“What the [Callaway] Steelhead XR might lack in visual flair is made up for with speed and power. An updated face cup combines with improved welding and manufacturing to generate COR numbers up to the USGA limit, which results in 2 mph more ball speed over current XR irons.
The hollow bore-through hosel, last seen in X-22 irons, allows up to five grams to be shifted toward the toe, boosting head stability. The CG is positioned dead center (heel to toe) to help with forgiveness. In addition, the CG is higher in the short irons than where you normally impact the ball, resulting in a lower, boring flight. In the long irons, the CG it is below the impact point for higher-flying approaches.” — Callaway Steelhead XR review at Golf.com
Third session at the PGA Tour Superstore, third different sales associate. This one, a young Texan named Cain, appeared to fancy himself as an amateur golf instructor as well, since, after I had taken a few swings with a Mizuno JPX-900 6-iron, with a Cobra F7 7-iron and a Callaway Steelhead XR Pro 6-iron awaiting their respective turns, he asked me to stop.
He: “Mind if I make a suggestion?” Oh boy, I’m thinking, here we go…
Me: “If you’re talking about my golf swing, I thought the idea was to establish the constants of machine, conditions, and clubs, with the brands themselves and the shafts being the variables. Now you want to introduce another variable?”
He: “I think with a couple of minor adjustments I can get you ten more yards with every club, maybe a few more.”
Me: “Cain, there’s no such thing in golf as a minor adjustment. I’m a 24-handicap. Ten more yards to a good golfer might make a world of difference, but to The Great White Shank it amounts to bupkis. I’ll listen to what you have to say, but I can’t make those changes part of this test. Deal?”
It seemed Cain didn’t like the position of my top hand in my grip, said he likes to see two knuckles whereas I was only showing one. He also didn’t like the position of my club at address, it was too far forward. He wanted to see the shaft pointing at my belly button. He then asked me to take my normal address, close my eyes, and stick the club out straight. He turned the club head in my hands slightly (for me) counter-clockwise, perhaps no more than an inch, maybe two.
He: “Does the club feel lighter in your hands?”
Me: I dunno, maybe a little.”
Cain explained to me that having the club forward in my stance and my grip taken together promote mis-hits because the club face was never square at address.
He: “I’ll bet you pull a lot of shots to your right.”
Me: “When I’m not shanking them to the left.”
Cain asked me to just consider what he was suggesting. Now I didn’t know this Cain from Abel, and I’d never heard my swing guru Alex Black over at Superstition Springs make either of those suggestions. I will grant him this, however: he was definitely onto something when he asked after watching me take a few more swings (this time with the Cobra F7), if I had any mobility issues with my back. When I replied none that I was aware of, he mentioned I had this annoying (to him) habit of sliding into the hitting zone, and not turning with my lower body.
He: “No wonder you fight the shanks. You seem to have to work really hard to get that club face closed when you come through the impact zone. You need to think about the changes I suggested. Otherwise, every swing you take is a shank waiting to happen. There’s one good thing, though…”
Me: “I’m all ears.”
He: “Your shank is a heckuva lot easier to fix than a slice or a hook would.”
After hitting the Mizuno (very nice feel, but still to expensive for my pocketbook) and the Cobra F7 (from the very first swing I ever took with it to the last, very consistent in its performance) it was time to take some swings with the Steelhead XR. I didn’t look at the club, I just assumed he gave me the same club I’d been using in my prior two tests. After three balls I knew something was up.
Me: “This isn’t the same club I’ve been hitting. And it looks different, too.”
He: “I gave you the Steelhead XR Pro. It has a thinner clubhead, supposed to be more forgiving.”
Me: “Well, maybe that’s true for a pro, but I can tell you it doesn’t feel more forgiving to this 24-handicap. It feels like a completely different club altogether.”
Cain fetched a Steelhead XR, and from the moment it was in my hand I knew this was the club for me. I liked the steel shaft, the way the ball jumped off the club face, it felt very familiar to me, but Cain persisted (after all, in addition to golf instructor wannabe he was a sales associate) in that he still felt like he could get an extra 5-10 yards if I went with a graphite or another kind of shaft (I forget the name) that’s kind of a hybrid between steel and graphite. I was ready to pull the trigger, but hey, I’d come this far, I might as well go the distance.
I hit a number of shots with both the graphite and the hybrid shafts. Cain was watching the machine and analyzing all the stats it pushed out, said he’d recommend graphite shafts, but asked me what I thought. Frankly, I couldn’t tell the difference one way or the other, and steel was cheaper, so…
Me: “I’m ready to pull the trigger, let’s close the deal.”
He grabbed a ruler, asked me to stand up straight with my arms at my side, told me there was no need to special order. Said I could take the set they have in stock right off the rack if I wanted. That wasn’t going to happen because I already knew that I’d want the 4-iron that came standard swapped out with a sand wedge, which didn’t, and at no extra cost except for the shipping and handling. Which he was willing to do. The end result being, I got a great deal on what I hope will be a great set of irons for years to come.
I’m glad I went through the process and took the time I did. It was fun working with different sales folks and getting their input. Now it’s on to the next step, which is to pick out a driver and a fairway wood. Let the process begin!!