How XXIO’s new 13 series helped a moderate swing speed golfer add distance | ClubTest 2024
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TESTER: Josh Sens (Senior Writer)| 5 Handicap
GOAL: To find out if XXIO’s newest XXIO 13 range of clubs could help my slowing swing gain back some swing speed and distance.
THE LOWDOWN: Some telltale signs that you’ve entered middle age: less hair on your head, more flesh around your belly, and fewer irons in your golf bag.
In recent years, as I’ve eased deeper into my late 50s, I have gradually come to grips with my expanding waistline and emergent bald spot. But changes to my golf game have been harder to accept.
Long gone are the days when I could push my swing speed with the driver into the triple digits. Over the past decade, I’ve lost about one mile per hour each year, so my move through the ball now resembles a Konica Minolta Swing Vision version of itself. Over that same period, I have made some small concessions to this sobering truth, such as moving up a tee and forgoing hero shots over water. But otherwise, I have stuck to my guns and stubbornly resisted swapping out equipment.
Until recently, for instance, I still carried a 4-iron, even though the club had become vestigial. I never actually used it. I just carried it around, evidence of my choice to live — and play the game — largely in denial.
Time marches on, though, and a man can only fool himself for so long. Plus, ball flights don’t lie. There came a point where I had to stop ignoring what was plain to see.
As the new year approached, I resolved to embrace reality. And early this month, I acted on that promise and picked up a set of XXIOs.
XXIO (pronounced ZEK-zee-oh) is part of a family of Japanese-owned sports brands that include Srixon, Cleveland and the relaunched Never Compromise. But its focus is narrower than that of any of its siblings. Its target market is golfers who have what XXIO politely calls “moderate” swing speeds, roughly 90 mph and below. There are lots of us roaming the fairways of this country, and since 2014, when XXIO launched in the United States, its customer base has grown significantly, much like the sweet spots on the clubs.
This year’s new line is called XXIO 13 (there is also a line of XXIO 13 Ladies), and it features woods, hybrids and irons that run from 5-iron through sand wedge. That’s right. No 4-iron. XXIO doesn’t make one. The engineers behind the brand know that when you get that deep into the bag, golfers of my ilk are better off with something else. And so: bye, bye 4-iron. In its place, I now have a XXIO 3-hybrid, with 18 degrees of loft.
THE FITTING PROCESS: I did not get fit for my new set. That’s not how it works with XXIOs. The clubs have been designed to suit the “moderate” swing speed demographic. You select the loft on your driver (9.5, 10.5, or 11.5 degrees). But beyond that, no customization is needed.
If you’re even passingly familiar with golf equipment marketing, you know that the genre is filled with lingo. The promotional material for the new XXIOs has a bit of that, but the terminology doesn’t make your head spin and the technology behind it makes good layperson sense. Take the new BiFlex Face. This refers to a strengthened frame around the highly flexible face on the woods and hybrids that acts as forgiving reinforcement, optimizing ball speeds no matter where you make contact.
A new Cannon Sole, meanwhile, does pretty much what its name suggests: with an improved design that allows for the center of gravity to be positioned lower, it is meant to generate higher-launching, longer shots.
XXIO 13 Fairway Wood
There’s more. A Rebound Frame is all about creating greater flex and higher ball speeds, while a New ActivWing on fairway woods and hybrids is an aerodynamic foil meant to stabilize the club on the downswing so it’s easier to slot into the right position (the driver has a New Dual ActivWing, meaning that is has two of those aerodynamic foils).
The driver also features a 6-segment bulge and roll, which is another way of saying that the club face is divided into six distinctly contoured sections, designed to counteract errant trajectories in all directions. Combined, these traits result in lightweight clubs that are meant to help you play with greater power and precision without looking like you’re swinging out of your shoes.
XXIO 13 Driver
Over the past few weeks, I’ve put my XXIOs to use in several rounds and multiple practice sessions, and though I wouldn’t say that I suddenly feel 20 years younger, I have gained about eight yards with my driver. And the block-slice — my traditional miss of the tee — has shown its ugly head with far less frequency.
Adjusting to the woods and hybrids has been relatively easy, in part because the clubs have a classic look — no zany tapering in the back; no outlandish edges — and feel nicely balanced. Though the shaft has far more flex than what I’m used to playing, and the club head itself is lighter, too, neither has ever felt so light or whippy that I’ve lost a sense of their position throughout my swing.
I suppose I should give credit to a feature that XXIO calls Weight Plus Technology, which positions mass in the butt-end of the shaft, under your grip, and behind your hands. Whatever the case, I have found it easier to draw the club back and set it at the top, and my transition now feels smoother than it did before the switch.
The irons have taken more getting used to, but I blame this on myself and my reluctance to change over the years. I’m usually a picker — I don’t take much of a divot — but the lighter weight and better transition has me coming more down into the ball and taking more of a divot than usual.
The nice thing is the XXIOs have a thicker sole than those of my old irons — more of a ‘game-improvement’ look — and this thicker sole helps keep the club out of the ground and helps the ball launch higher and land softer. Add in the fact that I’ve gained about a half club of distance through the set, I have faith that I could still turn back the clock on my golf game a few years.
XXIO 13 Irons
It’s been cold and rainy where I live this past week; no golf these last few days, except for banging buckets under a covered range. The forecast calls for clear skies tomorrow, though, and I’ll be heading out again, feeling great about my woods and optimistic about my irons.
Carpe diem. The days fly by. I can’t slow their passage. But I’m hopeful that I can get my game back to speed.
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