This is the third driver launch in my time with Callaway Golf, and with each edition comes with it the hopes of “better.”
Faster, Longer, Straighter, etc.
But let’s get realistic right from the jump: in a broad sense, driver technology has been operating at a larger-than-life capacity for some time. Players are hitting it longer and straighter than ever before.
HOWEVER, Paradym introduced a look into what “could be.” A 360 Carbon Chassis that removed weight from the no man’s land that is the middle of the head and moved it out to where we all really need it, on the perimeter.
Last year was a master class in technology, and the results didn’t lie…multiple wins across all tours, two major championships, and more non-staff play than we have ever seen on the PGA Tour.
In all honesty, after the success of Paradym, I really didn’t think there was much more to do. That driver took everything Callaway R&D does well and morphed it into one juggernaut that was the undisputed driver of 2023.
Then we get to today, a new driver with claims of “better” sprinkled all over it. But what does “better” even mean anymore?
Ball Speed? YES, each iteration gets 1-2 MPH faster
Spin Robustness? YES, the spin windows get 50-100RPMs tighter each year
Dispersion? YES, typically 5-7 feet tighter each year
So, by definition, we can call that “better,” but let’s actually consider using a new terminology…instead of “better,” let’s lean into the word DIFFERENT. Because what we have on our hands now is “better” in all the nuanced and practical ways, but how we get there is way DIFFERENT than ever before..and if Callaway R&D is correct, this may change everything we know about how to design and fit a driver…for EVERYONE.
Introducing PARADYM Ai-SMOKE Drivers
The Elevator Pitch
The new Paradym Ai Smoke driver represents a quantum leap forward in Callaway’s Ai journey. This new family of drivers features the most sophisticated driver face in Callaway’s history, the Ai Smart Face. This face uses real player data and advanced machine learning to create a series of sweet spots all over the face. The Ai Smoke MAX driver features a forgiving shape and adjustable perimeter weighting to deliver up to 19 yards of shot shape correction.
Quick Q&A with Director of Callaway Metal Woods R&D Evan Gibbs:
JW: In simple terms, explain how AI smart face works, for example, at impact what is happening from an R&D perspective
EG: The Ai Smart face takes real player swing dynamics and creates a face topology that maximizes distance and downrange consistency for the type of player we expect to play each model. It uses the flexure of the face at impact to influence ball speed, launch, and spin for more optimized trajectories.
JW: VS Paradym: What are the three main performance gains all golfers will see?
EG: The Ai Smoke family of drivers will be longer in distance than Paradym, particularly on off-center impacts. This results from lower spin rates generally and more optimized launch and spin. Golfers will also experience an improvement in downrange consistency due to more consistent launch conditions. The family as a whole will also be more fitter friendly, providing more variation in trajectory and shot shape compared to Paradym to better fit a broader range of player types.
JW: Where can we go from here?
EG: I think we’ve only really scratched the surface of how we utilize AI in our design process. We will continue to develop more complex swing models that better replicate the real player experience in our optimization routines.
JW: Why was the elimination of Jailbreak necessary?
EG: We did not take this lightly since Jailbreak has been such an important ball-speed technology for us. But as we started leveraging the face flexure in new and unique ways, we thought Jailbreak might be over-constraining us, so we modeled it both ways, prototyped it both ways and went with the higher-performing design. Ultimately, the Ai Smart Face ended up incorporating a lot of the Jailbreak effect by strategically stiffening certain parts of the clubhead to allow for more flexure in other parts, so in a sense, a lot of the benefits of Jailbreak are incorporated into the Smart Face.
A Paradym Shift from a Lighter, Stronger Carbon Chassis
The 360° Carbon Chassis has been refined to promote increased weight distribution. Adding an internal titanium support structure makes the Carbon Chassis 15% lighter. This mass has been redistributed into the head to improve launch conditions and add forgiveness.
World’s First Ai Smart FaceTM Designed Using Real Player Data
The all-new Ai Smart Face optimizes driver performance using swing dynamics from thousands of real golfers. These swing dynamics, or Swing Code, consist of swing speed, club delivery, and face orientation just prior to impact. This promotes optimal launch conditions and tight downrange dispersion.
Micro Deflections Create Multiple Sweet Spots
With Ai Smart Face technology, micro deflections are activated upon impact, helping optimize launch and spin on off-center shots. The result is sweet spots in the center and all over the face.
Paradym Ai-Smoke MAX
What is it?
Inspired by the Paradym Standard TOUR from 2023, the new Ai-Smoke MAX (460CC) is your catch-all, fast, high MOI driver BUT with a TOUR twist. The forward weight (2G stock) allows fitters to make it into a forgiving lower spin profile if needed, and with its VERY, VERY SLIGHTLY heel-biased CG, it allows players to turn it over easier than last year. The overall profile/shape of the head appears slightly smaller than Paradym Std., all while still being 460CC.
