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Review: Callaway XR 16 Sub Zero driver

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Pros: Like other ultra low-spin drivers, Callaway’s XR 16 Sub Zero has huge distance potential for high-spin, high-speed golfers. Adjustable weights allow golfers to fine tune CG location. No upcharge for premium shafts.

Cons: Compared to Callaway’s other XR 16 drivers, the Sub Zero lacks forgiveness. Bad mishits can produce head-scratching trajectories. Available in only one loft (9.5 degrees), and for righties only.

Who it’s for: This a niche product for better golfers. If you miss the center of the club face with any consistency, give one of the other XR 16 drivers, or Callaway’s Great Big Bertha a try.

The Review

Callaway_XR_16_Sub_Zero_Sole_2

Callaway extended its line of XR 16 drivers with the new XR 16 Sub Zero, which was designed for high-spin players, from Phil Mickelson to gifted amateurs. It measures 440 cubic centimeters, and uses a new Carbon Triax Crown to lower center of gravity (CG), ultimately placing it below the neutral axis line, or “Sub Zero,” according to the company. Here’s what that looks like as a graphic:

SubZeroNeutralAxis

Related: Learn more about the technology in the Sub Zero. 

As you probably know by now — whether it’s from our stories or the TV commercials — Callaway and Boeing teamed up to create a line of aerodynamic drivers, coming to fruition in the XR 16 and XR 16 Pro drivers. On those drivers, there are “Speed Steps” on the crown, which allow air to flow tighter against the club head to help golfers swing faster.

Although Callaway’s new XR 16 Sub Zero driver was given the “XR 16” name, it wasn’t given the Speed Steps, which weren’t able to be added because of the Sub Zero’s lightweight Carbon Triax crown, according to a Callaway representative. The XR 16 platform still makes branding sense for the Sub Zero, though. While it has two adjustable weights, it’s much more similar to Callaway’s XR 16 and XR 16 Pro than it is the company’s Great Big Bertha and Big Bertha Alpha 816 drivers, which use complex adjustability systems.

Callaway_XR_16_Pro_driver_comparison

Callaway’s XR 16 Sub Zero (right) and XR Pro drivers.

Think of the three different XR drivers this way:

  • XR 16 (460 cc): Maximum forgiveness, highest ball flight.
  • XR 16 Pro (450 cc): Medium forgiveness, medium ball flight
  • XR 16 Sub Zero (440 cc): Least forgiveness, lowest ball flight.

In terms of looks and feel, the Sub Zero is also noticeably different than its XR 16 brethren. Its crown is glossy rather than matte, and it has no graphics or sight lines on its crown. At impact, the sound is also much more dense; it makes a crunch, rather than a higher-pitched ting like the XR 16 and XR 16 Pro. The Sub Zero does have a similar head shape to the XR 16 Pro, albeit 10cc smaller. To my eye, the Sub Zero looks clean and compact at address, more so than the XR 16 Pro and much more so than the XR 16.

Callaway XR 16 Sub Zero (right) and XR 16 Pro drivers.

Callaway XR 16 Sub Zero (right) and XR 16 Pro drivers.

Related: GolfWRX 2016 Gear Trials, The Best Drivers in Golf

The Sub Zero ($449.99) will create a disproportionate interest in the golf equipment world because of its use by tour players. In reality, though, it’s a highly limited release that targets the top echelon of better golfers. It’s only offered in one loft (9.5 degrees) and available for right-handed golfers only.

The Sub Zero does have an adjustable hosel that allows golfers to switch the loft to 8.5, 10.5 or 11.5 degrees, however, and each loft can be paired with a neutral or upright lie angle setting, which expands the target audience. It should also be noted that the Sub Zero has a slightly flatter lie angle at address than the other XR 16 drivers, which many better players prefer, as it creates more fade bias.

Callaway_XR_16_Sub_Zero_Weights

The Sub Zero has two interchangeable weights (2 and 10 grams) to help golfers fine-tune trajectory and spin.

For those who fit the “high-speed, high-spin, right-handed” mold, the Sub Zero lowers spin as well as any club on the market, and has a nice fade bias that may greatly benefit those whose miss is a hook. If you hit the center of the club face consistently and you’re fighting a hook, this may be the driver for you. An added perk is that Callaway is offering golfers their choice of 20 different premium shafts with purchase, which you can view here.

The Test

Callaway_XR_16_Sub_Zero_Face

The Sub Zero has what is called a “deep,” or tall club face, which is preferred by many better players. Its club head measures 440cc.

I tested the Sub Zero against the only other club on the market hovering at the neutral axis line, Cobra’s King LTD, which is said to boast a “Zero CG.” And I hit it against the XR 16 and XR 16 Pro drivers, too. Each of the drivers were set to 9.5 degrees with the same shaft; a Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 7X.

The test was performed at The Launch Pad at Carl’s Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., with Trackman. After deleting outliers, I averaged the results of three drives with each club. The data was normalized, and premium golf balls were used. For those of you curious, I am a 1-handicap, former college golfer coming off a winter of not hitting many range balls.

SubZero16_vCallySubZero16_vCobra

Observations

  • Callaway XR 16’s draw-bias was noticeable and effective. As someone who fights a hook, however, this was not ideal.
  • XR 16 and XR 16 Pro felt very light compared to the other drivers, which may explain the boost in club head speed. Or maybe the Speed Steps did have a positive effect on club speed?
  • Callaway’s XR 16 Sub Zero, with the weight in the forward position, was the second-lowest spinning driver in the test just behind Cobra’s King LTD.
  • XR 16 Pro was nearly as low-spinning as the Sub Zero, but provided more forgiveness and more launch and height.
  • The forward setting in the Sub Zero was noticeably fade-biased, and produced the most fade spin of any driver in the test.
  • The highest balls speeds were produced by the XR 16 (168.7 mph) and the Sub Zero in the forward setting (164.7 mph).

