This is my full review of the Callaway Steelhead XR irons. Just like Callaway did with the Big Bertha lines and others, they’ve returned the Steelhead to the market, remade with modern performance and features.
Labelled “signature shape meets breakthrough performance”, Callaway claims that the Steelhead irons deliver the finest combination ever of speed, forgiveness, distance and control in a Callaway iron. How does this actually hold up according to my testing and others’ testing? Do I recommend these? Read on to find out what you need to know before putting them in your bag.
In a hurry? Here’s the quick overview and verdict for you…
Rating: 9.1/10 (Excellent)
Pros and Cons: See review box at bottom of review
Best suited for: Beginners or high-handicappers who want a forgiving iron with a mid-range price
Best places to buy online (open all links in new tabs to compare prices quickly): For new Steelhead XR irons, see this Amazon page or this Global Golf page (credit refunds available for clubs that show normal wear). Checking out eBay here is a must as the prices on both new and used sets being sold there are often unbeatable.
Want a high-resolution look at the Steelhead XR irons? Click on the composite image at the top of the page and navigate the photos.
What are the reviews like?
The Steelhead XR iron has been received extremely well. It currently has an average review score of about 4.8/5 on Amazon (when you don’t include the 1-star reviews of people that received one individual iron instead of the set), 4.8/5 on the official Callaway website (132 reviews, 98% recommended) and a perfect 5 stars on Global Golf.
What people like: Wonderful forgiveness; nice high launch with long carry and great distance; easy to hit even for those with slower swing speeds; sharp look as is typical with Callaway clubs
What people don’t like: Tends to scuff easily; many don’t like the feel at impact; not the greatest mis-hit feedback
What are the features?
Face Cup Technology: The Steelhead XR irons feature Callaway’s next-generation 360 Face Cup technology. This increases ball speed all across the face for an overall distance increase.
Steel-Infused Polyurethane Layer: Positioned behind the lower portion of the face is a bar of steel-infused soft urethane, which absorbs unwanted vibration for improved feel. The integration of steel into the urethane adds weight, which lowers the center of gravity (CG) of the head, leading to higher launch and greater ball speeds when the ball impacts the lower portion of the face.
Hollow Bore-Thru Hosel Design: The hollow bore-thru hosel design saves significant weight that’s repositioned in strategic places in the head to create more forgiveness and an easier launch.
Progressive Center of Gravity Positioning: Easy launch and long carry in the long irons, easy launch and keen control in the middle irons, and lower launch and higher spin in the short irons are all the result of a strategically-positioned CG throughout the set.
The Steelhead XR irons come stock with the True Temper XP 95 Stepless shaft in steel or the Matrix F15 in graphite. Several premium shafts are available at no upcharge, and they are:
- KBS Tour-V
- KBS Tour-V 90
- True Temper XP 95
- True Temper Speed Step 80
- MRC Fubuki AT 50/55/60
- UST Recoil 450/460
- UST Recoil 660/680
- MRC Bassara 50 (ladies)
Below are the specs of the irons. Shaft specs can be found on the Callaway website. Click to enlarge.
How do these irons perform?
Distance/Distance Control: The Steelhead XR irons are long — definitely one of the longest irons I’ve tested. Carry distance in particular is superb, and this is big because the higher you can get the ball coming into the greens and the softer you can get it to land, the more control you have. The Steelhead XR irons are awesome in this regard. During my testing I found distance to be predictable and repeatable, even on mis-hits. Mis-hits see minimal loss in ball speed. Some people have reported distance gains of a whole club or more with minimal reduction in launch angle.
Forgiveness: As you might have expected, the Steelhead XR irons are extremely forgiving — definitely up there among the most forgiving irons I’ve ever tested. The sweet spot is slightly bigger than in last year’s XR iron, after all. My mis-hits never strayed more than about 9 yards or so from my sweet-spot distance, and because of the offset, my bad swings that should have resulted in pretty ugly shapes didn’t end up too far off the green either way. The downside of the superb forgiveness is reduced workability, meaning shot shaping isn’t the easiest thing with these irons, although it can still be managed to an extent.
Playability: These are no doubt one of the easiest irons for higher handicappers to play. They’re very friendly towards slower swingers, and they’re super easy out of trouble lies. They have no problems handling fairway bunkers and light rough; even in heavier rough they’re relatively easy to get up in the air and fly straight.
What about look, sound and feel?
Look: Starting with the function, the offset is standard for a Callaway game-improvement iron; not excessive but not negligible either. The top line is quite thick, as is the sole. The head from heel to toe is long. Overall, the look is what you would expect for a game-improvement iron that inspires confidence at address. In terms of aesthetics, the cavity badge design doesn’t stray too far from the usual Callaway look, but unlike a lot of their other offerings, the Steelhead XR keeps flashy bright colours to a minimum. The “Steelhead” logo on the badge has a holographic sheen, which is a cool touch.
Sound and Feel: One thing I found with the Steelhead XR irons is that they sound and feel pretty much the same over most of the face, save the extreme end of the toe or heel. This doesn’t surprise me considering the fact that the face is hollow and the steel-infused polyurethane layer (touched on above) dampens the vibrations in the club. Center strikes feel crisp and explosive, while severe mis-hits sound quite hollow and feel a bit jarring. For the most part, unless you’re making absolutely horrendous contact with the ball, you’ll be satisfied by the sound and feel at impact. Keep in mind though that there’s not much feedback, so it will be difficult to tell if you hit a good shot unless you look up at the ball flight.
Where should I buy these irons online?
Right now it’s difficult to find prices lower than the manufacturer-set price for the Steelhead XR irons. Currently, Steelhead XR iron sets can be purchased from several locations including Amazon, Global Golf and the official Callaway website. Checking out eBay is a must when looking online, as they usually have deals for both new and used sets that you just can’t beat! The links on this review will take you to all the relevant listings.
Summary and Conclusion
The Steelhead XR irons sure have come a long way since the Steelhead X16s of many years ago. They are perfect for weekend warriors, mid-to-high handicappers and beginners looking for a top-quality iron that’s good-looking, long, forgiving out of a wide variety of lies and that won’t break the bank. With that said, they’re probably not ideal for skilled golfers who appreciate feel, feedback, workability and a slimmer profile. Do take good care of these irons because the chrome finish scuffs easily.
==> Interested in trying out the Steelhead XR irons or getting fit for them? Check this out first! <==
If you have any thoughts or opinions about Callaway’s Steelhead XR irons, be sure to leave a comment below!
Callaway Steelhead XR Iron
Distance/Distance Control9.5 /10
Sound and Feel8.0 /10
Value for Money9.5 /10
- Long carry distances
- Extremely forgiving both in terms of ball speed and shape
- Easy to hit out of just about any lie
- Cool, confidence-inspiring look
- Clunky feel around the greens
- Little to no feedback; you'll need to look at the ball flight to know how well you hit it
- Limited workability