The sliding weight (14G stock) can tune in shot shape or strike support, making the MAX the most versatile speed machine Callaway has ever designed.
TOUR to your 20 handicaps. This model will see plenty of action on all the major tours with players like Alex Noren, Eric Van Rooyen, Mav McNealy, and many others in this head.
Paradym Ai-Smoke MAX D
NOT A SLICE KILLER! A DRAW MACHINE.
The Ai-Smoke Max D is a heel-biased, high MOI, higher launching, lower spin driver that sits slightly more upright (60 vs 58) than MAX.
At 460CC, it has a clean look at the address, and with some COG tweaking (Flat Cog at N/S), it’s ideal for better players who want to settle on just one shot shape with the driver.
Like MAX, it could be anyone, although this model won’t see a TON of play on the TOURs beyond the occasional LPGA or Champions TOUR players. In the real world, this driver is ideal for players looking for that extra draw nudge while enhancing launch conditions. For the right player (maybe me), it could be the unicorn of the bunch.
Paradym Ai-Smoke Triple Diamond
By now, we know the power and sophistication of the Triple Diamond platform. It’s our TOUR driver, played by Rahm, Xander, Burns, Zhang, and a ton of others.
The catch these days (since Paradym) is the forgiveness and spin integrity across the face. With a quick swap of the weights, you can turn the TD from a LOW SPIN rocket launcher to a responsive, VERY forgiving profile. Almost 80% of our staff play with the heavier weight in the back, and this year is no different.
TOUR to low handicaps looking for speed, neutrality and responsiveness. At 450CC the only main difference year to year in the TD platform is they get more and more forgiving every year. The separation between a TOUR head and a high MOI profile has never been smaller.
In late September, I did a Paradym TD 9 vs. AiSmoke TD 9 vs AiS Max 9…
The test was conducted in Palm Desert, CA, on a 90-degree day using Foresight GC Quad. I tested for Ball speed, Spin, Launch, carry, and overall quality of the shot, which was determined on a 1-5 scale (1 being on the negative side). Fifteen stock shots, with each model tossing out five.
Specs of all three setups were:
Paradym TD (197.1G, 8.7 N/S, 9GF 12GB, 58 lie, D3)
Ai-Smoke TD (196.9G, 8.5 N/S, 7GF 14GB, 58 lie, D3)
Ai-Smoke MAX (197.3G, 8.1 N/-1, 14GB 6GF, 58 lie, D3) *went to N/-1 to bring launch down, and it did the trick.
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 5X (45.25 EOG, Straight In)
Average (10 Best)
Ball Speed 162.85 (159.8 to 165.9)
Spin 2358 RPM (2019 to 2697)
Launch 11 degrees (10 to 12)
Carry 285.5 (277 to 294)
Quality 4/5 (8 of 10 out of the dead nuts and in the quadrant)
Paradym Ai Smoke TD (10 Best)
Ball Speed 163.9 (161.3 to 166.5)
Spin 2482 RPM (2241 to 2724)
Launch 11 degrees (9 to 13)
Carry 286 (280 to 292)
Quality 4/5 (7 of 10 out of the dead nuts and in the quadrant)
Paradym Ai Smoke MAX
Ball Speed 165.45 (163.1 to 167.8)
Spin 25652 RPM (2310 to 2821)
Launch 10 (9 to 11)
Carry 291.5 (284 to 299)
Quality 5/5 (9 of 10 out of the dead nuts and in the quadrant)
Let’s return to this piece’s opening, changing the word “better” to “different.” I’m going about it this way because, truth be told, our drivers are ALWAYS better in some way, shape, or form. Ai-Smoke is a “different” experience. I found a level of trust in these heads that I haven’t experienced in maybe ever. The Ai-smart face has taken what was once the protection of a foul ball into a quality shot that lives closer to a flusher than I have ever experienced. Toe strikes fly in a way that may confuse better players. And to be fair, Paradym was FANTASTIC across the face; it literally had ZERO deficiencies, but Ai-Smoke and its incorporation of Ai Tech has turned toe hits into a neutral soft draw and low heel strikes into baby fades.
I was completely enamored with the Max head this time around. Everything worked with that one and has continued to do so in the months since my test. This is with me swinging faster, although worse than I have in years. With the state of my game, I shouldn’t be driving it as well as I am…but I am. I guess AI can work miracles. Who knew?
Things are different…I have no idea where we go from here, but I’m here for it.
There is tons of content to come. Happy Hunting