For some time the goal in distance irons has been to bring the technologies from woods into irons to increase distance and forgiveness by using a flexing face with a deep centre of gravity. Usually you end up with a closed, cavity back iron and to date most of these attempts have resulted in irons with plenty of 'booty', as I believe certain R&B singers call it.
Not any more though as Callaway has brought their face cup and internal standing wave from their woods into the XR irons, but in a form that looks like a normal set of irons right through the set.
The Cup 360 is a single piece of thin metal for the face that wraps around at the top and the bottom and then is attached to the rest of the chassis by a thin piece of metal. This allows the face to flex at impact and increase the ball speed so you get more distance, just like they do in the excellent Callaway XR Driver and Callaway XR Fairway.
Callaway has also used the Internal Standing Wave from the woods in the sole of the club. This is effectively a line of metal looking like a breaking wave that moves the CG lower and forward and increases the MOI, but stands alone and does not touch the face.
Now Golfalot aficionados will know that all this is not new as the recent Callaway Big Bertha irons featured the Cup 360 and the Internal Standing Wave. However this came in a hollow, closed cavity design that was on the bootylicious side.
What is new with the XR irons is that they have managed to do this within the framework of what looks like a classic Callaway distance iron with a visible cavity in the back, which is no mean feat given the narrow sole width they have to work with.
At address there is a medium amount of offset and a thick top line just like the X2 Hot iron it replaces and I think it looks very good for an iron of this type.
The two white lines on the bottom two grooves are classic Callaway and make lining up the club easier. Compared to the more compact sister Callaway XR Pro iron, the standard version has a shiny chrome finish rather than the brushed chrome and both look good.
Sometimes in game improvement irons you can see all the gubbins in the cavity at address in the longer irons, but with the XR irons as you go down through the set, they all look the same which I like. The shorter irons, especially the wedge maybe get a little chunky on the soles.
Start swinging the XR irons and you immediately feel the benefit of the speed features as there is almost a slingshot feel at impact from the lovely large heads. This was more noticeable in the longer and mid irons and less so in the shorter irons, which is to be expected given the smaller heads have a smaller face to flex.
The sound was lovely too, which is impressive given these are big cavity backs and whilst there are aimed at your mid-handicap golfers, I actually think a lot of single figure players will be looking at these for the forgiveness in the long irons.
Special mention should also go to the stock True Temper Speed Step 80 steel shaft, which is light, stable and suits the Callaway XR irons very well.
What you will need to watch is your gapping as these babies will go further than your current irons. The lofts are the same as the X2 Hot irons and Callaway say that the XR is two clubs longer than some iron in their recent past, so the chances are they will be longer than X2 Hot, even if it is not two clubs more.
This means you will probably need a set from the XR 4-iron to 49° A-Wedge, if you can take the chunkiness, before transitioning either more XR wedges or to more regular bladed pitching wedges at 50° or 52° to allow for the bionic AW. This does create the five wedge issue I highlighted in the Callaway Big Bertha iron review, so just start quoting the loft you used when asked.
Enough wedge whinging, because overall I think the XR irons are one of the best game improvement irons I have tried this year and they are worthy descendants of the genre of Callaway iron which made the company great in the first place.
They look, sound and feel great, offer a high level of forgiveness and with a competitive price tag all you should do when presented with the bill is put an XR in the box marked 'yes please'.