With apologies to Little Feat, every aging golfer knows a time will come when your mind makes a promise that your body can’t fill. OEMs know this too.
And they can read the tea leaves.
According to the National Golf Foundation, the so-called average golfer is a 46-year-old right-handed male who makes over 100-grand and tees it up 18 times a year. The stat that matters, though, is over one-third of all golfers are over the age of 50. That group plays over 60% of the rounds and spends the most on equipment.
What’s more, there are over 4.2 million golfers ages 65 and older, with more Boomers waiting in the wings.
Still think all those lightweight, easy to swing clubs are just another fad? Hell, even Titleist has a lightweight driver for what the industry now refers to as the moderate swing speed player.
Sure, it’s a niche market, but it’s a friggin’ huge one, and one XXIO has had, until recently, pretty much to itself. “The XXIO brand is about delivering performance for moderate swing speed players,” says XXIO (and Cleveland-Srixon) R&D VP Jeff Brunski. “It’s our core focus and key differentiator compared to other brands that start with Tour players and redesign stuff for the rest of us.”
XXIO’s two new releases – XXIO 11, the update to its 20-year old flagship, and a new line called XXIO X – are most definitely designed for the rest of us, as long as we have the cabbage to pay for it.
A Better Player’s XXIO?
Since its inception in 2000, XXIO has focused solely on moderate swing speed players, which is OEM code for aging men and most women. However, the new XXIO X (wasn’t that a Santana album from the ’70s?) has a slightly different target golfer in mind.
“Say you’re a single-digit handicapper who still has some swing speed,” says Brunski. “You can still work it and shoot in the 70s, but you’re losing distance, and you’re losing clubhead speed. X is for you.”
XXIO’s working theory is this golfer won’t go for the standard XXIO offering, thinking he’s not ready for old folks’ clubs just yet. In truth, the new XXIO 11 line – and especially XXIO Prime – will be way too light and whippy for this guy. XXIO X is, for lack of a better term, a gateway drug into XXIO world.
“XXIO X is for golfers who may be reluctant to look at XXIO, or is simply too big of a jump from what they’ve been playing,” says Brunski. “We can still show them a performance benefit over competitive products.”
XXIO bills the new X line as lightweight clubs for the skilled golfer and, like all XXIO clubs, is designed from grip to tip to work as a single unit with limited fitting options – as in none.
“You need to be fit for other products because they weren’t necessarily designed for you,” says Brunski. “XXIO, for the last 20 years, has been designed for moderate swing speed golfers. These components don’t exist off the shelf. The whole club comes together to work for you.” In other words, XXIO designs its sticks to fit the big old sweet spot of its target market as is.
The X Files
Both XXIO X and XXIO 11 share considerable DNA, so much of the X story also applies to the lighter-weight XXIO 11. And don’t confuse this XXIO X with the XXIO X of two years ago. That X was the 10th generation of XXIO’s flagship – and is being replaced by this year’s XXIO 11.
Yes, the new XXIO X is light, but Brunski says there are ways to make clubs lighter that work, and ways that don’t.
“It’s not just about taking weight out of the clubhead and shaft,” he says. “We need to have momentum and mass to transfer energy to the ball.”
For that better player who’s losing clubhead speed, going to a lighter shaft will definitely help. X goes extreme with a 47-gram Miyazaki, but XXIO is adding Weight Plus to the equation – basically a brass or rubber counterweight as heavy as 13 grams in the butt end of the shaft. Counterweighting isn’t new – XXIO isn’t claiming otherwise – but Brunski says adding a counterweight to an already ultra-high balance point club makes it feel even lighter. It makes it super easy for the stick in the twilight of his prime to swing efficiently.
“In the backswing, Weight Plus helps you put the club into a better position,” he says. “The club tends to be cocked more, and we find players bring their hands into a more consistent overall position. We also see players in a more consistent position at the top of their swing, and they tend to keep their hands closer to their body.”
That, says Brunski, creates a more efficient downswing, helps reduce casting, and gets the player get into a more consistent position at impact.
It won’t fix a crappy swing, but then again, X is designed for guys with a certain amount of game looking to reclaim lost yards.
“These aren’t transformative, can’t-miss-the-fairway type of technologies,” he adds. “But the balance point is quite different than anything else out there. Compared to competitive products, like a Titleist and stuff that’s designed for Tour players, it’s so significantly different.”
