Welcome to GOLF.com’s ClubTest Proving Ground, where Managing Equipment Editor Jonathan Wall and Senior Equipment Editor Ryan Barath — along with a cast of GOLF writers and editors — put the latest designs and groundbreaking technology in the equipment space to the test on the range and the course.
MORE FROM OUR 2023 CLUBTEST COVERAGE: Callaway Paradym line: 3 things you need to know | The tech behind Callaway Paradym drivers/woods | The tech behind Callaway Paradym irons and hybrids | WATCH: Callaway Paradym robot testing insights | WATCH: Inside a Callaway Paradym irons fitting
TESTER: Josh Berhow (Managing Editor) | 14.7 HCP
GOAL: To find the right driver and driver setting to start hitting it more consistently off the tee and to find the perfect woods/hybrids setup for my game.
THE LOWDOWN: After about an hour of hitting balls in perfect Southern California fall weather — testing all the coolest and newest gear from Callaway — I took a sip of my water and had a startling, wonderful realization: this is not a ball flight with which I was familiar.
But let’s start from the beginning. I was nervous when I first drove into the Ely Callaway Performance Center — ECPC for short — and excited (to test the newest gear they had for 2023) and optimistic (to finally find answers to my outstanding gear questions).
I had three goals: figure out my correct club gapping, settle on the right woods/hybrids setup for me and dial in my driver.
But all of this, hopefully, was done with a bigger goal in mind: to improve my overall game. I’ve been teetering around a 14 handicap for a couple of years with the same old issues always preventing me from lowering that number: not enough rounds (I blame the kids), not enough consistency and too many big numbers. The latter issue could also be attributed to the lack of practice or playing rounds, but either way, it was a problem I needed to address.
And you know a good way to figure all of this out? A club-fitting. You see, one perk of being in the golf business is that clubs often find their way to you. But how often are they the right clubs for you? Sure, they are good. But one model or one shaft or one draw bias doesn’t fit everyone.
I was pumped to see the perfect combination that was best suited for my game.
FITTING PROCESS: To get into the Ely Callaway Performance Center, first you need to pass through a security gate. That’s how you know it’s exclusive. When Average Joes like me aren’t driving through thanks to a lucky invite, it’s the place where Callaway’s top Tour talent like Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Madelene Sagstrom and dozens of others are testing new prototypes and getting their specs dialed in. There’s also the occasional fitting for VIPs or, in this case, a golf writer.
Inside the facility is a state-of-the-art putting lab complete with cameras, computers, screens — all the technology one might need to get the flat stick rolling right. There are also testing robots and other goodies the R&D and engineering teams are working on that can’t be shown to outsiders like myself.
Outside is the range and testing area, which was redesigned by Gil Hanse. There are several greens, targets and a Himalayas-style green for short-game work.
Simply put, it’s a golfer’s paradise. And that’s where I met Gerritt Pon, a senior club performance analyst for Callaway, who was showing me the brand’s new Paradym line and helping me find which combination was best for me. Game on.
My Fitted Gear
Driver: Callaway’s new Paradym line has three driver models: the Paradym, Paradym X and Paradym Triple Diamond, and it’s the first driver to use Callaway’s face-cup technology, which accounts for higher energy transfer to the ball. What you need to know is this: the Paradym X has the biggest head and the most forgiveness with a slight draw basis, meaning it might be the best option for those looking to fix a serious slice. The standard Paradym boasts the best combination of distance, forgiveness and adjustability, and the Triple Diamond is more of a pro-style option that’s best for players who want to work the ball.
Here’s one thing a typical 14-handicap like myself noticed first, though: they all look sick. From address, the top of the club looks almost black but a subtle-yet-rich dark blue design and color scheme is actually more prevalent. It’s the same way on the bottom of the club.
As for my fitting, I found out right away the Paradym X wasn’t for me. It’s going to fix a ton of slices out there, but since I already hit a pretty straight ball and have some draw tendencies, I hit too strong of a draw with it.
Then I went to the standard Paradym set at 9 degrees. The first thing I noticed was the difference in my launch window. My current driver — which I have set at 10.5 degrees and hit pretty low as is — is a few years old, but this thing launched like I hadn’t seen before.
My average launch angle was about 12 degrees with a spin rate of about 2,200 RPMs. What does that mean? I wasn’t too sure, either, but Pon told me it was “pretty good.” All I knew was I was hitting straight balls that soared higher than anything I’d seen.
I’ve never been confused for a long hitter, so when I was hitting some well over 250, I was pleased.
I liked the standard Paradym but also wanted to give the Triple Diamond a whirl. I was getting around the same distance but this time with a launch angle of about 13 degrees and 2200 RPMs. The Triple Diamond is the smallest head and less forgiving, and it’s also designed for players looking to work the ball more. Fourteen handicaps like myself are more focused on just hitting fairways than we are about shot shape, but it was nice to know I hit this one well, too.
Pon thought I’d be happy with either club, but we decided to go with the standard Paradym, which I hit a touch more consistently, and when I did hit little fades they weren’t generating excess spin to where I lost a lot of distance. Plus — and this might be big for you, too, if you’re a tinkerer — the standard Paradym is the only one of the three drivers with a sliding weight on the back.
