Rogue has been the victim of bad puns, wordplay, and Star Wars references since Tuesday when Callaway finally unveiled the new Rogue driver and fairway woods, but what does the word Rogue actually mean?
Rogue: vagrant or tramp; a dishonest or worthless person, scoundrel; a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave; an individual or plant exhibiting inferior biological variation.
I don’t think that’s what Callaway had in mind.
The Cambridge Dictionary definition is a little better:
Rogue: a person, organization or country that does not behave in the usual or acceptable way.
It’s the Urban Dictionary that, I think, nailed the attitude Callaway is going for:
Rogue: a rebellious loner who follows his/her own rules.
That’s the first definition. The second definition is a little less flattering:
A prostitute who rejects the idea of pimps.
Ahh, the things you learn from Google
So, now that we’re all verbally grounded, let’s take a peek at Rogue’s three companion irons sets.
Three Is The Number…
Yep, three. The first two are what you’d expect – the standard Rogue and its thinner, more compact big brother, the Rogue Pro. The unexpected is the Rogue X, a new player in a rapidly expanding niche. We’ll talk about Rogue X later, but first let’s discuss the, ahh, rogue elephants in the room.
Rogue and Rogue Pro replace the Steelhead XR and Steelhead XR Pro in the Callaway family of irons. No, there's none of the another six-weeks and they’ll replace these nonsense. The Steelheads were introduced in September of 2016 (Pro was released about this time last year), so they’ve hung on for a reasonable run. And not for nothing...Callaway's flagship Apex iron is still going strong at 2.5 years.
Rogue and Rogue Pro are Game Improvement irons, and as such are aimed directly at the big ol’ fat, meaty part of the golfing market. That's the segment the Steelheads dominated in 2017. Much fuss was made about bringing back both the Steelhead name and the bore-through hosel design, so it’s curious that Callaway would dump both after just one cycle, but apparently, that’s what rebellious loners who follow their own rules do.
In fact, Callaway says the new tech in Rogue really makes it an entirely new family of clubs, with a whole new level of performance. Whether the upgrades are, in fact, game-changing technical breakthroughs remains to be seen, but there are enough refinements to make for a compelling story. And the story of Rogue is distance combined with feel. I didn't say it was a new story.
Face Cup, VFT, and Medicated Goo
Go back to any MyGolfSpy irons story over the past two years and you’ll find a common theme regardless of OEM: face deflection for higher ball speeds. Whether it’s PING, TaylorMade, Cobra, PXG or Wilson, the story is the same – thin out the face and make the entire face hotter so you don’t lose as much distance on off-center hits.
Callaway’s recipe for the Rogue features its 360 Face Cup combined with VFT or Variable Face Technology.
“In the case of Apex and Steelhead XR, we were on a journey learning how to optimize Face Cups in irons,” says Dr. Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s Senior VP of R&D. “With Rogue, we think we’ve gone beyond what we’ve had before.”
Hocknell says Callaway has combined an even thinner face with some premium laser welding techniques to create a face that’s more energetic than its previous iterations, which means more ball speed.
However, and there’s always a however, thin-faced irons tend to have sound and feel issues. “If you have a thin-faced iron that produces high balls speeds, the face deflection is larger than before,” says Hocknell. “That means there’s a greater amount of vibration after impact.”
Hocknell says with thin-faced irons the vibration is louder, lasts longer and has a higher pitch – all of which we interpret as feel.
Any thin-faced or hollow-bodied iron faces this particular conundrum, and each OEM uses its own type of filler material to mitigate some of the harshness – i.e., TaylorMade’s SpeedFoam, PING’s Santoprene or Wilson’s TE 031 Urethane.
The problem with filler material, says Hocknell, is that while it does dampen vibration, it can also restrict face deflection.
“That’s the problem,” says Hocknell. “What do you want? Do you want high ball speed or great sound? We’ve tried to look for a filler material that controls the sound without reducing COR.”
Callaway’s solution: Urethane Microspheres.
“We’re effectively filling the lower half of the cavity with a material that is based on a soft urethane, softer than the type you’d find in the cover of our golf balls. But then we’re effectively making that material porous by filling it with thousands and thousands of microscopic hollow glass spheres.” Alan Hocknell, Callaway Golf
Hocknell says unlike foam or other types of filler, Urethane Microspheres won’t restrict face flex because there’s some give to it.
“If you fill a cavity with a material that is soft but solid in nature, the volumetric constraint of that cavity makes that soft material behave in a much more firm manner,” says Hocknell. “There’s nowhere for the material to go when it’s squashed, and therefore it’s a lot more rigid.”
Hocknell says that type of filler helps the sound issue, but you pay a ball speed penalty. Urethane Microspheres, says Callaway, are more porous and the Microspheres themselves change shape and flatten at impact, giving the urethane room to flex along with the face, which allows you to maintain better ball speed no matter where you hit it on the face.
One of Steelhead’s tech stories was using the hollow bore-through hosel, as well as a longer blade length, as means to position the Center of Gravity in the center of the scorelines, and optimizing the CG for each iron in the set. With Rogue, Callaway is essentially doing the same thing, only different.
Last year Callaway introduced the Epic and Epic Pro iron sets, both premium-priced, technology-laden clubs aimed at the PXG end of the market. In reality, the Epic irons were Callaway’s version of a concept car, with the technology eventually cascading into mainstream products. MIM’d (or Metal Injection Molding) tungsten, and what Callaway is calling a Tungsten-infused Internal Standing Wave has found its way into the mainstream with Rogue.
“MIM’d weight allows us to combine tungsten and steel together,” says Hocknell. “We control the shape of the weight, and we can choose the position of that weight inside the head differently by loft through the set.”
By positioning the CG uniquely in each iron, Callaway is optimizing launch – essentially flighting – the entire set. The CG is extremely low in the long irons to promote easier launch and higher flight, and it gets progressively higher as the lofts go up in the shorter irons for greater control.
The differences between Rogue and Rogue Pro are what you’d expect. The Rogue is the more forgiving iron, while Rogue Pro tends more towards the better player end with all the same tech in a smaller package. The Pro has less offset, a thinner topline, and a thinner sole.
Callaway provided the media with a recorded interview with Hocknell, and hidden at the 10:25 mark of the 19-minute video was the first – and only – reference to distance improvements: maybe a half club to a full club longer than previous iterations, especially if you don’t hit the center of the face all the time.
Which is most of us.
About That Rogue X
Rogue X, the third member of the Rogue family, is the newest player in a growing niche: the aging golfer in need of a little more distance. XXIO is the leader in this lightweight, tech-heavy market, which Callaway tried to crack last year with the premium-priced Epic Star.
Callaway says Epic Star was originally aimed at the Japanese market and was quite the hit over there. Rogue X certainly appears to be the mainstream version of Epic Star.
“It was time to take all of the technology that was in Epic and configure it in a way that was little more aggressive,” says Hocknell. That means what you’d think it means – stronger lofts (by 3 to 4 degrees), longer club lengths and overall lighter weight, by about 10 grams per club.
And the kicker? While Epic Star priced out at $300 per club and $2,400.00 per set, the Rogue X, with similar tech, is priced at $899 steel/$999 graphite.
Loft jacking? Yeah, but as always, there’s more to it than that. Jacking lofts alone won’t help slower swing speed players because you still have to get the ball up in the air.
“To compare 7-iron to 7-iron, the concern is can you still launch a club that’s got less loft in the same way? Compared to the standard Rogue, we’ve got a slight larger, more oversized type head and a slightly wider sole. It gives us the opportunity to make the center of gravity depth a little greater, which helps us with the ease of getting the ball up in the air. It essentially allows us to take loft away without losing launch angle.” - Alan Hocknell, Callaway Golf
Rogue X certainly seems to crossover into the Super Game Improvement arena, both in spec and in physical size, and appears to be a replacement for the Big Bertha OS. Rogue. It’s a club for the player looking for lost distance, but Hocknell says we shouldn’t pigeonhole it as a club for Baby-boomers afflicted with sagging pectorals.
"They do have that oversized look to them, a little bit more offset, a little larger head,” says Hocknell. “But it’s not just the preserve of people who might have slow swings. It’s actually for Game Improvement people who want to try and hit with more power.”
Specs, Availability, and Price
The specs for both the Rogue and the Rogue Pro are about what you’d expect for irons in the Game Improvement category: a little stronger for the Rogue, a little weaker for the Rogue Pro.
The stock steel shaft for the Rogue is the True Temper XP 95, while the stock graphite is the Aldila Synergy 60. The stock shaft in the Rogue Pro is the True Temper XP 105. Lamkin grips are standard for both, and Callaway is offering a host of shaft options. The standard Rogue will sell for $899.99 in steel, $999.99 in graphite. Rogue Pro is available stock in steel only, and lists for $999.99.
Rogue X features stronger lofts across the board, with longer iron lengths in the 4- through the 6-iron.
The stock shaft in Rogue X is the KBS Max 90 in steel, and the Aldila Synergy 60 in graphite. Again, Lamkin grips are standard, and the Rogue X sells for $899.99 in steel, $999.99 in graphite.
There's also a Women's Rogue - lighter and wider-soled than the men's versions, with a larger cavity and lower CG. Those irons are also priced at $899.99 in steel and $999.99 in graphite.
All Rogues will be available for pre-sale starting tomorrow. The men's versions will be in stores February 9th, while the women's Rogue hits retail March 2nd.
For more information, visit CallawayGolf.com.
To see more photos of the Rogue Family of Irons, check out the gratuitous picture thread in the MyGolfSpy forum.