Weight Plus is used throughout the line, but basic math says you’re most likely to see the biggest benefit with the driver – bigger club plus longer swing equals more time for those efficiencies to translate into ball speed. Moving a handful of grams into the grip in an iron might make it easier to swing, but that’s about it.
Carbon, Cups, and Cannons
The X driver tech story begins with a variable thickness cup face made from Ti51AF, a high strength-to-weight ratio titanium 8% stronger and 1% lighter than the commonly used 6-4 titanium.
Carbon fiber crowns are a thing with drivers, but the X features a large chunk of carbon fiber in the sole. Yes, there are some weight savings, but Brunski says there’s a more practical reason.
“XXIO drivers tend to be louder – intentionally – to sound more powerful and explosive,” he says. “But the XXIO X player is migrating from a TaylorMade or a Callaway driver, and they’re used to that composite sound. We want the XXIO to sound softer and be more in tune with the market.”
The X driver weighs in at 299 grams and features the Miyazaki AX-1 shaft in both stiff and regular. Miyazaki, of course, is part of the Srixon-Cleveland-XXIO conglomerate and uses the International Flex Code to categorize bend profile. IFC is a four number sequence rating relative stiffness in four sections of the shaft: butt, mid-butt, mid-tip, and tip. The numbers range from 0 – your basic wet noodle – to 9 – a hunk of rebar.
The stiff AX-1 is 47 grams with a 4333 IFC. By comparison, the stiff Miyazaki C.Kua 50 in Cleveland’s HB Launcher Turbo driver is a skosh heavier with a slightly firmer IFC of 5554.
The X fairway woods and hybrids also use the AX-1 and share the same cup face design as the driver. Both feature the ominous-sounding Cannon Sole, an internal, overhanging weight pad designed to bring some weight forward to control spin while keeping the sole as thin and as flexible as possible.
“If you want to move weight forward in the sole, the tradeoff is it becomes less flexible,” says Brunski. “We want that forward sole region to be super flexible and thin, but to control spin, we need to move weight forward a little. You get good flexibility and good ball speed by having a thin region there, but you also have mass there to keep spin down. You can’t pile all of the mass low and deep.”
Forged, Sort Of
The lines of what’s forged and what isn’t are getting blurred. The XXIO X irons are forged, sort of, with a head frame forged from S25C steel (the Japanese version of 1025). It’s a three-piece head, with an HT 1770M face and rear badge to dampen sound and feel. It looks like a more forgiving version of Srixon’s Z-585.
The backside of the faceplate features a milled Speed Groove, a channel around the perimeter of the face to help it flex. The lofts on X are most definitely strong – firmly in the player’s distance category with a 29-degree 7-iron.
You’ll also see the signature Srixon-Cleveland V-Sole on XXIO X to improve turf interaction. You don’t see the V-Sole in other XXIO offerings simply because that player doesn’t need it, while the X player does.
“The better player, the higher swing speed player, tends to have a steeper attack angle,” says Brunski. “Slower swing speed players tend to sweep and barely take divots, so the wider sole provides the forgiveness that player is looking for.”
As with the woods, there are no fitting options for XXIO X irons. A special, mid-kick point Nippon N.S. Pro 920GH made for XXIO is stock steel, and the irons play in D1 (stiff) or D0 (regular) swing weight. The Miyazaki AX-1 is the stock graphite shaft, playing at a D0 or C9 swing weight.
XXIO 11 – The Light Show
XXIO 11 is XXIO’s flagship line, the 11th iteration since the brand’s launch. It’s light, whippy, and designed for the 90 MPH and under swing speed crowd.
The metal woods share tech with X, including the variable thickness cup face, Weight Plus, and the Cannon Sole. The 11 driver also features what XXIO calls Star Frame, a unique internal rib structure to support a sole that’s less than half a millimeter thick.
“We’re not saving a ton of weight, just a handful of grams,” says Brunski. “But stiffening the rear of the club has some ball speed benefits, and the weight we are saving is being spread wider, which helps MOI.”
As far as irons go, a trend you’re going to see this year in the Game Improvement category is maximizing low face flexibility – how to get the clubface to work more like a springboard than a trampoline.
“The faces themselves are plenty flexible, and we can get right to the COR limit in the center,” says Brunski. “The challenge is how to make those low on the face impacts hotter. How do we get more flexibility low in the face?”
