Callaway Rogue ST Irons – Key Takeaways
- Rogue ST features four new game-improvement iron sets.
- All four feature 450 Face Cup designed by AI.
- Up to 62 grams of tungsten have been added to lower the CG.
- Sets start at $999.99. Available at retail on Feb. 18.
On one hand, the Callaway Rogue ST irons story can be summed up quite succinctly: AI design and a butt-load of tungsten.
But if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, Rogue ST is a roadmap to Callaway’s iron strategy going forward. Callaway now boasts 12 to 16 distinct iron sets, depending on how you define combo sets. With that many, you can exercise control over retail space and consumers’ attention. If you can’t find a Callaway iron to fit your game, then golf might not be for you.
But Callaway also runs the risk of overwhelming golfers with too many choices. The new Rogue ST irons sit squarely on the game-improvement end of the spectrum but do game-improvement golfers really need four options?
Callaway Rogue ST Irons: Four New Models
It’s easy to forget but Callaway irons run on a two-year product cycle. The new Rogue ST irons replace the Mavrik iron series which was released in February of 2020. It’s also easy to forget the Mavrik line featured five distinct irons sets: the standard Mavrik , Mavrik MAX and Mavrik Pro, plus two models designed for women, the Mavrik MAX W and Mavrik MAX W Lite.
Callaway is streamlining the Rogue ST line and is changing the naming convention. The Rogue ST MAX is now the core iron in the lineup, replacing the standard Mavrik. The Rogue ST Pro replaces the Mavrik Pro.
Callaway is discontinuing the women-specific offerings but in name only. The Rogue ST MAX OS and MAX OS Lite are lightweight designs for slower swing-speed players, regardless of gender.
“We did well with the MAX W iron for women,” says Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s Senior VP for R&D. “But we received feedback from fitters and reps that the idea could work beyond the women’s game. It could help anybody looking for more launch and more speed, particularly senior golfers.”
AI and the 450 Face Cup
Callaway does love its “firsts.” With Mavrik, Callaway told the world it was the first iron with a Face Cup designed by artificial intelligence. With Rogue ST, we learn it’s the first iron with a 450 stainless steel Face Cup designed by artificial intelligence.
It’s not the first 450 Face Cup, just the first one designed by AI.
What is a Face Cup? The typical multi-piece construction features a flat face welded into an iron body. A Face Cup actually cups over the top line, sole, heel and toe and is welded onto the body. Add high-strength 450 stainless steel and you essentially have a larger canvass for AI to do its magic.
“By using the higher strength advantages of the 450 alloy with the face cup design and the AI design techniques, we can produce a system to increase ball speed and control launch angle and backspin,” says Hocknell.
Ball speed, launch angle and backspin make up the distance Holy Trinity. Getting the right mix is what keeps designers up at night.
“If it’s a club that has to hit the ball as far as possible, the equation is pretty easy,” says Hocknell. “But with irons, you have to land them as well as get them up in the air.”
As with Mavrik, each iron loft has a uniquely designed Face Cup because your 5-iron has a very different job than your 9-iron. Callaway is very careful in its wording, saying the goal is to optimize—not maximize—ball speed.
To control the other two parts of the Holy Trinity, Callaway uses an old and very dense friend.
Tons O’ Tungsten
I’m guessing somewhere between buying Jack Wolfskin and merging with TopGolf, Callaway must have acquired a tungsten mine. There’s no other way of saying it: there’s a shitload of tungsten in the new Rogue ST irons.
The Mavrik lineup averaged roughly 17 grams of tungsten in each iron. By comparison, the Rogue ST MAX OS Lite has 46 grams. And that’s the tungsten toddler of the group.
The standard Rogue ST MAX has 62 grams of tungsten in each head. That’s 250 percent more tungsten than Mavrik. Clearly, you can’t overdo tungsten.
“By using tungsten, we can move weight very efficiently to different parts of the head to alter the center of gravity and modify moments of inertia,” says Hocknell. “When we do that, the center-of-gravity position starts to work more in synchronization with the face so we can produce higher ball speed and control launch angle and spin without resorting to excessively strong lofts.”
“Excessively strong” is open to interpretation, I suppose. But it is worth noting the Rogue ST MAX lofts are half a degree weaker than those on the Mavrik.
“We’re changing the relationship between how we generate speed and how we control spin and launch angle by using a much larger amount of tungsten,” says Hocknell.
Don’t Forget the Microspheres
If a little tungsten is good, more must be better, right? According to Callaway, the same can be said for urethane microspheres.
First seen in the original 2018 Rogue irons, urethane microspheres are a patented Callaway technology. OEMs are really good at thinning out club faces to chase ball speed. The problem with thin faces, however, is if left unsupported, they sound terrible and feel worse. That’s why OEMs have been filling cavities with variations on a theme: Speed Foam, dampening systems or other proprietary filler designed to absorb vibration and soften sound.
There’s another problem, however. If you back a thin, flexible face with any kind of material, that material actually stiffens the face. It has nowhere to go. It does dampen sound but it also takes away some of that ball speed they worked so hard to create.