TrackmanDispersionChart

It must be noted that these numbers do not tell the entire story. For example, with the XR 16 Pro, I had zero outliers. The club was extremely easy to hit, despite it having nearly the same profile as the Sub Zero.

Want another opinion? Here’s what Rick Shiels has to say

With the Sub Zero, on the other hand, I had numerous outliers, and my mishits were squirrelly at best: low hooks, low slices, high pushes, etc. It was ugly at times, but when I hit it on the screws, the Sub Zero was possibly the best performing driver of the bunch. Cobra’s King LTD didn’t seem to offer any more forgiveness than the Sub Zero, and had just as many outliers. Zero, or below zero CG is not for the weak-hearted, apparently.

I’ll admit, I’m probably not consistent enough to play the Callaway XR 16 Sub Zero. I certainly can see why there’s a need and demand for it, as it does a phenomenal job knocking down spin, but it’s definitely demanding from a ball-striking standpoint. Maybe it would be a better fit after a summer of hitting tour-sized buckets of balls. If I were playing in a tournament tomorrow, I would take the XR 16 Pro driver to the first tee.

The Takeaway

Callaway_XR_16_Sub_Zero_Hosel

The Sub Zero is available in one loft (9.5 degrees) and for right-handed golfers only. It is adjustable to 8.5, 10.5 or 11.5 degrees.

If you tried the XR 16, XR 16 Pro or Great Big Bertha drivers from Callaway, and just can’t seem to lower your spin rates, the XR 16 Sub Zero could be an answer. When you catch one on the screws, it’s one of the lowest spinning drivers you’ll ever hit. Its lack of forgiveness makes me cautious to suggest this club to anyone that plays to higher than a scratch handicap, however. That being said, the Sub Zero plays the role it’s meant to play quite nicely. And it looks fantastic, and feels like most better golfers want their driver to feel: muted and solid.

Tour players, accomplished amateurs and big hitters will fall in love with this club. Weekend golfers, this one just probably isn’t for us.

[wrx_retail_links productid=”84″]

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. p atrick,connell

    Nov 28, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    why are thare no prices mentioned,,also no shipping costs mentioned,,in English currency,might help .thank you.ps, I only use G clubs and driver,aged 72,approx 20 handicapper is the xr 16 any good for me

  2. Corey

    May 11, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    You need to try this driver with a qualified fitter. I run a Callaway Performance Center and I am selling quite a few of these to players who are not tour caliber. It is not as hard to hit as this article states. It’s all about the numbers and this is one of the best heads I have ever seen.

    Corey, PGA
    Master Club Fitter

  3. JJVas

    May 6, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Thanks for this!!! I was ogling the Sub Zero for awhile and finally hit it indoors on a FS. My specs are very similar to yours, and the gamer is still a 9.0* XR Pro (played at 8.0*). I really liked the SZ, and i actually played the Cobra LTD Pro for a month, but neither was the combination of fast, somewhat forgiving, and consistent as the XR Pro for me. Question for you guys… does any XR Pro fan see a really worthwhile difference between the XR Pro and the XR Pro 16? Just wondering. The look of the new head is a little… um… yeah…

  4. joro

    May 6, 2016 at 11:58 am

    I would say it is just another Money maker for Callaway and nothing special. Not the Driver for anyone and especially not Phil who can’t hit many fairways to begin with. Who says it is not good to hit the short grass. With my RX16 I average 12 a round. Very easy to hit.

  5. Rob

    May 6, 2016 at 10:56 am

    “I’ll admit, I’m probably not consistent enough to play the Callaway XR 16 Sub Zero.” Very surprised a 1 handicap golfer that played in college can say something like this.

  6. Brad

    May 5, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    “I am a 1-handicap, former college golfer coming off a winter of not hitting many range balls.”

    ^Us Midwestern WRXers know this pain all too well

  7. CTGolfer

    May 5, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    High speed players…………what does that mean? 100mph? 105? 110+………….what is the industry standard definition on high speed player?

    • TR1PTIK

      May 5, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      I’m thinking you’re looking at players with a swing speed of 110+. My swing speed averages around 105 and I still need a bit more spin than sub zero provides to get maximum distance.

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Modern Classics (Ep. 4): Testing a TaylorMade Burner SuperFast 3-wood

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GolfWRX recently launched a new 8-part video series, called “The Modern Classics,” in partnership with 2nd Swing Golf. Throughout this video series, GolfWRX’s Head of Tour Content, Andrew Tursky, tests out 8 legendary used golf clubs that are still being played on Tour today. How do the older, less expensive products compare to modern technologies?

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Check out the video at the top of the page for more on the product, design, and how it stands up in testing against a modern 3-wood.

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Driver: Titleist TSR3 (10 degrees)
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In our forums, our members have been discussing wedges for poor bunker players. WRXer ‘gdb99’ kicks off the thread saying “I’m not good out of sand. I used to be, 35 years ago. I blade shots over the green. It’s all technique, and I need a lot of practice. I know that,” and reaches out to our members who have been sharing what they feel are the wedges that can help him the most.

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