The aesthetic design of the XHOT pro is very simple. A classic pear shape, 435cc head features a matte grey finish, no crown graphics (not even an alignment aid) and a gloss-finish sole, all of which offer little hint that some serious technology lay within. I couldn't help but draw a comparison of the XHOT package to a classic muscle car; minimal and functional, yet beautiful. If I never hit this club, I'd still have to give major credit to the Callaway design team for creating a muted work of art.
However, I did hit it. Before we get into that, let's talk about the technology behind the XHOT driver line.
Optifit – Introduced last year, Callaway's take on face angle is pretty standard and simple. Using a wrench to loosen the head from the shaft, a cog system adjusts the face angle in one of three positions: Open, Closed or Standard. I tried all three settings and preferred standard.
Ultra Thin Wall Casting – Here's where it gets interesting. By making the internal walls of the driver much thinner, the center of gravity can be tuned in a manner to preserve distance on off-center hits and keep the overall spin component of the head down, increasing distance across the board.
Speed Frame Face – Variable thickness faces are not new, but Callaway's approach is unique. An ovular pattern that varies from thin on the outside to thicker near the center of the face contribute to consistent (and fast) ballspeed numbers on all hits. A hyperbolic X pattern in the center of the face further enhances the effectiveness of the Speed Frame Face technology.
Now, on to the part where I hit the XHOT.
For testing, I took the Callaway out and hit balls with it and my workhorse gamer. As I've mentioned before, its an 8.5 degree plain Jane with a 60g X-Stiff shaft. The Callaway came in 9.5 degrees with an X-Stiff Project X Velocity shaft. It is worth noting here that the Pro version of the Velocity is the retail version, the non-Pro XHOT driver is equipped with a tip-soft version. After a few warm-ups, I was ready for 100% swings. My first impression was a bit of surprise, given that the first drive went well beyond my visual landing spot for my workhorse. A few more hits confirmed that I was consistently pounding drives a long way. Of course, I had to see how much further.
Time for some non-scientific testing! Armed with a rangefinder, a flag prism mounted on an alignment stick, and the drivers, I set out for my shortest driving hole at my club. Typically playing into the wind and uphill, I'm lucky to hit the workhorse 240. I hit five drives with the XHOT and set out to see how far they had gone. Aside from the tight dispersion, I'd gained 25 yards on my longest drive, and 17 on my shortest. Floored, I was suddenly an iron into the green instead of a hybrid/wood. Still skeptical, I headed back to the clubhouse where I asked my pro to set up the Trackman for some data gathering.
Before I continue, I must admit I don't go to this extreme while reviewing clubs. The anomalies of the XHOT warranted a deeper look. I spent an hour with the club pro and the Trackman, and even he was a little surprised. On flat ground, all my numbers with the workhorse matched the XHOT until we looked at ball speed and spin. I gained 10mph ball speed and reduced spin by 400rpm over my workhorse, which explained the incredible distance gains. My best Trackman-measured drive carried 285 and rolled to 305. The thin walls and speed frame face are very real, all marketing aside.
There is a new Callaway on the rise. A burly, take-all-comers set of go-getters who are serious about performance. The 2013 introduction of the XHOT line, from what I gather, is just the first iteration of a product line that seeks to take aim on the biggest boys and bring them down. Given the performance of the XHOT driver, I'd have a hard time arguing that they won't do it. If you're in the market for a new driver, see your nearest Callaway fitter and hit the XHOT. I can almost guarantee you'll be the longest hitter on your next buddies trip.