REVIEW: Callaway XR Speed vs TaylorMade M4 driver

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If you’re in the market for a brand new driver, but don’t want to spend more than £350, there are some great options – and the latest is Callaway’s Speed XR.

Callaway’s “jailbreak” technology (two titanium rods attaching the sole to the crown) features in their Rogue and Epic drivers, but the tech is costly to produce, which means those two models are some of the most expensive on the market.

So in a bid to have a more competitively priced driver on the market, Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s chief of R&D, challenged his design team to create the best non-jailbreak driver they could. And the new XR Speed is the fruit of their labours.

Callaway say the new XR Speed is faster and longer than any competitor driver they’ve tested, even though ball speeds are 1-2mph slower than the Rogue, which launched earlier this year. To see if the claims stand up, we pitted the new XR against TaylorMade’s similarly-priced M4.

Callaway XR Speed vs TaylorMade M4 Driver

How we did it:

 We got our TG test pro Andy Thorpe to hit both drivers with their standard stock shafts (and a 10.5° loft) on a launch monitor. We wanted to replicate how the majority of golfers who’d buy these drivers would buy straight off the rack. Thanks to Andy’s repeatable swing we ensured an accurate comparison between both models. After all shots were hit we compared data to see how each performed.

How XR Speed compares to M4

To hit mass market golfers (and sell in decent numbers), drivers need a combination of a good technology story alongside strong performance and a competitive price (just like the TaylorMade M4 and Ping G400), so the XR scores highly on all fronts. The XR’s head looks great sat behind the ball, it sounds decent and it comes with a quality Project X HZRDUS shaft. Our data suggests it’s every bit a match for the M4. But while M4 has already won on tour in the hands of Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm, the XR is unlikely to make it into the top players hands. Experience also tells us XR Speed is likely to retail a fraction less (around £299) than the M4 and Ping G400, which based on our results suggests it warrants more than a second glance if you’re considering any competitor’s driver at this price point.  

Callaway XR Speed vs TaylorMade M4 Driver

You also need to know...

It’s only available in Europe

XR Speed is only available in the UK and Europe, which strikes us as being a bit odd. If the driver is as good as Callaway reckon why wouldn’t they unveil it to the world? We think retailers have played a role in convincing Callaway that European golfers are extremely price sensitive and, as good as the Rogue and Epic are, if they’re going to sell Callaway drivers in any sort of numbers they need a club that competes with the TaylorMade M4 and Ping G400 on price.

Callaway XR Speed vs TaylorMade M4 Driver

Jailbreak works better at higher swing speeds

Callaway’s jailbreak tech certainly delivers more ball speed, but we know it becomes more effective as swing speeds increase. Callaway’s lab boffins worked out how the R&A and USGA conformity tests are run at relatively low swing speeds. That means a head can conform at the designated test speed, but perform differently at higher speeds. For average golfers, that should increase the XR Speed’s attractiveness even more, as it’s likely to perform much like a Rogue, but also save you over £100.

Review: See our full TaylorMade M4 review here

Tour validation

We’ll put our money where our mouth is and say that the XR Speed driver will not find its way into a player’s bag on the European Tour this year like the XR 16 (the model it's replacing) did with Willett and Stenson. Why? Well, tour players generally swing harder (so they get more benefit from jailbreak) and they’re always ferocious about stacking any advantage in their favour. So with Callaway saying ball speeds with the XR are more than 1mph slower (than the Rogue and Epic) it’s unlikely Europe’s elite will play one any time soon.

Review: See our full Callaway Rogue review here

Where does the Rogue fit in?

XR Speed is not out to replace the Epic or Rogue. It replaces the XR 16, which both Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson won majors with in 2016. In our eyes (and Callaway’s) Rogue and Epic are still Callaway’s premium, best performing drivers. But if you can’t quite stretch to £469 (RRP) to get yourself a slice of the action, XR Speed (at £339) is an excellent non-jailbreak alternative.

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