Performance Over Paint: Callaway Golf RAZR Hawk Driver, RAZR X Irons

Claiming to offer performance over paint, Callaway is not about to introduce a white golf club any time soon. Instead, the manufacturer that taught us Big Bertha was more than a mammoth piece of artillery and titanium had commercial uses beyond the aerospace industry, wants you to think high-performance super sports car when you take its snazzy new RAZR line of irons and RAZR Hawk fairway metals and drivers out for a test drive.

“We’re looking beyond the color of our product to the materials…and performance,” said Tim Buckman, Callaway’s senior director of global communications.

In so doing, the company has linked its fortunes to that of Italian automaker, Lamborghini. I’m not a tech geek so I’ll to have rely on what Callaway says about its jointly developed forged composite technology, which makes for a lighter and stronger substance than titanium. The more agile head affords a more forgiving shot-making experience and lets Callaway equip its RAZR Hawk driver with a slightly longer shaft without losing the sweet spot.

“We’re very excited about our new technology,” Buckman said, standing beside a burnished Lamborghini on the floor of January’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. “So excited that we’re not introducing an all-titanium drive this year.”

That’s quite a significant departure for a company that helped make titanium a must-have option in any golfer’s bag. The glossy black Lamborghini parked in the middle of Callaway’s showroom may have seemed a bit gimmicky back in January, but the results of the partnership are anything but.

RAZR X irons

Callaway’s RAZR X irons are the successors to the popular X Series and are available in three models: RAZR X, RAZR X Tour, and RAZR X Forged.

The RAZR X line is for the “improving player,” Tim Sweeney, Callaway’s senior communications specialist, said. With weighting designed to minimize mishits from off-center shots, the clubs are “sweet and forgiving.” They offer a wide sole and what Callaway says is a low and deep center of gravity.

The RAZR X Tours offer less of an offset look for golfers more skilled with the sharp-looking blades. With an even lower and deeper center of gravity, the RAZR X Tour irons presents a smaller profile and a thinner, sleeker look at address than the RAZR Xs.

Callaway tour staffers like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els have added the RAZR X Forged to their repertoires. Callaway’s chief designer Roger Cleveland carved out the forged 1020 carbon steel irons that offer players slim toplines, narrow soles, and short blade lengths. Callaway also notes that the clubs present a squared-off toe and sharper leading edge, as well as tightly spaced grooves that help aggressive players gain increased spin.

Again, letting Callaway speak for its technology, the new material lets engineers optimize each part “down to one thousandth of an inch,” producing as lightweight a head as possible “with optimal mass distributions” for longer drives and more forgiveness.

My take is that Callaway uses the forged composite design to produce a driver that weighs less and balances the weight more effectively to enhance forgiveness for those exceedingly rare times when you snout the ball off the toe. With that knowledge, I had a club-fitting session with Callaway at Boston’s National Golf Expo, which supported what I already knew — that women’s-flex clubs fit my puny 70-m.p.h. swing speed.

For sure, the RAZR X irons (PW-5) were perfect. I’ve had trouble hitting irons forever and several years ago switched from Callaway irons to hybrids from PW-5. So I was a tad apprehensive about trading in my clunky hybrid-irons for the more elegant looking sticks. To make the change less traumatic, I opted to take the training wheels off slowly and start with the RAZR X set.

My fears were unfounded as it took me no time to start smacking straight, confident shots. While I may not be getting the full advantage of the forged composite technology with the RAZR X clubs, the ball launches crisply off the face. A friend whose swing speed allowed her to graduate to the senior flex said she felt as if the ball leapt off the club face like a cannon shot.

In addition to being pleasing to the eye as I look down the shaft, the irons are incredibly easy to hit, the balls zipping off the generous face with ease and arcing loft.

RAZR Hawk driver

Where the Callaway launch monitor got it wrong was for the driver. The helpful Callaway rep in Boston explained that the stiffer shaft would lower my launch and spin. While a low spin rate was fine, he said I would get more yards off the tee with a women’s flex shaft that would provide three degrees more loft at the same low spin rate.

With his recommendation, I tried the more flexible, slightly longer-than-normal 44.5-inch shaft with 11.5 loft. The whole launch-spin philosophy did not translate into practice. The lightweight women’s RAZR Hawk driver felt insubstantial compared with my current TaylorMade Burner of the senior flex/shaft variety. I also felt that I had to exert too much energy to get distance from the club with a women’s flex and I was uncomfortable with even the slightly shorter length — somewhat odd since I stand only an inch over five feet.

My inclination proved to be correct when I tried the senior-flexed RAZR Hawk driver with 10.5 loft. I consistently hit the club at least 10 yards farther than I did the one with the shorter, lighter, whippier shaft. The length was consistent with that of the Burner (also a 10.5 loft), although the lighter RAZR model felt more fluid and easier to hit. Each RAZR Hawk driver offered a slightly closed look, as you might expect from a draw model.

The last Callaway driver I played consistently was a composite model that made an unpleasant muffled pop at contact. It didn’t bother me since it suited my game at the time, but playing partners objected to what sounded like hitting a ball with the club head cover on. As I recall, the item was not a fan favorite and made a rather quick exit from Callaway’s product line.

There’s no such issue with the RAZR Hawk driver, which, in addition to reflecting the high-gloss black appearance of the Lamborghini racer in Orlando, has the sharp, crisp smack you want when your long stick strikes a ball in the sweet spot. Even mishits felt and sounded solid and traveled greater distances than deserved.

RAZR Hawk fairway metals

In addition to the irons and drivers, I hit two RAZR Hawk fairway metals, the 5 and the 3, each with a women’s shaft. I enjoyed the way the 5-metal felt and the distance I was able to achieve. I certainly like the appearance of the RAZR Hawk 5-wood better than last year’s Diablo Octane that was in my bag. I’m not yet convinced I’ll do better with the lighter forged composite model, but I’m betting it will win me over in time.

As for the other fairway metal, well, let’s just say the days of hitting a 3-metal off the deck are behind me.

A minor addendum. For some reason, the standard Callaway grips felt fine on the irons but slick on the drivers, especially the women’s-shafted model. I like my grips soft and sticky so I will likely replace the factory-delivered ones with those from another manufacturer.

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