Fairway woods: Just like the driver, Callaway has three fairway wood models under its new line: the Paradym, Paradym X and Paradym Triple Diamond.
My gamer 3-wood has long been one of my most loyal clubs. I hit it low and piercing with a little fade. It’s consistent, and that’s why it’s stayed in my bag.
But just like I quickly discovered with the driver, I was absolutely blasting and launching the Paradym line. I hit the Paradym X well but still was getting too much right-to-left action on my misses, but I again had much success with the standard Paradym and the Triple Diamond — and I was loving every second of that high, beautiful ball flight.
“It’s kind of the one club in the bag you’d hit off the ground where most players don’t want a high, soft-landing shot,” Pon said of the 3-wood. “They want it high enough to stay in the air and carry a lot, but flat enough and low enough to come in and roll too.”
I was getting about 220 carry yards with an 11 degree launch angle and just under 3,000 RPMs of spin. Both 3-woods would have worked, but I liked the look of the Triple Diamond a little better. There’s no arrow or centering mark on the top of the club like I’m used to, which I thought looked cool and apparently didn’t affect my strikes. I also hit one off the toe — which is my typical miss — and still watched a ball that carried 216 and rolled to 230. Pon explained the center of gravity for the Triple Diamond is more toward the toe, so that when I hit it out there I wasn’t seeing as much side spin, and the draw wasn’t as severe.
So the Triple Diamond is more of a Tour-style club that has a smaller head and is less forgiving, but somehow a 14-handicap like myself can still love it? Yes, please.
I asked Pon why I fit better with the standard Paradym driver but the Triple Diamond fairway woods. Shouldn’t it be the same?
“That’s probably one of the biggest things people often don’t understand when they are going to a buy a club,” he said. “People either go buy a driver and then they love it and say, ‘I want the matching 3-wood. It will be just as good for me, right?’ Or they do the opposite. ‘Man I love the 3-wood so much, give me the matching driver.’ We see it all the time when people test both. Sometimes people need the higher-launching 3-wood and the lower-spinning driver, or the more forgiving driver and the more fade-biased 3-wood. They don’t always have to match each other — even on Tour we see that.”
Good food for thought.
Hybrids: No Triple Diamond here, just the Paradym and the Paradym X, and Callaway calls them the most versatile hybrids they’ve ever made.
This was another club I was keen to check out. I’ve used the same 3- and 4-hybrids forever — are you sensing a theme, here? — despite the fact that I never hit them especially well. I strike them low, hard and fairly consistently with a little fade. Perfect? No. Did they get me from A to B without my guessing too much about the result? Yes.
But again I need more launch, and the Paradym delivered. I lifted the Paradym hybrids into the air with ease, almost laughing about the difference in ball flight. I loved the look and feel, too — the clubheads seemed bigger than a typical hybrid but not as big as a fairway wood, and it was nothing like the blade-like hybrids I’ve been swinging. It seemed like a good compromise.
I was taking turns hitting 18- and 21-degree hybrids, as Pon and I were trying to figure out if I’d benefit more from an 18-degree 5-wood or 18-degree hybrid. The hybrids in the Paradym line don’t have as much draw bias as the Paradym woods, so that’s one thing we were considering. But much of it’s personal preference, as the hybrids come with a shorter shaft and smaller head. The 5-wood would also be more forgiving and produce a higher ball flight, but less roll.
The answer for me? It’s still TBD, as I need to put both in play at a course near me soon. (I live in Minnesota so on-course testing might have to wait for the snow to melt.) That said, I’ve never used a 5-wood and like the idea of a higher strike with that as the next club after my 3-wood. That means I could have the 21-degree Paradym be my go-to hybrid to complete my woods/hybrids setup.
Driver: Paradym, boosted to 10 degrees loft (50-gram shaft)
Fairway woods: Triple Diamond 3- and 5-wood (70-gram shaft)
Hybrids: Paradym 21-degree (75-gram shaft)
I’ve played golf for more than 20 years but never really understood the intricacies of the equipment space. But when boiled down, it’s much easier to comprehend. It’s all about arming golfers with the right tools to succeed.
I saw that with the Paradym X model, which is going to help slicers from coast to coast have more fun on the course next summer, and I saw that with the standard Paraydm, which is a great do-everything option. And it’s even with the Triple Diamond, which you’ll see the best players in the world use but in my bag as well.
The Paradym line literally has something for everyone.
What was most fascinating about my club-fitting is the realization that there’s no one-size-fits-all setup. My gear turned out to be a Paradym driver and hybrids, Triple Diamond fairway woods and Paradym X irons (for more on Paradym irons, check out my colleague Josh Sens’ piece here). And it’s even more encouraging knowing I figured this out with a proper fitting and under the watchful eyes of one of the game’s best fitters.
Now, if only that snow would melt.
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Callaway Paradym, Paradym X and Paradym Triple Diamond Drivers
The Paradym line will be available in retail stores on Feb. 24, 2023. Pick up all your new gear at Fairway Jockey. Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf.