World No.2 Jon Rahm signed for Callaway in the close season meaning he has an entirely new set of clubs and is playing a ball in 2021. This is how he went about selecting his new bag and how the process can help you.
When Callaway’s PGA Tour Manager Jacob Davidson received a text message from Jon Rahm just days after fitting him for 14 new clubs and ball, he could have been forgiven for being a bit apprehensive.
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After all, the world’s No.2 was yet to be revealed as a Callaway staffer. He’d signed a big-money deal and undergone a through-the-bag fitting at the company’s Ely Callaway Performance Centre in Carlsbad, California, before flying back home to Arizona to test his new driver, irons, wedges, putter and ball.
But Davidson needn’t have worried. Rahm’s text read: “Shot 59!” – he’d just set a new course record at The Silverleaf Club in Scottsdale in his first round with them.
Jon Rahm’s Callaway deal is the biggest Tour equipment switch for several years. With his equipment contract up for renewal at the end of 2020, Callaway set out a plan to make it happen. “Last year presented many challenges, but one positive was taking the Tour team off the road,” Davidson told Today's Golfer.
“When the Tour was suspended, we weren’t travelling week in, week out so we had time to re-evaluate what we wanted our Tour team to look like in 2021. We collaborated closely among the US and European teams, the R&D and marketing departments, and asked: Is there any Tour pro we really want to bring on board?
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“We knew Jon’s equipment contract was up going into 2021, but we’ve had a long relationship with him. He played Callaway at college, he’s really good friends with Phil Mickelson, and they share the same agent, so there’s a connection. He also shares a lot of the values we have – competitive, a family guy, he commands respect. So he’s a really good fit.”
Of course, being a good fit for your brand and signing on the dotted line are two very different things, so Callaway needed to convince Rahm, particularly when it came to the ball. “We had to do our homework,” said Davidson.
“There would only be one chance. So we spent a lot of time analysing his stats, asking where we could help him, if we had the opportunity. Fifteen or 20 years ago we couldn’t have approached the situation like this. Launch monitors and Shotlink gave us the opportunity to be prepared like never before.”
With Rahm’s interest piqued, he met the team at Callaway.
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“He was excited to learn we spend more on R&D than any other golf brand," Davidson reveals. "How we’re leading artificial intelligence in golf, and about the investment we’ve made in our golf ball factory. We did our due diligence. We spoke to his caddie, coach and team and studied his stats at length before spending time with him to get a real feel for what he likes.
"From there we built a set of clubs confident they’d be a really good fit. This is how we did it...”
What's In The Bag: Jon Rahm
Click the product name for full reviews
Jon Rahm's Driver: Callaway Epic Speed
Loft: 10.5º Shaft: Aldila Tour Green 75 TX
We gave Jon three drivers to test, and we felt he’d fall into the new Epic 21 Speed.
But we wanted him to hit a couple of different models. We saw good speed gains over what he was playing, and the dialling-in was much more about getting shots to start on the line he likes – left to right – and tailoring launch and spin to his preference. He loved the look of the Epic 21 Max LS, but it just turned over a little too much for him; he hates to see the ball going left. Going back and forth between his previous gamer, he saw an increase in ball speed and tighter dispersion.
“That wasn’t a good swing, delete that one”.
One of the things that really opened Jon’s eyes was when he hit a couple of off-centre drives. He asked us to delete the shots from the data, but his team were very quick to point out the ball speed remained high. They’d call out toe and heel strikes, but he’d still see ball speeds in the 180mph range. He was very pleasantly surprised! At the end of the day, he picked up 3mph of ball speed from his 122mph swing speed with his new Epic 21 Speed driver and Chrome Soft X ball.
Jon’s a feel player.
He doesn’t have a long swing, it’s very tight, very compact, but there is an aggressive transition. We wanted to make sure he had a familiar feel from the driver, and we didn’t want to introduce another variable at such an early stage, so each driver was made up with his trusted Aldila Tour Green shaft. It’s common among Tour players to find a shaft and stick with it, especially when they know how it performs under pressure. The Tour Green is a lower launch and spin shaft, but he gets lots of feel from it without giving up stability and low torque properties.
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Jon Rahm's Fairway Woods: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero
Loft: 16.5º (4-wood) Shaft: Aldila Tour Green 75 TX
Loft: 18º (5-wood) Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI (Black) 8 X
There was no deadline to switch to Callaway’s latest models.
Under (Callaway CEO and President) Chip Brewer’s leadership, we gave Jon the freedom to transition when he felt the products were right for him. When we initially tested we didn’t have the new Epic 21 fairways available, so he fell into the Mavrik Sub Zero heads. Even though his previous equipment contract ended only a few days before, he still rocked up to Hawaii in January with 13 Callaway clubs in his bag.
The ultimate goal on Tour is for clubs at the top of the bag to fulfil a very specific job or yardage gap.
Players are looking for shots to launch at a specific height and spin at very specific numbers. We’re lucky that, thanks to Jailbreak, players can go up in loft without losing speed. So we’re fitting the majority of our Tour staff with 4-woods rather than 3-woods, as shots launch a little higher and you get a little more forgiveness. It’s a competitive advantage as shots travel the same distance and work from the tee or off the grass into a par 5.
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Jon’s not scared to press back if he doesn’t understand something, or doesn’t like the answer.
He was happy to stop mid-conversation and ask what something meant, or if we could explain a piece in technology in more layman’s terms. As we went through the fitting process, when shots were hit off-centre, he’d ask if that’s what we were talking about when we mentioned AI faces? It really started to resonate with him. He saw something different to what he was getting previously, and that was equipment he’d been very successful with.
We’re working with Jon and his team to fill specific gaps at the top end of his bag.
Currently he’s using a Mavrik Sub Zero 4-wood (16.5°) and 5-wood (18°), but we’re walking him towards the new Epic 21. The 5-wood will very much be course-dependent. He’ll look at course conditions (soft or hard), what the par 3s are like, are there reachable par 5s, so we’ll have different options for him depending on how he feels how each course needs to be played.
Jon Rahm's Utility Iron: Callaway Apex UT
Loft: 22º bent to 20.5º Shaft: Project X Rifle 6.5
Rahm’s caddie (Adam Hayes) told us the one club we’d struggle more than any to get out of his bag was his utility iron.
Jon likes to hit a variety of shots with it, often stingers off the tee and launch shots high into the air for quick stopping approaches into par 5s.We made him up a 22° Apex UT, bent to 20.5° and it’s a really versatile option. There’s a little more bounce than his old gamer. He could get a little more club on the ball which helped launch shots higher, but also allowed him to flight shots down, too.
He and his caddie obviously had a conversation about not switching the club before our fitting, because once he’d hit just a few shots, the Apex UT went straight into his bag.
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Jon Rahm's Irons: Callaway Apex TCB
Lofts: 4-PW Shaft: Project X Rifle 6.5
We did extensive testing with the Apex TCB irons and Xander Schauffele leading up to Rahm’s fitting.
We were very confident we’d created a world-class set of irons, as Xander had played them from the Tour Championship last year. The pair swing the club in totally different ways, yet they both fall into the same set. Any iron that’s played by two of the top five players in the world has to be a great set. We knew Jon wasn’t a blade guy, so we didn’t want to introduce the Apex MB and we felt the X-Forged might have a bit too much offset, so the new TCBs were the natural fit.
Jon doesn’t start with the numbers. He wants to hit shots, experiment with low and high ball flights, draws and cuts.
He has a little routine in his head which is like a final check off before he looks at launch numbers and dials in the gapping between each club. We had him go through each iron in the bag (we call it a “performance combine”) and we looked at the launch and spin of each, plus the gapping. We analysed the data while Jon had lunch, then headed back out in the afternoon with a few tweaks.
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The major mid-iron gains were sound, and turf interaction.
Thanks to Xander’s feedback, we knew the TCBs were good. We thought that from an offset and topline standpoint, they weren’t too far away from what Jon had been playing. The leading edges are a little different, as is overall shaping, but essentially sole bounce was relatively close between the two sets, so the fit was actually pretty straightforward. Jon’s irons aren’t custom machined for him, and he’s stuck with his favourite Project X 6.5 shafts and a D3 swingweight. The lofts are very much like those he was already playing.
“Here, hit this 9-iron 147 yards”.
Jon’s caddie was calling out distances and he would hit shots to that exact yardage; that’s the gain he saw with the short irons. He liked the workability, but also felt they were easier to flight, which is to do with the improved turf interaction. Spin difference (robustness) between full and half swings was much more closely matched and consistent. Part of it comes down to the Chrome Soft X ball, but he definitely had more ability to hit his distances better.
Jon Rahm loves red.
We actually built two sets of TCB irons, as we wanted a back-up in case something needed adjusting. To differentiate the two sets, we painted the Callaway logo on the back of one set red. We didn’t know it at the time, but as soon as Jon picked them up he said: “Red’s my favourite colour”. That was a home run he appreciated.
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Jon Rahm's Wedges: Callaway Jaws Forged JPN
Lofts: 52°, 56°, 60° Shaft: Project X Rifle 6.5
Jon likes to manipulate the face of his wedges depending on the shot.
We presented both our MD5 Jaws and Japanese Jaws Forged models to him; he liked both, but preferred the straighter leading edge of the Japanese model. We built two sets in his 52°, 56°, 60° lofts and made sure one set was a little heavier, so if we needed to do any custom grinding work we could, and still hit our weight target.
Jon’s sole grinds are standard stock shapes.
He had us match the sole grind of the 60° to his previous gamer as he thought there was a difference in feel. He wasn’t sure at that point whether it was just different, or better. We matched sole grinds so he could compare apples with apples. He hit shots from lots of different positions around our short game green, and was very interested to see how the wedges performed from a damp area. Just a few weeks earlier, he’d played a Major championship in soft conditions, where he felt he’d struggled.
He has incredible hands.
He hit pitch shots 47 yards on to a down slope, where the ball took one hop and backed up. We’re not talking about once – he was hitting this seemingly impossible shot six or seven times in a row. He has a practice set up in his backyard and spends a lot of time pitching and chipping. We knew when he left that his wedges and ball were going home to get some thorough testing. And we knew we were in a good place when he saw the same results at home. Of course, the paintfill on his wedges had to be red. We stamped ‘Rahmbo’ on them, too.
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Jon Rahm's Putter: Odyssey 2-Ball Ten
Shaft: New Stroke Lab
We wanted to bring Jon in on some prototype putters we’d been working on and get him involved in the design process.
It’s no secret that he putted with a 2-Ball at college, so he’s very familiar with Odyssey. He loves the feel of the White Hot insert and it’s likely he will use the new White Hot OG insert and a Stroke Lab shaft (37in) when we’re in a position to roll out his new putter design. We don’t want him putting anything in play until he’s happy that everything is exactly right. That way, he’ll have a real sense of ownership when the putter is released in a month or two.
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Jon Rahm's Golf Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft #10
Jon’s a world-class driver, but if there’s one area we felt we could help him improve it was within 150 yards.
It’s the one area that stuck out for us. For someone who’s a strong iron player from 150-225 yards, we’d spotted there was a significant drop-off inside 150 yards. We were trying to understand why he wasn’t getting great results in this area. We spoke to his coach and caddie and felt it was a void the Chrome Soft X ball could help fill. We felt we could open his eyes to something he hadn’t seen before, and it turned out we could.
Chipping and pitching at our Carlsbad Performance Centre, Jon fell in love with the Chrome Soft X.
It’s a good fit, the same model that Xander plays and the same the public can buy. He was hitting balls and it was noticeable how differently shots launched on short pitches. The ball came out lower, and span more. After hitting balls from side to side across our green, he looked up at his caddie and coach with a big smile on his face and said: “That’s different in a really good way”.
It’s faster, more consistent in the wind and there’s better trajectory control with wedges.
That’s pretty much the summary of the switch. We saw a 1mph gain in ball speed (with the ball alone) on driver shots. For the 3- and 5-woods and 4-6-iron, his spin numbers and launch windows were exactly what he wanted. Off-speed shots have a little more spin, so there’s less drop off from full swing to half shots, and he really likes that. When chipping and pitching, he also feels there’s more spin with the Chrome Soft X, as well as being able to better control trajectory. His ball will be number 10 – his football shirt number when he was a kid.
Golf Grips: Golf Pride MCC
Golf Glove: Callaway Tour Authentic
Jon Rahm's Golf Apparel and Shoes: TravisMathew
Callaway have put a lot of eggs in the Rahm basket, and it’s much more than simply a club and ball deal.
As well as having the Top Golf logo on his sleeve (the innovative driving range business is part-owned by Callaway), Rahm will wear TravisMathew clothing and their Cuater shoes (Callaway also own Travis).
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“I’m really pleased to begin the next chapter of my career as a part of this team with TravisMathew and Cuater,” Rahm said. “Everything TravisMathew make is lightweight with stretch, providing a lot of comfort. I really feel confident playing in TravisMathew apparel.”
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Jon Rahm on...
His new Callaway Chrome Soft X ball
“I saw an opening to improve my short iron game, which has been improving the past few years, but it’s something I feel I can improve a lot more. I can add a variety of shots now. The ball was one of the key ingredients. Once I saw I could hit it well off the tee, as I have the last few years, I could try to strengthen a weakness.”
Testing new Callaway gear
“I did a lot of work earlier than people think, so I already had a valuable set of clubs for after Augusta (in November). As soon as that was done, I went straight to San Diego and spent three days in the Callaway centre – a lot of hours hitting a lot of shots, just making sure everything’s dialled in. And when I went home I was really confident with everything. I did not expect that the only club in the first bag that wasn’t Callaway would be the putter.”
His goals for 2021
“I’m not going to lie – after getting to World No.1, winning a Major is next, and this change makes that a bigger possibility. Changing manufacturers can be challenging, but I do believe the clubs and the ball can help me improve in some areas. I feel like my ball striking is solid, but one area that can get better is my consistency inside 150 yards. I have good weeks when I can win, but I’m not consistently at the level I should be.”