Callaway mixes microscopic glass spheres with soft urethane to make urethane microspheres. The tiny glass spheres actually change shape and flatten at impact, giving the material the ability to flex along with the face.
In the original Rogue as well as the Mavrik, the urethane microspheres filled the cavity up to the third groove from the bottom. The new Rogue ST cavity is shaped differently, with room for urethane microspheres up to the sixth groove. More urethane microspheres mean more of the face where impact happens is supported, so sound and feel should improve.
The Rogue ST Lineup
As mentioned, the new Rogue ST lineup features four separate iron sets. The Rogue ST MAX is the standard model. With Mavrik, the MAX was the oversized version but the Rogue ST MAX is the core iron in the new lineup.
“This is the definition of the center of the game-improvement market in terms of blade size, sole width, offset and topline,” says Hocknell. “It should fit the largest part of the market.”
Replacing the Mavrik MAX, as well as the MAX W and MAX W Lite, are the Rogue ST MAX OS and MAX OS Lite. The names should tell you what you need to know. They’re larger and more forgiving than the standard model, with wider soles, longer blades and more offset.
Both the OS and OS Lite versions feature considerably less tungsten than the Rogue ST MAX and have slightly weaker lofts.
“We’re really trying to prioritize time in the air for the golf ball,” says Hocknell. “So higher lofts, easier launch and more carry turns into distance.”
If you’re thinking shelf appeal, the Rogue ST lineup shares a consistent look with the Apex 21 lineup as well as the X-Forged CB: satin chrome with plenty of black in the cavity. Like the TaylorMade Stealth also released today, it’s a game-improvement iron for grownups.
Which makes the Rogue ST Pro so interesting.
Callaway Rogue ST Pro
The Callaway Rogue ST Pro is designed for golfers who love the looks of the Apex 21 Pro but would like a tad more forgiveness. It has a more compact player’s shape as well as a thinner topline and less offset than the rest of its fellow Rogues. The Pro’s hollow-body construction gives it a muscle-back-ish look but it still has the AI 450 Face Cup, 48 grams of tungsten, six grooves worth of urethane microspheres and stronger lofts than Tour-level irons.
Think of it as a ‘roided up Apex 21 Pro.
“This is an iron for that player who wants to look like a better player but still needs the help you’d expect from a game-improvement iron,” says Hocknell. “The help is hidden inside the hollow-body construction.”
While the rest of the Rogue ST lineup sits squarely on the game-improvement side of the Apex 21 lineup, the Rogue ST Pro does blur the line a little. Callaway says it’s not quite as forgiving as the standard Apex 21 iron but the Rogue ST Pro’s look and loft structure put it squarely in the player’s distance iron category.
“It has stronger lofts than the Apex Pro,” says Hocknell. “These are good for advanced amateurs who might want the help of a game-improvement iron.”
Too Many Choices?
As mentioned, the new Rogue ST lineup brings the total number of iron sets in Callaway’s catalog to either 12 or 16, depending on how you count Apex combo sets. The plus side for Callaway is simple: you have something for everyone, even golfers with multiple personalities. And the more SKUs you have, the more shelf space you own at retail.
And the more room you own at retail, the less room there is for the competition.
Callaway won’t be squeezing out TaylorMade, PING or Titleist. But it’s not unreasonable to think the likes of COBRA, Mizuno, Srixon-Cleveland or Wilson might feel the pinch.
The downside of so many options is, well, how do you decide? The easy answer, of course, is fitting. But the reality is that, even with custom orders skyrocketing for the big OEMs, an awful lot of golfers in the game-improvement market still buy off the shelf. Psychologist Barry Schwartz writes that when confronted with too many choices, buyers are less likely to actually make a choice. And when they do choose, they’re more likely to be dissatisfied with it.
There’s clearly a strategy to 12 (or 16) iron set options. The obvious one is “something for everyone.” The less obvious one is “maxing out retail shelf space.” If you really want to project into the unknown, if a company were to ever start its own retail venture, having 12 (or 16) iron sets is a damned good start.
And there’s always the possibility that Callaway just doesn’t give a damn. It’ll put out 12 (or 16) iron sets because it can.
Callaway Rogue ST Irons: Specs, Price and Availability
The Callaway Rogue ST MAX, MAX OS will feature the new True Temper Elevate MPH as the stock steel shaft. It will be available in 85- and 95-gram options. For the Rogue ST Pro, Callaway is bringing back an oldie but a goodie, the Project X Rifle for mid-launch and mid-to-high spin.
The Rogue ST MAX OS Lite comes standard with the Project X Cypher Black in graphite. The Tensei AV Series Blue is the stock graphite for the ST MAX and ST MAX OS. The Tensei AV White is stock graphite for the Rogue ST Pro.
The Callaway Universal Grip is standard for the lineup except for the Rogue ST Pro which gets the Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360.
Callaway says the Rogue ST lineup will start at $999.99, a $200 increase over Mavrik. Since the TaylorMade Stealth is also $200 higher than its SIM2 predecessor, it’s fair to assume the new pricing is part of the new COVID normal.
The Rogue ST irons will hit retail on Feb. 18. For more information, visit Callaway’s website.