XXIO 11’s take is the Double Undercut Cavity: two slots cut into the iron body just behind the face to boost low face flexibility. As with previous XXIO iterations, the 11’s feature a hot-forged titanium face, tungsten sole weights, and a forged frame for an overall four-piece construction.
A large portion of XXIO’s sales – roughly 40 percent – are to women golfers, and give XXIO credit for not merely sticking a ladies flex shaft in the same head. The XXIO ladies’ driver, for example, is 15 grams lighter (280g vs. 265g) than the men’s model. The head is 9 grams lighter, while the shaft is 4 grams lighter, and the grip 2 grams lighter.
“An extraordinarily high percentage of women have driver swing speeds below 97 MPH,” says Brunski. “So for sure, a XXIO 11 player is a she.”
Specs, Availability, and Price
XXIO X specs are very much better player friendly. The driver is available in 8.5-, 9.5- and 10.5-degree non-adjustable lofts, along with 15-, 18- and 20-degree fairway woods. Four hybrids are available in 18-, 20-, 23- and 26-degree lofts. Irons are ordered a la care, starting with a 21-degree 4-iron all the up to a 43-degree PW, a 49-degree AW, and a 56-degree SW.
Sorry lefties, XXIO X is available in right-handed models only.
The XXIO X irons will run $199.99 each. The hybrids are $299.99, the fairways $399.99, and the driver will run $699.99.
XXIO 11 specs are more appropriate for the slower swing speed player, with 9.5-, 10.5-, and 11.5-degree drivers for both lefties and righties. Five fairways are offered, including a 16.5-degree 4-wood and a 23-degree 9-wood, as well as 4 hybrids. The XXIO 11 irons are also sold a la carte, ranging from a 22-degree 5-iron through a 42-degree PW, with an AW and SW optional.
The 11 Ladies line is in right-handed only, with four drivers (10.5-degree through 13.5-degree), five fairways, and four hybrids, available in either a red or a blue colorway. The irons range from a 24-degree 5-iron through a 44-degree PW. The AW and SW are also available.
Pricing for both the men and women’s models is $199.99 per iron, $299.99 per hybrid, $399.99 per fairway, and $649.99 for the driver.
Both lines will officially launch January 21st.
The $64,000 Question
XXIO usually lags just behind PXG when it comes to reader outrage over pricing. Amid all the moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, XXIO isn’t going to apologize.
“People compare us to PXG because of our price, but that’s a terrible comparison,” says Brunski. “PXG is a tour brand and not at all designed for the type of player XXIO is. Our shafts are lighter and have a higher balance point than anything out there. Some of the custom carbon fiber used in those shafts just aren’t found anywhere else in golf. The titanium alloy face isn’t used anywhere else in the industry.”
We’ve said it before – the existence of a high priced brand doesn’t mean a lower-priced alternative is eliminated. It’s not a Zero-Sum game. However, for the money, you’d expect better performance in our Most Wanted testing. The previous XXIO generation was an overall meh performer – the lower-priced Cobra F-Max performed better overall. That, however, may be due to the fact our slower swing speed testers don’t really line up with the XXIO sweet spot. It will be interesting to see how the new X line stacks up.
That said, the target demographic is an attractive one, given the number of OEMs now with lightweight, easy to swing equipment lines. XXIO is facing more competition, not only on the premium end but from the lower-priced end as well.
“Yes, there’s more competition, but I don’t think any competitor is going to commit to the slower swing speed golfer the way XXIO has,” says Brunski. “I don’t see any of the major U.S. brands ready to say to you our number one priority is to design products for the moderate swing speed player.”
You’re going to find XXIO primarily among the country club set – a recent trip to Palm Springs found the XXIO mothership – as older golfers with money to spend see XXIO as not only the finder of lost yards but a club that’s easier to swing. XXIO runs first tee demo days at these clubs, with golfers teeing off with their driver and then hitting a XXIO. Brunski says they sell a boatload of clubs that way.
“It’s a name people can’t pronounce, and it’s more expensive than the top market share products here in the U.S.,” says Brunski. “We don’t run a lot of TV commercials (until recently), there’s no tour presence, and we sell a ton of these.”
“What does that tell you about performance?”
The cynic may say people have more money than brains, and that you can’t buy a game. You won’t go broke making either bet, but XXIO has found a sustainable niche in its target market. It will be fascinating to see if the X line does what XXIO hopes and appeals to the better player in his 50’s trying to keep Father Time at bay.