offer more feedback than most irons in this category.
"I normally HATE Super GI clubs, but these really looked and felt nice" - Nick B.
If there's a weak area, it's perhaps with the hybrids. Generally speaking, our testers liked them a bit less than the hybrids that ship with some of the other combo sets we've tested. That's not to say the hybrids feel bad. In fact, sweet spot to sweet spot they're as good as anything else we've received in a set. On mis-hits, however, the RAZR XF hybrids feel a bit dull.
MGS Feel Score: 88.69
Even the guys who didn't necessarily love the Callaway RAZR XF Irons came away from our tests with an appreciation for the forgiveness they offer. Shot dispersion alone tells much of the story. While not a single tester was necessarily precise with his shots, the kind of damage shots - the ones that absolutely blow up an otherwise perfectly good round of golf - were few and far between.
Game Improvement clubs are designed for guys who need to hit to larger targets (somewhere...anywhere on the green). While guys who live to go at the flat might be put off by the lack of precision control, when it comes to minimizing mistakes, and helping you stay out of trouble, the RAZR XF does exactly what it is designed to do.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 87.34
Likelihood of Purchase
When we ask our testers how likely they are to purchase a club (or a set of irons) we don't give them any specific criteria. In fact, we simply ask "If you were going to replace the club(s) in your bag today, how likely is it that you would purchase the club(s) you just tested". It's perhaps an unfair question, when you consider that most golfers with player's cavity backs aren't likely going to find themselves desperately looking to put a set of super game-improvement irons into their bag (although I often joke about doing just that for tournaments).
So yeah...the design of the RAZR XF does work against them a bit in this category, but so does the price. We no longer score value explicitly, but you can bet that the price tag is always a factor in the LOP category. The good news is that in the grand scheme of things, LOP counts for practically nothing.
The truth is that none of our testers really fell in love with the RAZR XF, but nobody absolutely hated it either, and for a Super Game Improvement club, that's quite an accomplishment.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 77.94
When it comes to Super Game-Improvement irons, our testers can be downright brutal. It's not unusual to see low 80's across the board, and even a dip or two into the 70's. As much as I try to encourage my testers to only rate clubs within the context of their category, in practice that's tough...especially when there often isn't a lot to love (visually anyway) about Super Game-Improvement irons.
So when you consider that, on this portion of our test, the Callaway RAZR XF held up pretty well against the kind of designs we expect to score much better, well I think that says plenty about the RAZR XF. Of course, at a premium price, they absolutely should do just that.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 85.80
It's hard to talk about a $1300 set of irons ($1400 graphite) without talking about the fact that you're talking about a $1300 set of iron (yes...I know that's a lot of talking). I can't imagine anyone inside the walls at Callaway's Carlsbad headquarters expects the RAZR XF to be the highest selling set of game improvement irons on the market. Their appeal is not universal.
That said, there are plenty of golfers out there with enough disposable income that price shouldn't be a concern. I'm also willing to be that there are plenty of guys who are in the market for an extreme perimeter weighted club that offers plenty of forgiveness, who also want the feel generally associated with forged irons.
In some respects the Callaway's RAZR XF Irons could be considered a best of both worlds club, although it certainly makes compromises in each. More than anything else the RAZR XF puts Callaway back on the map as a serious player in the high-end game-improvement scene. Once upon a time Callaway dominated that space, and while one set of irons isn't enough for them to regain the throne, I see the high-priced offering as a symbol that Callaway shifting back to its roots; back to what made the company so successful. Hopefully it's a sign of better things to come.
For those who could care less about a good comeback story, what you should probably focus on is that Callaway's RAZR XF Irons perform as well, very likely better, than any super game-improvement irons we've ever tested. And while cost will certainly be an issue for some, those looking for a forged game improvement irons have very few options.
At an absolute minimum the Callaway's RAZR XF Irons is a good option to have.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 89.36
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